The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo

Posted in Biography, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, History, Media Archive, Monographs on 2013-04-17 02:14Z by Steven

The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo

Random House
432 pages
Hardback ISBN: 978-0-307-38246-7

Tom Reiss

Here is the remarkable true story of the real Count of Monte Cristo—a stunning feat of historical sleuthing that brings to life the forgotten hero who inspired such classics as The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers.

The real-life protagonist of The Black Count, General Alex Dumas, is a man almost unknown today yet with a story that is strikingly familiar, because his son, the novelist Alexandre Dumas, used it to create some of the best loved heroes of literature.

Yet, hidden behind these swashbuckling adventures was an even more incredible secret: the real hero was the son of a black slave—who rose higher in the white world than any man of his race would before our own time.

Born in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), Alex Dumas was briefly sold into bondage but made his way to Paris where he was schooled as a sword-fighting member of the French aristocracy. Enlisting as a private, he rose to command armies at the height of the Revolution, in an audacious campaign across Europe and the Middle East—until he met an implacable enemy he could not defeat.

The Black Count is simultaneously a riveting adventure story, a lushly textured evocation of 18th-century France, and a window into the modern world’s first multi-racial society. But it is also a heartbreaking story of the enduring bonds of love between a father and son. 

Table of Contents

  • prologue, part 1 • February 26, 1806
  • prologue, part 2 • January 25, 2007
  • book one
    • chapter 1 • The Sugar Factory
    • chapter 2 • The Black Code
    • chapter 3 • Norman Conquest
    • chapter 4 • “No One Is a Slave in France”
    • chapter 5 • Americans in Paris
    • chapter 6 • Black Count in the City of Light
    • chapter 7 • A Queen’s Dragoon
  • book two
    • chapter 8 • Summers of Revolution
    • chapter 9 • “Regeneration by Blood”
    • chapter 10 • “The Black Heart Also Beats for Liberty”
    • chapter 11 • “Mr. Humanity”
    • chapter 12 • The Battle for the Top of the World
    • chapter 13 • The Bottom of the Revolution
    • chapter 14 • The Siege
    • chapter 15 • The Black Devil
  • book three
    • chapter 16 • Leader of the Expedition
    • chapter 17 • “The Delirium of His Republicanism”
    • chapter 18 • Dreams on Fire
    • chapter 19 • Prisoner of the Holy Faith Army
    • chapter 20 • “Citizeness Dumas… Is Worried About the Fate of Her Husband”
    • chapter 21 • The Dungeon
    • chapter 22 • Wait and Hope
  • epilogue • The Forgotten Statue
  • Acknowledgments
  • Author’s Note on Names
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
Tags: , , , ,

‘The Black Count:’ the epic true story behind ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive on 2012-11-16 23:06Z by Steven

‘The Black Count:’ the epic true story behind ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’

The Seattle Times

Tyrone Beason

Tom Reiss’ swashbuckling new book, “The Black Count,” tells the true story of Alex Dumas, son of a French nobleman and an African slave, the father of author Alexandre Dumas and the inspiration for the younger Dumas’ classic novel “The Count of Monte Cristo.”

The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss Crown, 414 pp.

There are no statues in monument-laden France commemorating the legendary 18th century swordsman and general Alex Dumas, whose son Alexandre based literary classics like “The Three Musketeers” and “The Count of Monte Cristo” on scenes from the elder’s epic life story.

It’s a sad civic oversight, but nothing compared to the tragic decline suffered by the novelist’s heroic father as laid out in Tom Reiss’ fascinating, and dare to say, swashbuckling new biography, “The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal and the Real Count of Monte Cristo.”

It turns out that the heroes in those classics are modeled on a black man who was born in 1762 in the French colony of Haiti. Alex Dumas was the son of a wayward French nobleman and an African slave, and it is his biracial identity that adds such rich complexity to his rise through the ranks of the French military to become one of the most beloved generals of his time, arguably even more admired than Napoleon, a fact that probably didn’t sit well with the megalomaniacal future ruler.

It was Napoleon who tapped Dumas to command the cavalry that invaded Egypt, an enormous, and as it turns out, fateful honor.

“The Black Count” meticulously evokes the spirit of Revolutionary and Napoleonic France, but it also explains the exasperating paradox of a nation that was simultaneously a huge slaveholding empire and the pioneering exponent of the concept of “liberté, egalité, fraternité.”

Let’s not forget the context. By the 1750s, black slaves taken to France were able to sue their masters for freedom. After the French Revolution in 1793, special schools were set up in France to educate the children of “revolutionaries of color” from the colonies. Black and mixed-race politicians were allowed to serve in the national government…

Read the entire review here.

Tags: , , , ,

The Third Musketeer

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, History, New Media on 2012-09-14 21:14Z by Steven

The Third Musketeer

The New York Times
Leo Damrosch, Ernest Bernbaum Professor of Literature, Emeritus
Harvard University

The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal,and the Real Count of Monte Cristo. By Tom Reiss, 432 pp. Crown Publishers. Hardback ISBN: 978-0-307-38246-7.

In the 1790s, the son of an aristocratic white father and a black slave woman became a charismatic French general who for a time rivaled Napoleon himself, and afterward languished in an Italian dungeon. His story inspired the novel “The Count of Monte Cristo,” written by his son, Alexandre Dumas, who also drew upon his father’s adventures in “The Three Musketeers.” Posterity remembers this son as Dumas père, to distinguish him from Alexandre Dumas fils, also a writer, whose novel “La Dame aux Camélias” was the source for Verdi’sLa Traviata.” But the general was the first of the three Alexandres (he preferred to be known as Alex), and in “The Black Count,” Tom ­Reiss, the author of “The Orientalist,” has recovered this fascinating story with a richly imaginative biography.

Despite Reiss’s extensive research, the count remains a somewhat remote figure, since his contemporaries usually described him in conventional superlatives. The chief source of information is a highly romanticized memoir by his son, who was not yet 4 when he died, and who idealized him, in Reiss’s words, as “the purest, noblest man who ever lived.” Still, such language seems deserved. General Dumas was majestically tall (“his proportions were those of a Greek hero”), a crack swordsman and horseman (“looking like a centaur”), utterly fearless, generous to subordinates and a loving husband and father. He was also exceptionally good-looking, though the portraits that survive are less spectacular than the majestic Adonis depicted in the book’s cover illustration.

Dumas was born in 1762 at the western end of Saint-Domingue, the colony that is now Haiti. Remarkably, the French Empire guaranteed protection and opportunities to people of mixed race, and when the boy’s father brought him to France at the age of 14 he was able to receive a first-rate education and later to join the army. He never cared much for his feckless father, however, and took the name Dumas from his slave mother, about whom very little is known…

Read the entire review here.

Tags: , , , ,