Jules Verne´s travel diary from Norway,
July and August 1861
– Introduction –
(main part coming Feb.2011)
Newly investigated findings in the diary of the author, indicates that Verne did not follow the common travel-route through the counties Buskerud and Telemark. Most books and articles on the subject to date, have taken for granted that his voyage was very similar to those of the other French writers Paul Riant and Jules Leclercq.
On his Scandinavian journey in 1861, Verne kept a daily travel-log where he wrote down places, contacts, means of transportation and even details on some of his meals. This original diary is owned by the library in Amiens, France as part of the Jules Verne collection. His handwriting is very difficult to descipher so, experience in reading his manuscripts is important, although possibly misunderstandings may still occur.
Very often only short frases or key words are written down. In addition the actual names and places are very often spelled wrong, or are ‘Frenchified’, making the messages difficult to understand. Anyway, a local knowledge about the themes in question is essential to put Verne´s various travel notes into context. Therefore some additional notes will be included in this article about the diary. The aim has been to clarify which places the author visited and what contacts he had during the trip. So for each day, only extracts of selected parts from Verne’s text is presented here in this article. Along the way I will try to shed some light on important elements by adding comments on these short phrases.
In some cases I find it natural to link the information also to the novel: Un Billet de Loterie, the Lottery Ticket, which Jules Verne wrote 25 years later, describing the same regions of Norway. In this novel we get to know a family who run a guesthouse at Dal, close to Rjukan in Telemark. The owner is the widow; Dame Hansen. Her son, a fisherman on the west coast, bought the lottery ticket no. 9672.
Some clarificatons regarding names connected to the guesthouse might be needed. Since the names do not appear in the diary, I mention these details before going on to the day to day details of Jules Verne’s journey.
The Innkeepers: ‘Hansen’, Torgersen, Olsen or Hansen
By writing a novel around actual places and names, Verne might lead readers to mix facts and fiction. My research connected to Verne´s voyage has given some clues about the names Verne have chosen. The diary and novel are very interesting seen together. Details about his journey can be learned from both texts, but not all real life elements in the novel are necessarily experienced by Verne himself.
Several places in the world, the fictional voyages written by the author have led the readers erroneously to believe that Verne himself visited the places he has described so brilliantly. In a similar way, reading descriptions in the novel Lottery Ticket, of the passage between Christiania and Telemark as a documentary about his own journey, not as fiction, can lead to false conclusions. And he leads us on, letting his own voice be heard through the novel when he writes about the Telemark-valley:
“The writer has had the pleasure of visiting it. He has explored it thoroughly, in a kariol with relays of post-horses–when he could get them–and he brought back with him such a vivid recollection of its manifold charms that he would be glad to convey some idea of it to the reader of this simple narrative.” – Jules Verne 1886
Many commentators have taken for granted that Verne mainly used his own experiences while writing the book Lottery Ticket. Some even take for granted that research work for this novel was the aim of the trip. On this website, one of main messages is that very likely this was not the case, and that his motives for coming to Telemark may have been to experience a wider perspective. Many of the books just after the Scandinavian trip have short references to Norway written into the script [Link; collection of Norge-referanser], but he waited 25 years before he wrote the book about the guesthouse at Dal in Telemark and the family living there. So a novel based on his own trip can not have been very important to him. Wanting to experience exotic places and cultures in colder parts of Europe, might have been what he had in mind.
This enabled him to write realistic prose from the northern ends of the world, putting Brittany and British ‘Robinsons’ in Nordic and polar settings. Jules´ dream of travelling from Bretagne to Cape North can be seen through several books from 1855 to 1894. A couple of times he is apparently adding his own name Jules to the story, ‘disguised’ in the names of the characters. – As nephew Juhel on board the steamer «Viken» with his uncle Antifer, or in the Telemark mountain-guide Joël, working at the guesthouse, while his sister´s fiancé was at sea on another «Viken». From the deck of the real life «Viken», the author got his first sightings of the Norwegian coast, as can be seen in the diary.
Now, he journeyed to the Nordic countries in 1861, but he didn´t have to, to write the novel Lottery Ticket/Un Billet de Loterie. Like in many other projects in the Voyages Extraordinaire series, he also used published sources. When the Telemark novel was written, all geographical information could be found in Paul Riant´s 1860-article in Le Tour du Monde. Verne had been a subscriber to this magazine for years. As far as I can see reading the diary, only the hamlet of Tiness, close to (the blues-town) Notodden, is the sole geographical detail in Lottery Ticket, which is not also mentioned in the Paul Riant article. But regarding descriptions of people and their surroundings, the novel seems to be relying on elements from his own journey.
One example is his experiences from Dal, when a comic incident during the signing of the guestbook is included. (his fellow traveller made a grammatical error while writing the message, giving an unintended meaning. This detail has been quoted in almost every article that has been written about Verne and Norway).
While studying the diary and novel together regarding this incident, it is important to know that the names of the family in the novel owning the guesthouse, was not identical to those Verne and his fellow travellers actually met. As 25 years had passed before he actually wrote the novel, it is tempting to conclude that he used back issues of Le Tour du Monde as a reminder. When the manager & daughter at the guesthouse are introduced, he ‘steals’ elements of text from his fellow frenchman Paul Riant, the Le Tour du Monde –journalist:
Paul Riant (1858, publ. 1860): ”À Dal, Ole Torgensen et la charmante Aasta, sa fille, nous attendaient”
Jules Verne (1861, publ.1886): “dame Hansen et à sa fille, la charmante Hulda du Vestfjorddal.”
By the time Verne arrived the same guesthouse, Ole Torgersen Dale was still present, but had retired. The man running the business now, was his son in law; John Olsen Dale (1822 – 1921) who was married to Aaste´s older sister; Aagot (1833 – 1913) .
[Pictures (click to enlarge)
Innkeeper John Olsen Dale can be seen in the picture of the guesthouse, standing outside on the left. The picture of the girl in the traditional dress shows the third and youngest of the sisters; Gyda, seen at about the same age as the sister Aaste was (born in the eighteen forties) when Verne/Riant stayed at the guesthouse around 1861. Note the hair- and dress style, which is very similar to the girl in the pictures from the original French illustrations (G.Roux) of Un billete de loterie, 1886.
The brown old timber-building (bottom right)is the last building at the Dal Inn still standing, after the buildings had to give way to a powerstation which can be seen in the background on the right.]
As is described in the diary, the three gentlemen writes a message to the aubergiste / proprietor. But in the real-world-Dal there were no such person as the widowed madam Hansen running the guesthouse. She was a fictional character. So when describing the signing of the guestbook in his novel of 1886, using actual comic incidents from 1861, in a way Jules Verne switches from facts to fiction in the middle of a sentence by giving the innkeeper a fictional name of the opposite sex. [Mr Olsen Dale ~ Dame Hansen]
As we shall se in the diary though, maybe not so fictional after all, Verne did meet someone fitting to this characterization, while staying at an other guesthouse on the trip; The real “l’auberge de dame Hansen” was run by the widow Mrs. Inger Kristine Hansen at Kongsberg. Jules Verne met her on the 25. of July 1861.
On this Norwegian Jules Verne website I have so far chosen to present only the elements from the Scandinavian 1861–diary, where the author describes his journey through Norway. At a later date this website will provide details on the entire diary.
The very first lines of the Norwegian part of the diary, indicates that on Thursday the 18. July 1861, Verne travelled on board the Norwegian paddlewheel-steamship «Viken» from Gothenburg through heavy wind and seas for eleven hours, the 95 nautical miles across Skagerak directly to the Norwegian port of Stavern, on the Vestfold coast. From then on the friends: Jules Verne, Aristide Hignard and Émile Lorois enjoyed the sailing trip slowly through the unique archipelago in the county of Vestfold.
Port of Stavern “Friderichsvern”
These Verne -related travel details are new. The fact that Verne journeyed through these parts of Norway is information that (to my knowledge) never before has been published. Neither have the fact that the author visited Drammen, Kongsberg and Eidsvoll by the lake Mjösa, Sandvika just outside Oslo, nor that he climbed the summit of mount Gausta.
The upcoming article also presents new theories on actual names and places in Norway which possibly links both Verne´s diary and his fictional texts to models in real life.
If these theories are correct, we have intertextual links [see C.W.Boeck] between his novel, his diary and his unfinished travel book Joyeuses Misères de Trois Voyageurs en Scandinavie.
Per Johan Moe, 2010 – http://www.julesverne.no
– Read article as PDF here –
Containing more details on who Verne met on his journey
and many Norwegian pictures from the period and today.
Dr.Carl Wilhelm Boeck (1808 – 1875)
Professor of medicine + Member of (Norw.) Parliament
– diary indicates he met Verne in Oslo.
A possible model (?) for “le célèbre docteur Boek”
(Un billet de loterie 1886).
|Dale, Rjukan in Telemark – July, 2010
– site of the guesthouse / “L´Auberge a Dal” Un billet de Loterie.