If reading is a vice that goes unpunished, as the poet has it, then Alexandre Dumas père (1802-1870) offers one of the principal means of access to that form of depravity for devotees too numerous to mention. Throughout the world, how many have tasted for the first time the refined pleasures, the ecstasies and thrills of reading, in The Three Musketeers and its sequels, or The Count of Monte-Cristo? How many have ventured to own that it was Dumas senior who set their feet on the primrose path, not just of dalliance, but of extremely serious liaisons with other novelists in the loftiest realms of literature? Andre Malraux, visiting Cayenne in his role as minister of culture, remembered a novel he had read as a small boy, Dumas’s Georges, the adventures of a half-French mulatto with a will of steel who led a revolt against the British in the Caribbean. Malraux remarked elsewhere that he had...


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