Jules Gabriel Verne (French pronunciation: (8 February 1828 – 24 March 1905) was a French novelist, poet, and playwright best known for his adventure novels and his profound influence on the literary genre of science fiction.
Born to bourgeois parents in the seaport of Nantes, Verne was trained to follow in his father’s footsteps as a lawyer, but quit the profession early in life to write for magazines and the stage. His collaboration with the publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel led to the creation of the Voyages Extraordinaires, a widely popular series of scrupulously researched adventure novels including Journey to the Center of the Earth, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and Around the World in Eighty Days.
Verne is generally considered a major literary author in France and most of Europe, where he has had a wide influence on the literary avant-garde and on surrealism. His reputation is markedly different in Anglophone regions, where he has often been labeled a children’s author or a writer of genre fiction, not least because of the highly abridged and altered translations in which his novels are often reprinted.
Verne is the second most translated author in the world (following Agatha Christie), and his works appear in more translations per year than those of any other writer. Verne is one writer sometimes called "The Father of Science Fiction," as are H. G. Wells and Hugo Gernsback.
Jules Verne was born on 8 February 1828 on Île Feydeau, a small island within the town of Nantes, in No. 4 Rue Olivier-de-Clisson, the house of his maternal grandmother Sophie Marie Adelaïde-Julienne Allotte de la Fuÿe. His parents were Pierre Verne, an attorney originally from Provins, and Sophie Allote de la Fuÿe, a Nantes woman from a local family of navigators and shipowners, of distant Scottish descent. In 1829, the Verne family moved some hundred meters away to No. 2 Quai Jean-Bart, where Verne’s brother Paul was born the same year. Three sisters, Anna, Mathilde, and Marie, would follow (in 1836, 1839, and 1842, respectively).
In 1834, at the age of six, Verne was sent to boarding school at 5 Place du Bouffay in Nantes. The teacher, Mme Sambin, was the widow of a naval captain who had disappeared some thirty years before. Mme Sambin often told the students that her husband was a shipwrecked castaway and that he would eventually return like Robinson Crusoe from his desert island paradise. The theme of the Robinsonade would stay with Verne throughout his life and appear in many of his novels, including The Mysterious Island, Second Fatherland, and The School for Robinsons.
In 1836, Verne went on to the École Saint-Stanislas, a Catholic school suiting the pious religious tastes of his father. Verne quickly distinguished himself in mémoire (recitation from memory), geography, Greek, Latin, and singing. In the same year, 1836, Pierre Verne bought a vacation house at 29 Rue des Réformés in the village of Chantenay (now part of Nantes) on the Loire River. In his brief memoir "Souvenirs d’enfance et de jeunesse" ("Souvenirs of Childhood and Youth," 1890), Verne recalled a deep fascination with the river and with the many merchant vessels navigating it. He also took vacations at Brains, in the house of his uncle Prudent Allotte, a retired shipowner, who had gone around the world and served as mayor of Brains from 1828 to 1837. Verne took joy in playing interminable rounds of the Game of the Goose with his uncle, and both the game and his uncle’s name would be memorialized in two late novels (The Will of an Eccentric and Robur the Conqueror respectively).
Legend has it that in 1839, at the age of 11, Verne secretly procured a spot as cabin boy on the three-mast ship Coralie, with the intention of traveling to the Indies and bringing back a coral necklace for his cousin Caroline. The ship was due to set out for the Indies that evening, but stopped first at Paimboeuf, where Pierre Verne arrived just in time to catch his son and make him promise to travel "only in his imagination." It is now known that the legend is an exaggerated tale invented by Verne’s first biographer, his niece Marguerite Allotte de la Füye, though it may have been inspired by a real incident.
In 1840, the Vernes moved again to a large apartment at No. 6 Rue Jean-Jacques-Rousseau, where the family’s youngest child, Marie, was born in 1842. In the same year Verne entered another religious school, the Petit Séminaire de Saint-Donatien, as a lay student. His unfinished early novel Un prêtre en 1839 (A Priest in 1839) describes the seminary in humorous and disparaging terms. From 1844 to 1846, Verne and his brother were enrolled in the Lycée Royal (now the Lycée Georges-Clemenceau in Nantes). After finishing classes in rhetoric and philosophy, he took the baccalauréat at Rennes and received the grade "Fairly good" on 29 July 1846.
In 1847, Verne was sent to Paris by his father, primarily to continue his studies, but also (according to family legend) to distance him temporarily from Nantes. His cousin Caroline, with whom he was in love, was married on 27 April 1847 to Émile Dezaunay, a man of forty, with whom she would have five children. Verne’s frustration was such that six years later, in a letter to his mother answering a request to visit the Dezaunays in Paris, he spoke sardonically of Caroline’s new life and described her as "a little less pregnant than usual."
After a short stay in Paris, where he passed first-year law school exams, he returned to Nantes for his father’s help in preparing for the second year (provincial law students were in that era required to go to Paris to take exams). It was at this time that he met Rose Herminie Arnaud Grossetière, a young woman one year his senior, and fell intensely in love with her. His first notebook of poetry contains numerous references to the young woman, notably "Acrostiche" ("Acrostic") and "La Fille de l’air" ("The Daughter of Air"). His passion seems to have reciprocal for a short time, but Grossetière’s parents frowned upon the idea of their daughter marrying a young student of uncertain future. They married her instead to Armand Terrien de la Haye, a rich landowner ten years her senior, on 19 July 1848.
In July 1848, Verne left Nantes again for Paris, where his father intended him to finish law studies and continue the family line of attorneys. Among his luggage Verne carried his manuscript for Un prêtre en 1839, as well as two verse tragedies, Alexandre VI and La Conspiration des poudres (The Gunpowder Plot), and his poems. He obtained permission from his father to rent a furnished apartment at 24 Rue de l’Ancienne-Comédie, which he shared with Édouard Bonamy, another student of Nantes origin. (The 1847 Paris stay had been made at 2 Rue Thérèse, the house of Verne’s aunt Charuel, on the Butte Saint-Roch.)
Verne arrived in Paris during a time of political upheaval: the French Revolution of 1848. In February, Louis Philippe I had been overthrown and had fled; on 24 February a provisory government, the French Second Republic, was established, but political demonstrations continued and social tension remained. In June, barricades were erected in Paris, and the government sent Louis-Eugène Cavaignac to crush the insurrection. Verne entered the city shortly before the election of Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte as the first president of the Republic, a state of affairs that would last until the French coup of 1851, in which Bonaparte was crowned ruler of the Second French Empire. In a letter to his family, Verne described the bombarded state of the city after the recent June Days Uprising.
Verne used his family connections to make an entrance into Paris society. His uncle Francisque de Chatêaubourg introduced him into literary salons, and he frequented those of Mme de Barrère (a friend of his mother) and of Mme Mariani. While continuing his law studies, he developed a passion for the theatre and wrote numerous plays. He devoured the theatrical works of Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Alfred de Vigny, and Alfred de Musset, as well as those of Molière and Shakespeare, statuettes of whom he kept in his study for many years. Verne later recalled: "I was greatly under the influence of Victor Hugo, indeed, very excited by reading and re-reading his works. At that time I could have recited by heart whole pages of Notre Dame de Paris, but it was his dramatic work that most influenced me, and it was under this influence that, at the age of seventeen, I wrote a number of tragedies and comedies, not to mention novels."
Jules Verne – The Mysterious Island (read by Gene Engene)
Jules Verne – Around The World In Eighty Days (read by Patrick Tull)
Jules Verne – Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea (read by Jim Killavey)
Jules Verne – Journey To The Center Of The Earth (read by Simon Prebble)
Jules Verne – From The Earth To The Moon (read by Bernard Mayes)
Jules Verne – Michael Strogoff (read by John Bolen)
Jules Verne – Paris In The Twentieth Century (read by Bill Wallis)
Jules Verne – The Underground City (read by John Bolen)
Jules Verne – Eight Hundred Leagues On The Amazon (read by John Bolen)
Jules Verne – The Survivors Chancellor (read by John Bolen)
Jules Verne – Captain Grant’s Children (read by Stan Pretty)