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March 2002 - The Chateau of Monte-Cristo

In 1844, flush with the success of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte-Cristo, the widely acclaimed novelist, playwright and bon vivant Alexandre Dumas (1802 - 1870) decided to build a château in the hills just outside of Paris. The parcel of land he chose presented special challenges, requiring extraordinary efforts to stabilize the soil. But Dumas, an extravagant man, paid no heed to the warnings of his architect who proclaimed, "This will cost several hundred thousand francs!"

Dumas pressed on, building a beautifully ornate château that included a room inspired by the Moorish art that he saw during a trip to north Africa. The château rises three stories and is surrounded by a quiet English garden with trails that meander through seven acres of woods. Above the château stands a singular surprise: a small, dainty, neo-gothic pavilion called the Château d'If. This structure, surrounded by water, appears to have emerged from one of the grottos hidden in the garden.

When Dumas's dream château was completed, he invited 50 friends to his house-warming party. However, 600 people showed up for the event, making his party the talk of Paris. Dumas had many friends, but he also had many admirers who sought out his company to take advantage of his generous nature. Indeed, he was a man who couldn't say "No", and his motto was "I love those who love me."

So numerous were the friends and fans who dropped by to see him that he retreated to the Château d'If to meditate and write.

Dumas's extravagance finally brought about his financial ruin. Though the château was completed in 1847, he was forced to sell it in 1848 at one seventh of the price of construction. He fled to Brussels in 1851 to escape his creditors. Ownership of the château passed from one person to another, until finally, in 1972, an association was formed to purchase it and save it from destruction.

Thanks to the efforts of the "Friends of Alexandre Dumas Association", the château, park and pavilion can be visited today. Visitors will marvel at this magic place and surely will feel inspired to learn more about the prolific writer who captured the imagination of readers all over the world. More information about the life and works of Alexandre Dumas can be obtained by clicking on the icon below.

The Alexandre Dumas père Web Site


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Paris Panorama Newsletters for 2002