Eugène Sue

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Eugène Sue
Portrait of Eugene Sue (1835) by François-Gabriel Lépaulle [fr]
Portrait of Eugene Sue (1835)
by François-Gabriel Lépaulle [fr]
BornJoseph Marie Eugène Sue
(1804-01-26)26 January 1804
Died3 August 1857(1857-08-03) (aged 53)
Annecy-le-Vieux, Kingdom of Sardinia
Resting placeCimetière de Loverchy, Annecy
EducationLycée Condorcet
Literary movementRomanticism
Notable worksThe Mysteries of Paris, The Wandering Jew
Notable awardsLegion of Honour

Marie-Joseph "Eugène" Sue (French pronunciation: ​[ø.ʒɛn sy]; 26 January 1804 – 3 August 1857) was a French novelist. He was one of several authors who popularized the genre of the serial novel in France with his very popular and widely imitated The Mysteries of Paris, which was published in a newspaper from 1842 to 1843.[1]

Early life[edit]

He was born in Paris, the son of a distinguished surgeon in Napoleon's army, Jean-Joseph Sue, and has had the Empress Joséphine for godmother.[2] Sue himself acted as surgeon both in the 1823 French campaign in Spain and at the Battle of Navarino in 1827.[3] In 1829 his father's death put him in possession of a considerable fortune, and he settled in Paris.[4]

Literary career[edit]

His naval experiences supplied much of the materials of his first novels, Kernock le pirate (1830), Atar-Gull (1831), La Salamandre (2 vols., 1832), La Coucaratcha (4 vols., 1832–1834), and others, which were composed at the height of the Romantic movement of 1830. In the quasi-historical style he wrote Jean Cavalier, ou Les Fanatiques des Cevennes (4 vols., 1840) and Latréaumont (2 vols., 1837).[4] His Mathilde (6 vols.,[5] 1841) contains the first known expression of the popular proverb "La vengeance se mange très-bien froide",[5] translated in 1846 as "Revenge is very good eaten cold" by D.G. Osborne,[6] also constituting the first known English usage of the proverb, and lately expressed in English as "Revenge is a dish best served cold".[7]

He was strongly affected by the socialist ideas of the day, and these prompted his most famous works, the "anti-Catholic" novels: The Mysteries of Paris (Les Mystères de Paris) (published in Journal des débats from 19 June 1842 until 15 October 1843) and The Wandering Jew (Le Juif errant; 10 vols., 1844–1845), which were among the most popular specimens of the serial novel.[4][8] The Wandering Jew is a Gothic novel depicting the titular character in conflict with the villain, a murderous Jesuit named Rodin.[1] These works depicted the intrigues of the nobility and the harsh life of the underclass to a wide public. Les Mystères de Paris spawned a class of imitations all over the world, the city mysteries. Sue's books caused controversy both because of their strongly violent scenes, and because of their socialist and anti-clerical subtexts.[1]

He followed up with some singular books: Les Sept pêchés capitaux (16 vols., 1847–1849), which contained stories to illustrate each of the seven deadly sins.[4] Les Mystères du peuple (1849–1856) was a long series of historical novels, which was suppressed by the censor in 1857, and several others, all on a very large scale, though the number of volumes gives an exaggerated idea of their length.[4] Les Mystères du peuple is a lengthy series of novels and novellas dealing with French history. Les Mystères du peuple begins with a novel graphically depicting slavery in the Roman Empire, (The Iron Collar).[1] Other Les Mystères du peuple novels dealt with Early Christianity (The Silver Cross), King Clovis I (The Poniard's Hilt), the creation of the Duchy of Normandy (The Iron Arrow-Head), the Crusades in Palestine (The Pilgrim's Shell), the Albigensian Crusade (The Iron Pincers), the Jacquerie (The Iron Trevet), Joan of Arc (The Executioner's Knife) and the French Revolution (Sword of Honor). The novels were translated into English (as the "Mysteries of the People") and published in New York by Daniel De Leon and his son, Solon.[1][9] Some of Sue's books, among them The Wandering Jew and The Mysteries of Paris, were dramatized by himself, usually in collaboration with others. His period of greatest success and popularity coincided with that of Alexandre Dumas, with whom he has been compared.[4]

According to Umberto Eco, parts of Sue's book Les Mystères du peuple served as a source for Maurice Joly in his Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu, a book attacking Napoleon III and his political ambitions. The two are depicted in Will Eisner's cartoon book The Plot, co-authored with Eco.[10]

Political career[edit]

After the French Revolution of 1848, he was elected to the Legislative Assembly from the Paris-Seine constituency in April 1850. He was exiled from Paris in consequence of his protest against the French coup d'état of 1851. This exile stimulated his literary production.[4] Sue died in Annecy-le-Vieux, Savoy on August 3, 1857 and was buried at the Cimetière de Loverchy (Annecy) in the Non-Catholic's Carré des "Dissidents".



  1. ^ a b c d e Francis Amery. "Sue, "Eugène" in Pringle, David. 1998. St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost & Gothic Writers. Detroit, MI: St. James Press, (pp. 680-1).ISBN 9781558622067
  2. ^ Bornecque-Winandy, Édouard (1980). Napoléon III, empereur social. Paris: Téqui. p. 22. ISBN 978-2-85244-396-9.
  3. ^ Eugène Sue, Combat de Navarin, 1842. Transcription of the manuscrit. Library of Lisieux. (In French).
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Chisholm 1911.
  5. ^ a b Sue, Eugène (1841). Mathilde: mémoires d'une jeune femme, Tome troisième. Paris: Librarie de Charles Gosselin. pp. colophon & 53.
  6. ^ Sue, Eugène; Osborne (tr.), D.G. (1846). The Orphan; Or, Memoirs of Matilda, Vol. I. London: T.C, Newby, 72, Mortimer Sr., Cavendish Sq. pp. 303.
  7. ^ "Language Log". University of Pennsylvania.; The latter-day variant expression became popularized after its first known use as such in the 1982 movie Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, when it was cited as a Klingon proverb by Khan Noonien Singh in scene 71 of the script, written by Jack B. Sowards.
  8. ^ McGreevy, John (2004). Catholicism and American Freedom: A History. W. W. Norton. pp. 22–23. ISBN 978-0-393-34092-1.
  9. ^ Advertisement for "Mysteries of the People" by Eugène Sue. The New Review magazine, April 1915 (p. 245).
  10. ^ Eco, Umberto (1994), "Fictional Protocols", Six Walks in the Fictional Woods, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, p. 135, ISBN 0-674-81051-1

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