DUMONT, GEORGES-ALMA (baptized George-Alma, he sometimes signed Georges‑A. and more frequently G.‑A.; he was often known as Georges-Alphonse), journalist, man of letters, historian, bookseller, and publisher; b. 12 Nov. 1858 in the Montreal parish of Notre-Dame, son of Magloire Dumont, a butcher, and Henriette Tessier, dit Lavigne; d. unmarried 22 Feb. 1937 in Montreal.
Little is recorded about Georges-Alma Dumont as a youth. Through his mother, who was the daughter of Lambert Tessier, dit Lavigne, and a descendant of Urbain Tessier, to whom Paul de Chomedey* de Maisonneuve had granted a parcel of land in 1648, Dumont belonged to one of the first French families in Montreal. Although there is no documentation attesting to his schooling, he would become a man of considerable erudition. Early in life he cultivated a passion for books and reading. In May 1878 he and a group of friends, including the future architect Joseph Venne*, created the Club Papineau, a literary society that existed for about two years. He was later the secretary (1882–83) and then president (1883–85, 1888–90) of the Club Letellier, a Montreal political organization with liberal leanings. During his presidency the club acquired a library and a reading room.
Dumont had founded Le Figaro, a literary publication that did not appear in Montreal until 4 Dec. 1879; he was its owner and editor. Since the beginning of the 1880s he had contributed from time to time to the Montreal periodicals L’Opinion publique, Le Monde illustré, and Le Trait d’union, as well as to the Canadien in St Paul, Minn., and the National in Plattsburgh, N.Y. His articles revealed his varied interests, which were equally divided between literature, social economy, and history. In December 1889, wishing to further the intellectual development of French Canadians, Dumont established in Montreal Le Courrier canadien: littérature, science, arts, économie politique, whose subject matter was just as eclectic as its title. The undertaking was short-lived, however, and the weekly disappeared after the release of only a few issues. In the 1890s and at the beginning of the 20th century, Dumont wrote for several other Montreal periodicals, including Le Signal and La Revue scientifique. He attracted attention mainly through articles and columns of a historical nature in Le Monde illustré and La feuille d’érable, in which appeared, respectively, his series “Études historiques” and “Miettes historiques,” confirming his keen interest in archival material and his passion for the history of the press and of Montreal. His contributions to Montreal publications would continue in the 1920s and 1930s, including articles in La Revue moderne and L’Autorité.
Dumont also went into business. In 1887 he and his brother Wilfrid opened a stationery store at 1826 Rue Sainte-Catherine in Montreal. As was often the case at the time, the enterprise G.‑A. et W. Dumont also encompassed a printing shop as well as a bookstore. Named Sainte-Henriette – probably in memory of their mother, who had died the previous year – the bookstore also served as a publishing house until 1920. Around 1888 the Dumont brothers brought out their first book, Les loisirs d’un homme du peuple, a collection of articles by Georges-Alma that confirmed his status as a man of letters. For G.‑A. et W. Dumont the activity of printer-publisher would, however, be of marginal interest, for the firm would publish fewer than ten books, among them Constitution du Club Letellier adoptée le 15 janvier 1890: suivie d’une étude historique sur ce club and Un disparu, both also written by Georges-Alma around 1891 and 1894 respectively. Other publications included Études et récits by Pierre-Joseph Bédard in 1890 and, between 1889 and 1900, Le Pater: drame en un acte, a play by François Coppée of the Académie Française, the performance of which had been banned in France. The stationery-bookstore – which Wilfrid left around 1897 and which moved to 1212 Rue Saint-Denis ten years later – was more dynamic. Along with the bookstores of Cornélius Déom, Jules Pony, and Victor Grenier, which catered to a clientele of students and professors and defied the clerical bans on modern literature, Dumont’s enterprise ranked among the few of its kind to become well established. It soon developed into a meeting place for Montreal intellectuals and writers. In 1925 the shop was relocated to number 4532 on the same street, which was Dumont’s last known address.
Through his activities as a journalist and at his bookstore, Dumont found himself at the centre of one of the region’s largest networks of young literary figures of the time. Since he also had ties to the Sainte-Cunégonde (Montreal) group (a reference to the little town situated between Montreal and Saint-Henri, now part of Montreal), the home of the literary and artistic avant-garde at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, Dumont had been invited in 1895 to take part in founding the École Littéraire de Montréal; Jean Charbonneau, Paul de Martigny, Germain Beaulieu* (who would be its first president), Henry Desjardins, Édouard-Zotique Massicotte*, and a few others were also involved. To become members, candidates had to submit a literary work that would win two-thirds of the votes from others in the group. The school’s decision to take on the mission of ensuring the preservation of the French language and the development of a national literature was a defining moment. In its issue of 30 Dec. 1898, the day after the first of the school’s public sessions held at Montreal’s Château Ramezay, La Patrie commented: “Thanks to these young men, we are assured of having a respected national literature, whereas, until now, the usurpation of this term has only served to make us look ridiculous in the world of letters.” At the school, besides reading some of his works on the history of Canada, Dumont held the offices of treasurer (1895, 1910–26), secretary (1899–1900, 1904–5), vice-president (1907), and president (15 May to 2 Oct. 1909).
True to his ideal of ensuring the development and the intellectual and cultural influence of his people, Dumont worked tirelessly to guarantee the school “a peaceful and prosperous existence” and to make it “a national institution.” It was in this spirit that he proposed, unsuccessfully, to introduce advertising into Le Terroir, a publication that was warmly greeted when it appeared in January 1909. Its creation, however, was a sign for some that the institution was veering towards regionalism, but the magazine was intended primarily to stimulate the literary output of its members and to facilitate the release of their works. Burdened with debt from its earliest issues, it was abandoned after only a year. Wishing to put the school on a firm footing, Dumont strongly opposed the conversion of a provincial government grant into publishing bursaries for individuals and urged that the money be used for the collective good of the École Littéraire. His ambition for the school was greater than his personal literary aspirations and, in the end, always went beyond that of most of the other members: “The school could have done more if it had been willing to benefit from certain advantages that were offered to it, but it refused [to do this],” he wrote around 1917 in L’École Littéraire de Montréal: réminiscences, the first historical account of that group, which he authored and published.
Georges-Alma Dumont was one of the few people to have been a member of the École Littéraire de Montréal from its beginnings until its dissolution in 1935. On succeeding him as president, Charbonneau praised him as “one of the pillars of the school, whose work and self-sacrifice are never withheld.” He was among those who created conditions that enabled people such as Émile Nelligan*, Albert Ferland*, and Albert Lozeau* to arrive on the literary scene. As such, he ranks among those who crafted the revival that was experienced by French Canadian literature at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th.
In addition to the titles already mentioned in the biography, Georges-Alma Dumont wrote, among other works, the introduction to Lettres d’un étudiant (Montréal, s.d.), a collection of the writings of Louis Audet (1832–54), which he published, and “Le vieux temple,” which appeared in La Rev. moderne (Montréal), 5 (1924), no.8: 58.
BANQ-CAM, CE601-S51, 14 nov. 1858. FD, Notre-Dame (Montréal), 24 févr. 1937. L’Autorité (Montréal), 3 sept., 22 oct. 1932. La Feuille d’érable (Montréal), 10 mai, 10 juin 1896. Le Monde illustré (Montréal), 25 juill., 3 oct. 1889; 16 avril 1892; 13, 24 oct. 1894; 6 oct. 1900. La Patrie, 27 mars 1886, 24 févr. 1937. Germain Beaulieu, Nos immortels (Montréal, 1931). Jean Charbonneau, L’École littéraire de Montréal: ses origines, ses animateurs, ses influences (Montréal, 1935). François Couture et Pierre Rajotte, “L’École littéraire de Montréal et ses mythes,” Études françaises (Montréal), 36 (2000), no.3: 163–83. Directory, Montréal, 1854–1938. École Littéraire de Montréal, Les soirées du château de Ramezay (Montréal, 1900). L’École littéraire de Montréal: procès-verbaux et correspondance (et autres documents inédits sur l’école), Réginald Hamel, édit. (2v., Montréal, 1974). J. Hamelin et al., La presse québécoise, vols. 3–4. Histoire de l’édition littéraire au Québec au XXe siècle, sous la dir. de Jacques Michon (3v., Montréal, 1999–2010), 1. M. I. Kieffer, “L’École littéraire de Montréal” (mémoire de ma, Univ. McGill, Montréal, 1939). Les soirées du château de Ramezay de l’École littéraire de Montréal, Micheline Cambron et François Hébert, édit. ([Montréal], 1999). La vie culturelle à Montréal vers 1900, sous la dir. de Micheline Cambron ([Montréal], 2005). La vie littéraire au Québec, sous la dir. de Maurice Lemire et al. (6v. parus, Sainte-Foy [Québec], 1991– ), 4. Paul Wyczynski, Louis-Joseph Béliveau et la vie littéraire de son temps (Montréal, 1984).