Jules Gabriel Verne

He was an enormously popular French author. His stories, written for adolescents as well as adults, caught the enterprising spirit of the 19th century, its uncritical fascination about scientific progress and inventions. His works were often written in the form of a travel book, which took the readers on a voyage to the moon in From the Earth to the Moon (1865) or to another direction as in A Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864). Many of his ideas have been hailed as prophetic. Among his best-known books is the classic adventure story Around the World in Eighty Days (1873).

Jules Verne was born February 28, 1828 in Nantes, France. His parents were Pierre, a prosperous lawyer, and Sophie Verne. Jules was the first of their five children. At the age of nine, he went off to boarding school and by the age of eleven, he tried to make his dreams of adventure come true by slipping out early one morning. He met a cabin boy in the town square and traded places with him. Soon he was aboard the Coralie and sailing for the Orient! However, the Coralie had one more home call to make and when they stopped at Paimboeuf that evening, Jules found his father waiting for him. A neighbor had seen Jules board the ship and told his parents. Jules was sorry to leave the boat but also relieved because he had been very seasick!

After he graduated from high school, Jules went to Paris, where he was supposed to be studying law. His father had high hopes of passing his law practice on to Jules. However, his uncle introduced him into literary circles and he started to published plays under the influence of such writers as Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas, whom Verne also knew personally. Dumas was very rich and famous and owned his own theatre. Dumas took Jules under his wing and it was in his theatre that his first plays were produced.

When Pierre Verne found out Jules wasn’t studying law, he cut off his allowance. However, Jules wasn’t discouraged and continued to write. When he went broke, he tried working as a law clerk, but soon gave it up. Luckily, Dumas came to his rescue and made him the secretary of the Lyric Theatre. With a steady income, Verne was free to write. He wrote several plays but he became tired of the theatre job and after about five years gave it and started writing full time.

He studied to become a lawyer in Paris between 1847 and 1849 and Honorine de Vione before setting off on various trips to England, Scotland and New York. Verne suffered misfortune aplenty. Not only was shot in the foot by his insane nephew so that he walked with a limp for the rest of his life but he also underwent a series of attacks of facial paralysis. Nonetheless the writer had the good fortune to be elected councillor in Amiens in 1888 to be re-elected repeatedly until the early 1900s.

In 1857, he married Honorine de Viane Morel, a widow of 26 years old who had two small children. But being a starving artist like he was, Jules couldn’t support a family of four without a job. So, taking a cue from Honorine’s brother, he got a share in a broker’s office to earn money. For the next six years, he wrote in the mornings (from 5 to 10) and worked at the stock exchange in the afternoons. In 1861, their first son was born.

His first book, Five Weeks in a Balloon, was published in 1863. The publisher’s name was Hetzel, and he recognized Jules’ talent. He signed a contract with Jules right after Five Weeks in a Balloon-two books a year for the next twenty years, for 10,000 francs a year. Jules quit the stock exchange and settled down to write.
Journey to the Center of the Earth and From the Earth to the Moon were Jules’ next books. In From the Earth to the Moon, Verne made one his most extraordinary forecasts that came true- his hero sets off to moon in a rocket blasted off from a launching pad in Florida! Remember, this forecast was made a century ago!

The Vernes left Paris after that and lived for a few years in a tiny fishing village at the mouth of the Somme River. Jules spent a lot of time sailing the English Channel in his boat, the Saint-Michel. Here he was inspired to write Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, about Captain Nemo and his submarine, the Nautilus. In 1870, the Franco-Prussian war broke out and Verne was conscripted, along with his boat. Honorine took the children back to Amiens during the war. After it was over, Jules, who remained emotionally untouched by the war, went back to writing.

Around the World in Eighty Days was first published serially in a newspaper in 1872. The story met such success, that people were placing bets on Phileas Fogg’s race against time, and newspapers carried bulletins on the story’s progress.

Verne spent an uneventful, bourgeois life from the 1860s. He travelled with his brother Paul in 1867 to the United States, visiting the Niagara falls. When he made a boat trip around the Mediterranean, he was celebrated in Gibraltar, North Africa, and in Rome Pope Leo XIII blessed his books. In 1871 he settled in Amiens and was elected councillor in 1888. Verne survived there in 1886 a murder attempt. His paranoid nephew, Gaston, shot him in the leg and the authors walked with a limp for the rest of his life. On top of this, Hetzel, the publisher who had made his career, died, followed by the death of his mother. His father had also died a few years before. Finally, he had to sell his yacht, the Saint Michel IV, because he could no longer steer with his leg. He also underwent a series of attacks of facial paralysis.

Nonetheless the writer had the good fortune to be elected councillor in Amiens in 1888 to be re-elected repeatedly until the early 1900s. He continued to live, with his wife, Honorine, until his eyes failed, followed by his health. Finally he died on March 24, 1905. He is buried in the Madeleine Cemetary on the outskirts of Amiens. However, he continued to live on in the hearts of his fans- in 1922, Marconi, father of the radio, summed it up by saying, “Jules Verne made people see visions, wish they could do things, and stimulated them to do them.”