Study Guide

Jules Verne

Jules Verne Biography

Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111201600-Verne.jpgJules Verne Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Born in 1828, Jules Verne, who was to become one of the best-known science-fiction writers of all time, had a quiet childhood in Nantes. He attended the local lycée before going to Paris, intending to study law. However, through the influence of writers such as Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas, he discovered that he preferred literary work. He wrote operas, collaborated with the younger Dumas on some plays, and tried travel writing. His first success came with the publication of Five Weeks in a Balloon. The popularity of this novel encouraged Verne to continue writing near-future scientific adventure, often involving journeys into known and unknown realms. These “voyages extraordinaires” included A Journey to the Centre of the Earth, From the Earth to the Moon, and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

Adopting literary techniques similar to the mid-century French realists, Verne included carefully prepared scientific and geographical data to provide plausible backgrounds for his novels. The subject matter and lively action of Verne’s tales soon gained for him an immense following in France and abroad. His novels coincided with the popular interest in science and technology beginning to sweep people’s imaginations during the second half of the nineteenth century. Their popularity is attested by the great number of translations and foreign editions. Each novel described a scientific or technological...

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Jules Verne Biography (Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Jules Gabriel Verne was born in 1828, the son of Pierre Verne, a lawyer, and Sophie, née Allotte de la Fuye. He was born in Nantes, on the Île Feydeau, an island in the Loire River that has since been connected to the bank. His family appears to have been a bastion of middle-class respectability, desperately concerned with keeping up appearances. This fact appears to have had a profound effect on Verne’s life, a subtle but important influence on his work, and to be the cause of some misrepresentation in the biographies written by members of his family—even the one published in 1973 by Jean Jules-Verne (his grandson).

Verne’s life story seems to have been one of constant and unsuccessful rebellion against the standards and lifestyle that his family tried to impose on him. He never escaped the clutches of middle-class respectability and seems to have spent the last forty years of his life maintaining a facade for the sake of the expectations of his family. Under such circumstances, it is perhaps not surprising that he took full advantage of the opportunity to become a voyager in the imagination—a champion escapist.

Verne studied law in his father’s office for a while before going to Paris, ostensibly to continue his studies there. Actually, he wanted to be a playwright, and he threw himself into the bohemian life of the student quarter of the Left Bank, where he met Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas, père. Dumas encouraged his literary endeavors and produced Verne’s first one-act comedy at the Théâtre Historique. Verne’s attempts to establish himself in the literary world were, however, less than wholly successful. While he wrote plays, short stories, and operettas in the early 1850’s, he was for three years secretary of the Théâtre Lyrique, but by the end of 1855, he had had enough. In 1856, he planned to marry a young widow, Honorine Morel, and in order to be able to support her, he asked his father to buy him a share in a stockbroking business.

This business provided Verne with an income, but he still had other ambitions and began collecting articles that he hoped might help him to carve out a niche for himself as a novelist exploiting geography in the same way Dumas had exploited history. He traveled extensively, visiting Britain in 1859 and Scandinavia in 1861, and produced more light plays with music. His son Michel was born in August, 1861.

Around this time, Verne appears to have become partly estranged from his wife. They had no more children and occupied separate beds, but they continued to maintain the appearance of a happy marriage. Verne retreated more and more frequently to his club—the Cercle de la Presse Scientifique—where he met and became friendly with Félix Tournachon, a photographer and aeronaut who used the pseudonym “Nadar.” Out of the interest in aeronautics inspired by this association came a documentary novel about ballooning, which Verne took to the publisher Hetzel (who himself wrote, under the pseudonym P. J. Stahl) in 1862. Hetzel suggested sweeping revisions, which Verne carried out in only two weeks. Verne put to Hetzel, soon after the publication of Five Weeks in a Balloon, his idea for an extended series of les voyages extraordinaires, and Hetzel encouraged him to go ahead. By September, 1863, when the Verne family moved to Auteuil, Verne was well established as a novelist. He was, however, apparently under great personal strain. He suffered a good deal from stress-related facial paralysis, which eventually had to be relieved by electric shock treatment.

Verne seems to have been grateful to Hetzel, and his first biographer, Marguerite Allotte de la Fuye (his niece), alleges that Hetzel treated him with the utmost generosity. In fact,...

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Jules Verne Biography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111201600-Verne.jpgJules Verne Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Jules Gabriel Verne was born on February 8, 1828, the eldest son of a lawyer, in the provincial port of Nantes, France. His education was typical of that of a middle-class nineteenth century family, since his parents intended for him to take over his father’s legal office. According to family legend, Verne was a good student, but he entertained daydreams of adventure, leading to an attempt at the age of eleven to run away to sea. As the eldest son, Verne consented to attend law school despite a lack of interest in the subject, while his younger brother Paul was allowed to follow the more exciting career of captain in the merchant marine.

Family legend also attributes to Verne a childhood love for a cousin. In order to get Verne out of the way during her engagement, he was sent to Paris to continue his studies. While in the capital, Verne became close to the popular novelist Alexandre Dumas, pèere and frequented literary and theatrical groups. He was soon trying his hand at vaudeville as well as tragedy.

Although he had successfully completed his law degree in 1848, Verne refused to return to Nantes. He began to publish in the journal Musée des families. In Parisian salons, he met explorers and scientists and began to use what he could learn from them for his stories.

In 1856, Verne met Honorine de Viane, a young widow with two daughters. Her brother was a financial agent, and Verne decided that that line of work would be the ideal way for him to earn a living while writing. Verne married Honorine in 1857; his only child, a son, Michel, was born in 1861. The following year, Verne met the publisher P. J. Hetzel, who was especially interested in books for youngsters. In 1863, Hetzel published Verne’s first novel, Cinq Semaines en ballon (1863; Five Weeks in a Balloon, 1876). The success of the book owed something to the exploit of the balloonist Nadar the same year. Verne continued to publish serially in the Musée des families and in volume form and published Voyage au centre de la terre (1864; A Journey to the Centre of the Earth, 1872). The following year, he signed a contract with...

(The entire section is 891 words.)

Jules Verne Biography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury once declared himself “a son of Jules Verne.” If the nineteenth century French writer of educational works for young people can be considered a founder of the science-fiction novel, it is not attributable simply to his interest in the techniques and discoveries being made in his own time. There is something timeless about Verne’s novels. Like the best science-fiction works, they call upon mythological structures. The voyage, whether it be around the world, to the moon, to the center of the earth, or under the sea, is first of all a quest for the self. All Verne’s journeys are initiations, which permit his hero to come to a greater self-awareness.

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Jules Verne Biography (Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Jules Verne was born on February 8, 1828, at Nantes, an industrial town on the Loire River in western France. His father, Pierre Verne, was a...

(The entire section is 458 words.)