Instant expert: Phileas Fogg
It’s been 145 years since Jules Verne’s hero was first introduced to the English-speaking world
Wasn’t he the globetrotting hero of Jules Verne’s classic travel yarn Around the World in Eighty Days?
Yes, that’s the chap. It’s been 145 years since the fictional intrepid Englishman Phileas Fogg and his French valet Jean Passepartout were introduced to the English-speaking world, with the first publication of Verne’s hit French serial in translation.
Remind me – how does it go again?
Fogg claimed that a new railway in India made it possible to circumnavigate the world in 80 days. His fellow Reform Club members disagreed, throwing in a £20,000 wager to encourage him to prove it. Today, Fogg’s route from Mumbai to Kolkata can still be ridden by rail, and while it rarely features in ‘top railway’ lists for scenery, you’ll still ford the lush hills of the Western Ghats and the desolate Deccan Plateau. You can even visit London’s Reform Club (open to women since 1981), too; it’s by appointment only and you will need to obey the dress code. Plenty of ways! Copy Fogg in soaking up some luxury aboard the Orient Express from London to Venice, then spy the bright lights of Hong Kong as your ship pulls into Victoria Harbour. Have a glass (or two) from one of Yokohama’s microbreweries, the city having been completely flattened and rebuilt since Verne’s day, and spy the brick-red arc of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge (started some 60 years after Fogg would have arrived). Or stay closer to home, taking in the candycoloured houses of waterfront Cobh, Ireland.
Did he make it?
Spoiler alert! Verne’s dramatic finale sees Fogg initially losing his wager by 24 hours, but the author used the International Date Line as a plot device – several years before it had been established – to rescue the day and win the bet. Michael Palin recreated the trip in a 1989 BBC series, hooking a new generation of armchair adventurers and adding an Indian dhow boat trip to everyone’s bucket list.
did you know?
Though the covers of many editions of Around the World in Eighty Days feature a hot air balloon, Fogg never travelled in one.