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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Dumas and his New Book

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, February 19, 2017

When a famous writer dies, the Estate descends on their office to see if there are any unpublished writings tucked away that can be published.


What isn’t understood is that most writers have manuscripts in various forms for things that will never be published, or themes that were discarded and filed away never to be completed.


A new book in the library is “another book” by a famous writer and is even marketed as “a sequel” to his earlier great works.


The difference with this new book is that the author died some 146 years ago!


French writer Alexandre Dumas was born in 1802 and was successful as a playwright, but is better known for the two great literary works of “The Count of Monte Cristo” and “The Three Musketeers,” published between 1844 and 1855.


Both have been published in nearly every language of the world with millions of copies in print worldwide.


Whether you have actually read either novels, or both; they have been produced as movies or TV adaptions and used as themes for countless works over the years.

Now the sequel “The Red Sphinx” has been published in 2017 translated by Lawrence Ellsworth; the first time it is appearing in English.


So, how has this “third book” slipped by without being published?  Well, actually it has been published, but.


The young Alexandre Dumas began writing in the 1820s as a poet and playwright, and was successful enough to write full-time.


In the 19th century, serial publication of stories where a chapter would appear in magazines were the rage and his writings fit that printing style.


“The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers” appeared one after the other and were wildly successful around the world.


They were followed by other famous tales for the serial world, but Dumas left France when Napoleon interrupted his writing career by ousting King Louis-Philippe,


At that point, Dumas had written “Le Comte de Moret” which became known as “The Red Sphinx.”


At this point, Dumas was at the end of his writing career and left unfinished the work as well as others.


The so-called third book faded into history to be published in pieces, with the largest section appearing in a 1927 collection.


In 1946, it was republished in French after original versions were found in the French National Library, but parts were still missing.


Now enter Lawrence Ellsworth, the pen name for Lawrence Schick, a Maryland native who fascination with medieval things has led to the publication of this book.


He feels that “The Dove” an 1850 novella publication of Dumas serves as the unwritten conclusion to “The Red Sphinx” so has added it to the publication and presents this new sequel to the public.


So, whether you agree with his re-publication theory or not, here is the 800 page book for the first time in English in the United States.


Ellsworth has added a lot of translation notes and character notes to assist the reader, and if this is your type of novel, I am sure you will enjoy it.


You may want to ask the librarian to extend the new book 7-day checkout, it will take some additional time to make it through the book ---- but I know many library users that will soak up this 19th century work.


Is Dumas pleased with this new work, or did the translator get it all wrong by adding “The Dove” to this book?