Jules Verne´s travel diary from Norway,
July and August 1861
– Introduction –
Recent research into Verne’s diary indicates that the author did not follow the most commonly used route through Buskerud and Telemark. These findings challenge those books and articles that assume that Verne’s itinerary was more or less the same as that of the other French writers, Paul Riant and Jules Leclercq.
On his Scandinavian journey in 1861, Verne kept a daily log where he wrote down places, contacts, means of transportation and even details of 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 decipher and experience in reading his manuscripts is important, but possible misunderstandings may still occur.
Very often only short phrases or key words are written down. In addition, names and places are very often spelled wrongly or ‘frenchified’, making the text difficult to understand. Local knowledge is essential if we are to put what he writes into the correct 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. For each day, I present extracts from selected parts of Verne’s text. Along the way I will try to shed some light on important elements of the author’s journey by adding a number of comments.
In some cases I find it natural to link the information to the novel The Lottery Ticket (Un Billet de Loterie), which Jules Verne wrote 25 years later. This novel is set in the same regions of Norway, and we get to know a family who run a guesthouse at Dal, close to Rjukan in Telemark. The owner is a widow, Dame Hansen. Her daughter´s fiancé, a fisherman on the west coast, bought the lottery ticket no. 9672.
Some clarifications 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 that mentions real-life place names and characters, Verne might lead readers to confuse fact with fiction. My research on Verne´s voyage has provided some clues about the names the author has chosen. It is very interesting to compare the diary and the novel; both texts tell us about his journey, but not all of the realistic elements in the novel were necessarily experienced by Verne himself.
Verne wrote about many places, and his vivid descriptions have led readers to erroneously believe that he actually visited all of these locations himself. An assumption that the journey between Christiania and Telemark that he describes in The Lottery Ticket documents a journey that he actually made himself can lead to false conclusions. 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 assumed that Verne mainly used his own experiences while writing The Lottery Ticket. Some even take for granted that the aim of his trip was to do the research for this novel. One of the main assertions of this website is that this was probably not the case, and that his motive for coming to Telemark may have been to experience a wider perspective. Many of Verne’s works written just after the Scandinavian trip contain brief references to Norway [Link; collection of Norge-referanser], but he waited 25 years before writing a book about the guesthouse at Dal in Telemark and the family living there. So a novel based on his own trip cannot 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.
His stay in Scandinavia enabled him to write realistic prose from the northern ends of the world, putting Breton and British ‘Robinsons’ in Nordic and polar settings. Verne’s dream of travelling from Brittany to the North Cape can be seen in several books, from 1855 to 1894. A couple of times he introduces disguised versions of his own name, Jules, into the story. We find the character of Juhel, onboard the steamer «Viken», with his uncle Antifer. And we also have the Telemark mountain-guide Joël, working at the guesthouse, while his sister´s fiancé was at sea on another «Viken». It was from the deck of the real life «Viken» that the author, in his diary, reports that he saw the Norwegian coast for the first time.
Verne made a journey to Scandinavia in 1861, but he didn´t have to in order to write The Lottery Ticket/Un Billet de Loterie. As was the case with many other projects in the Voyages Extraordinaire series, he also drew upon 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 from reading the diary, it is only the hamlet of Tiness, close to the town of Notodden (well known for its contemporary Blues Festival), that is not mentioned in Riant’s article. However, as far as descriptions of people and their surroundings go, the novel seems to be based on the experiences of his own journey.
One example is from his experiences from Dal, where the novel includes a humorous incident that occurred when the guestbook was signed. (His travelling companion made a grammatical error while writing in the book, one that produced an unintended comic meaning. This detail has been quoted in almost every article that has been written about Verne and Norway).
In comparing the diary with the novel, it is important to know that the names of the family that run the guesthouse in the novel are not identical to those that 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 Paul Riant’s Le Tour du Monde to refresh his memory. When the guesthouse manager and daughter are introduced, he ‘steals’ elements of text from Riant Riant.
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 at 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). The new manager 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 on the left. The picture of the girl in the traditional dress shows the third and youngest of the sisters, Gyri. She is depicted at about the same age as her sister Aaste would have been (born in the eighteen forties) when Verne/Riant stayed at the guesthouse around 1861. Note the style of her 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 old brown timber building (bottom right) is the only building from the Dal Inn that is still standing. The rest of the original structure had to make way for the power station which can be seen in the background, to the right. The b/w -picture shows the whole farm, with guesthouse (1913)]
As described in the diary, the three gentlemen write a message to the owner. However, there was no such person as the widowed Madam Hansen running the real-world 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, Jules Verne switches from fact to fiction in mid-sentence by giving the innkeeper a fictional name, from the opposite sex. [Mr Olsen Dale becomes Dame Hansen]
However, maybe the female proprietor was not a complete figment of Verne’s imagination. He did meet someone fitting this characterization while staying at another guesthouse on the same 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 topresent 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 of the entire diary.
The very first lines of the Norwegian part of the diary indicate that on Thursday the 18th of July, 1861, Verne travelled on board the Norwegian paddle steamship «Viken» from Gothenburg to the Norwegian port of Stavern, on the Vestfold coast. There were heavy winds and seas and the 95 nautical mile voyage across the Skagerak took eleven hours. On reaching the more sheltered waters of the Norwegian coast, Verne and his friends Aristide Hignard and Émile Lorois enjoyed a slow sailing trip 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) has not previously been published. Neither has the fact that the author visited a number of other Norwegian locations:
Drammen, Kongsberg, Eidsvoll, Lake Mjösa, or Sandvika, just outside of Oslo. We also learn that he climbed to the summit of Mount Gausta.
The upcoming article also presents new theories on actual names and places in Norway which may establish links between Verne´s diary and his fictional texts.
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.
|(when entering on the next page, be sure to scroll to the top, as the java-script running inside the embedded google-presentations forces the page to ‘start’ too low down)|
The diary & comments -page, contains 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.