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Les Mille-et-un fantômes : Une Journeé à Fontenay-aux-Roses

A Thousand and One Phantoms;The Pale Lady;Horror at Fontenay

collection, pub:1849

Written with Paul Bocage. Loosely based sequel is Les Mariages du Père Olifus.
This book is published in English as Horror At Fontenay or The Pale Lady.

    Le bracelet de cheveux de Mille-et-un fantômes
    Mille-et-un fantômes
    fiche bibliographique de Mille et un fantômes

From Reviews (FJM) by Frank J. Morlock:
     Horror at Fontenay (Une Journeé à Fontenay-aux-Roses), translated and adapted by Alan Hull Watson who has also translated De Sade and Huysmans, is really a sort of Decameron of horror stories, told over dinner. It begins with Dumas taking a day's hunting at the village of Fontenay. Dumas is attracted to a commotion at the Mayor's house, and finds a quarry worker, Jaquemin, at the Mayor's gate trying to get himself arrested for murdering his wife. At first he is not believed, but, so terrified is Jaquemin, that an investigation is launched. Dumas tags along. Jaquemin leads them to the cellar of his home, where he displays to all doubters the beheaded body of his wife. Dumas, along with others witness the confession. As a legal witness Dumas is requested to remain until official documents can be drawn up. To make the wait more comfortable Mayor Ledru, who has heard of Dumas, invites him to stay to dinner. The Mayor is occupying a house that once belonged to Scarron, the poet and playwright, whose wife eventually married Louis XIV. The Mayor has some rather eccentric other guests for dinner. Remarkable among them is Aliette a very old man who claims to have lived for hundreds of years like the Wandering Jew. The discussion turns to the events of the day. Jaquemin had insisted that after he sliced off her head, his wife's head rebuked him. This Doctor Robert, who is a tough minded materialist, insists is physically impossible, whereupon Mayor Ledru, himself a doctor, disputes this based on an event that happened to him personally during the Revolutionary Terror, and of experiments he was conducting at the time. This story is rather unforgettable, but as I can hardly tell it without giving away the plot, I cannot say too much more. No supernatural explanation is required here. The question is does life persist, and if so, for how long after the head is severed? Not something easily determined without an experiment not easily repeated.
     Mayor Ledru's story is followed by that of a Scotch Judge who is haunted by the ghost of a man he had hanged. The ghost first appears in the form of a black cat, and later as a gentleman usher. The cat is visible to the judge but no one else.
     Then there is a macabre story that involves the desecration of the Royal Tombs at Saint Denis, just after Marie Antoinette's Execution. This was an event that I was unaware of, although I've always fancied I had a pretty good knowledge of the period surrounding the Terror. It was decided to dig up the bodies of the Kings and rebury them in a common tomb, to remove all traces of royalty in France. Henry IV emerged in rather good shape, even as to his beard. But one of the workman, drunk and obstreperous, yanks the beard off. This annoys the other workmen who still had a high regard for Henry, as a good king. The workman is cursed, and Dumas traces his undoing with great precision.
     There are two more stories, and finally a vampire story. Of these, the vampire story is the best. Interestingly, the vampire seems to have been a vampire even before his death, and a very evil person to boot. He casts no shadow. He is eventually forced back into his grave by his older half brother.
     Although I am not a great afficianado of the horror story, I've read my share. These stories by Dumas are unusual in several respects, and very effective. First of all, they do not conform to the usual horror story formula we've come to know so well, i.e. someone like Doctor Frankenstein is conducting an experiment he shouldn't be meddling in. This formula sort of gives many horror stories a sort of moral stance usually directed against science, or in some instances a refusal to believe in the occult. Dumas avoids this cliché, either deliberately, or perhaps because he was working too fast, or because this formula was not established very well at the time this book was written. There is horror aplenty in these stories, and they are told in a vivid, chilling, often cinematic style, with plenty of dialogue and well visualized dramatic action. They compare favorably with anything written in the genre up to that time that I know of including Poe. In fact they make excellent reading even today. They are not stories you will soon forget. They have all the qualities of vivid nightmare that is the hallmark of effective horror. I recommend it to anyone who likes a good shudder, and the book deserves to be better known, while the stories should be included in any anthology of the genre.

From Reviews (ADR) by Arthur D. Rypinski:
     A supernatural horror novel, set in Fontenay-aux-Roses in August 1831. Dumas reports that he visited Fontenay-aux-Roses to go hunting, and while there happened on the aftermath of a murder. The killer shows up on the doorstep of the mayor, publicly confesses to murdering his wife, and demands to be taken into custody. Dumas visits the crime scene with the mayor and is subsequently invited to attend a dinner party.
     According to the translator's notes, Dumas peopled his dinner party with real individuals active in Parisian occult circles during the period. The novel is structured as a debate between a rationalist doctor, who denies the existence of supernatural forces, and the mayor and most of his guests, who uphold the existence of the supernatural.
     Each guest attempts, in turn, to convince the doctor of the existence of the supernatural by recounting a ghost story taken from the guest's personal experience. The stories could effectively stand alone, and are vivid and often gruesome. [Hint: How long does a person remain conscious after being guillotined?] They are set in diverse times and locales, including two stories set in Paris during the terror, one in Scotland, one in contemporary France, one in Switzerland, and one in the Carpathian Mountains.

From A Bibliography of Alexandre Dumas père by Frank Wild Reed:
     A series of stories more or less connected with the occult. Dumas himself says that this work was merely the introduction to the collection, for which he supplied the general title of "Les Mille et un Fantômes," giving to this prefatory portion the sub-title of "Une Journée à Fontenay-aux-Roses." This portion of the work ends with the chapter entitled "Le Monastère de Nango," and is that published in Calmann-Lévy's standard edition as "Les Mille et un Fantômes."
     In addition, however, there also belong to the complete series the following stories, each of which, unless otherwise indicated, will be found as a separate entry in this work :—
         La Femme au Collier de Velours.
         Les Mariages du Père Olifus
             Intercalation :—James Rousseau—between Chapters XII. and XV. of the above.
         Le Testament de Monsieur de Chauvelin.
         Un Dîner Chez Rossini
             Les Deux Etudiants de Bologne.—The concluding portion of the preceding, sometimes classed as a separate story.
         Les Gentilshommes de la Sierra-Morena.
             Histoire de Don Bernardo de Zuniga, being the latter portion of the preceding story, it is sometimes referred to as a separate tale.
     Parran, and following him Glinel, credit Paul Bocage with collaboration in "Les Mille et un Fantômes," but there seems good reason for thinking that Paul Lacroix at least indicated the sources. C. G. Leland states that, Dumas used largely for this collection the "Histoire des Fantômes et des Démons" (Paris, 1819). Dumas says he was keenly interested in the discussion between the two famous physicians, Cabanis and Sue, regarding the possibility of a guillotined person suffering pain after being beheaded, and that his recollections of this were drawn upon by him in writing this book.
     "Solange," a portion of "Une Journée à Fontenay-aux-Roses," has on occasion been listed as a separate story.
     Dumas equipped this work with a dedication to his friend, the Duc de Montpensier, who had been driven into exile the previous year with the rest of the royal family. It also contained a letter addressed to Véron. As may be readily understood, the dedication was suppressed in the French edition, but was issued in the Belgian ones. Véron' s letter is however still to be found prefixed to the French texts. In this, the author refers to the sub-title of "Une Journée à Fontenay-aux-Roses" as being that of the introductory portion only of the longer work.
     It first appeared as a serial in "Le Constitutionnel" (hence the letter to its manager Véron), without of course the dedication to the Duc.
     Original edition : Paris, Cadot, 2 vols., 8vo., 1849.
     First illustrated edition : Paris, Marescq et Cie., 1 vol., 4to., 1853.
     It forms one volume in the standard Calmann-Lévy edition, a portion of one in their illustrated series, and a volume in the "Musée Littéraire."
     In Le Vasseur's "Alexandre Dumas Illustré" it forms part of Vol. XVII.
     In the Belgian editions the whole series is most frequently issued in some half-dozen volumes under the general title of "Les Mille et un Fantômes."

         References :—
     Dumas: "Mes Mémoires," Chapter CCLXI.
     Parran: "Bibliographie d'Alex. Dumas," page 57.
     De Mirecourt: "Les Contemporains " (1857)—article devoted to "Le Bibliophile Jacob."
     "Histoire des Fantômes et des Démons" (1819).
     Leland: "Unpublished Legends of Virgil," page xvi.
     Scott (Sir Walter): "Demonology and Witchcraft."

         English Translations :—
     London, Methuen, the entire series in three parts, sewed, 1907-1909, entitled respectively: "Tales of the Supernatural," "Tales of Strange Adventure" and "Tales of Terror." "A Day at Fontenay-aux-Roses" forms the major portion of the first of these, and includes both the dedication to the Duc de Montpensier and the letter to Véron.
     "Solange" has been printed as a separate story in America.

From A Bibliography of Alexandre Dumas père by Frank Wild Reed:
     (CLXIV.) Chapter XII., three seven-line stanzas, rhyming a, a, a, b, b, b, a.

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