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concerning Histoire de mes bÍtes

     Dumas started Histoire de mes bÍtes as a series of 28 columns in his newspaper, Le Mousquetaire, which he published in Paris after his return, financially refreshed, from Brussels in 1854. When the Le Mousquetaire folded, he dropped the topic of animals for a decade, and then returned to it, writing a second set of 15 pieces for a new journal in 1864. The two sets of columns were collected into a single work and published in book form in 1867.
     The style of the work is light and conversational. Dumas successfully creates the illusion that he parked on a sofa next to the reader and is telling a funny story. The 1855 chapters tend to be thin: Dumas was clearly stretching a single comic idea across two or three issues of the paper, but remains amusing: the literary equivalent of a snack food. Most of the events described took place in 1845-1852, when Dumas was at the height of his success, and was building his folly, the Chateau de Monte Cristo in the country. While several animals wander through the book, notably the vulture Jugurtha, two monkeys, and a blue macaw, the principal hero of the book is a dog, the Scottish pointer Pritchard, who combines high intelligence with a marked propensity for theft. The stories about Pritchard give the book a striking degree of unity, despite being composed in two parts.
     The 1960 Chilton translation by A. Craig Bell omits the last two chapters, because Mr. Bell felt they were anticlimactic. There is apparently a 1909 Methuen translation, which (for reasons of contemporary English taste) omitted an extended joke in Chapter 41, titled "A Natural History into the Origins of the Peculiar Fashion of Greeting Among Dogs."

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