Jules Verne

French novelist, poet, and playwright (1828-1905)

Jules Verne was a French author and pioneer of the “adventure” genre. He is the second most translated author in the world, since 1979, ranking after William Shakespeare and before Agatha Christie. Verne is regarded by many as one of the fathers of science fiction, along with authors like H.G. Wells. He is best known for his adventure novels, such as Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Journey to the Center of the Earth. 

Life Facts

  • Jules Verne was born on February 8, 1828.
  • In 1857, the author married Honorine de Viane Morel.
  • His father resisted the young Verne’s desire to become an author, instead of encouraging him to inherit the family’s law practice.
  • It was in 1862 that Verne began his series of novels known as “Voyages Extraordinaires.”
  • Jules Verne passed away on March 24, 1905, from chronic diabetes and complications from a stroke.

Interesting Facts

  • The importance of his literary contributions was only acknowledged after his death.
  • On March 9, 1886, Verne’s 26-year-old nephew shot him twice with a pistol.
  • The stage production of his novel Around the World in Eighty Days was commercially popular.
  • He was friends with Alexandre Dumas and the author’s son.
  • He suffered from violent stomach cramps throughout his life.
  • Verne missed the birth of his son, and an only biological child, Michel.

Famous Books by Jules Verne 

  • Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea – a well-loved novel that was initially serialized between 1869 and 1870 in French. The novel tells the story of the discovery of the Nautilus submarine, the adventures of Captain Nemo, and more. Verne was famously inspired by a model of a French submarine that he examined at the 1867 Exposition Universelle to write the novel. 

  • From the Earth to the Moon – is an 1865 novel that tells the story of a society of weapons enthusiasts in America and their creation of an enormous space gun. They launch a projectile into space with the goal of landing on the moon.

  • Five Weeks in a Balloon – or, Five Weeks in a Balloon, or, A Journey of Discover by Three Englishmen in Africa, is the first of Verne’s adventure novels, published in 1863. The book describes the plains of Africa, an environment that many readers, at the time, knew little about.

  • Around the World in Eighty Dayswas first published in French in 1872, and describes the journey of Phileas Fogg and his valet who attempt to circumnavigate the globe in eighty days. It is one of Verne’s most popular literary accomplishments.

  • Journey to the Center of the Earth– was first published in French in 1864 and describes the adventures of an eccentric professor who journeys, through volcanic tubes, to the center of the earth. There, the explorers discover prehistoric creatures, an underground ocean, and more.

Early Life

Jules Verne was born on February 8, 1828, on a small artificial island called Île Feydeau on the river Loire. He was sent to school at the age of six where he encountered Madame Sambin, a particularly influential instructor who, some scholars suggest, laid the initial spark of inspiration and interest in seafaring. In 1836, he attended a Catholic school at the wishes of his father. His teachers remarked on his skill with languages, singing, and geography. One particularly interesting anecdote from his youth (which is today considered to be more legend than fact) suggests that when he was only 11 years old, Jules Verne acquired a spot as a cabin boy on a ship with the intention of traveling to the Indies and bringing a coral necklace to his cousin, Caroline. The child’s father purportedly caught him at the ship’s first stop in Paimboeuf. In the early 1840s, Jules Verne began his earliest, surviving prose work. Today, scholars refer to it as an early example of his future literary prowess. When he was nineteen, inspired by Victor Hugo, he wrote two verse tragedies. Despite his passion for literature, Verne’s father was not interested in funding the life of a novelist for his older son and was determined that he would instead inherit the family’s law practice. He began his studies at law school in 1847. It was also during this time that another influential life event occurred– his cousin Caroline, with whom he was in love, married another man. Also during this period, he met and fell in love with a young woman named Rose. He wrote thirty poems in her honor and, biographers suggest, his passion was, at least for a time, reciprocated. Her parents did not support her marriage to the young Jules Verne and instead married her off to another man in 1848. This second romantic heartbreak frustrated Verne who channeled his passions into his writing. In the late 1840s, Verne traveled to Paris during the French Revolution of the same period. In his writings, he depicts the state of the city, the election of Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, and more. Within his writings, readers can find mention of the first violent stomach cramps that Verne suffered, and which would persist throughout his lifetime. He was also suffering from instances of facial paralysis that were due to an inflammation in his middle ear.

Literary Career

In the early 1850s, Jules Verne’s literary career truly began. He came into contact with Alexandre Dumas through a mutual acquaintance and became close friends with the famous writer’s son. The two men wrote a play together that opened in June 1850. Verne then began selling short adventure stories to a fellow writer and the editor in chief of a magazine focusing on geography, science, and technology. Unsure and wary of his son’s financial prospects, Verne’s father continued to suggest that his son quit his literary pursuits and take up his career as a lawyer.

In 1857, the author married Honorine de Viane Morel, a young widow with two children of her own. In July 1858, Jules Verne took his first trip outside of France a sea voyage from Bordeaux to Liverpool and Scotland that was offered at no charge via a friend’s brother. He utilized this trip as inspiration in his semi-autobiographical novel, Backwards to Britain, which was not published until 1989. During a later trip, Verne missed the birth of his son, and his only biological child, Michel.

It was in 1862 that Verne began his series of novels known as “Voyages Extraordinaires,” the first of which was Five Weeks in a Balloon, published in 1863. The book was followed by his best-known literary works including Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870) and Around the World in Eighty Days (1873).

Later Life and Death

On March 9, 1886, Verne’s 26-year-old nephew shot him twice with a pistol. The second bullet entered Verne’s leg resulting in a permanent limp he dealt with for the rest of his life. This was one of several darker events in Verne’s later life, including the death of his mother. In 1888, he was elected town councilor of Amiens and served in that role for fifteen years. He was made a Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur in 1870 and then an Officier de la Légion d’honneur in 1892.

Jules Verne passed away on March 24, 1905, from chronic diabetes and complications from a stroke that left him paralyzed on his right side. He died in his home in Amiens and his later works were published by his son. Amazingly, an unknown novel titled Paris in the Twentieth Century was discovered and published by Verne’s great-grandson in 1994.

Verne’s legacy during his life was complicated. He was commercially popular, particularly due to the successful stage version of his novel Around the World in Eighty Days, but, he was never acknowledged as an author of broader literary importance in France, at least during his lifetime. It was only after his death, that Verne’s stylistic skill, literary themes, originality, and more were fully appreciated for their influence.

In the years after his death, French journals devoted issues to Jules Verne, and his work, and included essays by a variety of highly regarded French authors, including Michel Foucault. Today, he is considered one of the most important authors in French history and is cited as incredibly influential on later literary movements like surrealism and the avant-garde. 

Influence from other Writers

Jules Verne was notably influenced by writers such as Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Jean-Paul Sarte, Paul Claudel, and more.

Literature by Jules Verne

Explore literature by Jules Verne below, created by the team at Book Analysis.