The American Way of Life
In March 1863, I embarked on the Kentucky, the steamboat plying between New York and Albany. (1)
At that time of year there was a great deal of trade between the two cities because of the large quantities of goods arriving in them from the rest of the world. The New York businessmen remain constantly in touch with their agents in the most far-flung reaches of the country, distributing many products from the Old World and exporting manufactured goods from all over the nation.
My departure gave me a new opportunity to admire the bustle of New York. (2) Passengers were flocking in from all directions, some bossily supervising the porters carrying their innumerable suitcases, others unencumbered, like those English tourists whose wardrobes fit into bags of negligible size. All were in a terrible hurry, (3) all trying to reserve the last seat on board; which, under the pressure of speculation and in the best American tradition, had become positively elastic. (4)
Two warning bells had already terrorised the latecomers. The landing-board was bending under the weight of the final arrivals, invariably people whose journey cannot be put off without considerable loss. But this multitude somehow found room in the end. Parcels and passengers were piled up on board, all fitted neatly into each other. (5) The fire from the boiler roared in the chimneys, the Kentucky's deck trembled. The sun, valiantly attempting to cut through the morning mist, fractionally warmed up the air -- that March air which makes you turn up your jacket-collar and put your hands in your pockets, whilst saying: it's going to be fine today.
Since my journey had nothing to do with business, since my bag easily held both the essentials and the luxuries, and my mind was not busy planning gambles on the stock-exchange, nor with keeping an eye on the markets, I was strolling through my thoughts. All the while, (6) I was leaving to chance, that constant companion of tourists, the task of finding some subject of enjoyment or diversion en route -- when I recognised a friend standing right in front of me, and smiling in the most charming way.
"As you can see, my good sir," she replied, shaking hands in the English fashion. "In any case, I'm not alone, as my good old Arsinoah is with me."
She indicated her faithful black, sitting on a wool-bale and looking at her devotedly. The word devotedly should be stressed, for only black servants are able to gaze in this particular way.
"However great the help and support given by Arsinoah," I said, "I consider myself fortunate to have the right to ensure your protection during this voyage."
"If it's a right," she replied with a laugh, "then there's no obligation. But why are you here? From what you said, you were only going to travel in a few days' time. Why didn't you say yesterday that you were leaving?"
"Because I didn't know then. I only decided to leave because the bell on the steamer woke me up at six. It might easily have been very different. If I had woken up at seven, I might have set off for Philadelphia! But what about you, Madam? Yesterday you too seemed the most settled woman in the world."
"Perhaps I am! But the Mrs Melville (9) you see here is really Sales Director for Henry Melville, Shipping Merchant of New York; and she is going to Albany (10) to oversee the arrival of some goods. (11) You wouldn't understand that, being a citizen of the over-civilised countries of the Old World! (12) Since my husband couldn't leave New York this morning, I'm going in his place. You can be sure that the books won't be any the worse kept, nor the bottom line any less accurate. (13)
"I've decided to be astonished by nothing any more. But if such a thing happened in France, if the women did their husbands' work, the husbands would soon be doing their wives': playing the piano, cutting flowers, embroidering pairs of braces. . . ." (14)
"You are not very kind to your compatriots."
"On the contrary, since I'm assuming that their wives do embroider their braces for them!"
At that moment the third bell was heard. The last travellers rushed on to deck while the deckhands shouted and picked up long poles to push off with.
I offered my arm to Mrs Melville and conducted her a little towards the stern, where it was slightly less crowded.
"I gave you letters of introduction for Albany. . . ." she began.
"You did. Should I thank you for the umpteenth time?"
"Certainly not, since they're now completely useless. As I'm on my way to see my father, who they're addressed to, may I offer hospitality on his behalf and introduce you to him?"
" (15)I was right to count on chance for a pleasant journey. And yet we almost didn't leave."
"What do you mean?"
"A certain traveller, aficionado of the eccentricities which the English monopolised before America was discovered, wished to reserve the whole of the Kentucky for himself."
"He was obviously from the East Indies, travelling with a troop of elephants and a whole band of lovely Indian dancers?"
"Not at all. I was present during his discussion with the Captain, who refused his request; and no elephant featured in the conversation as far as I could see. This character was a stout and cheerful man who just wished to have some elbow-room. But . . . but that's him, Madam! I remember his face. Can you see that fellow on the quay running towards us waving his arms and shouting? He's going to hold us up further, for the steamboat is already leaving."
A man of average height but with an enormous head, decorated with two burning bushes in the place of red sideburns, and wearing a long double-collared frock-coat and a broad-beamed gaucho stetson, had just arrived near the landing-board, which had been taken up a few seconds before. Completely out of breath, he waved his arms, he jumped up and down, he shouted, ignoring the laughter of the crowd gathering around him.
"Hey! Kentucky! For Christ's sake! I've reserved a place, booked it, paid for it, and now I'm left behind on dry land! For Christ's sake, Captain, I'll hold you responsible before the judge and his assessors."
"You're too late!" shouted the Captain from one of the capstans on deck. "We have a timetable to keep, and the tide is turning."
"For Christ's sake! I'll sue you for at least a hundred thousand dollars! Bobby!" he shouted, turning to one of the two blacks with him. "Sort out the luggage and run to the hotel, while Dacopa finds a rowboat to get us to this damned Kentucky."
"No use," shouted the Captain, ordering the last mooring to be cast off.
The said black seized the cable just before the steamboat could drag it away, and rapidly turned the end round one of the capstans. (16) Before the crowd's applause had died down, the obstinate traveller jumped into a small boat and by means of a few oar-strokes reached the Kentucky. He rushed up the steps, on to the deck, along to the Captain, and laid vigorously into him, making as much noise as ten men and more outpouring than twenty nagging women. The Captain, unable to place the fraction of an argument, and seeing that the traveller had in any case taken full possession, decided to give in. Seizing his loudhailer, he headed for the boiler-room. But just as he was about to give the signal for departure, the big man came up to him, shouting: "What about my parcels, for God's sake?"
"What parcels?" the Captain bellowed back. "We haven't loaded any parcels!"
Muttering from the passengers, impatient at this new delay.
"Who are you picking on?" howled the intrepid traveller. "Am I not a free citizen of the United States of America? My name is Mr Augustus Hopkins, (17) and if that means nothing to you. . . ."
I was not certain whether this name enjoyed any influence on the great majority of the spectators. But in any case, the Captain of the Kentucky was forced to heave to again so as to embark the luggage of one (18) Augustus Hopkins, a free citizen of the United States of America.
"It must be admitted", I opined to Mrs Melville, "that this is a remarkable man."
"Less remarkable than his parcels," she replied pointing to two trailers approaching the landing-board, each laden with an enormous container, twenty feet high, covered with waxed tarpaulins, and tied up with an inextricable network of ropes and knots. "Top" and "Bottom" were marked in red letters; and the word "FRAGILE", marked in letters a foot high, (19) was giving heart-attacks to every bureaucrat within visual range.
In spite of the protests at these monstrous parcels, Mr Hopkins used his feet, hands, head, and lungs to such effect that, despite considerable difficulties and delays, both were finally placed on deck. The Kentucky was at last able to leave the quay and sail up the Hudson, joining the ships of all sorts ploughing up and down it.
Augustus Hopkins's two blacks were put on sentry duty beside their master's containers -- containers which attracted a great deal of curiosity. Most of the passengers crowded round, giving full rein to the eccentric ideas of a transatlantic imagination. Mrs Melville herself seemed to be highly interested, while I, as a Frenchman, feigned a total indifference.
"What a strange person you are!" said Mrs Melville. "You don't seem to care what's in these two monuments. I'm devoured by curiosity." (20)
"I must confess that all this hardly interests me. When I saw these two monstrosities arrive, the wildest ideas came into my head. I said to myself: they either contain a five-storey house together with its occupants, or else nothing at all. But even if these are the most bizarre ideas I can imagine, neither of them would especially surprise me. However, Madam, if you wish, I will go and find out some information for you."
"Thanks. While you're away, I'll check my accounts."
I left my remarkable companion to perform her calculations with the speed of the cashiers at the Bank of New York, who apparently need only to glance at a column of figures to know its total immediately.
Still thinking about the strange object and the two opposing modes of behaviour of these charming American women, I made my way towards the man who was the centre of all attention, the subject of all conversation.
Although the two containers totally hid the steamboat and the course of the Hudson, the helmsman steered with absolute confidence. Yet there must have been a great number of obstacles in his way, for never were rivers, not even the Thames, more covered with vessels than those of the United States. At a period when French Customs listed a mere twelve or thirteen thousand ships, and Great Britain forty thousand, the United States already had sixty thousand, including two thousand steamships battling against the waves of the Seven Seas. From these numbers one can imagine the amount of trade involved; and also understand why the rivers of America are the scene of so many accidents.
It is true that these incidents, these encounters, these shipwrecks do not seem very important to the toughminded businessmen. They even provide new business for the insurance companies, who charge exorbitant premiums and would be in serious difficulties if they had to reduce them. In America, a man has less value and importance than a sack of coal or a bale of coffee. (21)
If the Americans are perhaps right, I personally would have exchanged the coalmines and coffee-plantations of the whole world for my own French body! And I was more than a little worried about the outcome of our headstrong progress through a multitude of dangers.
Augustus Hopkins did not seem to share my fears. It was clear that he was one of those people who prefer to jump, derail, or sink rather than miss a single opportunity. But in any case, he paid no attention to the beauties of the Hudson. (22) From the departure at New York to the arrival at Albany, he was merely killing eighteen hours. The delightful resorts on the banks, the villages clustering picturesquely around, the woods carelessly strewn here and there like bouquets at a prima donna's feet, the varied course of a magnificent river -- nothing could take this man's mind off his stock-market concerns. He kept pacing from stern to bow, muttering unfinished sentences or suddenly sitting down on piles of goods and drawing from his many pockets a broad thick wallet stuffed with papers of all sorts. I even thought he was deliberately showing off this collection from the bureaucracy of his profession. He burrowed keenly through a pile of correspondence and spread out letters from every country, with coloured stamps from all the post offices in the world, whose closely-written lines he perused with a perseverance that was very noticeable and, I believe, very much noticed.
It did not seem possible to find anything out from him. In vain had several spectators tried to engage in conversation with the two blacks guarding the mysterious containers: these two children of Africa had maintained a total silence, (23) in marked contrast with their usual behaviour. (24)
I was therefore about to go and report back to Mrs Melville, when I happened to find myself in a group around the Captain. He was talking about Hopkins.
"I'm telling you, this eccentric never does anything else. He's already sailed up the Hudson from New York to Albany ten times, he's managed to be late ten times, and ten times he's travelled with the same sort of package. Where's it all going to end? God knows. There's a rumour going round that Mr Hopkins is setting up a big company several miles out of Albany and is being sent strange goods from every part of the globe."
"He must be one of the directors of the East India Company, come to set up a trading-post in America."
"Or else some rich owner of Californian investments," replied another bystander. "There's probably some delivery he's hatching. . . ."
"Or some tender to be bid for. The New York Herald (25) has been hinting at that for the last few days."
"We will soon witness", said a fourth, "the sale of shares in a new company with a capital of five hundred million. I'm registering for the first hundred shares at a thousand dollars each."
"Why you? Has he promised you already? I'm prepared to pay cash for two hundred shares, more if necessary."
"If any are left when I'm finished!" -- from someone whose face I could not see. "It's obviously a railroad from Albany to San Francisco, and the banker is my closest friend."
"What's a railroad got to do with it? This Mr Hopkins is going to run an electric cable across Lake Ontario and those huge containers contain miles and miles of gutta-percha."
"Lake Ontario! It's bound to be a goldmine. Where is this gentleman?" bawled several businessmen with gambling fever.
"Mr Hopkins must tell us his plan. I'll take the first shares!"
"Your attention please, Mr Hopkins!"
"Over here, Mr Hopkins!"
"No, here! I'll pay a thousand dollars extra!" (26)
The demands and counter-demands flew back and forth, resulting in considerable chaos. Although personally far from interested in speculation, I followed the band of would-be investors towards the hero of the Kentucky. Hopkins was soon surrounded by a dense crowd that he did not even bother to look at. Long rows of figures, numbers with impressive retenues of zeroes were being lined up on his huge wallet. The four arithmetical operations flowed from his pencil, and the millions raced from his lips like a mountain stream, in a clear case of calculation fever. A silence fell around him in spite of the storms raging in all those American heads with their passion for deals.
Finally, at the end of a gigantic calculation, in which the Honourable Augustus Hopkins broke his pencil-point three times on a majestic 1 commanding an army of eight superb zeroes, (27) he produced the sacred words: "One hundred million."
Then he quickly folded his papers, put them back in his amazing wallet, and drew from his pocket a watch decorated with two fine rows of pearls.
"Nine! Already nine o'clock!" he shouted. "This wretched boat isn't even moving! Captain! Where's the Captain?"
Hopkins was all the while pushing his way through the three layers of people besieging him. He spotted the Captain leaning over the hatch of the boiler-room, giving orders to the engineer.
"Do you know, Captain," he said self-importantly, "do you know that a delay of ten minutes can make me miss an important occasion?"
"You've got a cheek to talk about delay", replied the Captain, flabbergasted, "when it's all your fault anyway!"
"If you hadn't been so stubborn and tried to leave me behind," retorted Hopkins, his voice rising an octave, "you wouldn't have wasted so much time, time that is so precious at this period!"
"And if you and your containers had had the foresight to arrive in time, we could have used the rising tide and been a good three miles further on!"
"I don't want to discuss all that. I must be at the Washington Hotel in Albany by midnight, and, if I am not, there is no point in me having left New York. I warn you that in such a case I will sue you and your company for damages."
"You'll mind your own business!" shouted the Captain, beginning to get annoyed.
"Certainly not, while your lily-liveredness and fuel economies are putting me in danger of losing half-a-dozen fortunes! Come on, fireman, four or five good shovels of coal into the boilers. You, engineer, put your foot on the safety-valve, so we can make up for lost time!"
Hopkins threw a purse into the boiler-room with several dollars gleaming.
The Captain, for his part, threw a fit, but our enraged traveller somehow found a way to shout louder and longer than him. As for myself, I quickly left the scene of conflict, knowing that this recommendation to the engineer to weigh down the valve, thus increasing the steam-pressure and making the vessel go faster, could easily result in the whole boiler blowing up.
It goes without saying that our travelling companions found the idea quite normal. I consequently did not mention it to Mrs Melville, who would have laughed out loud at my unjustified fears.
When I got back, she had finished her long calculations, and commercial worries were no longer wrinkling her charming brow.
"The merchant you spoke to", she said, "has now become a woman of the world. So you can (28) talk about anything you wish -- art, feelings, poetry. . . ."
"Talk about art", I protested, "or dreams or poetry, after what I've seen and heard! (29) No, no, no! I'm full of commercial ideas, I can only hear the clinking of dollars, I'm dazzled by the reflection of coins. This fine river is now nothing but a convenient shipping-lane, these charming banks a towpath, these pretty villages a line of warehouses for cotton and sugar. I am seriously thinking of damming the Hudson and using its water to drive a coffee-mill!" (30)
"Apart from the coffee-mill, that all sounds like a jolly good idea!"
"Why, if you please, should I not have ideas like anyone else?"
"So you've been bitten by the industrial bug?"
"Judge for yourself."
I recounted the successive scenes I had witnessed. She listened seriously to my account, as is normal in America, and began to think about it. A Parisienne would not have let me get halfway.
"Well, Madam, what do you think of this Hopkins?"
"This man might possibly be an investment genius setting up a monstrous enterprise, or else simply a bear-showman from the last Baltimore Fair."
I laughed and we changed the subject.
1. A footnote attached to the title of the French edition of the short story reads: "This previously unpublished jest was written in about 1863. M.J.V."
"M.J.V." means Michel Jules-Verne. There was no footnote in the original manuscript. What is more, the explanatory footnote to "The Eternal Adam" (1910) reads "1. This short story, written by Jules Verne in the last years of his life and published here for the first time, has the peculiarity of leading to rather pessimistic conclusions, in contrast with the proud optimism which infuses the rest of the Extraordinary Journeys. M.J.V.". Given that this latter footnote seems to take a perverse pleasure in telling as many fibs as it can, it throws considerable doubt on both the claimed date and the idea of a "jest" in the present case.
2. JV: Old World; the merchant shipping of every form and tonnage, the clippers whose amazing speed meant that the United States were only ten days away from Britain, the galiots from Holland, the three-masters from the Mediterranean swallowing into their vast holds the produce from the old continent; then, despite the storms of the Gulf of Gascony, the currents of Gibraltar, the squalls of the Channel and the shoals of the North Sea, they arrived to deposit their goods safely on the docksides, exchanging them for varieties of precious wood, coffee, rice, sugar, gold powder and dollars from this marvellous country of America.
Accordingly, without being surprised at the activity of its businessmen, it was not possible for me to get tired of admiring the bustle of the early-morning city. Passengers were
MV: Old World and exporting manufactured goods from all over the nation. My departure gave me a new opportunity to admire the bustle of New York. Passengers were
Much of Jules Verne's description is "recycled" from the virtuoso one of Liverpool in Backwards to Britain: appropriately enough, since Liverpool was the port for America.
3. JV: terrible hurry, umbrellas in hands and bowler hats on heads, all trying to
MV: terrible hurry, all trying to
4. Flaubert provides a description of a steamboat departure at the beginning of L'Education Sentimentale (1869), which it would be interesting to compare with Verne's.
5. JV: found room. The parcels piled up on each other; and the passengers all fitted neatly into each other. The fire
MV: found room. Parcels and passengers were piled up on board, all fitted neatly into each other. The fire
Michel, in other words, is more elegant, but JV much ruder.
6. JV: I was strolling through my thoughts. All the while, I was regretting only one thing, a travelling companion; my old friend Édouard Vaillant, who until then had accompanied me in my American travels, had been obliged to spend a few more days in New York. A family obligation, he had ventured to tell me, forced him to part company for a while, but he would soon rejoin me at Francis Wilson's house, one of the richest businessmen in Albany and the French Consul, and for whom we had the warmest letters of recommendation. In order not to upset the excellent Édouard, I had pretended to believe in this obligation and family with a good humour that must have given him a curious idea of my intelligence. As far as duties were concerned, he fulfilled them very little in his quality as an artist, and, as for his family, they had been living in France for some twenty years, without leaving him the slightest sign of a relative in the land of his forefathers.
I had therefore left on my own, leaving to chance, that intimate friend of travellers, the task of finding en route some subject of enjoyment or diversion. I was strolling through my thoughts; I was trying to think which blond locks or blue eyes might be keeping Édouard in New York, when I recognised
MV: I was strolling through my thoughts. All the while, I was leaving to chance, that constant companion of tourists, the task of finding some subject of enjoyment or diversion en route -- when I recognised
The name "Édouard Vaillant" (lit.: "valiant", presumably because of his female conquests) was changed by Jules Verne from "Édouard Garnier", the name of one of his real-life friends.
7. The spelling of Melvil has been changed to Melville throughout.
8. JV: a Hudson River steamboat! like an Englishwoman up Mont Blanc!"
"As you can see,
MV: a Hudson River steamboat!"
"As you can see,
9. JV: But the Mistress Melvil you see here, who admires the paintings of Diaz and Delacroix, who plays Chopin's studies, who bestrews her bouquets and her bravos à la Sontag, is really Sales Director
MV: But the Mrs Melville you see here is really Sales Director
10. Albany is where the Mohawk River joins the Hudson: very probably a memory of Cooper, whom Verne often referred to in interviews as a major influence.
11. Verne is here echoing Tocqueville and Stendhal, who emphasised the excessive individualism and freedom of the American citizen, as evidenced by publicity, bets, auctions and litigation.
12. JV: Old World!
"Me?" I replied, believing it my duty to defend my country. "However, France's trade can be discussed with pride: the Marseilles businessmen, and those of . . ."
"But," continued Mrs Melville with vigour, "the Americans are even more Marseillais than your compatriots."
"However," I began . . . but then stopped; I had reached the point of beginning all my sentences with the word `however', and was heading for a ridiculous discussion; so I changed the subject, for I had sworn never to defend my country, commercially speaking.
"Be that as it may," continued Mrs Melville, "since Henri couldn't leave
MV: Old World! Since my husband couldn't leave
13. JV: accurate for all that, for I know how to draw up a charter party and how to arrange an insurance policy."
"I've decided to be
MV: accurate for all that."
"I've decided to be
14. JV: braces. . . . That's real stoicism for you!"
"You are not very
MV: braces. . . ."
"You are not very
15. JV: introduce you to him?"
"Madam, you have the grace and the graciousness of the primitive peoples. I was right
MV: introduce you to him?"
"I was right
Jules's comment was presumably omitted by Michel for reasons of tact towards the Americans; although this remark does illuminate the whole tale.
16. JV: one of the capstans, which bent under the weight. Before the crowd's applause
MV: one of the capstans. Before the crowd's applause
18. JV: the luggage of one Augustus Meade Hopkins, a free
MV: the luggage of one Augustus Hopkins, a free
19. The interest in typographical detail within the story -- on the packages and posters -- is a sign of a self-referring text, in the best modern tradition (and is also another link with Journey to the Centre of the Earth, which is generated by text-within-the-text).
20. JV: I'm devoured by curiosity, all the more so because their owner is hardly travelling in a natural way."
"I must confess that
MV: I'm devoured by curiosity."
"I must confess that
21. JV: of coffee. That may be true, morally speaking; but, speaking as the egoist that I am, I personally would have
MV: of coffee.
If the Americans are perhaps right, I personally would have
22. Phileas Fogg will show a similar blindness to the beauties of nature, while rushing single-mindedly to his destination.
23. JV: two children of Chile had maintained a total silence
MV: two children of Africa had maintained a total silence
24. JV: with their usual behaviour. What is more, the blacks, according to their own principles, must really curse the first of their number who was foolish enough to produce a sound; for it was from that day, so they maintain, that they became slaves, and were forced to work. According to them, monkeys are blacks who are wise enough to keep silent, and thus avoid the heavy exertions of slavery.
I was therefore about
MV: with their usual behaviour.
I was therefore about
As usual with Verne's irony, his remarks are, at least in modern eyes, both racist and anti-racist, pro and anti-slavery, evolutionary and anti-evolutionary.
25. The New York Herald is central in Michel Verne's "In the Year 2889" (1889).
26. JV: a thousand dollars extra! In three months they'll have doubled!"
The demands and counter-demands
MV: a thousand dollars extra!"
The demands and counter-demands
27. Verne again displays a modern awareness of the characters making up his own text. But in addition, the proud 1 and its retinue of obedient 0's has a clear sexual implication.
28. JV: world. So you can talk without fear, tell her your moral and physical observations about anything you
MV: world. So you can talk about anything you
29. JV: after what I've seen and heard! I confess that I would not be capable of that; one would have to have my friend Vaillant's exuberant and changeable soul to be able to do that; I myself am full of commercial ideas
MV: after what I've seen and heard! No, no, no! I'm full of commercial ideas
30. This remark anticipates the scathing commentary of L'Invasion de la mer: "Decidedly (. . .) modern engineers don't respect anything! If they were allowed, they would fill up the seas with mountains, and our globe would be nothing but a smooth globe, as polished as an ostrich's egg, conveniently disposed for laying out railway lines".
31. JV: to wish. Which brought me back to my ideas on Indian servants: after one has
MV: to wish. As a bonus, the service was carried out by blacks. After one has
For Verne, Indians, service and sex are intimately -- but secretly -- connected.
32. JV: as American as a Breton is Breton when we got
MV: as American as can be when we got
33. Lola Montez, stage name of Marie Dolores Eliza Rosanna Gilbert (later Countess Lansfeld) (1818-61), Irish dancer and adventuress, danced in Paris in August 1856, then sailed directly for America. lectured in New York, and then devoted herself to "fallen women". Her lectures were published in New York in 1858, then in Paris in 1862 ("L'Art de la beauté ou secrets de la toilette des Dames").
34. JV: a distraction, nothing else, which will one day give them cause for happy remembrance; in any case, this famous woman had expressed the wish to do so, and it is not our custom or habit to oppose whims that harm nobody."
"Our discussions start", my dear Monsieur Wilson, "from points of view too different for us ever to be able to agree; we are like two lawyers, one discussing in New Orleans, the other in Philadelphia: it is quite clear that they will never agree."
"That's true," replied Mistress Melvil, "but all three of us were happy in Philadelphia, so why did you leave for New Orleans?"
"I would be wrong, Mistress Melvil, merely to express an opinion disagreeing with yours; I will therefore grant whatever pleases you, all the more so because the eccentricities of Lola Montès were the result simply of your infatuation and not of speculation. What harm can there
MV: a distraction, nothing else. What harm can there
35. Johanna Maria Lind (1820-87), Swedish soprano, studied in Paris (1841), engaged in America by P. T. Barnum. The Barnum connection runs through Verne's work at all levels.
36. JV: said Mr Wilson.
"Not much, after Mlle Cravelli!"
"Your loss in hospitals
MV: said Mr Wilson.
"Less than hers, in my view."
"Your loss in hospitals
This change of Michel's, and the next one (note y), seem to make the dialogue more aggressive, and may therefore be regretted.
37. Henriette Sontag (= "Sunday"), opera-singer, born in Koblenz in 1805, died in Mexico City in 1854, worked in Paris. Her career was pursued only during the period 1849-54.
38. JV: Parisian!" exclaimed Mrs Melville, getting up and giving me her hand.
MV: Parisian!" exclaimed Mrs Melville, getting up.
39. There was a general diplomatic controversy between Cuba and Britain and the United States throughout the period 1817-65, until the slave trade was abolished in 1865.
40. JV: a sort of Cristal's (sic) Palace. These colossal enterprises
MV: a sort of Universal Exposition. These colossal enterprises
Verne had caught a glimpse of the Crystal Palace during his visit to Britain in 1859 (and refers to it, although not by name, in Backwards to Britain). The Universal Exposition was held in Paris in 1889, and this phrase therefore constitutes an anachronism introduced by Michel.
41. Fort William was near modern Thunder Bay, Ontario. Based on a fur-trapping fort, it developed in the 1850s as a silver-mining settlement.
42. Branches of the Rothschild family lived in Germany, Britain and France. Verne is probably referring to James Rothschild (1792-1868).
43. JV: aims produced considerable interest, a Palace of Industry open to the whole world! Ideas came from everywhere,
MV: aims produced considerable interest. Ideas came from everywhere,
44. Daguerreotypes were one of the earliest photographic processes, first described by Daguerre of Paris in 1839.
45. All these groups of words are in English in the original text (with however "squave" for "square").
46. JV: being so close to the French colonies, would become
MV: being so close to the border, would become
This is clearly a sarcastic comment on Hopkins's paranoiac delusions, but are the colonies referred to Louisiana (capital, New Orleans), which included Albany and Fort William (and which had been sold to the United States in 1815), Canada (French until 1763) or the French West Indies?
47. JV: of the workers uncovered the remains of a vast underground cave whose existence could not have been suspected; in it were found the remains of an enormous skeleton
MV: of the workers uncovered the remains of an enormous skeleton
This is clearly a cross-reference to Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
48. The fact that Verne is talking in mere "thousands of years" shows how old-fashioned (and Biblical) his science is.
49. It is difficult to know exactly which Mastodon Verne is referring to here.
50. "Cornut" is a homophone for "corps nu": "exposed body", just like the skeleton.
51. The idea of "Pachyderms" is a remnant of the earlier version of the story. The name "Humboldt" bears some resemblance to the title Humbug.
52. "Enormity" is probably an allusion to Flaubert's "hénaurme". The narrator's role is not free from Verne's ironical judgement.
53. JV: the body of a mammoth, a fossil elephant, a Palaethere, an Anoplothere, a pterodactyl, nor a plesiosaurus
MV: a mammoth, nor a Mastodon, nor a plesiosaurus
Palaethere: an extinct tapir-like mammal.
Anoplothere: an extinct pachydermous quadruped, referred to in Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
55. This whole paragraph, although this is perhaps not obvious on first reading, is in the free indirect style, that is it is a summary of the Herald article (and not therefore necessarily believed by the character, let alone the narrator). This use of the present tense for free indirect style (especially for facts which are no longer considered to be true) is an unusual feature in French prose.
56. JV: The existence of titanic races before our own could no longer be denied: this discovery proved the truth of the passage in the Bible that indicates Og, the King of Bashan, as the leader of the giants -- a much disputed passage as it happens. One can see how many debatable elements the New York Herald article contained in embryonic form
MV: The existence of a titanic race before our own could no longer be denied
This is a highly revealing passage for understanding Jules Verne's religious views, which have never been totally elucidated; although one can say that here he displays very considerable scepticism.
Og: Amorite king of Bashan (Deut 31:4; Josh 2:10, 13:12; 1 Kings 4:19). A man of gigantic stature, as was apparently common amongst the Canaanite tribes.
57. JV: question of such importance, which crossed over the Isthmus of Panama and spread quickly through all the regions of the West Indies. Finally, a scientific conference,
MV: question of such importance. Finally, a scientific conference,
58. JV: that these tendencies undermining the Old World totally enchanted me
MV: that these daydreams totally enchanted me
59. This sentence reveals a remarkable similarity to the climax of Journey to the Centre of the Earth, where a primitive human creature tends a herd of Mastodonts. The second part of the sentence constitutes one of the most direct attacks on evolutionary theories to be found in the Extraordinary Journeys.
60. Verne's deadpan humour here highlights the contradictions inherent in taking Genesis literally.
61. A "puff" is an auctioneering term meaning "to increase the price (of a lot) artificially by having an accomplice make false bids".
62. JV: transparencies projected all the particularities of that wonderful Mastodont.
But Hopkins was not
MV: transparencies projected its silhouette.
But Hopkins was not
63. A characeristic of Verne's style is the list. Here the effect of listing many different scientists is not only for Verne to give a surface respectability to his tale, but, more fundamentally, to subtly undermine their views, for, if they had all agreed, it would surely have been sufficient to list just one of them. Verne's science is here decades, if not centuries, out of date:
Cuvier: Georges (1769-1832), French naturalist, founder of comparative anatomy and of paleontology, researched on fossil bones, author notably of Discours sur les révolutions du globe (1821).
Blumenbach: Johann Friedrich (1752-1840), German zoologist and anthropologist, pioneer in craniology (both Cuvier and Blumenbach are referred to in Journey to the Centre of the Earth).
Buckland: (Verne: "Backland"), William (1784-1856), British geologist, author of Geology and Mineralogy Considered with Reference to Natural Theology (1836).
Link: Heinrich Friedrich (1767-1851), German botanist; studied especially plant anatomy and physiology.
Stemberg, or Sternberg?: there seems to be little trace of a scientist with this name.
Brongnart: misspelling of Brongniart: either the geologist Alexandre (1770-1847) or his son Adolphe (1801-76), who founded vegetable paleontology.
64. Lumley, Benjamin (1811-75), Britsh author and manager of the Opera in London. He found ill-paid and unpaid artists and "made" them. In 1850-1, he managed the Paris Italian Opera House, his main star being Sontag. In 1856 he returned to London. He later published Reminiscences (1864).
65. The word "prehistoric" ("préhistorique") is probably an anachronism, due to Michel (replacing Jules Verne's "antediluvian"), since the first recorded occurrence of "préhistorique" dates from 1865. In Journey to the Centre of the Earth, the word "anté-historique" is used, but only in the section added in the 1867 edition. Even the concept of prehistory did not generally exist before the 1860s.
66. JV: in its captivating company. For my part, I would have found it highly disagreeable to eat from a plate adorned with a skeleton, however antediluvian it was; it also has to be admitted that, if this mania for advertising was to become fashionable, one would be exposed to finding at the bottom of one's plates, or to reading through one's soup, the most subversive nourishment and the most indigestible advertisements. I have not mentioned them all here, even omitting some prize ones; but will simply say that the effect of this
MV: in its captivating company.
The effect of this
67. JV: was trying to reach. There was no longer any question of the Palace of Industry whose hypothetical shares had already been quoted on the Albany Stock-Exchange, nor of that new town that the United States had taken anticipated pride in. Nevertheless, by searching for
MV: was trying to reach. Nevertheless, by searching for
68. JV: after about fifteen miles
MV: after about five or six miles.
70. JV: a number of bones and animal fragments which now consisted only of their calcium salts, and whose fibrous parts had disappeared long ago. The subject of
MV: a number of bones.
The subject of
71. The breaks in the tale reproduce the fractures between Jules and Michel's contribution (just as, in Journey to the Centre of the Earth, the irruption of the text added in 1867 is reflected in the disruption in the terrain). The common aim of the showman and of the writer is to make the breaks invisible.
72. Bone-black is the product of carbonisation of bones, used as pigment, sometimes in the preparation of manuscripts. Verne takes delight in referring to the materials of his own creation.
73. Following bloodstains is a topos of the detective story, very much in its infancy in the nineteenth century.
74. This confusion between tigers and North American cats prefigures Dick Sands, the Boy Captain (1878), where the plot is predicated on a confusion as to which continent the hero is in, producing fauna which constantly surprise him.
75. JV: 300 000 dollars!
MV: a billion dollars!
76. JV: red tiger, extremely rare in this part of America
MV: red tiger, virtually unknown in this part of America
77. JV: a suitably dead state, even stuffed, by some Barckley, for
MV: a suitably dead state, by some Barckley, for
78. JV: "How are you going to manage now? What are you going to do?"
"Whatever I do now,
MV: "How are you going to get out of this one?"
"Hey, what are you talking about? Whatever I do now,
79. JV: he meant by this.
"Obviously," came his reply. "Is it not true
MV: he meant by this, and how the word sounded in his mouth.
"Obviously," came his reply, as calm as anything. "Is it not true
80. The Siege of Yorktown (1780) was a decisive British defeat in the American War of Independence.
81. The term of Siamese twins originated with Chung and Eng (1811-74), who were born in Siam, and lived as adults in the United States.
82. This sentence is a pastiche of the Romantic theme that one has arrived too late in this world, that everything has already been said and done. This lament as to the impossibility of new discoveries is at the very heart of the whole series of the Extraordinary Journeys.
83. This is a slight trap by the narrator: the "terrible news" is ostensibly that the skeleton has been destroyed, and not that it is a fake.
84. Verne's scepticism is a healthy counter to the crazy publicity in 1992 about Columbus's "discovery" of America.