Alexandre Dumas was one of the most famous and prolific French writers of the nineteenth century, producing some 250 books. He is best known for his historical novels The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, and he was among the first authors to fully exploit the possibilities of roman feuilleton, or "serial novel." Dumas is credited with revitalizing the historical novel in France. His works are riveting, fast-paced adventure tales that blend history and fiction. A master of dialogue and character development, Dumas composed some of the most emulated teaser scenes for his suspenseful chapter endings.
Dumas was born in Villes-Cotterêts in 1802. His father was a general in Napoleon's army, but after he died, the family lived in poverty. Dumas worked as a notary's clerk until 1823, when he went to Paris to seek his fortune. Because of his elegant handwriting, he secured a position with the Duc d'Orléans, who later became King Louis Philippe. He also wrote for the theater and published some obscure magazines. Dumas lived as adventurously as the heroes in his books, taking part in the revolution of July 1830. He later caught cholera during the epidemic of 1832 and traveled to Italy to recuperate.
Dumas married his mistress, the actress Ida Ferrier, in 1840, but he soon separated after having spent her entire dowry on the construction of the fantastic château Montecristo on the outskirts of Paris. In 1855 Dumas was forced to escape his creditors and spent two years in exile in Brussels. In 1858, he traveled to Russia, and in 1860 he went to Italy, where he supported Garibaldi and Italy's struggle for independence. He remained in Naples as a museum keeper for four years. After his return to France, his debts continued to mount. Called "the King of Paris," Dumas earned fortunes and spent them on friends, art, and mistresses. Dumas died of a stroke on December 5, 1870, at Puys, near Dieppe. His illegitimate son, Alexandre Dumas (Jr.), became a writer, dramatist, and moralist.