Many myths about Jules Verne still exist, even among those who know quite a lot about Verne. On this page, I will try to debunk them.
This page does not address each and every stupid thing that has ever been said about Verne, but only the so-called “facts” that keep being repeated in many publications.
Jules Verne’s study was in the tower of his house at the Rue Charles-Dubois
The tower may look like a romantic place to write novels, but Verne’s study was in fact located in a room off the passage on the second floor.
And so, with Mme. Verne leading the way, we went once more through the light, airy hall, where a door opened straight on to the quaint winding staircase, which leads up and up till are reached the cosy set of rooms where M. Verne passes the greater part of his life, and from where have issued many of his most enchanting books. As we went along the passage, I noticed some large maps–dumb testimonies of their owner’s delight in geography and love of accurate information–hanging on the wall.
Jules Verne at Home, by Marie A. Belloc. Strand Magazine, February, 1895.
The winding staircase which leads to the upper stories is in this tower, and at the very top of staircase is M. Verne’s private domain. A passage carpeted with red stuff, like the staircase, leads past maps and charts to a little corner room, which is furnished with a plain camp bedstead. Against a bay window stands a small table, on which a manuscript paper very neatly cut may be seen. On the mantlepiece of the tiny fireplace stand two statuettes, one of Molière and the other of Shakespeare, and above them hangs a water-color painting representing a yacht steaming the Bay of Naples. It is in this room that Verne works. Adjoining it is a large room with well-filled bookcases reaching from ceiling to carpet.
Jules Verne at Home. His Own Account of His Life and Work, by R. H. Sherard. McClure’s Magazine, January, 1894.
Jules Verne was a coastguard in Le Crotoy during the Franco-Prussian war; his ship the Saint-Michel had been equipped with a cannon for this occasion.
A small fisherman’s cutter like the Saint-Michel would be utterly useless for the defence of the French coast. The cannon was used for distress signals if necessary. Verne was not a garde de côte, but a garde nationale, like every Frenchman who was too old to have to serve in the army.
Verne sold his ship the Saint-Michel III, because he couldn’t travel anymore after the attack by his nephew Gaston.
Verne probably sold his ship because he was in financial trouble. He sold it already in 1885. The attack took place on 9 March, 1886.
When he was a boy, Verne bought a place as a mousse on the three-mast Coralie, so he could go to the Indies and get his cousin Caroline, with whom he was in love, a coral necklace.
Nice story, but all the details that Marguerite Allotte de la Fuÿe gives are impossible. Worse, she gives two contradictory versions of the story. There may, however, be some truth in this legend: Volker Dehs quotes a source from 1909, Paul Eudel, who told that at the age of 11, young Jules once took a small boat and tried to catch up with the Octavie, en route for the Indies.
Jules Verne’s works have been translated to almost 200 languages.
I can’t prove this statement wrong, but until now, I have only found evidence for less than 100 languages. There are certainly more than that, but I doubt there are 200.
Verne had an audience with Pope Leo XIII in 1884.
True or false???
Gustave Doré illustrated (some of) Jules Verne’s novels.
He didn’t. More detail on Verne’s illustrators can be found in an interesting article by Art Evans.
Jules Verne quit his law studies to devote himself entirely to literature.
He finished his studies, although he never worked as a lawyer.
Jules Verne visited country X, where he found inspiration for novel Y.
In Slovakia, it is often said that Verne visited that country in 1893, and was inspired to write Le Château des Carpathes. Similar stories are told about Turkey, Switzerland and other countries.
In fact, Jules Verne only visited the following countries: Algeria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Tunisia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.
These myths are probably caused by the very vivid descriptions Jules Verne gives of so many places on earth.
Verne never travelled, he wrote all his novels from his imagination.
Verne visited Scotland, Ireland and Norway in 1880.
In J.-Y. Paumier’s Jules Verne. Voyageur Extraordinaire, Glénat, 2005, we find on page 23 a reproduction of a fiche in Verne’s handwriting, listing his voyages in the St. Michel III. This states explicitly for the year 1880 … “pas navigué” … as in fact stated by J.-M. Margot over 20 years previously (la Nouvelle Revue Maritime, May–June 1984).
Amongst the several voyages made in 1879 is that to Scotland in July and from Verne’s letters to Hetzel (O. Dumas, P. Gondolo della Riva, V. Dehs, 2002), we know that this Scottish journey lasted for most of the second half of that month … ample time given the improved transport by rail and steamer to visit the Hebrides, as suggested by Weissenberg, Jules Verne. Un univers fabuleux, Favre, 2004. Further evidence is provided by the reference to the Sound of Mull in Verne’s letter to Louis-Jules Hetzel (O. Dumas et al, letter no. 460).
We can conclude that Verne did not sail to Scotland (or Ireland or Norway) in 1880 and that it was his 1879 Scottish journey that provided the background to Le Rayon vert, just as his 1859 journey had provided the information for Les Indes noires.
(Information provided by Ian Thompson.)
On Jules Verne’s tomb there is an inscription that reads “Vers l’immortalité et l’éternelle jeunesse”.
This is the title of the sculpture on the tomb, not the inscription.
“Tout ce qu’un homme est capable d’imaginer, d’autres hommes seront capables de le réaliser.” — Jules Verne
This is a fake quotation. Its source is a necrology by Félix Duquesnel, who “quoted” Jules Verne as follows:
Quoi que j’invente, quoi que je fasse, je serai toujours au-dessous de la vérité. Il viendra toujours un moment où les créations de la science dépasseront celles de l’imagination.
This phrase was copied by Charles Lemire in his 1908 biography. In 1928, Marguerite Allotte de la Fuÿe cited it in her biography in a slightly different form, pretending it was a quote from a letter Jules Verne wrote to Lemire:
Tout ce que j’invente, tout ce que j’imagine restera toujours au-dessous de la vérité, parce qu’il viendra un moment où les créations de la science dépasseront celles de l’imagination !
Marguerite Allotte de la Fuÿe went as far as inventing a letter from Jules Verne to his father, in which the following remark occurs:
Tout ce qu’un homme est capable d’imaginer, d’autres hommes seront capables de le réaliser.
This fake letter and the fake citation were omitted from the 1953 reedition of the biography, possibly after protestations from Jean H. Guermonprez, president of the Société Jules Verne. But the myth had been launched, and the citation remains popular to this day.
See Eric Weissenberg, Jules Verne. Un univers fabuleux, pp. 24–33.