Maurice Marie Émile Leblanc was born in Rouen, Normandy, France, in 1864. He was the son of Émile Leblanc, an ironworker and builder of boats, who was partly of Italian descent, and of a mother who came of an old Norman family. Maurice had two sisters, Georgette and Johanna. Georgette was a restless girl, scornful of the bourgeois mode of life, who at seventeen went to Paris and became an actress at the Opéra Comique. Attracted to the writings of the Belgian dramatist Maurice Maeterlinck, she pursued him and in 1895 became his amoureuse, a relationship that lasted until 1914.
As a boy, Leblanc was noted for his scholarship, his fervid imagination, and the pleasure he took in the landscape around Rouen. A student at the Lycée Corneille and the Pension Patry, he won many scholastic prizes. On the completion of his secondary studies, he took a job with the firm of Miroude-Pichard in Rouen, which manufactured cards. Whenever he had time on his hands, he practiced writing. It was soon evident that he was not meant for the card business, so he decided to go to Paris to study law.
On completion of his law studies, Leblanc returned to Rouen and entered into the family business of boat building. He soon decided, however, that he was best suited to be a writer. He began to write psychological fiction critical of certain bourgeois values. His first novel in this vein was Une Femme (1893). Other similar works followed; although only...
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