1872 | London

A Race Against Time

A tour of the world in eighty days? Jules Verne should like nothing better!

Phileas Fogg, having shut the door of his house at half past eleven, and having put his right foot before his left 575 times, and his left foot before his right 576 times, reached the Reform Club, an imposing edifice on Pall Mall, which could not have cost less than three million. He repaired at once to the dining room, the nine windows of which open upon a tasteful garden where the trees were already gilded with an autumn coloring, and took his place at the habitual table, the cover of which had already been laid for him. His breakfast consisted of a side dish, a broiled fish with Redding sauce, a scarlet slice of roast beef garnished with mushrooms, a rhubarb and gooseberry tart, and a morsel of Chester cheese, the whole being washed down with several cups of tea, for which the Reform is famous. He rose at forty-seven minutes past noon and directed his steps toward the large hall, a sumptuous apartment adorned with lavishly framed paintings. A flunky handed him an uncut Times, which he proceeded to cut with a skill that betrayed familiarity with this delicate operation. The perusal of “The Thunderer” absorbed Phileas Fogg until a quarter before four, while the Standard, his next task, occupied him till the dinner hour. Dinner passed as breakfast had done, and Mr. Fogg reappeared in the reading room and sat down to the Morning Chronicle at twenty minutes before six. Half an hour later several members of the Reform came in and drew up to the fireplace, where a coal fire was steadily burning. They were Mr. Fogg’s usual partners at whist: Andrew Stuart, an engineer; John Sullivan and Samuel Fallentin, bankers; Thomas Flanagan, a brewer; and Gauthier Ralph, one of the directors of the Bank of England, all rich and highly respectable personages, even in a club which comprises the princes of English trade and finance.

“Well, Ralph,” said Thomas Flanagan, “how is it about that robbery?”

“Oh,” replied Stuart, “the bank will lose the money.”

“On the contrary,” broke in Ralph, “I hope we may put our hands on the robber. Skillful detectives have been sent to all the principal ports of America and the Continent, and he’ll do well if he slips through their fingers.”

“But have you got the robber’s description?” asked Stuart.

“In the first place, he is no robber at all,” returned Ralph, positively.

“What! A fellow who makes off with 55,000 pounds, no robber?”


“Perhaps he’s a manufacturer, then.”

“The Morning Chronicle says that he is a gentleman.”

It was Phileas Fogg, whose head now emerged from behind his newspapers, who made this remark. He bowed to his friends, and entered into the conversation. The affair which formed its subject, and which was town talk, had occurred three days before at the Bank of England. A package of banknotes, to the value of 55,000 pounds, had been taken from the principal cashier’s table, that functionary being at the moment engaged in registering the receipt of three shillings sixpence. Of course he could not have his eyes everywhere. Let it be observed that the Bank of England reposes a touching confidence in the honesty of the public. There are neither guards nor gratings to protect its treasures; gold, silver, banknotes are freely exposed, at the mercy of the first comer. A keen observer of English customs relates that, being in one of the rooms of the bank one day, he had the curiosity to examine a gold ingot weighing some seven or eight pounds. He took it up, scrutinized it, passed it to his neighbor, he to the next man, and so on until the ingot, going from hand to hand, was transferred to the end of a dark entry; nor did it return to its place for half an hour. Meanwhile, the cashier had not so much as raised his head. But the present robbery was not accomplished quite so easily. The package of notes not being found when five o’clock sounded from the ponderous clock in the “drawing office,” the amount was passed to the account of profit and loss. As soon as the robbery was discovered, picked detectives hastened off to Liverpool, Glasgow, Le Havre, Suez, Brindisi, New York City, and other ports, inspired by the proffered reward of two thousand pounds, and 5 percent on the sum that might be recovered. Detectives were also charged with narrowly watching those who arrived at or left London by rail, and a judicial examination was at once entered upon.

There were real grounds for supposing, as the Morning Chronicle said, that the thief did not belong to a professional band. On the day of the robbery a well-dressed gentleman of polished manners, and with a well-to-do air, had been observed going to and fro in the paying room, where the crime was committed. A description of him was easily procured and sent to the detectives; and some hopeful spirits, of whom Ralph was one, did not despair of his apprehension. The papers and clubs were full of the affair, and everywhere people were discussing the probabilities of a successful pursuit; and the Reform Club was especially agitated, as among its members was the deputy governor of the bank.

Ralph would not concede that the work of the detectives was likely to be in vain, for he thought that the prize offered would greatly stimulate their zeal and activity. But Stuart was far from sharing this confidence; and as they placed themselves at the whist table, they continued to argue the matter. Stuart and Flanagan played together, while Phileas Fogg had Fallentin for his partner. As the game proceeded the conversation ceased, excepting between the rubbers, when it revived again.

Ancient Egyptian papyrus showing the zodiac.

Replica of the zodiac ceiling in the Temple of Hathor, Dandarah, Egypt, papyrus, c. 320 BC. (Papyrus Museum, Cairo, Egypt / De Agostini Picture Library, Bridgeman Images)

“I maintain,” said Stuart, “that the chances are in favor of the thief, who must be a shrewd fellow.”

“Well, but where can he fly to?” asked Ralph. “No country is safe for him.”


“Where could he go, then?”

“Oh, I don’t know that. The world is big enough.”

“It was once,” said Phileas Fogg, in a low tone. “Cut, sir,” he added, handing the cards to Thomas Flanagan.

The discussion fell during the rubber, after which Stuart took up its thread.

“What do you mean by ‘once’? Has the world grown smaller?”

“Certainly,” returned Ralph. “I agree with Mr. Fogg. The world has grown smaller, since a man can go round it ten times more quickly than a hundred years ago. And that is why the search for this thief will be more likely to succeed.”

“And also why the thief can fly more easily.”

“Be so good as to play, Mr. Stuart,” said Phileas Fogg.

But the incredulous Stuart was not convinced, and when the hand was finished, said eagerly, “You have a strange way, Ralph, of proving that the world has grown smaller. So, because you can make the tour around it in three months—”

“In eighty days,” interrupted Phileas Fogg.

“That is true, gentlemen,” added John Sullivan. “Only eighty days, now that the section between Rothal and Allahabad, on the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, has been opened. Here is the estimate made by the Morning Chronicle:

From London to Suez, via Mont Cenis and Brindisi, by rail and steamboats.......7 days

From Suez to Bombay, by steamer...........13

From Bombay to Calcutta, by rail..........3

From Calcutta to Hong Kong, by steamer...........13

From Hong Kong to Yokohama, by steamer............6

From Yokohama to San Francisco, by steamer.............22

From San Francisco to New York City, by rail..............7

From New York City to London,by steamer and rail...........9

Total..........80 days

“Yes, in eighty days!” exclaimed Stuart, who in his excitement made a false deal. “But that doesn’t take into account bad weather, contrary winds, shipwrecks, running off the track, and so on.”

“All included,” returned Phileas Fogg, continuing to play despite the discussion.

“But suppose the Hindus and Indians pull up the rails,” replied Stuart. “Suppose they stop the trains, pillage the baggage cars, and scalp the passengers!”

“All included,” calmly retorted Fogg, adding, as he threw down the cards, “Two trumps.” 

Stuart, whose turn it was to deal gathered them up, and went on: “You are right theoretically, Mr. Fogg, but practically—”

“Practically also, Mr. Stuart.”

“I’d like to see you do it in eighty days.”

“It depends on you. Let us start off together.”

“Heaven preserve me! But I would wager four thousand pounds that such a journey, made under these conditions, is impossible.”

“Quite possible, on the contrary,” returned Mr. Fogg.

“Well, make it, then!”

“The tour of the world in eighty days?”


“I should like nothing better.”


“At once. Only I warn you that I shall do it at your expense.”

“It’s absurd!” cried Stuart, who was beginning to be annoyed at the persistency of his friend. “Come, let’s go on with the game.”

“Deal over again, then,” said Phileas Fogg. “There’s a false deal.” 

Stuart took up the pack with a feverish hand; then suddenly put them down again.

Summer scene, illumination from The Very Rich Hours of the Duke of Berry

Summer, from the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, 1412–1489. Musée Condé, Chantilly, France.

“Well, Mr. Fogg,” said he, “it shall be so—I will wager the four thousand on it.”

“Calm yourself, my dear Stuart,” said Fallentin. “It’s nothing serious.”

“When I say I’ll wager,” returned Stuart, “it’s always serious.”

“All right,” said Mr. Fogg, and turning to the others, he continued, “I have a deposit of twenty thousand at Baring’s, which I will willingly risk upon it.”

“Twenty thousand pounds!” cried Sullivan. “Twenty thousand pounds, which you would lose by a single accidental delay!”

“The unforeseen does not exist,” quietly replied Phileas Fogg.

“But, Mr. Fogg, eighty days are only the estimate of the least possible time in which the journey can be made.”

“A well-used minimum suffices for everything.”

“But, in order not to exceed it, you must jump mathematically from the trains upon the steamers, and from the steamers upon the trains again.”

“I will jump—mathematically.”

“You are joking.”

“A true Englishman doesn’t joke when he is talking about so serious a thing as a wager,” replied Phileas Fogg, solemnly. “I will bet twenty thousand pounds, against anyone who wishes, that I will make the tour of the world in eighty days or less; in 1,920 hours, or 115,200 minutes. Do you accept?”

“We accept,” replied Messrs. Stuart, Fallentin, Sullivan, Flanagan, and Ralph, after consulting one another.

This is Year Zero.

—Pol Pot, 1975

“Good,” said Mr. Fogg. “The train leaves for Dover at a quarter before nine. I will take it.”

“This very evening?” asked Stuart.

“This very evening,” returned Phileas Fogg. He took out and consulted a pocket almanac, and added, “As today is Wednesday, the second of October, I shall be due in London, in this very room of the Reform Club, on Saturday, the twenty-first of December, at a quarter before nine p.m.—or else the twenty thousand pounds, now deposited in my name at Baring’s, will belong to you, in fact and in right, gentlemen. Here is a check for the amount.”

A memorandum of the wager was at once drawn up and signed by the six parties, during which Phileas Fogg preserved a stoical composure. He certainly did not bet to win, and had only staked the twenty thousand pounds, half of his fortune, because he foresaw that he might have to expend the other half to carry out this difficult, not to say unattainable project. As for his antagonists, they seemed much agitated—not so much by the value of their stake as because they had some scruples about betting under conditions so difficult to their friend.

The clock struck seven, and the party offered to suspend the game so that Mr. Fogg might make his preparations for departure.

“I am quite ready now,” was his tranquil response. “Diamonds are trumps: be so good as to play, gentlemen.”


Jules Verne

From Around the World in Eighty Days. Verne as a boy in the 1830s liked to gaze at the ships in the harbor of his hometown of Nantes and the machines at a factory near his country house in Chantenay. “I have still as much pleasure in watching a steam engine or a fine locomotive at work,” he reflected later in life, “as I have in contemplating a picture by Raphael or Correggio.” As part of his Extraordinary Voyages series, Verne wrote, among some sixty works, Journey to the Center of the Earth and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.