Eugène Sue Biography


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Eugène Marie-Joseph Sue was born Marie-Joseph Sue on January 20, 1804, in Paris, the son of Jean-Joseph Sue, an eminent medical practitioner, and Marie Sophie Derilly. He was named for his godmother, Josephine Bonaparte, but soon adopted the name of his godfather, Josephine’s son, Eugène de Beauharnais. The Sue family was a dynasty of eminent and wealthy physicians. Sue, one of four children, rebelled early in his life against the expectation that he would become a doctor and his father’s colleague. He was a miserable student; when apprenticed to his father’s hospital in Paris, he devoted much of his time to playing practical jokes. Sue’s father found him more distant posts in a hospital in Toulon during a military campaign and in the royal navy for six years. Sue drew on the exotic locales he visited in writing his earliest works.

In 1825, Sue—who did not consider himself a serious writer—wrote his first work, a play, to gain the attention of an attractive actress. Returning to Paris in 1829, he began writing adventure stories for the popular press. After his father’s death in 1830, Sue, a confirmed bachelor, lived extravagantly, dissipating his inheritance until he was financially ruined in 1836.

That year marked a turning point in his life, for his friends interested him in the problems of social reform. The publication of The Mysteries of Paris made him a best-selling novelist and a hero of the working classes. After the Revolution of 1848, Sue, then a Fourierist, was elected to the National Assembly. He attended conscientiously but spent most of his time writing and correcting the work that totally absorbed him in his last years, Les Mystères du peuple: Ou, Histoire d’une famille de prolétaires à travers les âges (1849-1857; The Mysteries of the People, 185?, 1867). Arrested in 1851 and released in 1852, Sue went into political exile in Savoy, leaving his property behind and refusing to support the new regime, which continued to harass him.

Sue died on August 3, 1857, in Annecy, Savoy, of nervous disorders exacerbated by stress and fatigue, leaving behind an enormous corpus of fiction, drama, and political essays.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Born in Paris on January 20, 1804, Eugène Sue (sew), whose real name was Marie Joseph Sue, was the son of a distinguished surgeon who had served with Napoleon’s armies. At his baptism, Sue’s sponsors were Prince Eugène Beauharnais and the Empress Joséphine; it was his godfather’s name that Sue adopted as part of his pseudonym. Educated at private schools in Paris, Sue later studied medicine and became a surgeon. From 1823 to 1829 he served aboard ships of the French navy as a naval surgeon, taking part in the French campaign against Spain in 1823 and in the battle of Navarino in 1828. At his father’s death, Sue inherited a large fortune and retired from the navy. Returning to Paris, he became a fashionable young man-about-town, but the life bored him, and he turned to writing as an outlet for his energies.

Sue is reputed to have become a novelist by accident when an editor outlined a novel of the sea and suggested that Sue was the man to write the book because of his experience in the navy. Plik et Plok was the first of a series of sea novels that brought him critical praise as “the French James Fenimore Cooper.” Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve, the eminent French critic, claimed that Sue was the first Frenchman to exploit the sea for French literature and the first author to make use of the Mediterranean Sea for literature. Eager to become a serious man of letters, Sue turned to writing historical works, including a history of the...

(The entire section is 466 words.)