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Monday, January 30, 2023

January 30, 2023: Travel Stories: Around the World in Eighty Days

[January 30th marks the 150th anniversary of the English-language publication of Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. So this week I’ll AmericanStudy that book and other travel stories!]

On three American travelers and trips that complement Verne’s text.

1)      William Perry Fogg: Ohio businessman, community leader, and adventurer Fogg’s around-the-world travels, first described in letters he sent back to the Cleveland Leader newspaper and then published in the book Round the World: Letters from Japan, China, India, and Egypt (1872), have been described as one of the influences on Verne’s novel (not least because Verne’s main character is also named Fogg!). And in any case, however much of a direct inspiration the real Fogg provided for the fictional one, William Perry Fogg’s travels illustrated how transportation innovations had made this idea of truly global travel far more possible and attainable in the late 19th century.

2)      Nellie Bly: I wrote about many of Bly’s groundbreaking investigative journalistic works in that hyperlinked post; all of those were influential, but there’s no doubt that Bly’s most popular work was based on her successful 1889 attempt to reenact Verne’s story, a global trip she completed in 72 days and which became the basis for her bestselling book Around the World in Seventy-Two Days (1890). Interestingly enough, another journalist, Elizabeth Bisland, was on a competing journey (commissioned by Cosmopolitan magazine) at the same time as Bly, which really reflects the influence of Verne’s book on media and popular consciousness alike. Bisland completed her journey in 76 days and published her own book about it, natch.

3)      James Willis Sayre: The attempts to best Verne’s fictional race didn’t end with Bly and Bisland, of course. There have been many in the century and a half since his book appeared (I greatly enjoyed Michael Palin’s BBC documentary a few years back), but particularly striking was the journey of theater critic and historian (and Philippine American War veteran) Sayre, who in 1903 set a new world record by circling the globe in just over 54 days. I’m not sure any work of fiction has produced more actual travels and travel writing than has Jules Verne’s 1873 novel!

Next travel story tomorrow,


PS. What do you think? Travel stories or writing you’d highlight?

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