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David Coward: Alexandre Dumas

17 April 2003
Viva Garibaldi! Une Odyssée en 1860 
by Alexandre Dumas.
Fayard, 610 pp., €23, February 2002, 2 213 61230 7
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... AlexandreDumas was a force of nature. The 650 or so books he published might not seem an extraordinary tally for such as Barbara Cartland, who could dictate six thousand words between lunch and tea, or Georges ...


Margaret Visser: Mega-Fish

16 April 1998
Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World 
by Mark Kurlansky.
Cape, 294 pp., £12.99, March 1998, 0 224 05104 0
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... that there was scarcely room enough for the sea to hold them, so many that they could be fished by scooping with baskets. Admittedly, that was no longer true in the 19th century, but, according to AlexandreDumas in 1873, ‘calculations’ proved that ‘if no accident prevented the hatching of the eggs, and if each cod grew to its full size, it would take only three years for the sea to be full of cod ...


Theodore Zeldin

13 June 1991
Dead Certainties 
by Simon Schama.
Granta, 334 pp., £15.99, May 1991, 0 14 014230 4
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... had. He is not of course the first historian of the French Revolution to combine history and fiction. When the poet Lamartine introduced imaginary dialogue into his History of the Girondins (1844-7), AlexandreDumas applauded, saying: ‘He has raised history to the level of the novel.’ However, both literary critics and professional historians condemned him: why, they asked, did he not stick to what he ...

The Limits of Chivalry

Caroline Weber: Courtly Love

23 January 2014
Queens and Mistresses of Renaissance France 
by Kathleen Wellman.
Yale, 433 pp., £30, July 2013, 978 0 300 17885 2
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... gave orders that her pageant should be kept back until a late hour so that her highness should pass unnoticed.’ The daughter of Henri II and Catherine, Marguerite de Valois, known to readers of AlexandreDumas as Queen Margot, passed unnoticed for an even more dramatic reason: she was exiled from the court for 19 years. It was not her husband, Henri IV, but his immediate predecessor, Marguerite’s ...


Harry Mathews

2 November 1995
‘Maldoror’ and the Complete Works of the Comte de Lautréamont 
translated by Alexis Lykiard.
Exact Change, 352 pp., £11.99, January 1995, 9781878972125
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... presented as a defence of goodness, a claim made ridiculous by such declarations as: ‘A fifth-form teacher...[who] tells himself “I should not wish to have written novels like those of Balzac and AlexandreDumas,” for that alone is more intelligent than AlexandreDumas and Balzac’; or ‘the masterpieces of the French language are school prize-giving speeches and academic writings’; or ...
4 August 1994
God’s Plagiarist: Being an Account of the Fabulous Industry and Irregular Commerce of the Abbé Migne 
by R. Howard Bloch.
Chicago, 162 pp., £19.95, June 1994, 0 226 05970 7
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... power wielded with impunity. Yet at the time the book review, the advertisement and the idea of literary property itself were still in a fluid state. This is the age whose most popular writer – AlexandreDumas – ran a novel ‘factory’ and sauntered through the garden of world literature, secateurs in hand. The play which is usually described as the first blow struck for Romantic drama in France ...

Who mended Pierre’s leg?

David A. Bell: Lourdes

11 November 1999
Lourdes: Body and Spirit in the Secular Age 
by Ruth Harris.
Allen Lane, 473 pp., £25, April 1999, 0 7139 9186 0
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... journalist Henri Lasserre, who attributed his own recovery from blindness to treatment with Lourdes water. His Notre-Dame de Lourdes sold over a million copies: more than Victor Hugo, Jules Verne or AlexandreDumas; more probably than any other book published in France in the 19th century. It ran to 142 editions in just seven years; was translated into 80 languages and remained in print until the Sixties ...
21 February 1980
My Life 
by George Sand, translated and adapted by Dan Hofstadter.
Gollancz, 246 pp., £7.95, September 1980, 0 575 02682 0
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George Sand in her Own Words 
edited and translated by Joseph Barry.
Quartet, 475 pp., £7.50, November 1980, 0 7043 2235 8
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... and tabulated in her mind, and she whisks out her references with the nimbleness with which the doorkeeper at an exhibition hands you back your umbrella in return for a check,’ says James. When AlexandreDumas asked her in her old age what she thought of Lélia, she said she could not even manage to read through the first volume. ‘All the same, when I wrote that book, I was sincere.’ Her letters ...
6 February 1986
Holy Smoke 
by G. Cabrera Infante.
Faber, 329 pp., £9.95, October 1985, 0 571 13518 8
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Tobacco on the Periphery. A Case Study in Cuban Labour History: 1860-1958 
by Jean Stubbs.
Cambridge, 203 pp., £25, April 1985, 9780521254236
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... From then on it was all read, rattle and roll,’ says Cabrera. The favourite authors in early days were Hugo (‘His Notre Dame is an all-time favourite with romantic rollers’), Eugène Sue, AlexandreDumas (hence Montecristo), Galdos and Zola. Hugo, the greatest European influence in Latin America in the 19th century, wrote when he heard of the practice ‘a letter of thanksgiving to Partagas ...

The Slap

Michael Wilding

17 April 1986
The Image, and Other Stories 
by Isaac Bashevis Singer.
Cape, 310 pp., £9.95, February 1986, 0 224 02357 8
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... he has met. In his memoir Love and Exile Singer stressed the importance of suspense. I yearned for some of the suspense found in the works of Balzac, Victor Hugo, Tolstoi, Dostoevski, Flaubert, AlexandreDumas and Strindberg. Yiddish and Hebrew literature both suffered from a lack of suspense. Everything in them centred around some yeshivah student who had gone astray, sought worldly knowledge, then ...

Powerful People

D.A.N. Jones

15 October 1987
Anthills of the Savannah 
by Chinua Achebe.
Heinemann, 233 pp., £10.95, September 1987, 0 434 00604 1
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Familiar Wars 
by Julietta Harvey.
Joseph, 251 pp., £10.95, August 1987, 0 7181 2823 0
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Lenin: The Novel 
by Alan Brien.
Secker, 703 pp., £11.95, October 1987, 0 436 06840 0
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... But no, no! The Revolution frustrated by some misshapen freak, half-snake, half-shark? Never!’ This aria is followed by a few notes, like those of a discursive essayist, about Sherlock Holmes and AlexandreDumas. Next day a friend advises Lenin to avoid the lake: ‘Peasants have told me that it is famous as the haunt of a giant water-worm that has been known to drag down dogs, even deer.’ Lenin ...

Sit like an Apple

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Artists’ Wives

23 October 2008
Hidden in the Shadow of the Master: The Model-Wives of Cézanne, Monet and Rodin 
by Ruth Butler.
Yale, 354 pp., £18.99, July 2008, 978 0 300 12624 2
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... told Vita Sackville-West that Beuret had attached herself to him ‘comme une bête’ – less ‘like a crazy person’, as Butler has it, than ‘like a dumb animal’. (Butler earlier quotes AlexandreDumas on the ‘trainloads of young people’ arriving from the provinces: ‘especially girls from the lowest classes who, being so close to natural savagery, retain their animal appetites for ...
29 July 2015
Ever Yours: The Essential Letters 
by Vincent van Gogh, edited by Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten and Nienke Bakker.
Yale, 777 pp., £30, December 2014, 978 0 300 20947 1
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Van Gogh: A Power Seething 
by Julian Bell.
Amazon, 171 pp., £6.99, January 2015, 978 1 4778 0129 1
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... you back in the day; look too at how much money our tycoons and art institutions are willing to pay for your treasured work. The most valuable painter of Van Gogh’s day was Meissonier, that AlexandreDumas of 19th-century painting, whose fame, subject matter (typically, Napoleon’s triumphs and disasters) and traditional technique we might plausibly expect to have repelled the younger painter ...

At Tate Britain

Peter Campbell: British Art and the French Romantics

20 February 2003
... it easier to relish the dramatics of Horace Vernet’s Mazeppa, to see that there is more than nice observation of weather in Paul Huet’s picture of a lonely rider, Storm at the End of the Day. Dumas’s novel mixes operatic themes with the odd sourly realistic vignette. The exhibition shows how two different visual cultures produced what lives side by side in the novel: scenes of romantic action ...

From Progress to Catastrophe

Perry Anderson: The Historical Novel

28 July 2011
... but deliberately bent the evidence where it was inconvenient for his propagandist purpose. This is something Scott was on the whole reluctant to do. In War and Peace we are closer to the spirit of AlexandreDumas’s maxim: ‘On peut violer l’histoire à condition de lui faire de beaux enfants.’ The question, of course, is whether Tolstoy’s fictional portrait of Kutuzov qualifies as such a ...

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