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A short biography of Paul Meurice (1818-1905) by Frank Morlock.


    Meurice had a long and distinguished career as a dramatist collaborating with Dumas, Sand and Hugo, as well as writing plays on his own.
    A graduate of the Charlemagne College, he was introduced by Charles Vacquerie to Victor Hugo in 1836 and became his acolyte. He was also on friendly terms with Alexandre Dumas père. He must have been a fairly good diplomat to remain friends with both men who were sometimes at odds from professional jealousy. With Dumas he collaborated on Amaury (1843), Ascanio (1843), Hamlet (1848), The Two Dianas (both novel (1847) and play (1865)), and Benvenuto Cellini (1852). Benvenuto Cellini later became the basis for the libretto of Saint-Saëns opera of the same name.
    Dumas regarded Meurice as something of a raffish, happy-go-lucky type. Considering that Dumas was regarded by most as rather wild himself, this indicates that Meurice must have been a lively company to say the least.
    The story is told that one day Meurice came to Dumas to borrow 30,000 francs so that he could make a dazzling, advantageous marriage. Dumas was willing but, as he told Meurice, "You know I don't have one twentieth of that sum." "But your signature is worth more than 30,000 francs on a new manuscript." "Yes, but unfortunately, I don't have a new manuscript on hand." Whereupon Meurice extracted from a box he had with him, the manuscript for The Two Dianas in novel form. Dumas thought about it and said, "Leave that here, and come back tomorrow." The next day Meurice had his money and presumably got the girl. Jules Janin told this story to the Goncourts, and Paul Foucher, Victor Hugo's brother-in-law retold a similar version in his memoirs.
    For this reason, it has been long argued that Dumas never wrote The Two Dianas although it is published with his works. It has been pointed out that Dumas denied it, but that was when The Two Dianas was being made into a play. Dumas wrote a preface to the play denying authorship but Dumas was in trouble with his creditors. Maurice paid Dumas père's share to his son Dumas fils. It seems unlikely he would have given Dumas a share if he'd not had a hand in the play and the novel on which it was based.
    Meurice was a staunch Republican and wound up spending ten months in prison in 1848 for printing an article on the right of asylum in his paper called L'Evenement. The article was by Charles Victor Hugo, Victor Hugo's son. In 1869 he was a cofounder of the journal Rappel and handled literary and theatrical criticism. There he worked with the young Emile Zola.
    In addition to the beautiful adaptation Ninety Three, Meurice adapted Hugo's Les Miserables and Notre Dame de Paris. All three plays are very faithful and powerful dramatic works. He also collaborated with Georges Sand on the dramatization of Cadio. Meurice also wrote a Falstaff (adapted from the tavern scene in Henry IV Part I), an Antigone, Fanfan la Tulipe and less familiar titles such as Paris. In 1888 he published, as editor The Love Letters of Victor Hugo. Between 1880-1885 Meurice essentially directed the publication of Hugo's collected works. Hugo made him his literary executor. He wrote several plays without collaborators including The Lawyer of the Poor, and three novels La Famille Aubry, Les Chavaliers de l'esprit (1869), and Le Songe de l'Amour (1869).

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