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concerning Nouvelles impressions de voyage: Midi de la France

     In 1834, Alexandre Dumas began publishing his enormously successful Impressions de Voyage: En Suisse. Possibly buoyed by the success of this work, he set off again, in October 1834, on a second trip. He would be absent from France for two years (1834-1836). His travels would take him through the South of France, one Firenze (Florence), Rome, Naples, and Sicily. The trip would eventually yield five travel books, of which the first, Nouvelles Impressions de Voyage: Midi de la France, would appear in 1841, some seven years after the events it described.
     From internal evidence in the book it would appear that Dumas didn't write Midi de la France until 1840 or so. This delay perhaps robbed the book of some of the freshness and personal anecdote which usually characterized Dumas' travel writing. By way of compensation, it contains an extra helping of history, particularly classical history, inspired by the many Roman ruins that Dumas and his party visited.
     Dumas' itinerary took him from Paris to the palace at Fontainebleau (which inspired an anecdote of the abdication of Napoleon, thence to Cosne (a story about man who murders his family), then to Bourbon-Archembault, and then to Lyon. Dumas' visit to Lyon is the occasion for an extended account of the execution of Cinq-Mars by the order of Louis XIII. From Lyon, Dumas continued south to Vienna, Valence, Orange, and then to Avignon. At Avignon, Dumas recounts the assassination of his god-father, Maréchal Brune, in 1815. Dumas continues to Aigues-Mortes, Arles, and then to Marseilles. At Marseilles, Dumas describes the capture of the city by the forces of Henri IV in 1595.
     Dumas concludes the book with a short story, La Maison Phenicienne, (which he attributes to a manuscript found in an old chest, but slyly suggests was actually written by Méry), a pocket-size historical romance of the 1595 fall of Marseilles.
     This may seem like a lot to cram between the covers of a single book, but there are actually many more locales, and many more stories, than the few highlights listed above.


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