French Studies

Quebecer discovers an unpublished manuscript by Alexandre Dumas

The Gold Thieves, a drama in five acts by Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870), will soon be published by the French publisher Honoré-Champion. This script, which recounts the exploits of a band of English thieves in Australia, was discovered in 2002 by researcher Réginald Hamel, a retired professor in the French Studies Department at Université de Montréal.

The specialist turned up the unpublished manuscript while doing research in the archives of the Grande bibliothèque de France, in Paris. “It is a play inspired by a novel written by one of his mistresses, Céleste de Mogador, in 1857. Every sentence, every scene, every act, shows the Dumas flair for rendering a prose text into a theatrical performance,” Mr. Hamel explains. For three decades, Réginald Hamel has been tracking everything relating to the work of Dumas, the author of both the Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo. In 2002, the bicentennial of the writer’s birth, Guérin published the results of his research, to which his wife Pierrette Méthé also contributed. The Dictionnaire Dumas is an analytical and critical index of the characters and situations in the novelist’s work. It contains descriptions of 4,194 characters who make more than 25,000 appearances in the many novels and plays authored by Dumas. Not to be confused with Alexandre Dumas Jr. (1824-1895), the author of La Dame aux camélias, Alexandre Dumas published an astounding 100,000 pages over his career. By 1844 he had become quite famous. “No one in this century was more popular than Alexandre Dumas; his successes are more than successes: they are triumphs; they are like a trumpet blast,” Victor Hugo wrote of Dumas.

Réginald Hamel’s own quest reads like a thriller. For 10 years, he combed the world’s major libraries to recover copies of period newspapers that published Dumas novels in serial form. During his research, he was kicked out of Leningrad and driven back to the Finnish border, jailed in East Germany, beaten up by Hungarian policemen and held for ransom in Romania. “The result? More than 50,000 pages of notes and an immense body of material that we are now making available to our master’s and doctoral students,” he explains in the dictionary’s foreword.

Recognized as one of the world’s top 30 specialists on the work of Alexandre Dumas, Mr. Hamel was personally invited by French President Jacques Chirac, to attend the transfer of the writer’s ashes to the Pantheon on November 30, 2002. “For France, and beyond its borders, for all admirers of the author of the Three Musketeers, this day will be a great moment of celebration,” Mr. Chirac wrote a few weeks earlier. The dictionary, authored by M. Hamel and Ms. Jetté, “is further proof, if such were needed, of the universal popularity enjoyed by this great writer,” the president noted.

Mr. Hamel’s expertise has since brought him further recognition, after France’s minister of education promoted him to Officer of the Ordre des palmes académiques, with the French government noting his “remarkable commitment to promoting French literature.”

Researcher: Réginald Hamel
Telephone: (514) 697-0726



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