To The Centre of the Earth
Among the most popular of all the modern writers of France, in his way, is Jules Verne, who for three or four years past, has been solving that difficult problem of "combining instruction with amusement," in the most adroit and successful manner.
The first of his peculiar books, "Five Weeks in a Balloon," has been translated in America. His second production, entitled "A Trip to the Centre of the Earth," is now before us, and, as a scientific fantasy, we find it sufficiently peculiar, original, and amusing.
Monsieur Verne makes travelling companions of wit and erudition, and, while satirizing the wild vagaries of mere theorists, manages to convey a vast amount of practical instruction and adorn his pages with some of the most vivid and striking descriptions of things known and unknown, possible and impossible, that the imagination can depict.
The wild life and scenery of Iceland he makes a fitting preliminary to the cescent of his heroes toward the earth's centre, through the open crater of an extinct volcano, and then follow "hair-breadth 'scapes and ventures perilous" without number in the vast interior world, where they find an electric sky electrically illuminated, and vast seas, plains, and mountains, covered with antediluvian growth, and peopled with monsters who disported on the surface of our planet before the Flood. Then ensue terrific tempests; combats of the pre-Adamitic wild beasts on land and water, and, after nameless vicissitudes, the excape of the travellers upward tot he surface again, through an active volcano, in another quarter of the globe.
That M. Verne has secured sufficient room for the play of his imagination, in this work, will hardly be contested, and, at the same time, he has manifested profound scientific erudition, as well as sparkling and playful fancy.
But, in order that our readers may have a foretaste of this curious literary freak, which has amused so vast a host of scientific and un scientific people in Europe, we briefly introduce and quote a few passages. These are taken almost at random, however, for the book is equally bizarre throughout.
The story -- for a story is made the graceful connecting thread that holds the incidents together -- opens in the queer old city of Hamburg, and introduces us to Professor Lidenbrock, an enthusiastic antiquarian and naturalist, and Axel, his nephew, a roguish youth, whom the professor is trying to train up in the path of science, but who has a much more decided tendency to fine clothes, sunny promenades, and a certain little Grauben, his cousin, and Lidenbrock's niece. Axel and Grauben are both in their teens, and their mutual tenderness has only just reached the pastoral stage when the professor becomes deeply engrossed in some new investigation that upsets all his usual ways and habits, vastly tribulates old Martha, his sexagenarian housekeeper, and overclouds Master Axel's felicity, bu giving him musty work to do in the library and study.
"This study," writes Axel, who is supposed to offer us the whole narration, "was a veritable museum. All the specimens of the mineral kingdom were there ticketed in the most perfect order, according to the three grand divisions of inflammable, metallic, and lithoid minerals. How well I knew all those epitomes of mineralogical science! How often, instead of frolicking with boys of my age, I had amused myself with dusting those graphites, those anthracites, those fossil coals, whose lignites, those fragments of peat and turf! And then there were the bitumens, the resins, and organic salts, that had to be kept clear of every atom of dust. And the metals, too, from iron to gold, the special importance of which disappeared in the absolute equality of value prevailing among scientific specimens. And all those stones that were in quantity enough to rebuild our old house in Konigstrasse, and even add a handsome room to it, which would have suited me so well!"
..... more to come.... A Nash