The Danish Jules Verne Society newsletter no. 1.
Nils Bjørn, Henrik Wilfred Christensen, Bjørn Larsen, and Lejf Rasmussen.
Translated from the Danish by Søren Rasmussen. Rev. 02, 21st of august 2006.
© Copyright Det danske Jules Verne Selskab 2006.
til Verne Portalen
|Jules Verne did not only write about journeys. He was
also very fond of travelling himself, especially at sea. When the Verne
family’s financial situation allowed it, Jules Verne purchased his own
ocean-going yacht, which was later replaced by a luxurious steam yacht
with an approx. 10-member ship’s crew.
Verne visited Copenhagen twice: in 1861 and 1881
Vernes 1st visit to Copenhagen.
At the first visit, Jules Verne is a young unknown law graduate from Paris, who on a pared budget is travelling the Scandinavian region, Sweden, Norway and Denmark, along with two friends. The journey is recorded in Verne’s diary. Appreciative acknowledgement is given to Dr. Friedmann Prose, Kiel, for having supplied us with information from his photocopy of the diary.
Verne’s travelling companions were the composer Alfred Hignard and the law graduate Émile Lorois. The route went from Paris to Lübeck via Cologne, Hannover and Hamburg. From Lübeck they travelled by ship to Stockholm. The departure from Paris was on July 2nd, and the urge to travel must have been significant, given that Verne’s wife, Honorine, was in the last stage of the pregnancy of the couple’s first child, (their son Michel). Hamburg was reached by the 3rd of July, and a couple of days were spent here. From Lübeck the journey continued on board the steamship “Svea” towards Stockholm. En route they stopped in Kalmar. The travelling party arrived at Stockholm on the 8th of July, where they accommodated themselves at “Hotel Rydberg”. From here (also at sea) they took the canal boat along Götakanalen to Göteborg and onwards to Kristiania, (now-a-days Oslo). A trip was made to Telemarken, where a notice from Jules Verne himself can be found in a guest book in the village of Dal.
The 1st of August Verne and Hignard leave Norway and travel via Hälsingborg
and Elsinore, where Kronborg castle is paid a visit, to Copenhagen. Here,
they accommodate themselves at “Hotel Phønix” (See notes on pp.
The 3rd travelling companion, Émile Lorois, who did not accompany Verne and Hignard to Copenhagen, most likely stayed several days more in Norway. He then followed the same route to Copenhagen as the others. The police commissioner of Copenhagen has recorded his arrival at Copenhagen the 9th of August with accommodation at Hotel Royal, and his departure towards Hamburg the 19th of August. Same police authority has strangely enough not recorded Verne and Hignards visit. Within these 10 days, Lorois could have had the time so see quite a bit of Copenhagen. The police record can be found at the regional archives of Copenhagen.
A lot of details in Vernes novels can very likely be related to impressions obtained at this first journey around Scandinavia. Captain Hatteras e.g. returns from the North Pole via the route Korsør-Kiel, and the entire of the book “No. 9672” (Andr. Schou 1888) takes place at Telemarken and Kristiania. Besides Copenhagen “A journey to the centre of the earth” also refers to information about Hamburg. Verne did begin writing a book about a journey in Scandinavia; “Joyeuses Misères de Trois Voyageurs en Scandinavie” which however, to our knowledge, was never completed or published. The first chapter can be found at Zvi’s homepage (in French). In a note at the back of a German version of “Reize zum Mittelpunkt der Erde”, retranslated by Volker Dehs, it is incidentally claimed that Verne did not climb the tower of Our Saviour Church in 1861.
Jules Vernes’ diary from the journey to Scandinavia 1861
Henrik Wilfred Christensen has conducted archive studies and has found a few traces from the 1861-visit.
In the contemporary Danish newspaper “Berlingske politiske og advertissements-Tidende” of Monday the 5th of August 1861 there is a column called “travellers”, which mentions anyone currently staying at the hotels in Copenhagen. At the bottom of the part that deals with “Hotel Phønix” it says:
“Attorney-at-law Werne and Hignard from Paris”
Since this column does not occur in every newspaper, and since “Berlingske Tidende” was not published on Sundays, it can’t be known for certain when Verne had arrived, nor how long he intended to stay in Copenhagen.
Despite this, we see it as a quite reliable source to Jules Vernes’ visit concerning his stay at the “Hotel Phønix” with Hignard, and that the dates, we know, are fairly accurate. Finally, it is interesting that he at this time refers to himself as attorney-at-law. In a debate in the Danish newspaper “Politiken” in 1959 it is questioned whether Verne actually visited Copenhagen in 1861. This should hereby be brought to an end.
“Hotel Phønix”, where Jules Verne took lodgings in 1861, was one of the finest hotels in town. It was located at “Bredgade” no. 37 on the corner of “Dronningens Tværgade”. “Hotel Phønix” opened in 1847 and was taken over by the Danish Communist Party after World War 2. It later re-emerged (as a phoenix from the flames!) as a hotel and is now-a-days a four starred hotel with a large pub in its cellar.
In 1916 Danish magazine “Før & Nu” wrote:
In 1837 the estate was conveyed to the royal engineer and restaurateur at “Stadt Lauenburg” (two seemingly quite heterogeneous positions!) W. Murdoch, who under the name of “Stadt Launburg” established a hotel, which ten years later became a “private limited company of the arrangement of a hotel” named Phønix, with an ever increasing reputation, and which multiple times, the last time around a few years ago, has undergone significant expansions and when it comes to distinguished elegance modern comfort occupies a leading position among the hotels of Copenhagen. (Source: “Før & Nu, 1916, p.168)
So; as early as 1861, Verne has a taste for comfortable living.
In “København – før, nu og aldrig”, volume 6 ”Frederiksstaden
og Nyhavn” by tobias Faber, the above-shown picture of “Hotel Phønix”,
which is made by H.P. Hendriksen in 1860, is found on page 109. This must
be the closest one gets to the appearance of the hotel when Jules Verne
lived there in 1861. It is a bit exciting to imagine that it is behind
one of those windows you can see in the picture, that Jules Verne and Hignard
lived from the 4th of August till 6th of August 1861.
Advertisement for “Hotel Phønix” from a programme for
In the Danish newspaper “Korsør avis” from Monday the 5th of August 1861 it says:
“list of recollection”/”Tuesday the 6th of August”/”Departing steam ships”/”at half past ten evening after the arrival of the evening train”/””Hermod” to Kiel”.
Jules Verne is most likely to have boarded the train from Copenhagen at the afternoon / evening of the 6th of August 1861, and has arrived at Korsør at 10.30 PM (if the train was on schedule). From there he has embarked the steam ship “Hermod”, which has taken him to Kiel. He has arrived well on the morning of the 7th. The trip from Kiel to Paris via Hamburg has taken approx. 24 hours, so he would be in Paris the 8th of August – but too late: Honorine had already given birth to a son, (Michel).
The railroad to Korsør.
At Korsør in April 2006, the 150 anniversary of the opening of
the railroad to Korsør were celebrated, the one Verne made use of
only 6 years after its opening. The following pictures are from the local
newspaper in Korsør, “Korsør-posten”. Unfortunately, they
are a bit blurred. The timetable matches well the one which Verne, as well
as Lidenbrock and Axel, used in 1861 and later. The picture of the station
building is also supposed to be from around the time of the opening of
Announcement of the opening of the railroad to Korsør, along with its schedule.
As mentioned initially Jules Verne was enthusiastic about sailing. During the course of time he owned three ships, all by the name of “Saint Michel”. The first two were smaller sailing boats; the third was a larger ship with a steam engine, built in 1876 and bought by Verne in 1877 at a cost of 55,000 francs.
After several other trips aboard the “Saint Michel III” it was the plan that a journey to the Baltic Sea region, with stops in Copenhagen, St. Petersburg, Stockholm and Kristiania, should be made. This 2nd journey is far better documented than the first. By 1881, Jules Verne was internationally well known, the contemporary press wrote about the famous writers visit, and Verne’s brother wrote a travelling journal “De Rotterdam a Copenhague”.
The summer sailing commenced at the end of May 1881. Besides the captain, Ollive, the crew consisted of a marine engineer, two stokers, a chief steward, three deck hands, a ships mate and a cook. The passengers were, besides Jules Verne himself, Paul Verne and his son, Gaston, and a lawyer from Amiens, Robert Godefroy. Rotterdam is reached by the 5th of June, and here the ship has to wait for the weather to clear up. The 11th they continue the journey via Rotterdam and Wilhelmshafen. Because of (probably well founded) fears of the foul weather along the western coast of Jutland, it is decided to go through the Ejder and the Ejderchannel to the Baltic Sea. Back then, the channel was old, narrow and fitted with small locks. Not until some years later, the far larger Kielerchannel was build. Due to this, the ships bowsprit had to be disassembled to pass through the locks. The 17th of June “St. Michel III” leaves Rendsburg, and arrives at Kiel the same evening. The journey through Schleswig-Holstein is described in very picturesque ways in Paul Vernes’ travelling journal.
After a 24 hour stay in Kiel they sail at the evening of June the 18th, heading towards Copenhagen. It is a beautiful, clear evening in the time of the light summer nights and as soon as 7 AM the next morning the entry to the Oresund strait is reached. At 10 AM they vaguely begin to see the towers of Copenhagen through the misty weather. They berthed directly opposite “Kvæsthusbroen”, where several ship routes to different locations emanated at that time. “St. Michel III” stayed eight days in Copenhagen, guests were entertained aboard and trips were made onshore.
The following is a citation from the journalist N. J. Berentsens’ account of his interview-visit aboard:
“To the French, we tell the ferry by Nyhavns’ bridgehead”. And onboard we meet Jules Verne, who wears his 53 years of age with splendour, dressed in a reefer jacket with the red ribbon from the legion of honour in his buttonhole, a flat cap and smoking a beautiful tiny meerschaum pipe. Immediately at his approach, Jules Verne had greeted Our Saviours Churchs’ Tower as a good old acquaintance. Our museums he has heard a lot about. He was especially looking forward to visiting the (museum of) Old Nordic arts and reacquainting himself with Thorvaldsens.
Berentsen, among other things, writes in his recollections of the visit that Verne did not know his books had been translated into Danish and that he (Verne) the next day would visit the publisher and buy some copies, which he also did. As I, on behalf of the publisher Andreas Schou apologized for probably not having the means to honour the writer, he only smiled. It made no difference to him.
Also the well renowned weekly magazine “Illustreret Tidende” visited Verne onboard “St. Michel III”. Further reading and a description of the ship later.
Of the Copenhagen sights Paul Verne mentions in his travelling journal, especially the museums the Ethnographical Collection, Museum of Old Nordic Arts and the Rosenborg Collection deserves attention. During the visits at the two last mentioned museums, the tour was guided by chamberlain J. J. A. Worsåe (1821-1885). Worsåe was the director of the museum and had personally supervised the organization of these collections of art. That Worsåe himself hosted these tours shows us, that Verne was a gentleman of high repute, and not an ordinary tourist. Worsåe was former Secretary of Culture, and the equivalence of his position would in present time be director of the Cultural Heritage Authority. Thorvaldsens museum was also paid a visit. One evening, perhaps Midsummer Day, the illuminated Tivoli was visited, and this leaves a lasting impression with Paul Verne. In the travelling journal several other of the buildings in Copenhagen are mentioned, among them the Royal Exchange, Christiansborg Castle (which burned down a few years later in 1884), Amalienborg Castle, Kgs. Nytorv, the Royal Danish Theatre, Church of Our Lady, and, last but not least, Church of Our Saviour at Christianshavn. Here, the account of Paul Verne and his sons’ ascent of the tower will be reproduced. Apparently, Jules Verne did not participate.
“After the Church of Our Lady, where the chorus is decorated by thirteen
statues by Thorvaldsen depicting Christ and the Apostles, I am bound to
mention the Church of Our Saviour at the island of Amager on the other
side of the harbour area. The building has no architectural significance
in itself, but it is dominated by a high tower, to the top of which you
can only find your way by the externally fitted ramp, which winds its way
in a helical line around the tower. It takes a sturdy heart to complete
this ascent. My brother has, in his “A journey to the centre of the Earth”,
allowed us to witness a “lesson in acrophobia” which professor Lidenbrock
teaches his nephew Axel on this staggering ramp.
The last days of the visit in Copenhagen are spent visiting the French ambassador, and on a return visit from the ambassador on “St. Michel III”. At close range, they watch King Christian the 9th disembark after visiting the duke at the English navy party. Time is also taken for a trip to Frederiksberg Garden.
All consideration concerning continuing the journey to other parts of Scandinavia had been given up and the 26th of June, “St. Michel III” left Copenhagen and sailed back home following the same route as they had used on their way to Copenhagen: through the Ejderchannel to the North Sea.
Verne never came to Copenhagen again. In 1886 Verne sold “St. Michel III” for 23,000 francs. Later that year Verne was wounded in his leg by his nephew Gaston (Paul’s son, who was with him at the Church of Our Saviour) by a gun shot. Gaston was mentally ill, and Verne never recovered fully.
Paul Verne: “De Rotterdam a Copenhague” supplement to the novel “La Jangada” 1881.
Frank Trende: (Ed.) “Jules Verne in Schleswig-Holstein” Husum 2005. (A beautifully illustrated and commented version of Paul’s account. Unfortunately severely reduced concerning the trip to Copenhagen.)
Letters from Jules Verne to Jules Hetzel in June 1881
“Illustreret Tidende”, 26th of June 1881
“Dags-Avisen” 21st of June1881, journalist N.J. Berendsens summary of his visit to Jules Verne onboard “St. Michel III”. Republished in an article in “Politiken” on the 14th of January 1959
A German translation of Paul Verne’s 1881-travelling journal: “Jules Vernes baltische Reise” from 1987 published by Carl Brattstroem at the publishing house “Cobra”
The article and the picture of “St. Michell III” are from “Illustreret Tidende” the 26th of June 1881, p. 492 (see subsequent pages). The picture is drawn by Fr. Winther. As it is seen, the printer (or Fr. Winther?) has had the picture inverted. With a little luck, you can see that the picture bears the number “18”, which should in fact be “81”.