A person by the name of Gillardet wrote a play, and presented it to the manager of a theater, who not liking it, asked Jules Janin, the critic, to revise it. Not liking it any better after the work of Janin upon it, he handed it over to Dumas for a similar revision. He rearranged it and brought it out as his own play! M. Gillardet went to law upon the matter and recovered his rights. A duel was the result of the quarrel. Many plays after this were written, until at last Janin, the critic, wrote a severe article upon one of Dumas’ plays. The author was wroth, and replied. Janin made a second attack, and Paris laughed at the author. Dumas swore that he would have blood, and author and critic went on to the field for combat. Dumas demanded to fight with the sword—Janin with the pistol—and finally not coming to agreement upon this point, the parties made up their quarrel and became friends.
The reader will have seen by this time where Dumas’ genius lies—it is in the arrangements for a drama—in working a subject up for the stage. It is not so much in the matter, as the manner. Give him incidents, and he will group them so as to produce a great effect. This is his power.
Dumas’ income grew large, and he took a new and more princely residence. He associated himself with the great, and even went so far as to take an actress to a ball given by his patron, the duke of Orleans. The woman acted in his plays, and his relations with her were too intimate, but he soon afterward married her. They lived so extravagantly that a separation soon followed, and though Dumas’ income was two hundred thousand francs a year, yet he was constantly in debt from his astonishing extravagance. He built at St. Germain his villa of Monte Christo, which required enormous sums of money. He imported two architects from Algiers, to decorate at a great expense one room after the fashion of the east, and pledged them not to execute any similar work in Europe. He has twelve reception-rooms in his house, and it is magnificently furnished throughout. He keeps birds, parrots, and monkeys, and a collection of fine horses.
From 1845 to 1846 he issued sixty volumes, the majority, of course, written for, not by him. As a matter of course, if these volumes sold successfully, his income was enormous, and his name upon the cover of a book seemed to insure its success. A theater was erected for the express purpose of representing his plays alone, called the Theater of History. He now visited Spain, and was present at the marriage of the duke of Montpensier. Coming home, he made a short tour in Africa, where he engaged in rare sports. He was accompanied by his son Alexander, who is a distinguished author.
After the revolution of 1848 Dumas appeared among the people, who welcomed him as a pure democrat. He started a journal which soon died. A good story is told of him about this time. A great admirer said to him that there was a gross historical error in one of his romances. “Ah!” said Dumas, “in what book?” The volume and error were pointed out, when he exclaimed, “Ah! I have not read the book. Let me see—the little Augustus wrote it. I will cut his head off!”