Verniana — Jules Verne Studies/Etudes Jules Verne — Volume 11 (2018–2020) — 53–66
Submitted August 6, 2019 Published November 8, 2019
Proposé le 6 août 2019 Publié le 8 novembre 2019

How Phileas Fogg Reached America: Two Early American Versions of Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours

Alex Kirstukas


Research by James Keeline and the present author suggests that Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours, first serialized in Le Temps (Paris, 1872), initially appeared in America in two significantly modified versions: a French-language serialization in Le Courrier des États-Unis (New York City, 1872–73) abridged and adapted from the Le Temps text, and a translation in The Portland Daily Press (Portland, Maine, 1873) based on the Courrier version, with further omissions and alterations. This article reviews these modified texts as creatively engaged examples of early Verne reception.


Les études de James Keeline et de l’auteur de cet article indiquent qu’en Amérique, on a proposé initialement Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours (publié pour la première fois en feuilleton dans Le Temps, Paris, 1872) sous deux formes considérablement modifiées : d’abord en feuilleton en français dans Le Courrier des États-Unis (New York City, 1872–73) dans une version abrégé et adapté du texte du Temps et puis en traduction anglaise dans The Portland Daily Press (Portland [Maine], 1873) d’après le texte du Courrier, avec des omissions et modifications supplémentaires. Dans cet article, on examine ces deux textes modifiés comme des exemples créatifs d’accueil vernien des premiers temps.

Note: This paper was presented at the annual meeting of the North American Jules Verne Society (NAJVS) in Toronto, Canada on June 10, 2017.


Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days (Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours, hereafter TM), has long held special favor among readers in the United States. The first English translations in book form were both by Americans, George M. Towle (1873) and Stephen W. White (1874); an original British translation would not appear until Henry Frith’s version (1878) four years later. [1] Verne’s 1874 dramatization of the novel, a smash hit in France, was quickly and successfully transplanted to American stages in both authorized and pirated productions [2] And, of course, the novel itself includes a lengthy and memorable American episode running a vast gamut of moods, from the riotous farce of the San Francisco election scene to the rhapsodic proto-modernism of the railroad journey. [3] So keenly was the French novel burned into American psyches that a Bostonian circumnavigator, George Francis Train, felt the need to complain in print that Jules Verne had “stolen his thunder”! [4]

How, though, did Phileas Fogg actually reach America? Early Verne biographers claimed that the “news” of the voyage spread to British and American papers while the novel was still coming out in French serialization. [5] More recent research suggests that this anecdote, like many in the early biographies, is an exaggeration; no known English-language newspapers picked up the story during its original serialization in Le Temps, between November 6 and December 22, 1872. [6] Towle’s frequently reprinted translation has long seemed to be the first English-language version of the work. [7]

New findings make the historical record more complicated. A different American translation, predating Towle’s, has been recently located; closer inspection reveals it to be derived, not directly from Verne’s original, but from a variant French text with its own unique cuts, additions, and modifications. This article reviews both of these rediscovered texts, now the first known American appearances of the novel.

Background and rediscovery of the texts

In 2014, North American Jules Verne Society member James Keeline identified a previously undocumented translation of TM, serialized in a Maine newspaper, the Portland Daily Press, from June 7, 1873 (exactly a month before Towle’s version was published) [8] to August 2, 1873. The first installment was prefaced as follows:

We publish this morning the opening chapters of a translation by a young lady of this city, of Jules Verne’s new novel “La Tour du Monde en Quartrevingts [sic] Jours,” under the English title of “Round the World on a Wager.” The great reputation attained by the author in his former books and particularly in his very popular work “Twenty thousand leagues under the Sea” is fully sustained in this new effort, which we shall publish in the Press as a serial.

The translator of Round the World on a Wager received no credit beyond this brief notice, and so far her identity remains a mystery [9] The Press itself was founded in 1862 and was printed until 1921, when it merged with the Portland Herald to create the current Portland Press Herald[10]

Reading the serialization, I encountered multiple passages vastly unlike their counterparts in the standard French editions based on Hetzel’s in-8º. Some of these were recognizable as passages from the serial in Le Temps, but others had no equivalents in any Verne text, including the manuscripts now housed at the Bibliothèque municipale de Nantes and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. [11] Either the translator had taken sudden surprising liberties, or she was translating from a text at least one stage removed from the original Le Temps serial.

Another aspect of Keeline’s research solved the mystery. In his ongoing bibliography of Verne publications in newspapers, TM is mentioned as having been serialized in a New York newspaper, Le Courrier des États-Unis, from December 27, 1872, to January 25, 1873. [12] The Courrier, the longest-running French-language newspaper in the United States, was founded in 1828 as a « journal politique et littéraire », and ran until the outbreak of World War II in 1939. In the 19th century, it was an important link between France and French settlers in Quebec, Newfoundland, Louisiana, and elsewhere. [13] In 1860, The New York Times praised the Courrier’s administration for its “dignity, propriety, and ability,” writing that their work “would be noticeable in the case of any journal whatever, but it is doubly remarkable in the case of a newspaper printed in a tongue foreign to the great mass of Americans, and not supported like the German journals upon the perpetual influx of a vast immigration.” [14]

Sure enough, the Courrier serialization featured the same non-Verne material. Evidently it was this altered text, almost certainly unapproved by Verne, that was used for Round the World on a Wager. Given the wide readership of the Courrier and the large role French settlers played in the history of Maine, it is highly plausible that the paper would have been available to the Portland translator.

Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours: The Courrier text

The Courrier text is clearly based on the Le Temps serialization, the initial published version of TM. This version differs in multiple respects from the most common French text, that of Hetzel’s 1873 in-8º edition. [15] Many of the differences between the Temps and in-8º versions are small matters of wording or errors later corrected; for example, Sheridan is called a “statesman” rather than an “orator” (Ch. I), the 180th meridian is accidentally called a parallel (Ch. XXIV), the American train’s speed is said to eat its “gravitation” rather than its weight (Ch. XXVIII), and the travelers spend a night at the Fifth Avenue Hotel rather than the St. Nicholas (Ch. XXXII) [16] A few others are more substantial: Fogg embarks on his journey at 10:35 rather than 8:40, with his deadline to return adjusted accordingly (Ch. III, Ch. XXXIV), and Passepartout’s intrusion on the nuptial chamber with an idea for circling the world in seventy-eight days is missing (Ch. XXXVII).

Most far-reaching are the changes to the episode with Captain Speedy of the Henrietta (Ch. XXXII–XXXIII). In Le Temps, Speedy is less antagonistic to Fogg and more easily won over; his vessel is identified as an English-made former blockade runner in the American Civil War; and, despite a brief flareup of anger toward Fogg, he is not locked in his cabin. Fogg ends up buying the boat for $50,000, not $60,000 as in the in-8º.

The staff of the Courrier added their own changes to the serialization. One set of changes can be read as a simple typesetting choice: the novel’s punctuation is considerably reworked, with sentences broken apart or welded together by means of new periods, commas, dashes, and semicolons. These types of changes seem to have been made to allow the text to fit more comfortably in the thin columns of the newspaper. [17] Other small changes imply a blanket effort to make the prose look more French—an amusingly quixotic aim, given the novel’s international cast of characters and cosmopolitan array of details. Thus, “Mr.” consistently becomes “M.” (“M. Fogg,” “M. Batulcar”), “Mrs. Aouda” becomes « Madame Aouda », the ship General-Grant gains acute accents over its “e”s (Ch. XXIV), and even the bank robber James Strand, in the first and only time his name is mentioned, becomes an Anglo-Gallic « Jacques Strand » (Ch. XXXVI). [18]

Other Courrier changes show more creativity. The initial exchange between Fogg and Colonel Proctor (“Yankee!”&mdas;“English!,” Ch. XXV) is rewritten in stronger slang (“D… Yankee!”—“Johnny Bull!”) [19] The serialization’s misspelling “Windhias” is corrected to « Vindhias », as it is in the in-8º (Ch. XII). When offering bail at the trial, Fogg unnecessarily says: « J’en appelle à une higher court » (Ch. XV). The San Francisco bar (Ch. XXV) offers not Verne’s « ale, porto ou xérès », but the possibly more authentic « ale, wisky ou cocktail », and its African-American waiters are not merely « noir » (black) but « jais » (jet-black). Elder Hitch’s reference to « Abraham et autres célèbres Égyptiens” (Ch. XXVII), which William Butcher has reasonably suggested may be a “deliberate mistake” on Verne’s part, [20] is silently corrected by changing the last word to « patriarches ». The New York train station where Fogg disembarks (Ch. XXXI) is no longer anonymous, but identified as « le gare de Jersey City »—evidently the staff of the New York-based paper felt that this detail should be clarified. One change especially, though not an intentional one, must have markedly altered readers’ experience of the novel: in the serialization process, Chapter XXVII was accidentally printed before Chapter XXVI.

Most dramatic are the Courrier’s abridgments. Much of Fogg’s negotiation with Kiouni’s owner is cut, allowing Fogg to buy the elephant for £1000 instead of £2000 (Ch. XI). No bullet goes through Fogg’s hat during the escape from the suttee (Ch. XIII), no price is given for Mrs. Aouda’s coat (Ch. XIV), fewer details about distance occur in Fogg’s conversation with Bunsby (Ch. XX), and Bunsby’s ship is not compared to a locomotive at full steam (Ch. XXI). Verne’s criticisms of the Inman line of ships (Ch. XXXII) is also missing, though this cut is easily explainable; as Norm Wolcott pointed out when discussing its similar omission from Stephen W. White’s translation, the criticisms could have struck a needlessly sour note to the many immigrants who reached America on Inman steamers [21]

The most drastic omissions and changes all occur after the San Francisco scene, as the book heads into its final stretch. The first such omission occurs in Chapter XXIX, when Proctor insults Fogg. Instead of Verne’s protracted (and suspense-building) passage in which a duel is prepared on the train, the Courrier’s Proctor cuts to the chase. Here is the Courrier version, followed by an English translation and the corresponding quotations from the Portland Daily Press): [22]

— Il ne tient qu’à vous d’en essayer, fils de John Bull ! » répliqua le grossier personnage en sortant un revolver de sa poche et en l’armant.
Mme Aouda était devenue pâle. Tout son sang lui refluait au cœur. Elle avait saisi le bras de Phileas Fogg, qui la repoussa doucement. Passepartout était prêt à se jeter sur l’Américain, qui regardait son adversaire de l’air le plus insultant, quand soudain des cris sauvages retentirent ; des détonations les accompagnèrent. Ces détonations se prolongeaient, jusqu’à l’avant et sur toute la ligne du train. Des cris de frayeur se faisaient entendre à l’intérieur du convoi, qui avait ralenti sa marche.
Le colonel Proctor et M. Fogg, revolver au poing, sortirent aussitôt du wagon et se précipitèrent vers l’avant, où retentissaient plus bruyamment les détonations et les cris.
Ils avaient compris que le train étaient attaqué par une bande de Sioux.
—  It's up to you to try it, son of John Bull! "replied the rude character, taking a gun out of his pocket and arming it.
Mrs. Aouda had turned pale. All her blood sank back toward her heart. She had grabbed Phileas Fogg's arm, who pushed her back gently. Passepartout was ready to throw himself at the American, who was looking at his opponent with the most insulting air, when suddenly wild cries rang out; gunfire followed them. These explosions extended to the front and all along the train line. Cries of fear were heard inside the convoy, which had slowed its progress.
Colonel Proctor and Mr. Fogg, with guns in their hands, immediately stepped out of the car and rushed forward, where the gunfire and screams rang louder.
They understood that the train was being attacked by a band of Sioux.
“You can try it, son of John Bull,” replied the man rudely, drawing from his pocket a revolver and aiming it.
Madame Aouda became pale—her heart ceased beating—she caught the arm of Mr. Fogg, who put her softly away. Passepartout was ready to throw himself upon the American, who watched his adversary with a most insulting air; when suddenly war whoops were heard, accompanied by the sound of guns; reports sounded all along the line; cries of affright were heard from the cars, which had slackened their speed. Col. Procter [sic] and Mr. Fogg, revolver in hand, went out of the car, and rushed to the front. They comprehended that the train had been attacked by a band of Sioux.

Similarly, Fogg does not need to waste time arguing with the captain at Fort Kearney (Ch. XXX), who in this version agrees immediately to Fogg’s rescue plan:

— Morts ? demanda le capitaine.
— Morts ou prisonniers, répondit Phileas Fogg. Là est une incertitude qu’il faut faire cesser.
— Eh bien, s’écria le capitaine, ému malgré lui. Vous êtes un brave cœur. — Trente hommes de bonne volonté ! » ajouta-t-il, en se tournant vers ses soldats.
— Dead? asked the captain.
— Dead or prisoners, replied Phileas Fogg. This is an uncertainty that must be resolved.
— Well, shouted the captain, moved in spite of himself. You are a brave heart. — Thirty men of goodwill! "he added, turning to his soldiers.
“Dead?” inquired the captain.
“Dead, or prisoners,” answered Mr. Fogg. “It is an uncertainty—we must end it.”
“Oh, well,” said the captain, moved in spite of himself. “You are a brave man. Thirty volunteers,” cried he, turning to the soldiers.

Soon after comes a particularly clumsy cut: Mudge’s sail-fitted sleigh, to which most of Chapter XXXI is devoted, is gone completely. (The rest of the chapter is quietly subsumed into Chapter XXX, with the subsequent chapters renumbered to fit.) This vast bravado passage is leaped over by implying that Fogg, having missed his train’s departure from Fort Kearney, simply waited for the next one:

— Et le train suivant, quand passera-t-il ? demanda Phileas Fogg.
— Ce soir seulement.
— Ah ! » fit simplement l’impassible gentleman.
Le lendemain soir, les voyageurs arrivaient à la gare d’Omaha.
— And the next train, when will it pass? asked Phileas Fogg.
— Only tonight.
— Ah!" simply said the impassive gentleman.
The next evening, the travelers arrived at the Omaha station.
“And the next train, when will it pass?” asked Phileas Fogg.
“Not until this evening.”
“Ah!” answered the impassible gentleman, quietly.
The evening of the next day, the travelers arrived at the station of Omaha.

This cut causes considerable narrative damage: it forces an out-of-character wait upon Phileas Fogg, removes one of Passepartout’s inner monologues, deprives Fix of an opportunity to be heroic, and renders Mudge’s earlier exchange with Fix pointless. It also creates a temporal confusion, since none of the ensuing dates or times are adjusted to take the added hours into account. In this version, Fogg falls hours behind schedule and takes a far later train to Omaha than planned, yet still somehow arrives in New York at 11:15 on December 11, only forty-five minutes too late to catch the China.

Strangest of all are the changes made to Chapters XXXII–XXXIII—combined and renumbered XXXI, and given the rather paradoxical title « Dans lequel le hasard surmonte la mauvaise chance » (In which chance overcomes bad luck). Instead of encountering the Henrietta in the harbor at New York as a replacement for the China, Fogg has a different experience:

Ce gentleman semblait devoir échouer dans sa dernière tentative, quand il aperçut, devant la batterie, un tow boat arrivant à toute vapeur et portant le pavillon de la ligne Cunard.
Le petit vapeur accosta à la Batterie et M. Fogg apprit de la bouche du mate que le China venait de rentrer dans la basse-baie, à la suite d’un abordage avec un voilier, qui avait coulé sur place. Cet accident avait causé à l’avant du China quelques avaries qui pouvaient être facilement et rapidement réparées à la Quarantaine. Le tow boat avait été expédié de Staten Island pour prévenir l’agent de la compagnie Cunard et pour emporter quelques pièces indispensables à la réparation du China. Dans une heure il devait repartir pour la baie.
Après avoir écouté ce récit, M. Fogg se rendit au consulat d’Angleterre, situé dans le voisinage, fit viser ses papiers et télégraphia à ses compagnons à l’hôtel de la Cinquième Avenue de venir le rejoindre sans retard. A New-York, un bureau télégraphique est établi dans tous les grands hôtels. Trois quarts d’heure après, M. Fogg, Mme Aouda, Passepartout et Fix se trouvaient réunis sur le tow boat, qui après avoir chargé quelques pièces de bois et de fer, repartait à toute vitesse pour la Quarantaine. Deux heures plus tard les voyageurs étaient hissés à bord du China qui se mettait en route à la tombée de la nuit.
This gentleman seemed likely to fail in his last attempt, when he saw, in front of the battery, a tug boat arriving at full steam and holding the flag of the Cunard line.
The small steamer docked at the Battery and Mr. Fogg learned from the mate's mouth that the China had just entered the lower bay, after a collision with a sailboat, which had sunk on the spot. This accident had caused some damage to the front of the China which could be easily and quickly repaired in the Quarantaine. The tug boat had been dispatcheded from Staten Island to notify the Cunard company agent and to carry some parts needed for the repair of the China. In an hour she was supposed to leave for the bay.
After listening to this story, Mr. Fogg went to the nearby British consulate, had his papers stamped and telegraphed his companions at the Fifth Avenue Hotel to join him without delay. In New York, a telegraph office is established in all major hotels. Three quarters of an hour later, Mr. Fogg, Mrs. Aouda, Passepartout and Fix met on the cite>tug boat, which after loading some pieces of wood and iron, set off at full speed for the Quarantaine. Two hours later the passengers were hoisted aboard the China, which set off at nightfall.
This gentleman seemed to be foiled in his last attempt, when he perceived below the Battery, a tug-boat coming with all speed, and carrying the flag of the Cunard line. The steam-tug came along side the Battery, and Mr. Fogg learned from the mate, that the China had returned to the lower bay, in consequence of a collision with a sailing vessel, which had sunk at once. This accident had caused some damage to the bow of the China, which could be easily and quickly repaired at Quarantine. The tug-boat had been despatched from Staten Island to inform the agent of the Cunard company and take back some pieces needed for repairs. In an hour it would return to the bay. After listening to this recital, Mr. Fogg went to the bureau of the English Consul, near by. The formality of the visa accomplished, he despatched a telegram to his companions at the 5th Avenue Hotel, to join him without delay. At New York, a telegraphic office is established in all of the large hotels. Three quarters of an hour after, Mr. Fogg, Madame Aouda, Passepartout and Fix, were reunited on the tow boat, which, after having taken on board some pieces of wood and iron, left with all speed for Quarantine. Two hours later, the travelers were put on board the China which steamed out to sea as night fell.

Fogg meets with Captain Speedy—captain of the China in this version—but because of the change in circumstance, he has much less bargaining to do:

— J’ai intérêt à me trouver à Londres, le 21 courant, avant dix heures trente-cinq du soir, et, si j’arrive à temps, j’ajouterai au prix de mon passage une prime de mille dollars.
— Adressez-vous au chef mécanicien, répondit brutalement le bourru capitaine.
Le chef mécanicien accepta l’offre et fit chauffer à toute vapeur.
Il semblait que M. Fogg eût enfin fatigué la fortune contraire. Il était sorti vainqueur de cette dernière épreuve.
— I have an interest in being in London, on the 21st of this month, before ten thirty-five in the evening, and if I arrive on time, I will add bonus of a thousand dollars to the price of my trip.
— Speak to the chief engineer," replied the rough captain brutally.
The chief engineer accepted the offer and fired up the boiler.
It seemed that Mr. Fogg was finally tired of the contrary fortune. He was the winner of this last test.
“I am interested to reach London the 21st before 35 minutes past 10 in the evening; if I arrive in time I will add to the price of my passage, a bonus of one thousand dollars.”
“Address yourself to the chief engineer,” replied the Captain, rudely.
The engineer accepted the offer, and crowded the steam.
It seemed now, that Mr. Fogg had overpowered his adverse fortune; he had conquered, in this last ordeal.

As in Verne’s original, the engineer later has to announce a misfortune, but with a different excuse and a different result:

— Il y a... il y a que nous allons manquer de combustible, si nous continuons à chauffer de la sorte ! J’ai usé pour rien 24 heures de charbon par suite de l’accident du départ.
Passepartout, qui entendait cette conversation, sentait ses jambes flageoler. M. Fogg ne bougeait pas.
— C’est de votre faute, après tout, reprit le capitaine ; vous intéressez mes gens à vos affaires, au détriment de la régularité du service et des autres passagers.
Et encore, si ce maudit vent que le diable nous souffle en tête, était resté dans le nord-ouest ! Mais non ! Enfin, je vous préviens ! Si nous continuons à marcher avec tous nos feux allumés, dans deux jours il n’y aura plus un seul morceau de charbon à bord.
— Ah ! » fit simplement M. Fogg.
Puis, il se promena pendant cinq minutes sur la dunette, sans qu’aucune de ses impressions se laissât voir.
Puis, revenant au capitaine :
— Ne m’avez-vous pas dit que notre cargaison se composait de boucauts de cannes, de blé, de coton...
— Principalement, oui Monsieur.
— Eh bien, comme vous ne pouvez rester à la merci des flots, convertissez la cargaison en combustible, je paye.
— There's... fact is that we're going to run out of fuel, if we keep heating like this! I used 24 hours of coal for nothing as a result of the departure accident.
Passepartout, who heard this conversation, felt his knees were like jelly. Mr. Fogg was not moving.
— It is your fault, after all, said the captain, as you engage my people in your business, to the detriment of the regularity of service and other passengers.
And again, if that damn headwind the devil blows, had stayed in the northwest! But, No! At least, I'm warning you! If we continue to sail with all our lights on, in two days there will not be a single piece of coal on board.
— Ah! Mr. Fogg simply said.
Then, he walked for five minutes on the poop, without any of his feelings being seen.
Then, returning to the captain:
— Didn't you tell me that our cargo was made up of cane hogsheads, wheat, cotton...
— Mainly, yes, sir.
— Well, since you can't stay at the mercy of the waves, convert the cargo into fuel, I'll pay.
“It is—it is that our coal will fail us, if we continue to steam up in this way! I used coal for 24 hours to no account in the delay caused by the accident.”
Passepartout, who had heard this conversation, felt his limbs quiver, but Mr. Fogg did not move.
“It is your fault, after all,” continued the captain, “you interested my men in your affairs, to the detriment of the regular service, and the other passengers; and yet if this confounded wind, that the devil blows in our faces, had held to the northwest! but no! In short I forewarn you. If we continue to keep all our furnaces burning, in two days there will not be a single piece of coal on board.”
“Oh!” said Mr. Fogg quietly—then he walked the deck for a few moments, without showing the least emotion——then, turning to the captain,
“Did you not say that our cargo was composed of corn, cotton and deal?”
“Principally, yes sir.”
“Well, as you cannot remain at the mercy of the waves, convert your cargo into combustibles—I pay.”

And so the ship is not burned at all—only its (invented) cargo. Things proceed smoothly and, compared with Verne’s version, rather prosaically:

« Bien, dit M. Fogg. Que l’on ne laisse pas baisser les feux. Au contraire. Que l’on charge les soupapes. — A quelle distance, capitaine, sommes-nous de Liverpool ?
— A sept cent soixante-dix milles (300 lieues.)
— Bien. Poussez les feux avec les boucauts de cannes, et faites route jusqu’à complet épuisement du combustible. »
Le lendemain, 19 décembre, on brûla le blé ; le surlendemain, 20, on brûla boucauts, coton et blé. C’était une fureur de combustion.
Mais, ce jour-là, on avait eu connaissance de la côte d’Irlande et du feu de Fastnet.
"Well," said Mr. Fogg. "Do not let the fires go down. On the contrary. Load the valves. — How far, Captain, are we from Liverpool?
— Seven hundred and seventy miles (300 leagues.)
— Good. Fuel fires with the cane hogsheads, and sail on until the fuel is completely exhausted."
The next day, December 19, the wheat was burned; the day after that, 20, the hogsheads, cotton and wheat were burned. It was a combustion fury.
But on that day, the coast of Ireland and the Fastnet lighthouse were in sight.
“Well,” said Mr. Fogg, “keep up the fires. Crowd the furnaces to the valves. What distance are we from Liverpool, Captain!”
“300 leagues.”
“Well, feed the fires with the lumber, until you have exhausted that combustible.”
The next day, the 19th, of Dec., they burned the wheat, the 20th, the cotton and deal. It was a furious fire. But this day they made the Irish coast, and the Fastenet Light.

These free-spirited departures from Verne, though weaker than the text they replace, are an intriguing example of early readers reacting creatively to the new novel in front of them. What is less clear is why the changes were made at all, particularly when they efface such dramatic moments as the Proctor-Fogg duel, the sail-propelled ride through the snow, or the Henrietta’s burning.

It is unlikely that the changes were made on a chapter-by-chapter basis to fit available space: the installments are of a consistent length, and simply break off arbitrarily whenever that length has been reached. Instead, the choppy editing and bizarre alterations seem to show a desire to cram the novel into a certain number of installments, perhaps because of a determination or obligation to begin a new serial on a prearranged date. It is amusing to imagine a Courrier editor, halfway through the serialization, taking a frenzied hatchet to the Temps text after suddenly realizing how many more words had to be squeezed into the remaining allotted installments.

Round the World on a Wager: The Portland text

The Portland Free Press serial, already glimpsed in the block quotations above, is a largely accurate rendering of the Courrier text. Though its translator moved still further away from Verne’s intentions, her translational solutions are often creative. A few of them, indeed, are even prescient, in the sense that they were rediscovered independently by much more recent translators.

The Portland text naturally carries over all the omissions from the Courrier, and adds many new ones. No chapter headings are given. Numerous geographical and cultural details, such as the reference to Angelica Kauffmann (Ch. II) or the long quotation attributed to Uçaf Uddaul (Ch. XIV) [23] are gone. Many comic moments are cut, including Fogg’s dispute with a waiter in India (Ch. X), the wig exchange between Judge Obadiah and Mr. Oysterpuf (Ch. XV), and various narratorial asides: the admission that « l'excentricité a du bon! » (Ch. I), the explanation of Madame Tussaud’s waxworks (Ch. II), or the comment about William Hitch preaching « jusqu’en chemin de fer » (Ch. XXVII). Passepartout’s “atrocious but perhaps original pun” (as Verne calls it in the title of Ch. XXXIV) is likewise omitted, though here the translator is in good company; no translator seems to have attempted to recreate it in English until William Butcher in 1995, followed by Michael Glencross and Frederick Paul Walter. [24]

Other omissions, often larger ones, deal with the inner life of Verne’s characters: the thought-centered paragraphs beginning « Il est opportun de faire connaître… » (Ch. XI), « Une pensée au milieu de bien d’autres… » (Ch. XII) and « Le brigadier général aurait voulu pouvoir lire… » (Ch. XIII) are gone completely, as are Aouda’s impressions of Fogg (Ch. XXIV). Passepartout is especially poorly treated: so many of his asides, thoughts, and actions are deleted, ranging from his sleeping through a discussion of his misadventure (Ch. XI) to his opinions of polygamy (Ch. XXVII), that one is left wondering if the Portland staff feared a French character would be uninteresting to their Maine readership.

By streamlining away so many cultural reference points, humorous passages, and psychological glimpses, the translation presents a straightforward narrative, concentrating on the characters’ actions and interactions, especially their linear movement forward. It remains unclear whether these omissions were chosen by the translator or dictated, like the Courrier’s, by available print space. A few omissions are so clumsily done that a last-minute typesetting decision seems the most reasonable explanation: for example, the Portland translator mentions the “adverse article” printed by the Royal Geographical Society, but the earlier paragraph in which that article is actually described has been cut (Ch. V). The printer is probably also to blame for freely adding and removing paragraph breaks in the text, a surprisingly common affliction among Verne’s English translations. While surely useful for squeezing the story into newspaper columns, the practice is one that often changes the implied rhythm of the narrative.

Some of the Portland translator’s changes are not cuts but additions or replacements, many of them evidently aimed at making the French text more accessible to an English-reading audience. Passepartout’s name is defined in-text (Ch. I), an intervention helpful to non-Francophones but rare in English texts; Frederick Paul Walter’s version may be the only other English translation to include it on the same page. [25] Rather than leaving “Frontins or Mascarilles” undefined in the text, our translator replaces them outright with the gloss “a valet of comedy” (Ch. II). Gauthier Ralph is anglicized to Walter Ralph, a choice later made by Jacqueline and Robert Baldick as well as Frederick Paul Walter (Ch. III) [25] Kamerfield, usually respelled Camerfield in English translations to make an attested Anglo-Saxon name (Ch. XXV), here becomes the similarly real, though less common, Cammerfield. Even the ship name Tankadère (a French neologism for “Tanka boatwoman”), though not glossed, is respelled Tankadare so that a non-Francophone can pronounce it more or less accurately (Chs. XX–XXI). The Anglicizing is, however, inconsistent: Oysterpuf, changed by most early translators to the more English-looking Oysterpuff, is left here with only one f (Ch. XV). Similarly, Chester cheese, recognized by most translators as meaning Cheshire cheese, remains unchanged (Ch. III).

Other creative choices spring from the translator handling the non-Vernian eccentricities of the Courrier text. Verne’s less-than-credible formulation “Mrs. Aouda,” normalized in some translations to “Aouda” or even “Lady Aouda,” is a non-issue in the Portland text, which simply uses the Courrier’s « Madame Aouda » [27] The Courrier’s Jacques Strand becomes Jack Strand, a plausible-sounding name for a London thief—arguably more effective than Verne’s “James” (Ch. XXXVI). [28] The Courrier’s « célèbres patriarches », already a change from Verne’s « célèbres Égyptiens », is rejected in favor of a third option: “celebrated prophets” (Ch. XXVII). A morsel of crosstalk dialogue between Fix and Passepartout in Suez, because it was crushed by the Courrier into a single difficult-to-read paragraph, is misinterpreted here as a single stream-of-consciousness line babbled by Passepartout (Ch. VIII).

The Portland text is also scattered with outright errors of ignorance and negligence. The « bonhommes » at Madame Tussaud’s become the “puppets” of “Madame Sussaud’s show” (Ch. II). “Scotland Place,” a Gallicization for Scotland Yard, is left uncorrected, but the Portland translator was not the only one not to recognize it; Stephen W. White mistranslated it as “Scotland Square” (Ch. V). [29] Peculiar word choices often obscure Verne’s meaning: for example, partenaires is translated “friends” rather than “whist partners” (Ch. X), making hash of Verne’s earlier assertion that Fogg had no friends (Ch. I). Sloppy typesetting is most likely to blame for some errors, such as Fogg’s “What time are you?” rather than “What time have you?” (Ch. I), or “savior” capitalized in nineteenth-century religious style as “Savior,” comically implying Jesus Christ rather than Phileas Fogg (Ch. XX). One homophonic error, a “Hear” translating « Voici » where “Here” would be expected (Ch. XIX), suggests dictation at some stage, either by the translator preparing the manuscript or by a printer’s aide reading to the typesetter. Dictation might also explain a few eccentric and unnecessary spelling changes, such as Singow for Tingou (Ch. XXIII; in modern Japanese transliteration, the word is Tengu) and Procter for Proctor (Ch. XXV–XXX), but the point is far from certain.

The Portland translation is also strikingly original in its punctuation: the first three installments pullulate with dashes, creating a rushed, breathless effect markedly unlike the tongue-in-cheek composure of the original. Chapter VII goes so far as to end with a dash, sending the reader right into the next chapter. (The translator’s writing habit may have been to use variously sized dashes alongside and in place of standard punctuation, as Emily Dickinson and many other nineteenth-century writers did.) The dashes diminish in the fourth installment and are largely phased out by the fifth, suggesting that another typesetter, or another protocol for punctuating authors’ manuscripts, took over.


To sum up the new findings:

(1) The first known publication of TM in America or Britain was not an English translation, but a French serialization in Le Courrier des États-Unis, based on the Le Temps text. However, the Courrier version makes numerous changes, including severe cuts, original narrative adjustments, and rewordings intended to remove Verne’s Anglicisms.

(2) The first known English translation of the novel, Round the World on a Wager, was based not on a text approved by Verne, but on the altered Courrier version, which it alters and especially cuts still further.

(3) Both of these variant versions are intriguing examples of early readership engaging, in a creative though textually dubious way, with Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours, just as that novel was on its way to becoming an international success.

One final point suggested by this investigation: a more general reminder that many literary discoveries likely remain to be made in historical archives, as scholars and fans gradually explore digitized collections and library holdings. The Courrier and Portland texts, both available online as part of historical newspaper databases, are a good example of such intriguing texts hiding almost in plain sight, ready to be rediscovered and reconsidered.

There is, perhaps appropriately, more than a little evocation of TM and Verne’s whole Voyages extraordinaires series in this notion. On reaching America, Phileas Fogg’s fictional journey is overtly a composite of existing texts, ideas, and stereotypes related to the American West, but it is a composite that, in its fresh rereading, reassembling, and repurposing of its source material, itself becomes a voyage of discovery. [30] As Jean-Michel Margot memorably points out, the pattern of the Voyages is not simply to “outline” or “recount” existing knowledge, as Hetzel famously claimed in his description of the series, but to guide the reader on an inventive new experience through artful arrangement of this knowledge, revealing how many mysteries and possible further journeys remain even in seemingly well-covered territory. [31] Or, as a modern cartoonist puts it in a charming poem: “the most exciting new frontier is charting what’s already here.” [32]


Translations cited



  1. Evans, Arthur B. “A Bibliography of Jules Verne’s English Translations.” Science Fiction Studies XXXII:1 #95 (March 2005), 115. ^
  2. Burgaud, Phillippe, Jean-Michel Margot, and Brian Taves. “Introduction.” Around the World in 80 Days: The 1874 Play. By Jules Verne. Albany, GA: BearManor, 2012, 23–24. ^
  3. Evans, Arthur B. “Jules Verne’s America.” Extrapolation 48:1 (2006), 36–37. ^
  4. Costello, Peter. “Notes,” in Verne, Around the World (1994), 215. (For ease of reference, translations of TM are cited in full at the end of the article.) ^
  5. Butcher, William. “Introduction,” in Verne, Around the World (1995), vii–viii, xi. ^
  6. Author’s conversation with NAJVS member James Keeline, who has carried out extensive research on Verne in newspapers. On early biographers’ fabrications, see Arthur B. Evans’s “Jules Verne and the French Literary Canon,” in Jules Verne: Narratives of Modernity, ed. Edmund J. Smyth (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2000), 22–23. For the novel’s publication dates, see Volker Dehs, Jean-Michel Margot and Zvi Har’El, “The Complete Jules Verne Bibliography: I. Voyages Extraordinaires,” Zvi Har’El’s Jules Verne Collection (2007), ^
  7. Evans, “Bibliography,” 115. ^
  8. Wolcott, Norman. “The Victorian Translators of Verne: Mercier to Metcalfe.” Paper given at the Jules Verne Mondial, March 2005. ^
  9. As Keeline has suggested, there is a good chance she was related to one of the staff of the newspaper (author’s conversation with Keeline). ^
  10. “About The Portland daily press. (Portland, Me.) 1862-1921.” Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. The Library of Congress: ^
  11. Verne, Jules. Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours. 1872. MS. Bibliothèque municipale de Nantes, mjv B 104.
    Verne, Jules. Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours. 1872. MS. Bibliothèque Nationale de France, NAF 16998: ^
  12. Keeline, James. “Verne in Newspapers,” privately circulated. As Keeline has pointed out in conversation, the Courrier printed the feuilleton in classic French style, in regular blocks at the bottom of the newspaper page. ^
  13. Beal, Shelley. “Courrier des États-Unis, Le (1828–1939).” France and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History. Ed. Bill Marshall and Cristina Johnston. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2005, p. 314. ^
  14. “The Courrier des Etats-Unis.” The New York Times, April 27, 1860: ^
  15. Following his usual practice, Hetzel brought out an unillustrated in-18 edition some months before; see Dehs, Margot, and Har’El, “Bibliography.” The in-18 features most of the in-8º’s modifications, but not all. ^
  16. Since Pierre Aronnax had already stayed at the Fifth Avenue Hotel at the beginning of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (Pt. I, Ch. II), it is tempting to imagine that Verne made the change to avoid repeating himself. Ironically, by the time of TM, the St. Nicholas Hotel’s fortunes were in considerable decline; Verne’s original choice would have been more plausible. ^
  17. For similar reasons of space, a few of Verne’s paragraph divisions are removed and a few new ones are added—though the paragraph differences are far less drastic than those found in many English translations, including the Portland Daily Press version discussed below. ^
  18. However, not all proper names are de-Anglicized. Verne’s « Porte d’Or », though given in French, is also glossed in parentheses as “Golden Gate” (Ch. XXIV). The Le Temps spelling “Broodway” is also corrected, as it is in the in-8º, to “Broadway” (Ch. XXV), and “Lake Salt” is consistently corrected to “Salt Lake” (Chs. XXXVI–XXXVII). ^
  19. After serialization, “English” was amended to “Englishman!,” but the Courrier staff were not the only readers unsatisfied with Verne’s version of the exchange; the Butcher and Baldick translations both change Proctor’s exclamation to the WWI-era “Limey!” (Verne, Around the World [1968], 134; Verne, Around the World [1995], 138). In either language, a plausible argument can be made for Verne’s version, given the appropriately tongue-in-cheek implication that Proctor considers the mere word “Englishman!” to be a crushing insult. ^
  20. Verne, Around the World (1995), 238. ^
  21. Wolcott, Norman. “Tour of the World in Eighty Days—Errors.” Message to the Jules Verne Forum, August 8, 2008: ^
  22. All block quotations from the Courrier have been translated into English using DeepL software, and adapted with the help of John Kinch, retired Professor of English, when accuracy was needed. They are followed by the corresponding translation published in the Portland Daily Press. ^
  23. Almost certainly Asaf-ud-Daula (1748–1797), as Marie-Hélène Huet notes; see Jules Verne, Voyages extraordinaires : Michel Strogoff et autres romans (Paris: Editions Gallimard, 2017), 1087–1088. ^
  24. Verne, Around the World (1995), 190; Verne, Around the World (2004), 215; Verne, Around the World (2013), 202. ^
  25. Verne, Around the World (2013), 4. ^
  26. Verne, Around the World (1968), 9 onward; Verne, Around the World (2013), 9 onward. ^
  27. “Aouda” in Verne, Tour of the World (1873), 103 onward, and Verne, Around the World (1968), 66 onward; “Lady Aouda” in Verne, Around the World (2013), 70 onward. ^
  28. “Jack Strand”, to a modern English-language reader, has the advantage of evoking the numerous legendary English criminals known by nicknames, from Jack Sheppard (cited by Verne in Ch. VI) to Jack the Ripper (postdating the novel). Of course, it is possible Verne aimed deliberately to subvert this convention with a more formal name, suiting Strand’s gentlemanly appearance. ^
  29. Verne, Tour of the World (1887), 37. ^
  30. Excellent discussions of this theme in Verne’s novels can be found in Timothy Unwin’s Jules Verne: Journeys in Writing (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2005), 72–5, and Marie-Héléne Huet’s “Engineering Fiction,” Verniana 9 (2016–17): 29–41. ^
  31. Margot, Jean-Michel. “Loitering with Jules Verne.” Extraordinary Voyages 23:2 (Winter 2017): 1–6. ^
  32. Munroe, Randall. Alt text for “Desert Island,” xkcd 731 (April 23, 2010): ^




Alex Kirstukas ( is a Trustee of the North American Jules Verne Society and the editor of its peer-reviewed newsletter Extraordinary Voyages. His Verne translations include Robur the Conqueror (Wesleyan University Press, 2017) and “About the Géant” and “Twenty-Four Minutes in a Balloon” for Worlds Known and Unknown (BearManor, 2018). ^