Introduction to the 1928
Sampson Low Verne titles.
In the year I928, we shall be celebrating the centenary of the birth of Jules Verne, so that four generations of girls and boys have been thrilled by the adventures narrated by this magician.
To-day, fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers look back to the happy years when they were devouring Jules Verne's bewitching tales, and it happens in this way, that whenever they see the name of Jules Verne, their minds return to past years, to the time when they were young, and when they read through these wonderbooks with feverish haste, and then began to read them again. Yes, those were happy times; and the old folks wish that the winter nights, when they sat opposite a blazing fire, reading Jules Verne, could return once more.
In those times, in spite of our admiration of Jules Verne, and of our devotion to his books, some of us used to laugh at a mistake into which he fell, when he told us that a number of his Scottish heroes were quaffing foaming tankards of whisky; but this was a slip that was natural to Jules Verne, for he was not familiar with Scotland, nor with whisky, having been born in the French town of Nantes, far away from the Highlands.
When Jules Verne was a boy, Nantes was even more interesting than it is now, for many of its old buildings and picturesque streets have been swept away; but it is likely that the great estuary of the River Loire, with its shipping, had more interest for Jules Verne than the ancient buildings; and the sea itself is only thirty-five miles away from Nantes, so that here were many things to fascinate a romantic boy like the future author of Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea.
Many things have happened since that memorably story was written, for it must not be forgotten that the boys who read Jules Verne's tales at the time that he wrote them, had no idea that some of these seemingly wild dreams would come true. There were no submarines then of the kind that we know to-day; no airships or aeroplanes; thus when Jules Verne wrote his Clipper of the Clouds, he did not know that some of his young readers would live to see such things sailing over their heads.
Jules Verne was many years before he found where his strength lay. He was educated at Nantes; and then he went to Paris to study law. Next he began to write plays and comedies, some of which reached the stage; and it was not until the year 1863, when he was thirty-five years of age, that he went to a publisher in Paris with a story entitled Five Weeks in a Balloon, and so began that very long list of books by which he had become famous.
By the year 1870, this tale of the balloon had been translated into our own tongue. Thus the girls and boys of the English-speaking world could share in the joys of the French children. Like the books that followed, it was translated into all the European and other languages, so that Jules Verne achieved world-wide fame; and for the next thirty years he wrote at least one book each year, and sometimes two, with the result that soon the British boy had more than fifty books by Jules Verne from which to choose; and hundreds of thousands of these volumes were sold in Great Britain alone, to say nothing of the sale in America, in France, and in the other countries of Europe.
There is a legend of the demon Asmodeus, who by stretching out a hand could cause the roofs of the city to open, so that the doings of the people might be revealed. If Asmodeus could have flown rapidly enough over Europe and America during the nineteenth-century seventies, when many of Jules Verne's early books were being published, he would have seen innumerable American, English, French, Italian, German and other boys, in countless homes, reading eagerly the wonderful creations of the French scientist.
It is clear that Jules Verne must soon have become a rich man; and yet he had no desire to change his way of living, no ambition to play the grand gentleman. Eggs and vegetables formed his favourite fare, and he delighted to live in Le Saint Michel, a small yacht of eight or ten tons, in which was a large chest that contained the boat's library. A writer who gave an account of this yacht stated that " on the bridge is a gun which they never fire without commanding their souls to God, so great is their fear that it will burst. M. Verne devotes all the time that he can steal from his work to this yacht; and the library, incomplete as it is, enables him to continue his researches." On board this yacht, Jules Verne thought out some of his wonderful romances. Usually his trips were from Crotoy to Havre but at times she took in more provisions and fared forth to the coasts of Normandy, Brittany. and even of England.
Early in the year 1886, Jules Verne was severely wounded by a bullet from a pistol, fired accidentally by his nephew. In this way, after having given delight to countless boys, it might have happened that a boy would have been the death of him; but though our author was lamed, his life was spared, and he lived to write more of his entrancing romances.
About fifty years of his life as an author were spent in the beautiful old city of Amiens, where Jules Verne served as a city councillor; and he lived quietly, rising at five o'clock in the morning to go on with his work, and very rarely went even to Paris for a change.
Each reader will decide for himself which of Jules Verne's captivating stories he likes best; but the critics mention The Mysterious Island and Around the World in Eighty Days as the books which stand apart from the others. Some of our most attractive stories are about islands: Robinson Crusoe and Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, and Verne's alluring story, The Mysterious Island, is fit to rank with these. Under this one title we have a group of three separate volumes. First comes Dropped from the Clouds, then Abandoned, and the whole narrative is completed by The Secret of the Island. The boy who embarks upon the reading of these three books has a long period of excitement and delight stretching in front of him; and if he has these three books only, and no others, no one need pity him. The very numerous pictures, too, in these three memorable volumes are very arresting.
Jules Verne died on March 24, 1905, when he was seventy-seven years of age, and he left a long list of books, including the following :-
Five Weeks in a Balloon; A Journey to the Centre Of the Earth; Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea From the Earth to the Moon and a Trip Round it; The English at the North Pole; Merediana, Adventures Of Three English and Three Russians; Dr. Ox's Experiment, and other Stories; A Floating City; The Blockade Runners; Around the World in Eighty Days; The Fur Country , or Seven Degrees North Latitude; The Mysterious Island; The Survivors of the “ Chancellor", the Diary of J. R.. Kaxallon; Martin Paz; Field of Ice; Child of the Cavern; Michael Strogoff; A Voyage Round the World; Hector Servadac; Dick Sands, the Boy Captain; Celebrated Travels and Travellers; The Great Navigators of the Eighteenth Century; Tribulations of a Chinaman; The Begum’s Fortune The Steam House The Giant Raft; Godfrey Morgan; The Green Ray The Vanished Diamond; The Archipelago on Fire Mathias Sandorf; Keraban the Inflexible; The Lottery Ticket; Clipper of the Clouds; The Flight to France, or Memoirs of a Dragoon North against South, a Story of the American Civil War Adrift in the Pacific Caesar Cascabel; The Purchase of the North Pole; A Family without a Name; Mistress Branican; Claudius Bombarnoc; Foundling Mick; Clovis Dardentor; For the Flag; An Arctic Mystery. The authorised publishers in this country are Messrs. Sampson Low, Marston & Co., Ltd., Southwark Street, London, S.E.1.
Commenting upon this list, Mr. Edward Marston once wrote: "Of course, as may be said in the case of every author, these works are not all of equal merit; it may also be said that not one is devoid of merit: all are the result of the constant and persevering labour of a man of genius, of high attainments in the realm of science. On this scientific foundation he has written many of his semi-scientific books in which, while the science has the semblance of mathematical accuracy, the results are sometimes amusingly strange and grotesque and sometimes terribly tragic, but always of enthralling interest."