Sardou, Victorien (1831–1908)
Famous French dramatist and member of the Académie
Francuise who attracted considerable attention in Spiritistic circles
in the 1860s with curious automatic drawings, signed ‘‘Bernard
Palissy, of Jupiter.’’ He was born on September 5, 1831,
in Paris. For a short period, he studied medicine, but gave it
up in order to devote himself to writing. He was not successful
at first, and was seriously ill and in great poverty when rescued
by a Mlle. de Brécourt (whom he later married). She introEncyclopedia
of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Sardou, Victorien
duced him to a Mlle Déjazet, for whom he wrote successful
In due course, many outstanding actors and actresses acted
in a long line of successful plays by Sardou. His plays enjoyed
long runs in France, England, and America, and his drama La
Tosca became the basis of Puccini’s opera Tosca. He wrote plays
for the great actress Sarah Bernhardt. One controversial play
by Sardou in which Bernhardt appeared was titled Spiritisme. It
had a plot that involved mediumship, and it included a discussion
between believers in occultism and skeptics.
Sardou himself was a remarkable medium and produced
many intricate automatic drawings. Some of these were supposed
to delineate the dwellings of people in Jupiter. He
sketched the houses of Mozart, Zoroaster, and Bernard Palissy,
who were country neighbors on the immense planet that, at the
time, was commonly believed to be inhabited by a superior race
of beings.
He made his own opinions clear in a letter published in Le
Temps at the time when he was putting on his drama Spiritisme.
He spoke of himself as an observer, incredulous by nature, who
had been obliged to admit that Spiritism concerns itself with
facts that defy any present scientific explanation. Further
‘‘Respecting the dwellings of the planet Jupiter, I must ask
the good folks who suppose that I am convinced of the real existence
of these things whether they are well persuaded that
Gulliver (Swift) believed in Lilliput, Campanella in the City of
the Sun, and Sir Thomas More in his Utopia.’’
In another letter, written to Charles Frohman on the same
occasion, he spoke with much greater freedom
‘‘Everybody knows that for forty years I have been a wonderful
medium myself, and I have had in my own house wonderful
manifestations. My piano has played by itself. Flowers have fallen
from my ceiling upon a table; and it is I who have brought
this about, and they dare not lay at my door calumnies such as
true mediums are exposed to, and say of me, as they had the
impudence to say of Home, that I am a charlatan.’’
Sardou was elected to the French Academy in 1878. He died
in Paris November 8, 1908.