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This Day in History – July 24, 1802

Writer Alexandre Dumas is born in Villers-Cotterêts, France

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On this day in 1802, Alexandre Dumas was born in Villers-Cotterêts, France. He would become one of the most famous writers in the country, and is best known for his works The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers.

Dumas’s father joined Napoleon’s army, where he became a general at the age of only 31.  He held the highest rank of any black European and earned the nickname “Black Devil.” After his father’s death, his mother enlisted Dumas in school. Dumas dropped out and worked as an assistant for a notary instead.

He moved to Paris, France in 1822, where he became fascinated with literature. He wrote plays which became very popular, especially compared to those of his rival, Victor Hugo. Dumas also penned novels, short stories, and essays. He is credited with writing one of the earliest books on werewolves, The Wolf Leader. He quickly gained celebrity status throughout the country for his writing abilities.

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Dumas used the money from his writing to build the Château de Monte Cristo in Port Marly, Yvelines, France, which he intended to be his own private sanctuary. He slipped into debt, which forced him to sell the property and run to Belgium and Russia to avoid paying his debts.  Dumas continued to publish books while on the run. Today, the home he built is a museum.

Dumas and Marie Laure Catherine Labay had a son, whom they named Alexandre as well.  He had a daughter named Marie Alexandrine while cheating on his wife Ida Ferrier with other women.

Dumas passed away in Puys, France on December 5, 1870.  His remains were moved from the cemetery of Villers-Cotterêts to the Panthéon in Paris in 2002. President Jacques Chirac said, “Alexandre Dumas will finally take his place beside Victor Hugo and Emile Zola, his brothers in literature. With you, it is childhood, hours of reading relished in secret, emotion, passion, adventure and panache that enter the Pantheon. With you we dreamed. With you we still dream.”

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