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BACKGROUND INFORMATION - BIOGRAPHY
Jules Verne's whole life was spent either writing or preparing for it. Jules Gabriel Verne was born in Nantes, France in 1828. Born as the second child of four, in a middle class Nantes family, his schooldays were reasonably successful without being brilliant. Jules’ parents belonged to the seafaring tradition, a factor that greatly influenced his writings. When very young, he ran off to be a cabin boy on a merchant ship, but was caught and had to return to his parents. Verne went to school from 1834 - 1838, where his teacher was the widow of a sea captain, and she kept waiting for her husband’s return.
He was in college from 1838 - 1842 where he performed well in geography, singing and in translations from Greek and Latin. Between 1841 - 1846, Verne started writing short prose pieces. In 1847, Jules was sent to study law in Paris. His cousin, Caroline Tronson with whom he had been unhappily in love for several years, got engaged. His passion for theatre grew, while he was there. He wrote a play called Alexandre VI. In 1848, there was a revolution in Paris and Verne was present in the July disturbances. His uncle introduced him into literary salons where he met novelists such as Dumas.
Later in 1850, this budding author’s first play was published. His father was outraged when he heard that Jules was not going to continue law and discontinued the money he was giving him to pay for his expenses in Paris.
In 1850, his one act comedy Les Pailles rompues (‘Broken Straws’) ran for twelve nights at Dumas’s Theatre historique, and was published. Verne started making money by selling his stories, which included ‘A Drama in Mexico’ and ‘Drama in the Air’. Between 1852 -1855, he became secretary of Theatre lyrique.
In 1857 this talented writer married Honorine and became a stockbroker in Paris. He moved his house several times. In 1859, still living in cramped conditions in the Latin Quarter, but now with his pregnant wife and two stepdaughters, he was invited by a friend on a free trip to Scotland and England. He was delighted by his visit and was greatly marked by the experience. A son was born to him in 1861 and in 1862 he went to Norway and Denmark with Hignard.
After spending many hours in Paris libraries studying geology, engineering, and astronomy, Jules Verne published his first novel Five Weeks in a Balloon in 1863, which was an immediate success. His publisher was quite impressed and from that point on, Verne’s livelihood was guaranteed by successively more lucrative contracts, although requiring him to produce between one and two books each year. In 1867, there was the first English translation of his novel. Soon, he started writing novels such as Journey to the Center of the Earth, From the Earth to the Moon, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Because of the popularity of these and other novels, Jules Verne became a very rich man. He wrote steadily - often he would be changing the published serial version of one novel while correcting the proofs of another, writing the manuscript of yet another, and planning the extensive reading required for a fourth.
In 1871 Jules’s father died and between 1876-77 he bought his second and third boats and even organized a huge fancy dress ball. His marriage was not totally happy; and he seems to have had mistresses. His wife was critically ill that year but recovered. In 1876, he bought a large yacht and sailed around Europe. In 1877, Verne sailed to Lisbon and Algiers.
His son Michel married an actress in 1879, despite the opposition of his father. In 1883-84, Verne left with his wife on a grand tour of the Mediterranean. In 1888 he was elected local councilor on a Republican list and for the next fifteen years, he attended council meetings, administrated theatres and fairs and gave public talks. In 1895 he wrote his first novel in a European language in the present tense and third person. After 1897 his health deteriorated.
In 1905 he fell seriously ill from diabetes and died in the city of Amines. On Verne’s death, The Invasion of the Sea and The Lighthouse at the end of the World were in the course of publication. Michel, his son then took responsibility for the remaining manuscripts and published them later.
It was only in 1978 that it was discovered that the Jules Verne books that appeared posthumously had a major part of their writing done by Michel. This came as a surprise to many. The simplicity of Verne’s life seems to be in opposition to the complexity of his works