The Count of Monte Cristo

Background to the plot

Dumas wrote[3] that the idea of revenge in The Count of Monte Cristo came from a story in a book compiled by Jacques Peuchet, a French police archivist, published in 1838 after the death of the author.[4] Dumas included this essay in one of the editions from 1846.[5] Peuchet told of a shoemaker, Pierre Picaud, living in Nîmes in 1807, who was engaged to marry a rich woman when three jealous friends falsely accused him of being a spy for England. Picaud was placed under a form of house arrest in the Fenestrelle Fort, where he served as a servant to a rich Italian cleric. When the man died, he left his fortune to Picaud, whom he had begun to treat as a son. Picaud then spent years plotting his revenge on the three men who were responsible for his misfortune. He stabbed the first with a dagger on which were printed the words "Number One", and then he poisoned the second. The third man's son he lured into crime and his daughter into prostitution, finally stabbing the man himself. This third man, named Loupian, had married Picaud's fiancée while Picaud was under arrest.

In another of the "True Stories", Peuchet describes a poisoning in a family. This story, also quoted in the Pleiade edition, has obviously served as model for the chapter of the murders inside the Villefort family. The introduction to the Pleiade edition mentions other sources from real life: Abbé Faria existed and died in 1819 after a life with much resemblance to that of the Faria in the novel. As for Dantès, his fate is quite different from his model in Peuchet's book, since the latter is murdered by the "Caderousse" of the plot. But Dantès has "alter egos" in two other Dumas works; in "Pauline" from 1838, and more significantly in "Georges" from 1843, where a young man with black ancestry is preparing a revenge against white people who had humiliated him.


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