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Ch. 1 How it all began
Ch. 15 Grandeur and Misery of Liverpool
Ch. 18 Concerning the quality of British railways
Ch. 19 Edinburgh, first impressions
Ch. 20 A town of contrasts
32 On board the Prince Albert

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Backwards to Britain


Chambers 1992




In 1859, a stockbroker travelled to England and Scotland with a musician friend. Although re-routed via Bordeaux (ie "backwards"), they discovered at long last a magical kingdom of steam, wind and rain, poetry and pubs, lochs and bens, Dickens and Scott. The experience so moved Verne that he wrote a book about it, his first full-length narrative.

The publisher Hetzel thought something more topical might sell better — and the manuscript was set aside. But Verne obstinately persisted as a writer of prose, often starring British heroes or with a Scottish setting. In the end he became the best-selling novelist, and the most translated, in the world.

Backwards into Britain is now published in English for the first time. It is a delightful account of Victorian Liverpool, Edinburgh and London, and a hymn to this strange country. Full of amusing adventures and perceptive analyses, it bears comparison with Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea. These masterpieces would indeed have been impossible without Jules Verne's first known trip outside France.


1 How it all began
2 A boat that never comes
3 In which the two friends see Nantes
4 On board for the first time
5 Where Jonathan is sea-sick
6 Towards Scotland, but backwards
7 Stopover in Bordeaux
8 Reflections on claret
9 The Bay of Arcachon
10 Getting under way
11 En route for Scotland at last
12 The open sea at night
13 Wherein Jacques experiences a few pronunciation difficulties
14 Jacques and Jonathan land in Britain
15 Grandeur and Misery of Liverpool 60
16 Strange English customs
17 A concert at night
18 Concerning the quality of British railways 74
19 Edinburgh, first impressions 76
20 A town of contrasts 80
21 Britain, a lady out on her constitutional
22 The charms of Miss Amelia
23 Family gathering
24 On Scottish cuisine
25 Auld Reekie
26 Another pronunciation lesson
27 Un pays pluvieux
28 On the traces of Walter Scott
29 By train to Glasgow
30 A scent of Cheshire
31 Of sausages and umbrellas
32 On board the Prince Albert
33 Top-deck travellers
34 Loch Katrine to Stirling
35 What a Highlander looks like
36 The train down to England
37 Coal kingdom
38 Arrival in London
39 St Paul and the Thames
40 Parliament, Westminster, Whitehall, Trafalgar Square
41 Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, Picadilly, the Strand
42 Jacques and Jonathan at the theatre
43 A memorable Lady Macbeth
44 Boat-trip on the Thames
45 Tower of London, Regent's Park
46 Mme Tussaud's
47 Guillotine, English-style
48 Henceforth we will travel only in our memories