Going to moon, a balloon trip around the world, adventure under the sea,
all this in the late 1800s? All this was possible in the writings of Jules Verne.
Jules Verne was born in Nantes on February 8, 1828. He had a vivid imagination
and as a child, he often sailed down the Loire River with his brother. He always
wondered about air and undersea travel. In the 1800s, none of these advances
His father was a lawyer and wanted young Verne to be one, too. Jules was
sent to Paris to study law and while he was there, he became interested in
literature. He graduated with a degree in law in 1850. Jules began to write and
give private law lessons in Paris. His father voiced some concern in pursuing
literature as well as law.
When Jules was in his young 20s, he wrote operettas librettos for about 2
years while continuing to practice law. He was appointed as the Secretary of the
Theatre Lyrique in Paris. He made some letters to his mother commenting on his
shabby clothes compared to the clothes poets there. He started to become a very
Verne was married on January 10, 1857 to Honorine de Viane. He only had 1
child, a boy named Michel, who was born on August 3, 1861. Verne also had 2
stepdaughters, Valentine, and Suzanne. Michel grew up to be a very disobedient
child. Verne tried many means of stopping this delinquency. He put Michel in
jail in an attempt to stop the “madness”. He was really unhappy over his son’s
behavior problem. Late 1879, Verne ended up throwing Michel out of the house.
Michel ran off and married an actress. In 1887, he attended and recognized
Michel’s second marriage which helped in reviving the relationship between
father and son.
Jules Verne was an avid traveler and sailor. He visited many places with
his brother, Paul. Paul helped Verne in many technical parts of his novel. In
1859, he and Paul made a summer trip to Scotland. Verne was very impressed by
Scotland as a whole and it became the setting in one of Verne’s novels. He also
visited North America for a week. He visited New York, Buffalo, Niagara Falls,
Toronto. He loved America and was very sad that he was never going to come again.
Verne owned 3 boats, a sailboat, a sailing yacht, and a stem yacht. They were
christened Saint-Michel 1, Saint-Michel 2, and Saint-Michel 3, respectively. He
loved sailing and visited many place of Europe with his beloved boats.
In 1869, Verne moved to Le Crotoy. His family liked this seaside town and
it was less burden on Verne’s paycheck. This was where his boats were docked,
even after they moved again to Verne’s next and final homeplace, Amiens in 1872.
Even though he was famous, he contributed to his community in many way a
lot of times. He received the Legion Of Honor, a French order of Merit
instituted by Napoleon in 1802. It recognizes people for achievement in civil or
military life . He acquired the Honor only days before the Franco-Prussian War.
In Amiens, he was elected to different positions in the town legislature. In
1872, he was voted into the Acadmie d’Amiens, a local learned society. He was
also elected to the Town Council of Amiens when he was 60. He said “My sole aim
is to make myself useful.” He was very active in his life.
1863 marked the beginning of a new genre in literature. “Five Weeks in a
Balloon” appeared in bookstores. It became the first science-fiction book
published. The publisher, Jules Hetzel, and Verne had started a friendship that
was to last for life when Hetzel accepted “Five Weeks in a Balloon”. “Five Weeks
in a Balloon” became an instant success. It quickly soared to the best-seller
list in both the children’s and adult’s market. He started working on other
books after the success of his first book. He also took a job in Hetzel’s
company. He was always a very busy man. Verne’s books were some of the most
popular of his time. What he writes about air travel back then is what we hear
about space travel nowadays. He also started the dreams of traveling to the
bottom of the ocean and venturing deep to the center of the Earth.
Some of his most popular books were: “Five Weeks in a Balloon” (1863), “A
Journey to the Center of the Earth” (1864), “The Mysterious Island” (1870),
“Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” (1870), his most popular, “Around the
World in Eighty Days” (1872), and “Michael Strogoff” (1876).
“Around the World in Eighty Days” was about Phileas Fogg and his servant
Passepartout traveling around, visiting London, Paris, Brindisi, Suez, Bombay,
and other places. All of Jules Verne’s books give his readers a way to imagine
about things they’ve never seen, such as airplanes, submarines and spaceships.
Places, people never thought of going to and have never been, for example, the
moon, the center of the earth, and the bottom of the ocean. Some of his books
have been made into numerous plays and movies. “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under
the Sea” and “Around the World in Eighty Days” have been adapted a lot of times
by various movie companies.
March, 1886 marked the beginning when Verne’s life began to fall apart. He
was shot in the foot by his nephew and had a permanent limp as a result. His
great friend and publisher, Jules Hetzel passed away on March 17, 1886. His
mother died next, in February of 1887. He was very sad over the death of mother
as that marked the fact that both his parents were gone. He became further
immobilized in June, 1893, when he had to battle attacks of dizziness, leg and
eye problems. His immediate family as a youth all left him with the death of his
much loved brother, Paul in 1897.
At the turn of the century, Verne stayed as an active person and
continued to write, even with age and illness. March 24, 1905, his family were
all with him as he lived his last day of his life. 4 days later, he was buried
at La Madeleine in Amiens. With the burial, the world lost the “Father of
Science Fiction”, a great writer and a prophet.
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