Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sue Me

The carefully drawn fellow above is one Eugene Sue, born this day 1804 in Paris, France. He was the son of a famous surgeon in Napoleon's army, and the Empress Josephine was his godmother. Not a bad start to your life, it beats being born the son of a nobody plumber, and not have a godmother at all. Or so I would think. However, money is no guarantee of happiness, and young Sue endured an unhappy childhood. It seems the major source of his unhappiness was his relationship with his father. I guess Doctor Daddy did not want some layabout writer as a son. His mother died young, so our boy Sue lost an important buffer in respects to his father. His education was a bit hit and miss, with it being more miss than hit. He was not too thrilled with the idea of following in the father's footsteps and becoming a doctor, he prefer to draw, and to create things with his imagination. Imagination and doctoring have very little, if anything, in common, and Sue left school in 1821 with no formal qualifications. He eventually found himself enlisted in the navy as a auxiliary surgeon third class, and actually saw battle in 1827. He quit the service in 1830, and moved back to Paris. During his absence his father had died, and left Sue a considerable fortune. I guess being a disappointment as a child did not disqualify him as the heir to the throne, and with his inheritance Sue was set for life. Or so he thought, it seems that upon his return he decided to live the high life. Wine, women, and song, and of course the ponies. Those little hobbies led to him blowing through most of his fortune by 1837. If all else fails write a book or two and hope for the best, and Sue did manage that. He, in his prime, was more popular that Dumas pere, and Balzac. He wrote popular novels, and based some of them on his experiences in the navy. He was called the king of the serial novel, and that is no mean feat considering the competition. However, his insistence upon writing upon topical subjects has led to him falling into virtual oblivion today. I would not say that he is a great author, and it may be that oblivion is where he belongs, but in his prime he was a damn fine read. A sort of French version of James Fenimore Cooper. Not going to make you ponder the nature of the universe, but going to give you a good, decent yarn for your money. And sometimes a good yarn is a whole more fun than pondering the nature of the universe. So, for writing those yarns, and being a proper man about town during a great period of French Literature, Eugene Sue (January 20th, 1804- August 3rd, 1857, at the age of 53) you are my (148th) hero of the day.

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