The Count of Monte Cristo (French: Le Comte de Monte-Cristo) is an adventure novel written by French author Alexandre Dumas (père) completed in 1844. It is one of the author's more popular works, along with The Three Musketeers. Like many of his novels, it was expanded from plot outlines suggested by his collaborating ghostwriter Auguste Maquet.
The story takes place in France, Italy, and islands in the Mediterranean during the historical events of 1815–1839: the era of the Bourbon Restoration through the reign of Louis-Philippe of France. It begins on the day that Napoleon left his first island of exile, Elba, beginning the Hundred Days period when Napoleon returned to power. The historical setting is a fundamental element of the book, an adventure story centrally concerned with themes of hope, justice, vengeance, mercy, and forgiveness. It centers on a man who is wrongfully imprisoned, escapes from jail, acquires a fortune, and sets about exacting revenge on those responsible for his imprisonment.
Before he can marry his fiancée Mercédès, Edmond Dantès, a nineteen-year-old Frenchman, and first mate of the Pharaon, is falsely accused of treason, arrested, and imprisoned without trial in the Château d'If, a grim island fortress off Marseille. A fellow prisoner, Abbé Faria, correctly deduces that his jealous rival Fernand Mondego, envious crewmate Danglars, and double-dealing magistrate De Villefort turned him in. Faria inspires his escape and guides him to a fortune in treasure. As the powerful and mysterious Count of Monte Cristo (Italy), Dantès arrives from the Orient to enter the fashionable Parisian world of the 1830s and avenge himself on the men who conspired to destroy him.
The book is considered a literary classic today. According to Lucy Sante, "The Count of Monte Cristo has become a fixture of Western civilization's literature."
The main character Edmond Dantès was a merchant sailor before his imprisonment. (Illustration by Pierre-Gustave Staal)
On the day in 1815 when Napoleon escapes the Island of Elba, Edmond Dantès brings the ship Pharaon into dock at Marseille. His captain, Leclère, had died during the passage; the ship's owner, Morrel, will make Dantès the next captain. On his deathbed, Leclère charged Dantès to deliver a package to General Bertrand (exiled with Napoleon), and a letter from Elba to an unknown man in Paris.
Dantès' colleague Danglars is jealous of Dantès' rapid promotion and, as the two men are at odds, fearful for his own employment should Dantès ascend. On the eve of Dantès' wedding to his Catalan fiancée Mercédès, Danglars meets at a cabaret with Fernand Mondego, Mercédès' cousin and a rival for her affections, and the two hatch a plot to anonymously denounce Dantès, falsely accusing him of being a Bonapartist traitor. Danglars and Mondego set a trap for Dantès. Dantès' neighbour, Caderousse, is present at the meeting; he too is jealous of Dantès, although he objects to the plot, but becomes too intoxicated with wine to prevent it.
The following day at the wedding breakfast, Dantès is arrested, and the cowardly Caderousse stays silent, fearing being also accused of Bonapartism. Villefort, the deputy crown prosecutor in Marseille, destroys the letter from Elba when he discovers that it is addressed to his own father, Noirtier, a Bonapartist, knowing it would destroy his own political career. To silence Dantès, he condemns him without trial to life imprisonment and resists all appeals by Morrel to release him, during the Hundred Days and once the king Louis XVIII is restored to rule France.
After six years of solitary imprisonment in the Château d'If, Dantès is on the verge of suicide when he meets the Abbé Faria ("The Mad Priest"), a middle-aged Italian prisoner who had dug an escape tunnel that exited in Dantès' cell. Faria reveals he is a priest and scholar with excellent memory, creativity and impressive knowledge. Faria had been unfairly imprisoned back in 1807 after participating in political upheavals concerning the unification of Italy and then taken to the Château d'If in 1811. Faria says "(...) I dreamed of the very plan Napoleon tried to realise in 1811". At the time, Napoleon planned to set up a kingdom covering the whole Italian peninsula, notwithstanding, of course, opposition from the neighbouring kingdoms (The so-called Risorgimento Italiano would not begin in earnest until at least 1848, and reached fulfillment until 1871.)
Over the next eight years, Faria educates Dantès in languages, history, culture, mathematics, chemistry, medicine, and science. Knowing himself to be close to death from catalepsy, Faria tells Dantès the location of a treasure on the Island of Monte Cristo, an inheritance from his work for the last of the Spada family, which, according to Faria himself, is estimated to be worth "Two Millions of Roman crowns [actually, écus, but it might as well refer to either soldi or denarii]; nearly thirteen millions of our money (francs)". During the course of his imprisonment, Faria tells the story of the treasure: Sometime in the late 1490s, Cardinal Cesare Spada was created a Cardinal after bribing the papal authorities. Pope Alexander VI had offered several nobleman such positions in the Roman Curia as part of a plan to systematically confiscate the corrupt cardinals wealth after killing them, through poisoning, often carried out during official dinners. After suspecting such intentions, the Cardinal Spada ordered his family fortune to be hidden in the Island of Monte Cristo in order to prevent it from being seized by the Pope and his son Cesare Borgia. Before being killed, he informed in a letter to his nephew and only heir that the total of his fortune was hidden there and belonged to him through an invisible ink letter. However, Cardinal Spada's attempt failed, as neither Spada's nephew nor his descendants were able to decipher the note. When the Cardinal and his nephew attend a lunch presided over by the Pope, both die after drinking poisoned wine, leaving the treasure abandoned.
Faria, who solved the mystery shortly after the death of the last living descendant of the Spada family, was on his way to retrieve the treasure but was captured by the Italian authorities, leaving him the only person who knew the secret.
On 28 February 1829, exactly 14 years after Edmond's imprisonment, Faria succumbs to catalepsy after his third attack. He became partly paralysed during the second, in which Dantés revived him by supplying him with a liquor. Taking advantage of the distraction of the jailers, Dantès, after failing to revive Faria, decides to take his body to his jail and takes his place in the burial sack, armed with a knife that Faria made. When he is thrown into the sea, Dantès cuts through the sack and swims to a nearby island, the Island of Tiboulen, where he is rescued by a Genoese smuggling ship that passes Monte Cristo called Jeune-Amélie (Young Amelia), whose crew allow Dantès to join them. After a few months (April–May 1829), during which time Dantès transforms his appearance and gets stable work aboard ship, he decides to seek out the treasure. Seizing an opportunity, Dantès and the crew disembark, with the excuse of hunting goats ("kids"). To stay on the island (to find his hidden treasure), Dantès simulates an accident and pretends he has broken some of his ribs. Six days later, the ship returns and he boards, carrying a few carefully hidden diamonds with him.
In port, Dantès sells some of the diamonds in order to purchase a yacht, sails to Monte Cristo for the rest of the treasure, and returns to Marseille in search of information which may lead to his vengeance. He later purchases the Island of Monte Cristo and the title of Count from the Tuscan government.
Travelling as the Abbé Busoni, Dantès meets Caderousse, now married and living in poverty, who regrets not intervening in Dantès' arrest. Caderousse informs Dantès that Mercédès had resigned herself, after eighteen months of vain expectations concerning Dantès' return from prison, to marrying Fernand, with whom she has a son, Albert.
Caderousse names Danglars and Mondego as the men who betrayed him, and also that his father has died of self-inflicted starvation. After Dantès' disappearance, both Danglars and Mondego had become successful beyond expectation; Danglars, after having been appointed as a cashier in a Spanish Bank—for which Mr. Morrel had recommended him—enters into the world of speculation, amassing a multi-million franc fortune and marrying Mr. de Salvieux's daughter, Madame de Norgonne, a wealthy widow.
Mondego pursues a successful military career, especially after the restoration period, serving in the Battle of Ligny. After his service in the French Army, he eventually gains the favour of the restored Bourbon monarchy and ascends with rapidity in the Armée, becoming captain in 1823. He then travels to several campaigns both in Spain and in Greece, ascending to colonel and then lieutenant-colonel in 1829. Mondego and his wife finally remain in Spain due to his duties.
After relating the story, Dantès rewards Caderousse a diamond, allegedly worth 50,000 francs (€110 million in 2021) that can be either a chance to redeem himself or a trap that will lead to his ruin.
Learning that his old employer Morrel faces bankruptcy, Dantès, posing as a clerk of Thomson and French, buys Morrel's debts and gives Morrel three months to fulfil his obligations. At the end of the three months and with no way to repay his debts, Morrel is about to commit suicide when he learns that his debts have been mysteriously paid and that one of his lost ships has returned with a full cargo, secretly rebuilt and laden by Dantès.
After travelling in the East to continue his education (and to plot his revenge), Dantès reappears nine years later, in 1838, as the wealthy Count of Monte Cristo, a title he has purchased. His three targets are Mondego (now Count de Morcerf and husband of Mercédès); Danglars (now a baron and a banker); and Villefort (now procureur du roi, or prosecutor for the king).
In Rome, at Carnival time, Dantès arranges for Viscount Albert de Morcerf, the son of Mercédès and Mondego, to be captured by the bandit Luigi Vampa. Dantès "rescues" the boy, who shows his gratitude by agreeing to introduce the Count into Parisian society. In Paris, Dantès dazzles Danglars with his wealth, persuading him to extend him a credit of six million francs (approximately €13.1 billion in 2021). By manipulating the bond market, Dantès then quickly destroys a large portion of Danglars' fortune. The rest of it rapidly disappears through mysterious bankruptcies, suspensions of payment, and more bad luck in the Stock Exchange.
On 21 May 1838, during Dantès' first visit to Paris after a long while (though his alter-ego feigns he has never been there), he decides to stay at Albert's residence (next to his parents, the count and countess of Moncerf). He meets Mercédès for the first time in 23 years, without her knowing his real identity. After spending the time in the Moncerfs' residence, Dantès meets up with a notary in the Champs Elysées to settle up the purchase of a private home located in Auteuil. Having paid the sum of 55,000 francs (€120 million in 2021) and after receiving the deed of the property and the keys, they both proceed to the residence. Upon arriving, after having become acquainted with the concierge and then exploring the house, Dantès' servant, a Corsican called Bertuccio, becomes nervous and uncomfortable. Dantès inquires after the reason for his uneasiness, threatening him unless he explains.
Bertuccio reveals he had an older brother who had raised him since they became orphans. Shortly after Bertuccio's brother married, he was ambushed and killed (possibly by radical royalists for being a Bonapartist) in 1815, shortly after Bonaparte's fall after the Hundred Days), in Nîmes, where Villefort ruled. His brother's death left him and his brother's widow, Assunta, without a living, which forces Bertuccio to take up smuggling. In July 1815 Bertuccio encounters Villefort, demanding he intervene and prosecute the killers, but he refuses to do so, stating that "Well, he was smitten with the sword, and he perished by the sword (...) It is a misfortune, and the government owes nothing to your family". Feeling cheated and deceived, Bertuccio warns Villefort "(...) protect yourself as well as you can, for the next time we meet your last hour has come". Concerned about his safety, Villefort asks to be transferred, eventually ending up in Versailles.
Bertuccio spends three months tracking Villefort to Auteuil, eventually finding him in late September 1815, the day when Madame Danglars, then a widow, delivered their illegitimate child in the house that the Count has now purchased from the father-in-law of Villefort, the Marquis de Saint-Meran. To cover up the affair, Villefort told Madame Danglars that the infant was stillborn, smothered the child and attempted to bury him in a box with a piece of linen cloth—which revealed his noble precedence—(inscribed with the letters "H" and "N", later revealed as indicating Hermine of Norgonne) in the garden. During the secret burial, Bertuccio stabs Villefort in the breast, which leaves him on the verge of death. Bertuccio unearths the child and resuscitates him after escaping from the residence. Unable to keep the child, given his current financial situation, he decides to leave the child at an asylum located in Paris. During the succeeding months, increased smuggling trade improves both Bertuccio and Assunta's fortunes.
Villefort later reveals that, after having been left in an agonizing state, he managed to creep back to the main house and reached the ladder where Madame Danglars—who had just gone through childbirth—found and rescued him. After being assisted by the delivery nurse—to whom Villefort and Danglars lied, attributing the wound to a duel—Villefort travelled to Versailles to recover from his wound. After three months of recovery, Villefort is ordered to the South to take upon his affairs, and, after travelling through the Central Paris, Chalons, the Rhone, Arles and Marseilles, at the end of six months (c. March–April 1816), Villefort heals definitely. Sometime later (on Villefort's account, November 1816), Villefort goes back to the Auteuil house in search of the corpse, for he was haunted by the feeling that the baby—as he was unable to find the box—may have survived and, if so, then Bertuccio (whom he doesn't know anything about, except for the fact that he was a Corsican) had kidnapped the baby after stabbing him.
Villefort tracked the baby to the same asylum where Bertuccio left him, but when arriving he was told that a woman (Assunta) in possession of half of the linen cloth had taken the baby away. According to Villefort, his agents lost track of her shortly after she left Chalons. Despite spending more than twenty years on that quest, by the time Villefort confessed the truth to Madame Danglars, his search had proven—at least, until then—completely unfruitful.
After the assassination attempt of Villefort, Bertuccio and Assunta travel back to Rogliano, Corsica, where Bertuccio returns to smuggling. Assunta tracks down the baby's location following the address stated in the linen cloth Bertuccio retrieved from the burial box and takes him home (he gave half of the cloth to Assunta). Assunta then decides to bring up the child, giving him the name "Benedetto" (meaning blessed in Italian).
Benedetto, however, begins to engage in criminal activities from an early age, partly caused by Assunta's tolerant treatment of him, and takes up a life of crime by age 11. One day, after being refused money by Assunta, Benedetto and two comrades torture Assunta by exposing her feet close to the brazier, which causes her to burst into flames. Despite screaming in agony and trying to escape, she dies from her wounds.
At the same time, on 3 June 1829, during a journey to the Gulf of Lyon for business affairs, Bertuccio's ship is surrounded—due to increased surveillance—and he is forced to escape by swimming through the Rhône, finally reaching Beaucaire. There, on the road from Beaucaire to Bellegarde, he decides to make a stop at Caderousse's lodging to shelter. However, seeing that he had visitors inside, prefers to hide outside of the house, crossing the fence and hiding in a shed parallel to the inn.
Inside, Bertuccio sees Caderousse negotiating and discussing with a Parisian jeweller, M. Joannes, for the sale of the diamond bestowed by Dantès during his visit as the Abbé Busoni. The jeweller offers Caderousse a sum of 40, and then 45,000 francs for the diamond, but Carderouse demands to be paid the sum estimated by the Abbé (50,000 francs), which the jeweller rejects, not only telling him that he will not buy it for that price, but also threatening to report him to the authorities if he refuses to sell it to him at the price he requested, for the story of its acquisition sounds highly unlikely. Finally, Carderousse accepts the offer and receives 15,000 in gold and the remaining 30,000 in banknotes.
When the jeweller is about to depart, Caderousse and his wife ask him to remain with the promise of supper and lodging for the night, an offer that the jeweller is finally forced to accept after a storm prevents him from returning to his home. After the Caderousses, Joannes and Bertuccio go to sleep, Caderousse, fueled by the impulse of greed, kills his wife and M. Joannes, then flees in the middle of the night with both the diamond and the 45,000 francs.
Bertuccio enters the house to view the crime scene but is discovered by the port authorities, who arrest him for the murders. After three months in jail, Bertuccio reveals the truth to the Abbé Busoni, who confirms his story. Shortly before 8 September, the day of his trial, Caderousse is captured in a neighbouring country and repatriated to France, where he confesses, which leads to Bertuccio's release from jail. Since his older brother and sister-in-law are now dead, Bertuccio has no family in Corsica, so he takes Abbé Busoni's advice to work for the Count.
Benedetto is sentenced to the galleys with Caderousse. After Benedetto and Caderousse are freed by Dantès, using the alias "Lord Wilmore," the Count induces Benedetto to take the identity of "Viscount Andrea Cavalcanti" and introduces him into Parisian society. Andrea ingratiates himself to Danglars, who betroths his daughter Eugénie to Andrea, not knowing they are half-siblings, after cancelling her engagement to Albert. Meanwhile, Caderousse blackmails Andrea, threatening to reveal his past if he does not share his newfound wealth. Cornered by "Abbé Busoni" while attempting to rob the Count's house, Caderousse begs to be given another chance. Dantès forces him to write a letter to Danglars exposing Cavalcanti as an impostor and allowing Caderousse to leave the house. The moment Caderousse leaves the estate, he is stabbed by Andrea. Caderousse dictates a deathbed statement identifying his killer, and the Count reveals his true identity to Caderousse moments before he dies.
Wanting information on how Albert's father made his fortune in Greece years earlier, Danglars researches the events, and the information is published in a French newspaper while Albert and the Count are in Normandy. Albert's friend Beauchamps sends the news article to Albert, who returns to Paris. His father has been tried in a court of the French aristocrats and is found guilty based on the testimony of Haydée, who reads the newspapers.
On an occasion at the Count's house, Albert meets Haydeé, who tells him the story of how she became a slave. After escaping from their palace, Ali Pasha of Janina, his wife, Vasiliki, his daughter, Haydeé, their servant Selim, and a troop of 20 soldiers escort Pasha's family to a fortress. His servants take the whole of Pasha's fortune stacked in 60,000 pouches—allegedly worth 25,000,000 francs in gold—and 200 barrels containing 30,000 pounds of powder to be set ready so, in case of not being pardoned by Sultan Mahmud II, they would, according to Pasha's own wishes, kill themselves in a murder-suicide.
After hiding for some time, four boats reach Pasha's refuge. Pasha, who is cheated by Fernand, is received among cries of joy. Selim, who guarded the Pasha's fortune and his wife and daughter, is also deceived and persuaded to turn off the flame in his torch. After obeying this, Selim is seized and stabbed to death by four French soldiers. Ali, who resists being killed, exchanging gunfire with the Frenchmen, but is captured and murdered. After Ali's death, Fernand sold Ali's wife Vasiliki and his 4-year-old daughter Haydée into slavery, thus earning his fortune. While Vasiliki died thereafter, Dantès purchased Haydée seven years later when she was 13 years old.
After going to a trial, Fernand has a defence against the newspaper's story but no defence against Haydée's testimony. He rides away from the court in his disgrace. Albert blames the Count for his father's downfall, as Danglars says that the Count encouraged him to do the research on the father of the man engaged to his daughter. Albert challenges him to a duel. Mercédès, having already recognized Monte Cristo as Dantès, goes to the Count, now back in Paris, and begs him to spare her son. During this interview, she learns the truth of the arrest and imprisonment of Dantès but still convinces the Count not to kill her son. Realizing that Edmond Dantès now intends to let Albert kill him, she reveals the truth to Albert, which causes Albert to make a public apology to the Count.
Albert and Mercédès disown Fernand and leave his house. Fernand then confronts the Count of Monte Cristo, who reveals his identity as Edmond Dantès; returning home in time to see his wife and son leave, Fernand shoots himself. Albert and Mercédès renounce their titles and wealth and depart to begin new lives, starting in Marseille, at the house where Dantès and his father once lived. Dantès told them of the 3,000 francs he had buried there, to start life once he married, before all his misfortunes. Albert enlists as a soldier.
Valentine, Villefort's daughter by his first wife, stands to inherit the fortune of her grandfather Noirtier and of her mother's parents, the Saint-Mérans, while Villefort's second wife Héloïse seeks the fortune for her son Édouard. The Count is aware of Héloïse's intentions and introduces her to the techniques of poison. Héloïse fatally poisons the Saint-Mérans, so that Valentine inherits their fortune. Valentine is briefly disinherited by Noirtier in an attempt to prevent Valentine's impending marriage with Franz d'Épinay, whom she does not love; however, the marriage is cancelled when d'Épinay learns from Noirtier that his father, who he believed was assassinated by Bonapartists, was killed by Noirtier in a duel.
After a failed attempt on Noirtier's life, which leaves Noirtier's servant Barrois dead, Héloïse targets Valentine so that Édouard, his other grandchild, will get the fortune. However, Valentine is the prime suspect in her father's eyes in the deaths of the Saint-Mérans and Barrois. On learning that Morrel's son Maximilien is in love with Valentine, the Count saves her by making it appear as though Héloïse's plan to poison Valentine has succeeded and that Valentine is dead. Villefort learns from Noirtier that Héloïse is the real murderer and confronts her, giving her the choice of public execution or committing suicide.
Fleeing after Caderousse's letter exposes him and frees Danglars’ daughter from any marriage, Andrea is arrested and returned to Paris. Eugènie Danglars flees as well with her girlfriend. Villefort prosecutes Andrea. Bertuccio visits Andrea who is in prison awaiting trial, to tell him the truth about his father. At his trial, Andrea reveals that he is Villefort's son and was rescued after Villefort buried him alive. Villefort admits his guilt and flees the court. He rushes home to stop his wife's suicide but is too late; she is dead and has poisoned her son as well. The Count confronts Villefort, revealing his true identity as Dantès, which drives Villefort insane. Dantès tries but fails to resuscitate Édouard, causing him to question if he has gone too far.
Parallelly, the Count begins to manipulate the bond market. In Orléans, he visits a telegraph tower, in whose entrance he finds a 55-year-old man, who is fond of horticulture. After a brief acquaintance, the man, a public employee with a low-paying job. Up in the tower, the Count persuades him to allow him to manipulate the message, by bribing the telegrapher with 25,000 francs. The telegram sent to the Ministry of Interior states that the pretender to the throne King of Spain exiled at Bourges in 1830, Infante Carlos María Isidro of Spain, had returned to Barcelona acclaimed by popular opinion. This implied political instability, which would in turn impact negatively on the demand of Spanish bonds in which Danglars—according to his wife—had invested six million francs. However, after the news of the pretender's return was proved false, Danglars ends up losing 700,000 francs, and then, another 8–900,000 after a man called Jacopo Manfredi—secretly a Count's acquittance—mysteriously goes bankrupt—for Danglars always considered him creditworthy and "(...) he paid like a prince"—and fails to answer to his obligations.
Eventually, through further manipulation of the bond market, Danglars is left with a destroyed reputation and 5,000,000 francs he has been holding in deposit for hospitals. The Count demands this sum to fulfill their credit agreement, and Danglars embezzles the hospital fund. He abandoned his wife, whom he blames for his losses in stock investments. She is also abandoned by her partner in investing, whom she hoped to marry. Danglars flees to Italy with the Count's receipt for the cash he requested from the banker Danglars, and 50,000 francs. While leaving Rome, he is kidnapped by the Count's agent Luigi Vampa, a bandit, and is imprisoned. Forced to pay exorbitant prices for food—100,000 francs for a fowl and 25,000 for a bottle of water, for instance—and nearly starved to death, Danglars signs away his ill-gotten gains to survive. Dantès anonymously returns the money to the hospitals, as Danglars had given their cash to the Count. Danglars finally repents his crimes, and a softened Dantès forgives him and allows him to leave with his freedom and 50,000 francs.
Resolution and return to the Orient
Maximilien Morrel, believing Valentine to be dead, contemplates suicide after her funeral. Dantès reveals his true identity and explains that he rescued Morrel's father from bankruptcy years earlier; he then tells Maximilien to reconsider his suicide, and Maximilien is saved.
On the Island of Monte Cristo, Dantès presents Valentine to Maximilien and reveals the true sequence of events. Having found peace in reviewing his vengeance and deciding he cannot play God, Dantès leaves the newly reunited couple part of his fortune on the island and departs for the East to find comfort and begin a new life with Haydée, who has declared her love for him. The reader is left with a final thought: "l'humaine sagesse était tout entière dans ces deux mots: attendre et espérer!" ("all human wisdom is contained in these two words, 'Wait and Hope'").
Character relationships in The Count of Monte Cristo
Edmond Dantès and his aliases
Allies of Dantès
The historical setting is a fundamental element of the book, an adventure story primarily concerned with themes of hope, justice, vengeance, mercy, and forgiveness. It centers on a man who is wrongfully imprisoned, escapes from jail, acquires a fortune, and sets about exacting revenge on those responsible for his imprisonment.
Background to elements of the plot
A short novel titled Georges by Dumas was published in 1843, before The Count of Monte Cristo was written. This novel is of particular interest to scholars because Dumas reused many of the ideas and plot devices in The Count of Monte Cristo.
Dumas wrote that the germ of the idea of revenge as one theme in his novel The Count of Monte Cristo came from an anecdote (Le Diamant et la Vengeance) published in a memoir of incidents in France in 1838, written by an archivist of the Paris police. The archivist was Jacques Peuchet, and the multi-volume book was called Memoirs from the Archives of the Paris Police in English. Dumas included this essay in one of the editions of his novel published in 1846.
Peuchet related the tale 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 on behalf of England in a period of wars between France and 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 cleric 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 the words "Number One" were printed, 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 reported by Ashton-Wolfe, Peuchet describes a poisoning in a family. This story is also mentioned in the Pléiade edition of this novel, and it probably served as a model for the chapter of the murders inside the Villefort family. The introduction to the Pléiade edition mentions other sources from real life: a man named Abbé Faria existed, was imprisoned but did not die in prison; he died in 1819 and left no large legacy to anyone. As for Dantès, his fate is quite different from his model in Peuchet's book, since that model is murdered by the "Caderousse" of the plot.
The Count of Monte Cristo was originally published in the Journal des Débats in eighteen parts. Serialization ran from 28 August 1844 to 15 January 1846. The first edition in book form was published in Paris by Pétion in 18 volumes with the first two issued in 1844 and the remaining sixteen in 1845. Most of the Belgian pirated editions, the first Paris edition and many others up to the Lécrivain et Toubon illustrated edition of 1860 feature a misspelling of the title with "Christo" used instead of "Cristo". The first edition to feature the correct spelling was the L'Écho des Feuilletons illustrated edition, Paris 1846. This edition featured plates by Paul Gavarni and Tony Johannot and was said to be "revised" and "corrected", although only the chapter structure appears to have been altered with an additional chapter entitled La Maison des Allées de Meilhan having been created by splitting Le Départ into two.
The first appearance of The Count of Monte Cristo in English was the first part of a serialization by W. Francis Ainsworth in volume VII of Ainsworth's Magazine published in 1845, although this was an abridged summary of the first part of the novel only and was entitled The Prisoner of If. Ainsworth translated the remaining chapters of the novel, again in abridged form, and issued these in volumes VIII and IX of the magazine in 1845 and 1846 respectively. Another abridged serialization appeared in The London Journal between 1846 and 1847.
The first single volume translation in English was an abridged edition with woodcuts published by Geo Pierce in January 1846 entitled The Prisoner of If or The Revenge of Monte Christo.
In April 1846, volume three of the Parlour Novelist, Belfast, Ireland: Simms and M'Intyre, London: W S Orr and Company, featured the first part of an unabridged translation of the novel by Emma Hardy. The remaining two parts would be issued as the Count of Monte Christo volumes I and II in volumes 8 and 9 of the Parlour Novelist respectively.
The most common English translation is an anonymous one originally published in 1846 by Chapman and Hall. This was originally released in ten weekly installments from March 1846 with six pages of letterpress and two illustrations by M Valentin. The translation was released in book form with all twenty illustrations in two volumes in May 1846, a month after the release of the first part of the above-mentioned translation by Emma Hardy. The translation follows the revised French edition of 1846, with the correct spelling of "Cristo" and the extra chapter The House on the Allées de Meilhan.
Most English editions of the novel follow the anonymous translation. In 1889, two of the major American publishers Little Brown and T.Y. Crowell updated the translation, correcting mistakes and revising the text to reflect the original serialized version. This resulted in the removal of the chapter The House on the Allées de Meilhan, with the text restored to the end of the chapter called The Departure.
In 1955, Collins published an updated version of the anonymous translation which cut several passages, including a whole chapter entitled The Past, and renamed others. This abridgment was republished by many Collins imprints and other publishers including the Modern Library, Vintage, and the 1998 Oxford World's Classics edition (later editions restored the text). In 2008 Oxford released a revised edition with translation by David Coward. The 2009 Everyman's Library edition reprints the original anonymous English translation that first appeared in 1846, with revisions by Peter Washington and an introduction by Umberto Eco.
In 1996, Penguin Classics published a new translation by Robin Buss. Buss' translation updated the language, making the text more accessible to modern readers, and restored content that was modified in the 1846 translation because of Victorian English social restrictions (for example, references to Eugénie's lesbian traits and behavior) to reflect Dumas' original version.
In addition to the above, there have also been many abridged translations such as an 1892 edition published by F.M. Lupton, translated by Henry L. Williams (this translation was also released by M.J. Ivers in 1892 with Williams using the pseudonym of Professor William Thiese). A more recent abridgment is the translation by Lowell Bair for Bantam Classics in 1956.
Many abridged translations omit the Count's enthusiasm for hashish. When serving a hashish jam to the young Frenchman Franz d'Épinay, the Count (calling himself Sinbad the Sailor), calls it, "nothing less than the ambrosia which Hebe served at the table of Jupiter". When he arrives in Paris, the Count brandishes an emerald box in which he carries small green pills compounded of hashish and opium which he uses for sleeplessness. (Source: Chapters 31, 32, 38, 40, 53 & 77 in the 117-chapter unabridged Pocket Books edition.) Dumas was a member of the Club des Hashischins.
In June 2017, Manga Classics, an imprint of UDON Entertainment, published The Count of Monte Cristo as a faithfully adapted Manga edition of the classic novel.
The first Japanese translation by Kuroiwa Shūroku was entitled "Shigai Shiden Gankutsu-ou" (史外史伝巌窟王, "a historical story from outside history, the King of the Cavern"), and serialized from 1901 to 1902 in the Yorozu Chouhou newspaper, and released in book form in four volumes by publisher Aoki Suusandou in 1905. Though later translations use the title "Monte Cristo-haku" (モンテ・クリスト伯, the Count of Monte Cristo), the "Gankutsu-ou" title remains highly associated with the novel and is often used as an alternative. As of March 2016, all movie adaptations of the novel brought to Japan used the title "Gankutsu-ou", with the exception of the 2002 film, which has it as a subtitle (with the title itself simply being "Monte Cristo").
The novel is popular in Japan, and has spawned numerous adaptations, the most notable of which are the novels Meiji Gankutsu-ou by Taijirou Murasame and Shin Gankutsu-ou by Kaitarō Hasegawa. Its influence can also be seen in how one of the first prominent cases of miscarriage of justice in Japan, in which an innocent man was charged with murder and imprisoned for half a century, is known in Japanese as the "Yoshida Gankutsu-ou incident" (吉田岩窟王事件).
A manga adaptation of the novel, titled Monte Cristo Hakushaku (モンテ・クリスト, 伯爵) and made by Ena Moriyama, was published in November 2015.
The first translation into Chinese was published in 1907. The novel had been a personal favorite of Jiang Qing, and the 1978 translation became one of the first mass-popularized foreign novels in mainland China after end of the Cultural Revolution. Since then, there have been another 22 Chinese translations.
Reception and legacy
The original work was published in serial form in the Journal des Débats in 1844. Carlos Javier Villafane Mercado described the effect in Europe:
George Saintsbury stated that "Monte Cristo is said to have been at its first appearance, and for some time subsequently, the most popular book in Europe. Perhaps no novel within a given number of years had so many readers and penetrated into so many different countries." This popularity has extended into modern times as well. The book was "translated into virtually all modern languages and has never been out of print in most of them. There have been at least twenty-nine motion pictures based on it ... as well as several television series, and many movies [have] worked the name 'Monte Cristo' into their titles." The title Monte Cristo lives on in a "famous gold mine, a line of luxury Cuban cigars, a sandwich, and any number of bars and casinos—it even lurks in the name of the street-corner hustle three-card monte."
Modern Russian writer and philologist Vadim Nikolayev determined The Count of Monte-Cristo as a megapolyphonic novel.
The novel has been the inspiration for many other books, from Lew Wallace's Ben-Hur (1880), then to a science fiction retelling in Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination, and to Stephen Fry's The Stars' Tennis Balls (entitled Revenge in the U.S.).
Fantasy novelist Steven Brust's Khaavren Romances series have all used Dumas novels (particularly the Three Musketeers series) as their chief inspiration, recasting the plots of those novels to fit within Brust's established world of Dragaera. His 2020 novel The Baron of Magister Valley follows suit, using The Count of Monte Cristo as a starting point. Jin Yong has admitted some influence from Dumas, his favorite non-Chinese novelist. Some commentators feel that the plot of A Deadly Secret resembles The Count of Monte Cristo, except that they are based in different countries and historical periods.
The success of The Count of Monte Cristo coincides with France's Second Empire. In the novel, Dumas tells of the 1815 return of Napoleon I, and alludes to contemporary events when the governor at the Château d'If is promoted to a position at the castle of Ham.[Notes 1] The attitude of Dumas towards "bonapartisme" was conflicted. His father, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas,[Notes 2] a Haitian of mixed descent, became a successful general during the French Revolution. In 1840, the body of Napoleon I was brought to France and became an object of veneration in the church of Les Invalides, renewing popular patriotic support for the Bonaparte family. As the story opens, the character Dantès is not aware of the politics, considers himself simply a good French citizen, and is caught between the conflicting loyalties of the royalist Villefort during the Restoration, and the father of Villefort, Noirtier, loyal to Napoleon, a firm bonapartist, and the bonapartist loyalty of his late captain, in a period of rapid changes of government in France.
Montecristo islet, view from the north
In "Causeries" (1860), Dumas published a short paper, "État civil du Comte de Monte-Cristo", on the genesis of the Count of Monte Cristo.[Notes 3] It appears that Dumas had close contacts with members of the Bonaparte family while living in Florence in 1841. In a small boat, he sailed around the island of Monte Cristo, accompanied by a young prince, a cousin to Louis Bonaparte, who was to become Emperor Napoleon III of the French ten years later, in 1851. During this trip, he promised that cousin of Louis Bonaparte that he would write a novel with the island's name in the title. In 1841 when Dumas made his promise, Louis Bonaparte himself was imprisoned at the citadel of Ham – the place mentioned in the novel. Dumas did visit him there, although Dumas does not mention it in "Etat civil".
A chronology of The Count of Monte Cristo and Bonapartism
During the life of Thomas-Alexandre Dumas:
During the life of Alexandre Dumas:
Selected notable adaptations
Edmond Dantès (James O'Neill) loosens a stone before making his escape from the Château d'If in The Count of Monte Cristo (1913)
Other appearances in film or television
In 1853, a work professing to be the sequel of the book appeared, entitled The Hand of the Deceased appeared in Portuguese and French editions (respectively entitled A Mão do finado and La Main du défunt). The novel, falsely attributed to Dumas, but in fact, originally published anonymously or sometimes attributed to one F. Le Prince, has been traced to Portuguese writer Alfredo Possolo Hogan [es].
Other sequels include:
Plays and musicals
Alexandre Dumas and Auguste Maquet wrote a set of four plays that collectively told the story of The Count of Monte Cristo: Monte Cristo Part I (1848); Monte Cristo Part II (1848); Le Comte de Morcerf (1851) and Villefort (1851). The first two plays were first performed at Dumas' own Théâtre Historique in February 1848, with the performance spread over two nights, each with a long duration (the first evening ran from 18:00 until 00:00). The play was also unsuccessfully performed at Drury Lane in London later that year where rioting erupted in protest against French companies performing in England.
The adaptation differs from the novel in many respects: several characters, such as Luigi Vampa, are excluded; whereas the novel includes many different plot threads that are brought together at the conclusion, the third and fourth plays deal only with the fate of Mondego and Villefort respectively (Danglars' fate is not featured at all); the play is the first to feature Dantès shouting "the world is mine!", an iconic line that would be used in many future adaptations.
Two English adaptations of the novel were published in 1868. The first, by Hailes Lacy, differs only slightly from Dumas' version with the main change being that Fernand Mondego is killed in a duel with the Count rather than committing suicide. Much more radical was the version by Charles Fechter, a notable French-Anglo actor. The play faithfully follows the first part of the novel, omits the Rome section and makes several sweeping changes to the third part, among the most significant being that Albert is actually the son of Dantès. The fates of the three main antagonists are also altered: Villefort, whose fate is dealt with quite early on in the play, kills himself after being foiled by the Count trying to kill Noirtier (Villefort's half brother in this version); Mondego kills himself after being confronted by Mercedes; Danglars is killed by the Count in a duel. The ending sees Dantès and Mercedes reunited and the character of Haydee is not featured at all. The play was first performed at the Adelphi in London in October 1868. The original duration was five hours, resulting in Fechter abridging the play, which, despite negative reviews, had a respectable sixteen-week run. Fechter moved to the United States in 1869 and Monte Cristo was chosen for the inaugural play at the opening of the Globe Theatre, Boston in 1870. Fechter last performed the role in 1878.
In 1883, John Stetson, manager of the Booth Theatre and The Globe Theatre, wanted to revive the play and asked James O'Neill (the father of playwright Eugene O'Neill) to perform the lead role. O'Neill, who had never seen Fechter perform, made the role his own and the play became a commercial, if not an artistic success. O'Neill made several abridgments to the play and eventually bought it from Stetson. A motion picture based on Fechter's play, with O'Neill in the title role, was released in 1913 but was not a huge success. O'Neill died in 1920, two years before a more successful motion picture, produced by Fox and partially based on Fechter's version, was released. O'Neill came to despise the role of Monte Cristo, which he performed more than 6000 times, feeling that his typecasting had prevented him from pursuing more artistically rewarding roles. This discontent later became a plot point in Eugene O'Neill's semi-autobiographical play Long Day's Journey Into Night.
In 2008, the Russian theatre of Moscow Operetta set a musical Monte-Cristo based on the book with music of Roman Ignatiev and lyrics of Yulii Kim. Six years later it won in Daegu International Musical Festival in South Korea. Original plot was slightly changed and some characters are not mentioned in the musical.
The Count of Monte Cristo is a musical based on the novel, with influences from the 2002 film adaptation of the book. The music is written by Frank Wildhorn and the lyrics and book are by Jack Murphy. It debuted in Switzerland in 2009.
Newspaper advertisement for The Campbell Playhouse presentation of "The Count of Monte Cristo" (October 1, 1939)
How many pages is the book The Count of Monte Cristo?
How long is the original Count of Monte Cristo?
The Count of Monte Cristo (1934 film).
How long is The Count of Monte Cristo English?
The average reader will spend 30 hours and 56 minutes reading this book at 250 WPM (words per minute). How quickly can you read this book?
Is The Count of Monte Cristo a hard read?
The Count of Monte Cristo is a big book, and it requires more than a bit of discipline and patience to finish. Last, but certainly not least, it's important not to overlook the many allusions to history and literature that Dumas has packed in (you can see the list over in the "Shout-Out" section).