Jules Verne Forum



RE: 20000 Leagues

From: BUTCHER, Charles William <wbutcher~at~eng.ied.edu.hk>
Date: Sat, 4 Apr 1998 11:57:16 +0800
To: "'jvf '" <jvf~at~math.technion.ac.il>, "'Norman Wolcott '" <nwolcott~at~kreative.net>

Dear Norman,

I was very interested to read these comments and this translation

The comments on the work are spot on. This is one of the most complex
passages in the book.

For the translation, I found it very good in general, but have spotted
the following minor points

"I regarded this hall with a sincere admiration so
ingeniously furnished": change the word order?

"Agassis": replace by Agassiz

"Arronax": replace by Aronnax.


Bill Butcher

From: Norman Wolcott
To: jvf
Sent: 4/3/98 10:53:28 PM
Subject: 20000 Leagues

Here is a translation I made of the missing Chapter 11 of 20000 Leagues(
Nautilus). Although this is a very amateur translation do to my limited
knowledge of french and lack of a large dictionary (only a pocket at
nonetheless this was a very interesting exercise and led me to the
following points:
  1. The converational part of Verne is almost trivial, being of the
"I said" "He said" variety.
  2. On the other hand the descriptive parts can be quite complex.
of the description is not really in sentences but more in the way of
of consciousness writing, as though one were just listing things which
to mind.
  3. Verne's later preoccupation with death shows itself in this
where Captain Nemo declares that he is dead and has left the world.
  4. Samson and Low translation is interesting--when confronted with a
whole page of shell names and descriptions, the translator replaces them
all with the sentence "-and all fragile shells to which science has
appropriate names"! I guess he was getting tired of using his
  5. Translating a chapter gives you the flavor of the french original,
which I have tried to retain in the translation. In some cases I have
changed the meaning from that of S and L, for example concerning the
arrangement of books in the library, where I feel that S and L have
misinterpreted Verne's intent, which was I am sure to show the vast
knowledge of Captain Nemo.
  6. Naturalists and others are welcome to improve on this to see how
a translation the amateur (means lover in french) can produce. Also
attached are the 3 GIF's of the library, the salon, and the room of



Captain Nemo arose. I followed him. A double door,
arranged at the rear of the hall, opened, and I entered
into a chamber of dimensions equal to that which I had just

It was a library. From high up fixtures of dark rosewood,
inlaid with copper, supported on their large shelves a
great number of books uniformly bound. They followed the
curvature of the hall and terminated at their lower part in
vast divans, upholstered with chestnut colored leather,
which offered contours most comfortable. Moveable lecterns,
moved out of the way or nearer according to wish, permitted
placement of a book for reading. At the center stood a vast
table, covered with pamphlets, among which appeared some
newspapers already out of date. The electrical light
inundated all this harmonious ensemble, and fell from four
unpolished globes recessed half way into the volutes of the
ceiling.(see gif of room) I regarded this hall with a sincere admiration
ingeniously furnished, and I could hardly believe my eyes.

"Captain Nemo", I said to my host, who stretched himself
out on a divan, "behold a library which would do honor to
more than one continental palace, and I am really
astonished when I imagine that it can follow you to the
most profound depths of the sea.

--Where else would you find more solitude, more silence, M.
professor? responded Captain Nemo. Does your Museum reading
room offer such complete quiet?

--No, monsieur, and I ought to add that it is very meager
compared to yours. You possess at least six or seven
thousand volumes...
--Twelve thousand, M. Arronax. They are the sole ties which
attach me to the earth. But the world had finished for me
the day when my 'Nautilus' plunged for the first time under
the waters. That day then, I purchased my last books, my
last magazines, my last newspapers, and since then I wish
to believe that humanity has neither thought nor written.
The books, M. Professor, are moreover at your disposal, and
you may use them freely.

I thanked Captain Nemo, and I approached the shelves of the
library. Books of science, of morality, and of literature,
written in all languages, in great number, but I did not
see a single work of political economy; the topic seemed to
be severely prohibited on board. A curious detail: all the
books were indiscriminately classified, no matter what
language they were written in, and this mixture showed that
the captain of the 'Nautilus' ought to be able to read
fluently any volume which he should chance to pick up.

Amongst these works, I noted the chief works of ancient and
modern masters, that is to say all that which humanity had
produced of consequence in history, poetry, novels, and of
science, from Homer up to Victor Hugo, from Xenophon to
Michelet, from Rabelais to Madame Sand. But the sciences,
more particularly, were the cream of this library; the
books on mechanics, on ballistics, on hydrography, on
meteorology, on geography, on geology, etc., held a place
not less important than the historical works of natural
history, and I saw that these formed the principal work of
the captain. I saw there all of Humboldt, all of Arago, the
works of Foucault, of Henry Sainte-Claire Deville, of
Chasles, of Milne-Edwards, of Quatrefages, of Tyndall, of
Faraday, of Berthelot, of Abbe Secchi, of Petermann, of
Commander Maury, of Agassis, etc., the memoirs of the
Academy of Sciences, the bulletins of the diverse
geographical societies, etc., and in the front row the two
volumes which have perhaps been equal to this relatively
charitable welcome of Captain Nemo. Among the works of
Joseph Bertrand, his book entitled the "Foundations of
Astronomy' gave me a certain date; and as I knew that it
had appeared in the course of 1865, I was able to conclude
that the installation of the 'Nautilus' did not go past an
earlier time. Therefore Captain Nemo had commenced his
submarine existence three years ago, or a little more. I
hoped moreover that the works more recent would permit me
again to fix the date, exactly, but I did (not) have the
time to perform this research, and I did not wish to delay
any longer our promenade traversing the marvels of the

"Monsieur, I said to the Captain, I thank you for having
placed this library at my disposition. There are here all
the treasures of science, and I intend to profit (by them).

--This hall is not only a library, said Captain Nemo, it is
also a smoking lounge.

--A smoking lounge? I exclaimed. One can then smoke on

--Without doubt.

--Then I am forced to believe that you have preserved your
relations with Havana.

--Not at all, replied the captain. Accept this cigar,
Monsieur Arronax, and although it does not come from Havana
you will be satisfied, if you are a connisseur."

I took the cigar which he offered to me, and whose form
resembled that of a London (cigar); but it appeared to be
manufactured with leaves of gold (color). I lit it with a
small brazier which supported an elegant pedastel of
bronze, and I inhaled the first puffs with the pleasure of an
aficianado who has not smoked for two days.

"It is excellent, I said, but it is not made of tobacco.

--No, replied the captain, this tobacco comes neither from
Havana nor from the Orient. It is a sort of algae, rich in
nicotine, which the sea furnishes me, not without some
difficulty. Do you regret your Londoners, monsieur?

--Captain, I despise them from this day on.

--Smoke according to your fantasy then, and without
discussing the origin of these cigars. No government agency
controls them, but they are not the less good, I imagine.

--On the contrary.

At this moment captain Nemo opened a door which faced that
by which I had entered the library, and I passed into a
salon immense and splendidly illuminated.

It was a vast quadrilateral, of length ten meters, width
six, and height five. An illuminated ceiling, decorated
with light arabesques, distributed a pleasing daylight on
all the marvels accumulated into this museum. For it was
really a museum in which a hand both intelligent and
prodigious had reunited all the treasures of nature and of
art, with the disorganized artistry which distinguishes an
artist's studio.

About thirty paintings of masters, in uniform frames,
separated by sparkling draperies, ornamented the walls hung
with tapestries of a severe design. I saw there canvases of
very great value, and which, for the most part, I have
admired in the particular collections of Europe and at
expositions of painting. The diverse schools of old masters
were represented by a madonna of Raphael, a virgin of
Leonardo da Vinci, a nymph of Corregio, a woman of Titian,
an adoration of Veronese, an assumption of Murillo, a
portrait of Holbein, a monk of Velasquez, a martyr of
Ribera, a fete of Rubens, two flemish landscapes of Tenier,
three small paintings in the style of Gerard Dow, of Metsu,
of Paul Potter, two carpets of Gericault and of Prudhen,
some seascapes of Backuysen and Vernet. Among the works of
the modern painters appeared pictures signed by Delacroix,
Ingres, Decamp, Troyon, Meisonnier, Daubigny, etc., and
several admirable small reproductions of statues in marble
and bronze, after the beatutiful models of antiquity, stood
on their pedastels in the corners of this magnificent

"Monsieur professor, said then this strange man, you will
excuse the familiarity with which I have received you, and
the disorder which reigns in this salon.

--Monsieur, I replied, without enquiring to know who you
are, is it permissible for me to recognize in you an

--An amateur, more or less, monsieur. I formerly loved to
collect the beautiful works created by the hand of man. I
was an avid collector, an indefatigable ferret, and I have
been able to assemble such objects at a high price. They
are my last souvenirs of this earth which is dead for me.
To my eyes, your modern artists are no more than the
ancients; they have two or three thousand years of
existence, and I confuse them all in my mind. The masters
do not have an 'age'.

--And the musicians? I said, showing the scores of Weber,
of Rossini, of Mozart, of Beethoven, of Haydn, of Myerbeer,
of Herold, of Wagner, of Auber, of Gounod, and a number of
others scattered on a piano-organ of large model which
occupied the side panel of the salon.

--These musicians, replied Captain Nemo to me, are the
contemporaries of Orpheus, as the chronological differences
disappear in the memory of death, --and I am dead, M.
Professor, just as dead as those of your friends who repose
six feet under the earth!"

Captain Nemo sat down and appeared lost in a profound
reverie. I observed him with a sharp emotion, analyzing in
silence the strangeness of his expression. Leaning on his
elbow on the corner of a valuable mosaic table, he no
longer saw me, he had forgotten my presence.

I observed this contemplation, and I continued to review
the curiosities which enriched this salon.

After the works of art, the rarities of nature held a place
most important. They consisted mostly of plants, of shells
and other productions of the ocean, which ought to be the
personal work of Captain Nemo. In the middle of the salon,
a jet of water, electrically illuminated, fell back toward
a vessel made of a single triadene. This shell, provided by
the largest of acephalous molluscs, measured on the
outside, delicately festooned, a circumference of
approximately six meters; it surpassed in grandeur the
beautiful tridacnes which were donated by Francis I of the
Republic of Venice, and where the church of Saint-Sulpice,
in Paris, has made two gigantic holy water vessels.

Around this vessel, under the elegant glass cases attached
by bands of copper, were classified and labeled the most
precious products of the sea which never had been found in
the books of a naturalist. One could conceive my joy as a

The branch of zoophytes offered very curious specimens of
the two groups of polyps and of echinoderms. In the first
group, the tubipores, the gorgones disposed as in a fan,
the soft sponges of Syria, the ises of the Molluccas, the
pennatules, an admirable virgularria of the Norwegian seas,
a variety of ombellulairiae, of alcyonaraae, a whole series
of madrepores which my director Milne-Edwards has so
elegantly classified in sections, and among which I
remarked the adorable flabellines, the oculinae of the
Island of Bourbon, the "ear of Neptune" of the Antilles,
superb varieties of coral, finally all species of curious
polyps whose assemblage form entire islands, which one day
will become continents. Of the echinoderms, remarkable for
their spiny coat, asteri, sea stars, pantacrinae,
comatules, asterophons, oursins, holothuri, etc.,
represented the complete collection of individuals in this

A slightly nervous conchyologist would certainly have
fainted before the other most numerous cases where were
classified the specimens of the branch of molluscs. I saw a
collection of inestimable value, and for which time lacks
to describe in entirety. Among there products, I cite, from
memory only, --the elegant marteau royal of the Indian
Ocean, whose regular white spots stand out vividly against
a background of red and brown, --an imperial spondel, with
vivid colors, all bristling with spines, a rare specimen in
the european museums, and whose value I estimate at twenty
thousand francs, --a common marteau of New-Holland, which
one only obtains with difficulty, some exotic buccards of
Senegal, fragile white bivalve shells which a breath would
fracture like a soap bubble, --several varieties of
arrosores of Java, some sorts of calcified tubes bordered
with leafy folds, and much disputed by amateurs, --a whole
series of troques, one yellow-green, fished from the seas
of the Americas, the others brown-red, friend of the waters
of New Holland, these, coming from the Gulf of Mexico,and
remarkable for their imbricated shells, those stellari
found in the southern ocean, and finally, most rare of all,
the magnificent "eperon" of New Zealand; then the admirable
sulphurous tellines, precious species of cytheres of Venus,
the trellissed dial of the coast of Tranquebar, the marble
shoes of resplendent mother of pearl, the green parrot of
the coast of China, the conical shell almost unknown of the
genus Coenodulli, all variety of porcelain which serves as
money in the Indes and in Africa, "the Glory of the Sea",
the most precious shell of the East Indes; --and finally
the periwinkels, the dolphins, the turritelles, the
jamthines, the ovules, the volutes, the olives, the mitres,
the helmets, the purples. The buccins, the harps, the
rocks, the newts, the cerites, the fuses, the strombes, the
pteroceres, the limpets, hyales, the cleodores, shells
delicate and fragile, which science has christened with
these most pleasing names.

On the side, and in special compartments, were unrolled
some beads of pearls of great beauty, which the electrical
light struck as points of fire, the pink pearls, extracted
from the marine pinnes of the Red Sea, green pearls of the
haliotyde iris, yellow, blue, and black pearls, curious
products of various molluscs of all the oceans and certain
mussels of the Northern currents, and finally several
specimens of inestimable value which have been filtered
from the rarest of pintadines. Several of these pearls
surpassed in size a pigeon's egg, they were valued beyond
that which the voyager Tavernier paid three millions to the
Shah of Persia, and surpassed the other pearls of the Iman
of Muscat, which I believe to be without rival on the

Therefore to put a numerical value on this collection was,
so to say, impossible. Captain Nemo had at his disposal
millions to acquire these diverse specimens, and I did not
ask from what source he was able to satisfy such fantasies
of a collector, because I was interrupted by these words:

"You examine my shells, Monsieur Professor, in fact they
would interest a naturalist; but for me, they have even
more charm for I have gathered them all with my own hand,
and there is not a single sea of the globe which has
escaped my researches.

--I understand, captain, I understand that joy of moving
about in the midst of such riches. You are one of those who
have made their treasure by themselves. Not a museum in
Europe possesses even a semblance of this collection of
products of the ocean. But if I exhaust my admiration on
these, what will remain for the boat which carries them! I
do not want to penetrate the secrets which are yours!
Nevertheless I would avow that the 'Nautilus', the motive
force which resides in it, the apparatus which permits it
to maneuver, the agent which makes it possible to move, all
this excites my curiosity to the highest point. I see
suspended on the walls of this salon some instruments whose
function is to me unknown. Would it be possible to know...

--Monsieur Arronax, replied Captain Nemo to me, I have said
to you that you would be free on board, and consequently no
part of the 'Nautilus' is forbidden to you.

--I do not know to thank you, monsieur, but I will not
abuse your kindness. I would only ask for what usage these
instruments of physics are destined. . .

Monsieur Professor, these same instruments are also to be
found in my room, and it is there I would like the pleasure
of explaining to you their mode of employ. But first come
visit the cabin which is reserved for you. It may be that
you would like to know how you will be installed on board
the "Nautilus".

I followed Captain Nemo, who had me return into the
hallways of the boat through one of the doors pierced into
each side panel of the salon, and there I found not a
cabin, but an elegant chamber with light, toilet, and
diverse other furniture.

I could not but thank my host.

"Your room is contiguous with mine, he said, on opening a
portal, and mine goes into the salon which we just left."

I entered into the chamber of the captain. It had an
severe aspect, almost cenobotic. An iron bedstead, a work
table, some articles of toiletry. All illuminated by a
skylight. Nothing of comfort. The strictly necessary, only.

N M Wolcott nwolcott~at~post.harvard.edu (primary mail forwarding
2 meg max); nwolcott~at~capaccess.org (2ndary forwarder,?max)
nwolcott~at~kreative.net (current ISP, system max)

N M Wolcott nwolcott~at~post.harvard.edu (primary mail forwarding
2 meg max); nwolcott~at~capaccess.org (2ndary forwarder,?max)
nwolcott~at~kreative.net (current ISP, system max)
Received on Sat 04 Apr 1998 - 06:58:32 IDT

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