#95 = Volume 32, Part 1 = March 2005
Jules Verne, Playwright
During his lifetime, Jules Verne had only one publisher for his novels,
Pierre-Jules Hetzel (1814-1886). The most important French publisher of the
nineteenth century, Hetzel also published the literary works of Alphonse Daudet,
Alexandre Dumas, Charles Dickens, George Sand, Victor Hugo, and Théophile
Gautier.1 His stable of illustrators included, among many others,
Léon Benett, Emile Bayard, Georges Bertall, Gustave Doré, Eugène Froment, Tony
Johannot, and Ernest Meissonier.2 In 1873, Hetzel handed over the
management of the publishing company to his son, Louis-Jules Hetzel, who
continued to publish Verne’s well-known geographic and scientific novels until
he sold the company to the publishing giant Hachette in 1914.3
Although he is best known as a writer of extraordinary adventures, Jules
Verne—one of the most translated novelists in the world—was also a prolific
playwright. At the age of thirty-four, he achieved international fame with the
publication of his first novel, Five Weeks in a Balloon (1863). Before
that, however, the majority of his literary activity was devoted to the theater.
Verne’s theatrical productions can be divided into three categories: the plays
he wrote during his youth (before he met Hetzel), his operas and operettas, and
the pièces à grand spectacle (great spectacle plays) inspired by his
Plays written before 1863. Verne’s biographers mention several plays, both
tragedies and vaudeville-like comedies, written before he was twenty.4 At age
seventeen, Verne supposedly submitted a tragedy in verse to a puppet theater in
Nantes, his birthplace. The piece was rejected, which is all that we know of it.
The text is lost and even the title is unknown.
In 1981, the city of Nantes bought Verne’s manuscripts from the Verne family. To
consolidate the copyrights on the unpublished texts, the Municipal Library of
Nantes published thirty typed copies of these manuscripts—known as Manuscrits
nantais—in three volumes that totalled 1,787 pages. Thus scholars have access to
most of the writings of the young Verne, including short plays such as
Alexandre VI, La Conspiration des poudres (The Powder Conspiracy), Le
Quart d’heure de Rabelais (The Fifteen Minutes of Rabelais), and Don
In 1848—at the age of twenty and still a student—Verne was sent to Paris by
his father to attend law school (he graduated in 1850 with a licence en droit).
The young Verne’s first priority, however, was to become known in theatrical
circles. Through one of his uncles, Verne met Alexandre Dumas père, who
“adopted” him and who so impressed him that, forty years later, Alexandre Dumas
fils wrote to Verne to say that Verne was, more than himself, the true
son of the elder Dumas.6
Dumas opened his Théâtre Historique with La Jeunesse des Mousquetaires
(The Youth of the Musketeers) on February 17, 1849, with Verne as a guest in
Dumas’s own box. Mentored by Dumas, Verne produced his first staged play, Les
Pailles rompues (The Broken Straws), in 1850. Inspired by Marivaux, this
short play is a witty and affected conversation between a coquettish woman and
her jealous husband.7 In the dedication, Verne expressed his
gratitude to Dumas, who obviously helped him both to write the play and to stage
it in his theater.
After Marivaux, the young playwright took Musset as a model.8
Still exploring various dramatic possibilities, Verne wrote Leonardo da Vinci
in 1851, which became Monna Lisa at a reading at the Académie d’Amiens in
1874 and in its first printing in 1974.9 In this bittersweet
explanation of the sibylline smile of La Giaconda, Leonardo is so immersed in
his art that he forgets the beautiful Lisa, who would so willingly respond to
his slightest attention. The description of Leonardo, unskillful with the woman
he still loves, is a metaphor for Verne, the shy introvert.
Verne himself acknowledged that he was helped in writing the Vinci
play by Michel Carré, the prolific librettist, who with Jules Barbier produced
many well-known French operas between 1850 and 1870.10 Interestingly, in 1851,
Barbier and Carré brought to the Odéon a fantastic drama, Les Contes
d’Hoffman (The Tales of Hoffmann). Thirty years later, Jacques Offenbach11
produced his own version—the last and one of the most remarkable French
opéras comiques12—and this production inspired Jules Verne’s work
on his own Voyage à travers l’impossible (Journey through the Impossible, 1882).
In the 1850s, it was common to stage so-called “comedy proverbs,” short
pieces that illustrated various proverbs. One such piece written by Verne
remained unstaged, but it was published in 1852 in a French family magazine,
Le Musée des familles, under the title of Les Châteaux en Californie, ou,
Pierre qui roule n’amasse pas mousse (The Castles in California, or, A
Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss). In this piece, Verne played with words and told
jokes that, while perhaps innocent, nevertheless were often full of racy humor.
Taking advantage of similar sounding words such as coeur (heart) and
queue (tail), Verne inserted many double meanings into his text. The most
astonishing fact is that such a play was printed in the serious Musée des
familles, whose targeted readership, the French family, necessarily also
In Les Heureux du jour (The Happy of the Day, 1853), Verne criticized
Parisian society, ridiculing its vanity and greed. His style was already more
mature and his writing more solid than in previous works. In Onze jours de
siège (Eleven Days of Siege, 1861), Verne returned to vaudeville (light
comedy). Learning that her marriage is invalid, Madame refuses to sleep
with Monsieur, who keeps her captive. This is a modest plot upon which to
hang three acts, but the one-act piece that preceded it—Un Mari à la Porte
(A Husband at the Door), written in 1859 by Delacour and Morand and with music
by Offenbach—is delightful.13
Robert Pourvoyeur, the specialist in Vernian theater, points out that among
the many plays written in the 1850s, several, especially Un Neveu d’Amérique,
ou, les deux Frontignac (An American Nephew), demonstrate how Verne’s
writing improved (5-30). This play was written in 1861, but it was never staged
and it remained unpublished by Hetzel until 1873.14 Based upon the
original and hilarious idea of taking out a life annuity and death insurance on
the same character, it is without a doubt Verne’s best play. The brilliantly
funny yet natural dialogue is delivered at breakneck speed even as it maintains
the depth of the characters.
By 1861, Verne had fully mastered his talent as a playwright, after having
tried out several literary routes (plays, operas, operettas, and opéras
comiques). An American Nephew, an excellent satiric work, suggests
what kind of playwright Verne could have become with a little more maturity and
experience. But Verne’s fateful meeting with Hetzel was just around the corner
and Verne’s literary career was destined to explore “Known and Unknown Worlds,”
to recall the subtitle of the Voyages Extraordinaires.15
Musical theater. Many scholars and biographers rightly insist on
Verne’s strong interest in music. So it is no wonder that the future novelist
should insert music into his plays, producing pieces such as operas, operettas,
and opéras comiques. In so doing he was completely of his time, since operas
were considered, at least in France during the second half of the nineteenth
century, to be the highest form of both music and theater. In his novels as
well, Verne often makes references to musical pieces, mainly to operas.
Characters and narrators in his novels often quote the operas and operettas of
his time, some of which are still well known today, while others have been
completely forgotten. Pourvoyeur notes eighteen instances in Claudius
Bombarnac (1892); even in Propeller Island (1895), several pages are
dedicated to Mozart and Gounod’s study of Don Juan (Pourvoyeur 12).
Let us now turn our attention to Aristide Hignard, who, like Verne, was born
in Nantes.16 Hignard and Verne had apartments on the same floor in
Paris. They became friends and Verne wrote the lyrics for Hignard’s music.
Although some Verne biographers suggest that Hignard was a talented musician,
there is no doubt that, without his friendship with Verne, he would be
completely forgotten today. He was also unlucky—like the Marquis of Ivry, who
produced Les Amants de Vérone (The Lovers of Verona) in the same year
that Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette (Romeo and Juliet) appeared—in writing a
Hamlet, his best (or perhaps least worst?) piece in 1868, the same year
as the official musician Ambroise Thomas produced an opéra comique, also
entitled Hamlet.17 Verne wrote four pieces with Hignard and it
is likely that they would have enjoyed greater success if the composer had been,
for example, an Offenbach.
In the meantime, Dumas lost his Théâtre Historique, which was remodeled and
named the Théâtre Lyrique in 1852. The new director, Seveste,18 was
looking for a secretary and, on the recommendation of Dumas and Talexy, he hired
Jules Verne.19 So, with his first job, Verne was directly confronted
with the life of the theater, with the various personalities of its musicians
and artists, with financial problems, and with bills to pay. It is likely that
he did a good job: in three years some fifty pieces were staged in his theater.
Verne’s own first musical piece performed on stage is an opéra comique
in one act, Le Colin-Maillard (The Blind Man’s Buff, 1853). Inspired by
Beaumarchais’s Le Mariage de Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), and with
the collaboration of Michel Carré, the plot involves four couples playing the
title game in the woods on a Sunday afternoon.
Two years later, in 1855, with the collaboration of the same Michel Carré and
again with music by Aristide Hignard, Verne produced Les Compagnons de la
Marjolaine (The Knights of the Daffodil), another one-act opéra comique.
The story is simple: a young ferryman gets over his cowardice—with the help of
numerous drinks—to save the woman he loves from being raped. This piece is
better than the first one. Verne’s talent for writing lyrics has improved and
the text generates the music.20 In 1855, Offenbach opened his own
theater in Paris and gave Verne the opportunity to stage his musical Monsieur
de Chimpanzé (Mr. Chimpanzee) at Les Bouffes Parisiens. With music by
Hignard, this one-act operetta concerns the problem of evolution: is the
character in question a human or a monkey? Verne treated this subject in a
hilarious, even slapstick, way and he would later tackle it again in his 1901
novel, The Aerial Village.
In 1861 Verne was back on stage at the Théâtre Lyrique with another show
written with Carré and Hignard, L’Auberge des Ardennes (The Inn of the
Ardennes). This opéra comique uses the familiar situation of an inn with
no rooms available. A young newlywed wants a room for himself and his bride and
the only solution is to frighten another tourist into fleeing and making his
room available. Of course, the other tourist is an attorney who has papers which
make the newlywed wealthy. If Lecoq, who specialized in comedies about thwarted
wedding nights, had written the music instead of Hignard, perhaps L’Auberge
des Ardennes would still be on stage today.
Plays inspired by the Voyages Extraordinaires. Following the
appearance of Verne’s first four novels—Five Weeks in a Balloon (1863),
Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), From the Earth to the Moon
(1865), and Voyages and Adventures of Captain Hatteras (1866)—Verne’s
publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel gave them the collective title of Voyages
Extraordinaires, announcing this in his Preface to Hatteras.21
Eight years later, on November 7, 1874, Verne suddenly became famous as a
playwright as well as a novelist, thanks to his production of Le Tour du
monde en 80 jours (Around the World in 80 Days) at the Théâtre de la Porte
Saint-Martin in Paris. This hugely successful production had a first run of 415
performances. After more than ten years as Hetzel’s employee, and barely making
a living, Verne became virtually overnight a successful and wealthy playwright.
Newspaper and magazine articles written by his contemporaries indicate that he
was almost better known during this period as a playwright than as a novelist.22
Why and how could Verne produce such successful plays adapted from his
novels? In the 1870s and 1880s, there was no television, no movies, no radio. In
cities like Paris, theaters and opera were the only entertainment. The Third
Republic wanted to forget the 1870 Franco-Prussian War and the Commune; plays
and operas offered the best “escape” entertainment possible. While the dazzling
opéra bouffe23 of the Second Empire was being replaced by
pleasant bourgeois reductions of republican opéras comiques, fairy plays
and pièces à grand spectacle were also flourishing.
Around the World in 80 Days24 brought something new and
extravagant to the Paris stage: it featured new landscapes, exotic people, live
elephants and serpents, natural cataclysms, and strange transportational
vehicles for the audience to enjoy without leaving the comfort of their theater
seats. The so-called pièce à grand spectacle was born, and for decades Parisians
went to see these plays just as the public goes to see blockbuster movies today.
Around the World in 80 Days was the most successful of those numerous
pièces à grand spectacle of the last quarter of the nineteenth century, with
more than two thousand performances between 1874 and 1900. For that reason, it
is considered to be the prototype of this kind of play. Nothing was neglected,
including ballets and music written especially for it, sumptuous sets, and
clever machinery. The effects produced by these grand dramatic spectacles were
the forerunners of what Hollywood special effects offer to audiences today.
How Around the World in 80 Days came to exist is still a controversial
point in literary history. The story was first developed in 1872 as a play and
not a novel. Although the concept was Verne’s, he wrote the first draft of the
play with Edouard Cadol.25 It was rejected by several theater
directors. Cadol, who was not easy to work with, became angry and impatient and
was soon replaced by Adolphe d’Ennery,26 who was to pièces à grand
spectacle what Ray Harryhausen later was to Hollywood special effects. At the
end of the nineteenth century in Paris, having the collaboration of d’Ennery was
a guarantee of success for any playwright. In the meantime, without any help or
input from Cadol, Verne wrote the novel Around the World in Eighty Days,
published in 1873. It was already a bestseller by the time the play premiered in
As well as Around the World in 80 Days, D’Ennery helped Verne bring
several other plays to the stage: Les Enfants du capitaine Grant (The
Children of Captain Grant, 1875), Michael Strogoff (1878), and Voyage
à travers l’impossible (Journey through the Impossible,1882). The first
three are inspired by novels with the same titles and are part of Verne’s series
of Voyages Extraordinaires. The last is by far the most interesting and
warrants further discussion.
Journey through the Impossible is an intriguing play—one that could
still be produced today. Unique among Verne’s works for containing the greatest
number of science-fiction elements, it is the only one of the four pièces à
grand spectacle written with d’Ennery that was not adapted from a previously
published Verne novel. Journey through the Impossible is an original
story. Unlike most of Verne’s work, and irrespective of its science-fictional
features, its plot is not just “extraordinary,” it is wholly impossible. And, as
the title suggests, it constitutes a fundamental departure from Verne’s other
In most of Verne’s novels, the heroes never reach their goal: in Journey
to the Center of the Earth, Professor Lidenbrock, Axel, and Hans travel far
beneath the Earth’s surface, but never reach the Center. Captain Hatteras and
his crew of the Voyages and Adventures of Captain Hatteras are unable to
set foot on the North Pole because of a huge, active volcano located there.
Barbicane, Nicholl, and Michel Ardan travel From the Earth to the Moon
and Around the Moon without actually landing. For once in Jules Verne’s
works, however, all the travelers of Journey through the Impossible reach their
goals. Between the prologue and the epilogue, the hero goes to the center of the
Earth in the first act, to the bottom of the seas in the second act, and to the
Planet Altor in the third. As such, this play stands in stark contrast to
everything Verne represents in terms of his legendary attention to scientific
verisimilitude. For example, in an interview with the British journalist Gordon
Jones in 1904, Verne insisted that he was not a visionary and that the
futuristic aspects of his fiction
are merely the natural outcome
of the scientific trend of modern thought, and as such have doubtless been
predicted by scores of others besides myself. Their coming was inevitable,
whether anticipated or not, and the most that I can claim is to have looked
perhaps a little farther into the future than the majority of my critics. (666)
To drive this point home, Verne then contrasted his own approach to that of
his literary rival H.G. Wells, saying
I consider him, as a purely
imaginative writer, to be deserving of very high praise, but our methods are
entirely different. I have always made a point in my romances of basing my
so-called inventions upon a groundwork of actual fact.... The creations of Mr.
Wells, on the other hand, belong unreservedly to an age and degree of scientific
knowledge far removed from the present. (670)
And yet here stands the fantastical Journey through the Impossible, a
play in three acts, performed over two decades earlier—a play that completely
contradicts the above statements!
Using the same structure as The Tales of Hoffmann, where the hero has
to choose between love and art, Journey through the Impossible dramatizes
a struggle between love and knowledge. Its hero is George Hatteras—the son of
Captain Hatteras who discovered the North Pole in Voyages and Adventures of
Captain Hatteras—who has to choose between love and knowledge, good and
evil, happiness and science. The Tempter is Doctor Ox, resurrected by Verne from
his short story of the same name. The Guardian Angel is Volsius, who appears in
the first act as Otto Lidenbrock, the main character of Journey to the Center
of the Earth. In the second act, he appears as Captain Nemo, the main
character of Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, and in the third act
as Michel Ardan, traveler From the Earth to the Moon. Inventing no new
characters, Verne took existing heroes from the Voyages Extraordinaires
and let them travel “through the impossible.” George Hatteras is accompanied by
his fiancée, Eva, who shares his adventures—another exception in Verne’s works,
where usually the women stay home and send the hero alone on his extraordinary
voyage—and helps Volsius to save him from the evil scientific knowledge
proffered by Doctor Ox.
Journey through the Impossible was written by Verne at a turning point
in his life and literary career. In the first half of his life, he wrote novels
and plays in which science was a positive good and engineers and scientists
worked to improve the future of humanity. The typical character of this first
period is Cyrus Smith, the engineer of The Mysterious Island (1875). In
the second half of his life, Verne wrote novels (and very few plays) in which
science was morally questionable, used as it was by evil characters to create
human misfortune in works such as Robur the Conqueror (1886), Master
of the World (1904), and The Secret of Wilhelm Storitz (1910).
Journey through the Impossible is one of the most intriguing, surprising,
and important later works by Jules Verne. It is greatly ironic that the most
overtly science-fictional narrative in Verne’s vast oeuvre is a play, not a
novel, and that it remains largely forgotten today.29
1. Louis Marie Alphonse Daudet (1840-1897) was a French novelist of the
naturalist literary school. Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870), one of the most famous
French writers of the nineteenth century, is best known today for historical
adventure novels including The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte
Cristo. The works of Charles Dickens (1812-1870), the great Victorian
novelist, are characterized by attacks on social evils, injustice, and
hypocrisy. George Sand (1804-1876) was the pseudonym of Amandine-Aurore-Lucile
Dupin, French Romantic novelist and also a member of the naturalist literary
current. Victor Hugo (1802-1885), nineteenth-century France’s most important
Romantic writer, is best known in the Anglo-Saxon world for his novels The
Hunchback of Notre-Dame and Les Miserables. Théophile Gautier
(1811-1872) was a French poet, novelist, and critic.
2. Léon Benett (1838-1917) was the pseudonym of Hippolyte Léon Benet, French
illustrator and civil servant who contributed illustrations to more than
twenty-five of Verne’s novels. Emile Bayard (1837-1891) was a French painter and
illustrator who was Victor Hugo’s favorite illustrator. Georges Bertall
(1820-1882) was the pseudonym of Albert Arnoux, French humorist and illustrator
who illustrated works by, among others, Hans Christian Andersen and James
Fenimore Cooper. Gustave Doré (1832-1883) was the most popular and successful
French illustrator of the mid-nineteenth century, widely known for his
illustrations of texts such as Dante’s Inferno, Cervantes’s Don
Quixote, and the Bible. Eugène Froment (1844-1900) was a French illustrator
and engraver. Tony Johannot (1803-1852) was a French illustrator whose drawings
enriched the works of Walter Scott and James Fenimore Cooper. Jean-Louis-Ernest
Meissonier (1815-1891) was a French academic painter whose works hang today in
most of the world’s major museums.
3. One of the most important French publishing companies, Hachette was founded
in 1824 and is still in business today.
4. The two best English biographies on Verne are by Jean Jules-Verne and Herbert
5. The titles of Verne’s novels are given only in English; original French
titles with English translations are given for all theatrical works.
6. Alexandre Dumas the younger (1824-1895), French playwright and novelist, was
the illegitimate son of Dumas the elder and the chief creator of the
nineteenth-century comedy of manners. His first important play, La Dame aux
camélias, known in English as Camille, was a sensation.
7. Pierre Carlet de Chamblain de Marivaux (1688-1763), French playwright and
novelist, was popular for his numerous comedies, including Love in Livery
and The Legacy, which analyze the sentiments and complications of love in
a graceful, albeit often precious, style.
8. Alfred de Musset (1810-1857), French Romantic poet and playwright, is best
remembered for his poetry. Much influenced by Shakespeare and Schiller, he wrote
the first modern dramas in the French language.
9. Situated north of Paris, Amiens is the capital city of the Picardie and the
site of the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. Verne lived in Amiens during
the second half of his life and, as a member of the Municipality and of the
local Academy, was one of its most eminent citizens.
10. Michel Carré (1819-1872), a successful French writer of libretti, worked
with Gounod, Offenbach, Meyerbeer, and Bizet. Paul Jules Barbier (1825-1901) was
a French poet and a prolific librettist. With Carré, he wrote the lyrics of
Galatea, Romeo and Juliet, Paul and Virginie, The Queen of Saba, and
11. Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880), son of a Cologne synagogue cantor, was
trained as a violinist at the Paris Conservatoire and initially found employment
as a cellist at the Opéra-Comique. He followed this with a successful early
career as a virtuoso on the instrument, for which he wrote a number of works,
including a concerto militaire and a concertino. Offenbach was
conductor at the Théâtre Français for five years, but in 1855 he rented his own
theatre, Les Bouffes Parisiens, where his early light-hearted works for the
stage were performed. His successful career, devoted largely to operettas and
opéras comiques, continued until his death in 1880.
12. The opéra comique (comic opera), an exclusively French style of
opera, developed from earlier popular shows performed by troupes entertaining
spectators at fairs. An opéra comique consists of spoken dialogue
alternating with musical numbers, including arias and orchestral music. The
Opéra-Comique theater in Paris was founded in 1715. The repertoire of the
opéra comique contains works as well known as Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte,
Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment, Berlioz’s Les Troyens, Bizet’s
Carmen, Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Verdi’s Falstaff,
and Debussy’s Pelléas et Melisande.
13. A. Charles Delacour was the pseudonym of Alfred Charlemagne Lartigue
(1817-1883). He and Léon Morand (182?-191?) were French librettists.
14. It was probably written with Charles Wallut (1829-?), French writer and
director of the Musée des familles (Family Museum) between 1863 and 1881.
Un Neveu d’Amérique ou les deux Frontignac is available in a 2004 English
translation by Frank Morlock at <http://jv.gilead.org.il/morlock/adopt.html>.
15. Until recently, scholars and journalists could only speculate upon the
relationship between Verne and his publisher, on the meager basis of the
fictionalized 1928 biography by Marguerite Allotte de la Fuye, Jules Verne,
sa vie, son oeuvre. Now three volumes of the letters between Verne and the
elder Hetzel have been made available, Correspondance inédite de Jules Verne
et de Pierre-Jules Hetzel, edited by Olivier Dumas, Piero Gondolo della
Riva, and Volker Dehs. See Arthur B. Evans’s review-essay of these volumes,
“Hetzel and Verne: Collaboration and Conflict.”
Two more volumes, which will include correspondence between
Verne and the younger Hetzel, are scheduled to appear in 2005 and 2006. Taken
together, this voluminous correspondence allows a much better understanding
of—and raises new questions about—the complex relationship between the publisher
and his author.
16. Aristide Hignard (1822-1898), the son of a Nantes ship owner, was a French
composer who also taught musical writing; Emmanuel Chabrier was one of his
17. Ambroise Thomas (1811-1896) was a French composer of operas.
18. Edmond Sébastien Seveste (?-1852) hired Jules Verne and died shortly
afterward. His brother, Jules-Henri (?–1854), took over the direction of the
Théâtre Lyrique, but died two years later, leaving Verne unemployed.
19. Adrien Talexy (1821-1880) was a French composer of popular music, mainly
polkas and mazurkas.
20. Les Compagnons de la Marjolaine is available in a 2004 English
translation by Frank Morlock at <http://jv.gilead.org.il/morlock/knights.html>.
21. This Preface was not included in either the British or American editions of
the novel; it remained available only in French until it was translated by
Arthur B. Evans and included in his Jules Verne Rediscovered (29-30).
22. See, for example, some of the articles by Verne’s contemporaries collected
in my Jules Verne en son temps (2004).
23. Opéra bouffe, originated by Offenbach when he was director of Les
Bouffes Parisiens, is a type of witty and cynical lyrical composition that
evolved out of the opéra comique and, during the final years of the
Second Empire, became the French operetta. That period of transition was
characterized by a spirit of easygoing skepticism that seemed to permeate
society. Everything was approached with a light heart, possibly to hide any
feelings of disquietude caused by the instability of the régime. After the war
of 1870 the taste of the public appeared to undergo a change, and the operetta,
which combined certain characteristics of the opéra bouffe with those of
the older opéra comique, came into vogue.
24. Verne scholars and specialists refer to the novel as
Around the World in Eighty Days and to the play as Around the World in 80 Days.
25. Edouard Cadol (1831-1898) was a playwright, a lecture-examiner of the
Comédie française, and author of Les Inutiles (1868; The Unnecessaries).
26. Adolphe Philippe (1811-1899), alias Adolphe d’Ennery (also written Dennery),
was a playwright whose best known play remains Les Deux orphelines (The Two
Orphans). By turn a lawyer’s clerk, a painter, and a journalist, in 1831 he made
his début as a dramatist as part author of Emile, ou le fils d’un Pair de
France. From that date he was sole or part author of more than 280 plays, no
less than five of them having been produced on the Paris stage at one time. He
adapted his work to the taste of the public and achieved success upon success,
rapidly making a fortune. His plays were written mainly in collaboration with
others. Before his death he donated to the state one of his houses, containing a
collection of Chinese and Japanese vases of great value. This collection of
oriental art gathered by his wife can be seen today at the d’Ennery Museum in
27. Cadol and Verne each received 25% of the play’s profits, while d’Ennery
28. Journey through the Impossible opened in Paris at the Théâtre de la Porte
Saint-Martin—where Around the World in 80 Days played eight years earlier—on
November 25, 1882. The play was presented 97 times (43 in 1882 and 54 in 1883).
No original manuscript copy is known to exist and the text was considered lost
until a copy was discovered in the Archives of the Censorship Office of the
Third Republic in 1978. (The Censorship Office was a heritage of the Second
Empire and every play was copied by anonymous clerks before being performed.)
29. An English translation of Journey through the Impossible was published by
Prometheus Books in 2003 (<www.prometheusbooks.com>).
Allotte de la Fuye, Marguerite. Jules Verne, sa vie, son oeuvre. Paris: Simon Kra, 1928.
Dumas, Olivier, Piero Gondolo della Riva, and Volker Dehs, eds. Correspondance
inédite de Jules Verne et de Pierre-Jules Hetzel (1863-1886). 3 Vols. Geneva: Slatkine, 1999-2002.
Evans, Arthur B. “Hetzel and Verne: Collaboration and Conflict.”
SFS 28.1 (March
─────. Jules Verne Rediscovered: Didacticism and the Scientific Novel. Westport,
CT: Greenwood, 1988.
Jones, Gordon. “Jules Verne at Home.” Temple Bar 129 (June 1904): 664-71.
Jules Verne: A Biography. Trans. Roger Greaves. New York:
Lottman, Herbert R. Jules Verne: An Exploratory Biography. New York: St.
Margot, Jean-Michel, ed. Jules Verne en son temps. Amiens: Encrage, 2004.
Pourvoyeur, Robert. “Introduction: Jules Verne et le théâtre.” Clovis Dardentor
by Jules Verne. Paris: Union générale d’éditions (coll. 10/18, no. 1308), série
Jules Verne inattendu, 1979. 5-30.
THE THEATRICAL WORKS OF JULES VERNE
Titles, in both French and English, are organized chronologically. Annotations
include the following information: a) type of work (e.g., comedy, tragedy,
opera); b) possible Verne collaborators; c) date and place of the premiere
performance; d) number of first-run performances; e) miscellaneous comments; and
f) publication information where relevant. MN = Manuscrits nantais, BSJV =
Bulletin de la Société Jules Verne
Untitled verse tragedy; for the Puppet Théâtre Riquiqui in Nantes; the text,
mentioned in biographies, is lost.
Untitled vaudeville piece; only Act 2 remains; published in MN I (51-82).
Alexandre VI; five-act verse tragedy; dated mid-1847; alternate title: Cesar
Borgia; published in MN II (441-553).
La Conspiration des poudres
(The Powder Conspiracy); five-act verse tragedy;
published in MN II (555-725).
Une Promenade en mer (An Excursion at Sea); one-act vaudeville piece; published
in MN I (83-145).
Le Quart d’heure de Rabelais (The Fifteen Minutes of Rabelais); one-act verse
comedy; published in MN I (147-71).
Don Galaor; one-act comedy; published in MN I (9-20; synopsis only).
Les Pailles rompues (The Broken Straws); one-act verse comedy; possible
collaboration with Alexandre Dumas, both père and fils; premiered at the Théâtre
Historique on June 12, 1850; 12 or 15 performances through June 25, 1850;
revival in Nantes on November 7, 1850; revival at the Théâtre du Gymnase from
1853 to 1857 (45 performances); revival at the Théâtre du Gymnase in 1871 and
1872 (40 performances); published by Beck (1850), and in Revue JV 11 (2001):
Un Drame sous Louis XV (A Drama under Louis XV); five-act verse tragedy;
alternate title: A Drama under the Regency; published in MN II (727-841).
Abd’allah; two-act vaudeville piece; published in MN I (39-43; 173-252).
Le Coq de bruyère (The Wood Grouse); published in MN I (21-27; synopsis only).
On a souvent besoin d’un plus petit que soi (Little Friends May Prove Great
Friends); published in MN I (29-37; synopsis only).
(The Guimard); two-act comedy; published in MN I (289-360).
Quiridine et Quiridnerit (Quiridine and Quiridnerit); three-act “Italian Comedy”
in verse; published in MN II (843-956).
La Mille et deuxième nuit (The Thousand and Second Night); one-act libretto;
music by Aristide Hignard.
Les Savants (The Scholars); three-act “Observation Comedy”; manuscript is lost.
Les Fiancés bretons (The Fiancés of Britanny); manuscript is lost.
De Charybde en Scylla (From Charybdis to Scylla); comic one-act “Character
Study” in verse; published in MN II (957-1005).
Monna Lisa (1851-1855); one-act verse comedy; reading at the Academy of Amiens
on May 22, 1874; alternate titles: The Jocund, Leonardo da Vinci; published in
Cahiers de l’Herne (Paris 1974); published by L’Herne (1995).
Les Châteaux en Californie, ou, Pierre qui roule n’amasse pas mousse (Castles in
California, or A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss); one-act proverb comedy;
collaboration with Pitre-Chevalier; staged in Torino, Italy, on April 28, 1969;
published in Musée des familles (June 1852).
La Tour de Montlhéry
(Tower of Monthléry); five-act drama; collaboration with
Charles Wallut; prologue published in MN I (361-97); complete manuscript is in
Amiens, in the former della Riva collection.
Le Colin-Maillard (The Blind Man’s Buff); one-act opéra comique; collaboration
with Michel Carré; music by Aristide Hignard; premiered at the Théâtre lyrique
on April 28, 1853; 45 performances; libretto published by Lévy (1853); score
published by Alfred Ikelmer (1853); published in BSJV 120 (1996).
Un Fils adoptif (The Adoptive Son); comedy; collaboration with Charles Wallut;
broadcast on French radio on April 5, 1950; published in BSJV 140 (2001);
English translation by Frank Morlock available at <http://jv.gilead.org.il/morlock/adopt.
Les Compagnons de la Marjolaine (The Knights of the Daffodil); one-act
comique; collaboration with Michel Carré; music by Aristide Hignard; premiered
at the Théâtre lyrique on June 6, 1855; 24 performances; libretto published by
Lévy (1855); published in BSJV 143 (2002); English translation by Frank Morlock
available at <http://jv.gilead.org.il/ morlock/knights.html>.
Les Heureux du jour (The Happy of the Day, 1853, 1855-1856); five-act comic
“Study of Manners” in verse; published in MN II (1007-1136).
Guerre aux tyrans (War to Tyrants); one-act verse comedy; published in MN II
Au bord de l’Adour (On the Bank of the Adour); one-act verse comedy; published
in MN II (1209-55).
Monsieur de Chimpanzé (Mr. Chimpanzee); one-act operetta; possible collaboration
with Michel Carré; music by Aristide Hignard; premiered at the Bouffes-Parisiens
on February 17, 1858; ran until March 3, 1858; published in BSJV 57 (1981);
English translation by Frank Morlock available at <http://www.blackmask.com/books110c/
Le Page de Madame Malbrough (Madame Malbrough’s Page); one-act operetta; written
under the pseudnoym E. Vierne; music by Frédéric Barbier; premiered at the
Théâtre des Folies-Nouvelles on October 28, 1858; alternate title: Une Robe de
Madame Malbrough (A Dress of Madame Malbrough).
L’Auberge des Ardennes (The Inn of the Ardennes); one-act opéra comique;
collaboration with Michel Carré; music by Aristide Hignard; premiered at the
Théâtre lyrique on September 1, 1860 (20 performances); published by Lévy
Onze jours de siège (Eleven Days of Siege,1854-1860); three-act comedy;
collaboration with Charles Wallut; premiered at the Théâtre du vaudeville on
June 1, 1861; published by Lévy (1861); English translation by Frank Morlock
available at <http://www.blackmask.com/thatway/books129c/elevendex.htm>.
Un Neveu d’Amérique ou les deux Frontignac (An American Nephew, or, The Two
Frontignac); three-act comedy; perhaps reworked by Edouard Cadol and Eugène
Labiche; premiered at the Théâtre Cluny on April 17, 1873; ran for two months;
published by Hetzel (1873); published with with Clovis Dardentor (10/18, 1979).
Les Sabines (The Sabines, 1857, 1867); opéra-bouffe, or two- or three-act
operetta (only the first act still exists); collaboration with Charles Wallut;
published in MN I (399-438).
Le Pôle Nord (The North Pole); published in
MN I (45-48; synopsis only).
Le Tour du monde en 80 jours (Around the World in 80 Days, 1873-1874); five-act
pièce à grand spectacle with prologue (15 tableaux); collaboration with Adolphe
d’Ennery; music by J.-J. Debillemont; premiered at the Théâtre de la Porte
Saint-Martin on November 7, 1874 (415 performances); published by Hetzel (1879).
Les Enfants du capitaine Grant (The Children of Captain Grant); five-act
grand spectacle with prologue (13 tableaux); collaboration with Adolphe d’Ennery;
music by J.-J. Debillemont; premiered at the Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin on
December 26, 1878 (113 performances); published by Hetzel (1881).
Le Docteur Ox (Doctor Ox); three-act opéra-bouffe (6 tableaux); libretto by
Philippe Gille and Arnold Mortier (with Verne’s approval); music by Jacques
Offenbach; premiered at the Théâtre des Variétés (42 performances).
Michael Strogoff; five-act pièce à grand spectacle with prologue (16 tableaux);
collaboration with Adolphe d’Ennery; premiered at the Théâtre du Châtelet on
November 17, 1880 (386 performances); published by Hetzel (1881); English
translation by Frank Morlock available at <http://www.blackmask. com/books123c/
Voyage à travers l’impossible (Journey through the Impossible); three-act
fantasy pièce à grand spectacle (20 tableaux); collaboration with Adolphe
d’Ennery; music by Oscar de Lagoanère; premiered at the Théâtre de la Porte
Saint-Martin on November 25, 1882 (43 performances in 1882; 54 performances in
1883); published in Paris by Pauvert (1981); published in Amherst, NY, by
Prometheus Books (2003).
Kéraban-le-Têtu (Keraban the Headstrong); five-act play (20 tableaux); premiered
at the Théâtre de la Gaîté lyrique on September 3, 1883 (49 performances);
published in BSJV 85-86 (1988).
Mathias Sandorf; five-act pièce à grand spectacle (16 tableaux); libretto by
William Busnach and Georges Maurens; premiered at the Théâtre de l’Ambigu (85
performances); published in Paris by Société Jules Verne (1992); published in
Pazin, Croatia, by Jules Verne Klub (2002).
Les Tribulations d’un Chinois en Chine (The Tribulations of a Chinese Man in
China); the manuscript is lost; collaboration declined by Adolphe d’Ennery.
Les Tribulations d’un Chinois en Chine (The Tribulations of a Chinese Man in
China); three-act comedy by Claude Farrère and Charles Méré; published in Paris
by Hachette (1931). This play was inspired by one of Verne’s novels.
Since Verne’s death, there have been many plays and operas based on his novels,
such as Henri Varna and Jack Ledru’s Michael Strogoff (1965), Gavin Bryars and
Blake Morrison’s Doctor Ox (1998), and Philippe Hersant’s The Castle in the
Carpathians (1992). The complete listing of these posthumous productions remains
to be written.
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