Sunday, July 04, 2021

The Mysteries of Auckland: Jules Verne

Jules Verne: Deux ans de vacances (1888)

As I remarked in my earlier post on Jules Verne, I recall being much entertained by his 1888 novel A Long Vacation, which I ran across in the Murrays Bay Intermediate School Library in the early 1970s.

I realise now that that Oxford University Press edition - beautifully illustrated though it was by Hungarian artist Victor G. Ambrus, who died earlier this year at the age of 85 - was even more severely abridged than is usual with Verne's books in English.

Given that part of the attraction seems to have been the fact that it was - at least in its opening chapters - set in my part of the world, Auckland. So I thought it might be interesting to compare Verne's original version with the picture of the city conveyed by his translator.

Jules Verne: A Long Vacation (1967)

À cette époque, la pension Chairman était l’une des plus estimées de la ville d’Auckland, capitale de la Nouvelle-Zélande, importante colonie anglaise du Pacifique. On y comptait une centaine d’élèves, appartenant aux meilleures familles du pays. Les Maoris, qui sont les indigènes de cet archipel, n’auraient pu y faire admettre leurs enfants pour lesquels, d’ailleurs, d’autres écoles étaient réservées.

Il n’y avait à la pension Chairman que de jeunes Anglais, Français, Américains, Allemands, fils des propriétaires, rentiers, négociants ou fonctionnaires du pays. Ils y recevaient une éducation très complète, identique à celle qui est donnée dans les établissements similaires du Royaume-Uni.
- Jules Verne: Deux ans de vacances (1888), 58-81.

["At that time, the Chairman School was one of the most prestigious in the town of Auckland, capital of New Zealand, a major English colony in the Pacific. It included roughly a hundred students, belonging to the best families in the country. The Maoris, who are the native race of this archipelago, were not able to send their children there, although there were other schools reserved for them.

The Chairman School catered only to young English, French, American and German boys, sons of the property owners, businessmen, merchants or civil servants of the country. They received there a very complete education, identical to that provided by similar institutions in the United Kingdom."
- all translations are by me, unless noted otherwise.]

The passengers on the Sloughie were all pupils of the Chairman School, one of the best in Auckland, which was at that time the capital of New Zealand. The school numbered about a hundred pupils: English, French, American, and German. Its traditions and plan of study were those current in the educational institutions of England.
- Jules Verne: A Long Vacation, trans. Olga Marx (1967), 19-24.

You'll notice at once how much franker Jules Verne's original is about the colour-bar between such British-style boarding schools as 'la pension Chairman' and the native schools reserved for the 'indigenous people of the country' than the 1960s English version dares to be.

This translation, by the industrious Olga Marx (1894-c.1980), better known for her versions of German writers such as Stefan George and Martin Buber, pares back the incidental detail so dear to Verne to convert his sprawling novel into a much tauter, more explicitly child-focussed adventure story.

Annex 1: Education in NZ in the 1860s

Traditionally, Māori educated some children in whare wānanga (houses of learning). From 1816 missionaries also established schools for Māori to teach them literacy and practical skills. These became more numerous in the 1830s and 1840s. British settlers arriving in New Zealand were often less well-educated than Māori.

... Between 1852 and 1876 provincial governments gave grants to existing schools and established more. School systems were well-developed in parts of the South Island, but less so in the North Island. Meanwhile, central government supported a separate ‘native school’ system for Māori children. By 1870 there was a free basic education system in many places but only about half of all children between five and 15 were attending school.

Secondary schools were few, highly academic and charged fees. Early examples included Auckland Grammar School (1869), Wellington College (1867) and Otago Boys’ High School (1863). In 1871 Otago Girls’ High School, the first girls’ secondary school, opened. Some scholarships were offered, but generally only children from well-off families made it to secondary school, and many more boys did so than girls.
- Te Ara / The Encyclopedia of New Zealand: Education from 1840 to 1918

And now, on with the story:

L’archipel de la Nouvelle-Zélande se compose de deux îles principales: au nord, Ika-Na-Mawi ou Île du Poisson, au sud, Tawaï-Ponamou ou Terre du Jade-Vert. Séparées par le détroit de Cook, elles gisent entre le 34e et le 45e parallèle sud – position équivalente à celle qu’occupe, dans l’hémisphère boréal, la partie de l’Europe comprenant la France et le nord de l’Afrique. (Verne, 59)

["The archipelago of New Zealand consists of two principal islands: to the North, Ika-Na-Mawi [Te Ika-a-Māui] or Isle of the Fish, to the south, Tawaï-Ponamou [Te Waipounamu] or Land of Greenstone. Separated by Cook Strait, they lie between the 34th and the 45th parallel south - a postion equivalent to that occupied by the part of Europe including France and North Africa in the Northern Hemisphere."]

J. Wareham: NZ: The South Island (c. 1860-69)

L’île d’Ika-Na-Mawi, très déchiquetée dans sa partie méridionale, forme une sorte de trapèze irrégulier, qui se prolonge vers le nord-ouest, suivant une courbe terminée par le cap Van-Diemen. (Verne, 59)

["The island of Te Ika-a-Māui, very spread out in its middle parts, forms a kind of irregular trapezoid, which is prolonged towards the north-west, following a curve terminated by Cape Van Diemen."]

It [Auckland] was located on Ika-Na-Mawi, on of the two main islands of the New Zealand archipelago, separated from the other, Tawaï-Ponamou, by Cook Strait ... (Marx 19)

Jules Verne's life-long habit of cribbing information from guide-books and magazine articles serves him well here: he has a pretty good grasp of precisely what New Zealand looks like - on the map, at any rate.

Special Collections, Auckland Library: Auckland (c. 1860)

C’est à peu près à la naissance de cette courbe, en un point où la presqu’île mesure seulement quelques milles, qu’est bâtie Auckland. La ville est donc située comme l’est Corinthe, en Grèce – ce qui lui a valu le nom de « Corinthe du Sud ». Elle possède deux ports ouverts, l’un à l’ouest,l’autre à l’est. Ce dernier, sur le golfe Hauraki, étant peu profond, il a fallu projeter quelques-uns de ces longs «piers», à la mode anglaise, où les navires de moyen tonnage peuvent venir accoster. Entre autres s’allonge le Commercial-pier, auquel aboutit Queen’s-street, l’une des principales rues de la cité.

C’est vers le milieu de cette rue que se trouvait la pension Chairman.
(Verne, 59-60)

["It's almost at the beginning of this curve, at a point where the isthmus measures only a few miles wide, that Auckland is built. The city is thus situated like Corinth, in Greece - which has earned it the title of the 'Corinth of the South.' It has two ports, one opening to the west, the other to the east. This last, on the Hauraki Gulf, being shallow, it has proved necessary to project some long 'piers', in the English mode, where ships of deeper draft can tie up. Commercial Pier, one among several others, links up with Queen Street, one of the principal streets of the city.

Chairman school can be found towards the middle of this street."]

Ika-Na-Mawi had a west and an east port. The latter, on the Gulf of Hauraki, was shallow, but piers built out into the water in the British manner made it possible for vessels of medium tonnage to berth there. One of these piers, Commercial Pier, was at the end of Queen's street where Chairman School was situated. (Marx 19)

It's news to me that Auckland was ever referred to as "the Corinth of the South", but then that kind of information is one of the interesting by-products of reading old books. In any case, the translator leaves out much of that information as largely irrelevant to contemporary readers.

Annex 2: Auckland geography in the 1860s

Auckland Heritage: The original line of the waterfront (1850s)

Auckland ... has, the luxury of two sheltered harbours to choose from: the Manukau on the west, with its lethal sandbar entrance and shallower channels, and the Waitemata on the east. Although the safer choice, the Waitemata waterfront, in its natural state, was a motley array of tidal beaches and mudflats which made loading and unloading the large sailing barques and brigantines a tricky and tedious business. The solution was a 1400′ (427m) long wharf jutting out into Commercial Bay, and once this was completed shops, warehouses, factories and hotels sprang up to receive, resell and redistribute the tons of cargo constantly being off-loaded there.

The area was soon the hub of Auckland’s commercial activity, and prime business real estate, but further inland was far less desirable. Where Aotea Square is now was once a swamp. Rainwater running downhill from Karangahape Ridge pooled in this hollow, before draining away to the harbour along a meandering trench known as the Waihorotiu Stream. Because the stream met the sea at a point near the new wharf, businesses soon sprang up alongside it, and the resulting caravan of wooden shops was declared to be Queen Street. Unfortunately the city had no provisions for sewage, and so Waihorotiu quickly became a low point hygienically, as well as geographically. Human waste and general garbage transformed the stream into a slow-moving cess pit, imparting an unsanitary odour over downtown Auckland and contributing to the spread of vermin, disease and death. In the 1880’s the stream was finally bricked in and paved over, and renamed Ligar’s Canal. Entombed beneath 21st century Queen St traffic and skyscrapers, it still courses through that same curious oval-section tunnel.

Auckland Heritage: Wharf Mill (1880s)

... But the waterfront was changing, or more correctly being changed. Plans were underway, beginning in the 1850’s, to establish commercial docks that could service any ships, and in greater numbers than a single wharf. The solution was to reclaim the harbour – fill in the foreshore and run the land right out past the shallows. To this end, work continued for over 100 years, but large sections were completed quite early on out of necessity.

Auckland Heritage: The Encom Building [Smeeton's Mill] (2016)

... Behind the façade – unchanged for over a hundred years – are the bones of a one hundred and fifty-five year old mill, once the largest and most prominent building in the area, now dwarfed by everything on the block. It marks the spot where Queen St once ended and the Waitemata Harbour began, now can no longer be seen from the waterfront. But it [Smeeton's] is still there, and thousands pass it daily.
- Auckland Heritage: Queen Street's Oldest Building (2016)

Having set the scene, it's time for the actual adventure story to begin:

Hursthouse: Auckland Port (1857)

Or, le 15 février 1860, dans l’après-midi, il sortait du dit pensionnat une centaine de jeunes garçons, accompagnés de leurs parents, l’air gai, l’allure joyeuse – des oiseaux auxquels on vient d’ouvrir leur cage.

En effet, c’était le commencement des vacances. Deux mois d’indépendance, deux mois de liberté. Et, pour un certain nombre de ces élèves, il y avait aussi la perspective d’un voyage en mer, dont on s’entretenait depuis longtemps à la pension Chairman. Inutile d’ajouter quelle envie excitait ceux auxquels leur bonne fortune allait permettre de prendre passage à bord du yacht Sloughi, qui se préparait à visiter les côtes de la Nouvelle-Zélande dans une promenade de circumnavigation.

Ce joli schooner, frété par les parents des élèves, avait été disposé pour une campagne de six semaines.
(Verne, 60-61)

["So, on the afternoon of the 15th of February, 1860, a hundred happy young boys, accompanied by their parents, burst out of the gates of the school with a joyful air - birds whose cage door has been flung open.

The long vacation had begun. Two months of independence, two months of liberty. And, for a certain number of these students, there was also the prospect of a sea voyage, as had long been the custom at the Chairman school. It's pointless to mention how much pleasure was felt by those whose good fortune would permit them to take passage on board the yacht Sloughi, which was preparing for a circumnavigation of both coasts of New Zealand.

This handsome schooner, rented by the parents of the students, had been victualled for a six weeks' voyage."]

On 14 February 1860, crowds of boys and their parents streamed out of the door. Vacation had begun, and they were going home for two months' of freedom and fun. A small number of boys had a special pleasure in store. They were going on a six weeks' cruise. (Marx 19)

Not a lot of information missing from Marx's concise summary there.

Il appartenait au père de l’un d’eux, M. William H. Garnett, ancien capitaine de la marine marchande, en qui l’on pouvait avoir toute confiance. Une souscription, répartie entre les diverses familles, devait couvrir les frais du voyage, qui s’effectuerait dans les meilleures conditions de sécurité et de confort. C’était là une grande joie pour ces jeunes garçons, et il eût été difficile de mieux employer quelques semaines de vacances. (Verne, 61)

["It belonged to one of their father's, Mr Wiliam H. Garnett, a retired Merchant Marine captain, in whom one could place complete confidence. A subscription, shared between various families, would cover the costs of the voyage, which would take place in the best circumstances of security and comfort. This would be a great pleasure for the young boys, and it would have been difficult for them to employ a few weeks of their vacation in a better manner."]

The father of one of them, Mr. William Garnett, a retired captain in the mercantile marine, owned a schooner, the Sloughie, and various families had joined to charter her to give their sons the opportunity to travel by sea in safety and comfort ... (Marx 19)

Circular Saw Line: Auckland Wharves (c.1860)

Le jour du départ avait été fixé au 15 février. En attendant, le Sloughi restait amarré par l’arrière à l’extrémité du Commercial-pier et, conséquemment, assez au large dans le port. L’équipage n’était pas à bord, lorsque, le 14 au soir, les jeunes passagers vinrent s’embarquer.

Le capitaine Garnett ne devait arriver qu’au moment de l’appareillage. Seuls, le maître et le mousse reçurent Gordon et ses camarades, – les hommes étant allés vider un dernier verre de wisky. Et même, après que tous furent installés et couchés, le maître crut pouvoir rejoindre son équipage dans un des cabarets du port, où il eut le tort impardonnable de s’attarder jusqu’à une heure avancée de la nuit. Quant au mousse, il s’était affalé dans le poste pour dormir
. (Verne, 72-73)

["The day of departure had been fixed for the 15th of February. In expectation, the Sloughi was attached to the very end of the Commerical pier, and, consequently, very much in the middle of the port. The crew was not yet on board, when, on the evening of the 14th, the young passengers came down to embark.

Captain Garnett was not due to arrive until the moment of loading the cargo. Only the mate and the cabin boy received Gordon and his friends - the rest of crew had gone to empty a last glass of Whisky. And even then, after all of them had been received and put to bed, the mate thought he had time to join the rest of his crew in one of the port taverns, where he made the terrible mistake of lingering until a late hour of the night. As for the cabin boy, he had left his post to go to bed."]

The Sloughie was to leave on 15 February, and the boys boarded the night before. The Captain was not due to arrive until sailing-time, and the crew were having last drinks at one of the many bars near the port. Only the helmsman and Moko were aboard to receive the passengers and, after these had gone to bed, the helmsman decided to spend the evening in town at a cabaret ... As for Moko, when there was no more for him to do, he too, went to bed. (Marx 22)

Despite that obvious attempt at a Māori name, 'Moko', the cabin-boy is described throughout by Verne as a "nègre" - a Black African. Marx seems unsure how to describe him, and so leaves the question of his precise ethnicity moot. Certainly he is never treated as an equal by any of the white schoolboys.

New Zealand: A Hand-book for Emigrants: Auckland in 1859 (1860)

Que se passa-t-il alors? Très probablement, on ne devait jamais le savoir. Ce qui est certain, c’est que l’amarre du yacht fut détachée par négligence ou par malveillance ... À bord on ne s’aperçut de rien.

Une nuit noire enveloppait le port et le golfe Hauraki. Le vent de terre se faisait sentir avec force, et le schooner, pris en dessous par un courant de reflux qui portait au large, se mit à fuir vers la haute mer.
(Verne, 73)

["What happened then? Very probably, we'll never know for sure. What's certain is that the cable attaching the yacht to the pier was let go by negligence or malice .. on board nobody noticed anything.

A black night enveloped the port and the Hauraki Gulf. The land wind was blowing hard, and the schooner, caught from behind by an adverse tide which carried it out, began to make its way out to the open sea."]

What happened then, no one knew. Only one thing was certain: either through negligence in the way her lines had been secured, or by some deliberate and malicious act the Sloughie broke loose from her piling. It was a starless night. The port and the Gulf of Hauraki lay in darkness. The wind freshened, and the schooner, caught in a strong current, was swept out to sea. (Marx 22)

Frederick Rice Stack: Auckland from Takapuna (1860)

Lorsque le mousse se réveilla, le Sloughi roulait comme s’il eût été bercé par une houle qu’on ne pouvait confondre avec le ressac habituel. Moko se hâta aussitôt de monter sur le pont... Le yacht était en dérive!

Aux cris du mousse, Gordon, Briant, Doniphan et quelques autres, se jetant à bas de leurs couchettes, s’élancèrent hors du capot. Vainement appelèrent-ils à leur aide! Ils n’apercevaient même plus une seule des lumières de la ville ou du port. Le schooner était déjà en plein golfe, à trois milles de la côte.
(Verne, 73)

["When the cabin boy woke up, the Sloughi was was rolling as if it had been hit by a storm which could not be confused by the usual backwash. Moko hastened up on the bridge ... the yacht was floating free.

At the shouts of the cabin boy, Briant, Doniphan and a few others, jumping from their bunks, ran out of the cabin. They shouted out for help in vain. They could no longer see a single one of the lights of the port. The schooner was already out in the gulf, three miles from the coast"]

When Moko woke she was rolling and pitching. He knew at once that she would not behave like that in port, ran up on deck, and saw that she was loose.

At his cries Briant, Gordon, and Doniphan jumped out of bed and joined him on deck. They called for help. Their voices were drowned by the crash of waves and the roaring wind. Not a single light from the city was visible. The schooner was already three miles out from the coast.
(Marx 22)

Tout d’abord, sur les conseils de Briant auquel se joignit le mousse, ces jeunes garçons essayèrent d’établir une voile, afin de revenir au port en courant une bordée. Mais, trop lourde pour pouvoir être orientée convenablement, cette voile n’eut d’autre effet que de les entraîner plus loin par la prise qu’elle donnait au vent d’ouest. Le Sloughi doubla le cap Colville, franchit le détroit qui le sépare de l’Île de la Grande-Barrière, et se trouva bientôt à plusieurs milles de la Nouvelle-Zélande. (Verne, 74)

["Right away, at the suggestion of Briant, seconded by the cabin boy, these young boys tried to hoist a sail, in order to return to port in the hopes of a rescue, But, too heavy to be hoisted comfortably, this sail had no effect except to take them further out, as a result of the west wind which had sprung up. The Sloughi rounded Cape Colville, threaded the strait which separates it from Great Barrier island, and soon found itself several miles from New Zealand."]

At Briant's sugggestion the boys, together with Moko, tried to hoist a sail in order to get back to port. But they were too inexperienced and accomplished the opposite of what they had set out to do. The Sloughie was carried farther and farther out to sea. She rounded Cape Colville and was soon many miles away from New Zealand. (Marx 22)

This is an interesting description. I find it hard to believe that any boat could be blown out of Auckland harbour all the way past Cape Colville without encountering one of the myriad islands of the Hauraki Gulf: - Waiheke, for instance - but I suppose some allowance must be made for poetic licence.

James Edward Buttersworth (1817-1894): Schooner in Stormy Seas

On comprend la gravité d’une pareille situation. Briant et ses camarades ne pouvaient plus espérer aucun secours de terre. Au cas où quelque navire du port se mettrait à leur recherche, plusieurs heures se passeraient avant qu’il eût pu les rejoindre, étant même admis qu’il fut possible de retrouver le schooner au milieu de cette profonde obscurité. Et d’ailleurs, le jour venu, comment apercevrait-on un si petit bâtiment, perdu sur la haute mer? Quant à se tirer d’affaire par leurs seuls efforts, comment ces enfants y parviendraient-ils? (Verne, 74)

["The seriousness of the situation was obvious. Briant and his companions could expect no more help from the shore. Even if a ship from the port set out in search of them, several hours would pass before it could catch up with them, even if it should prove possible to find the schooner in the midst of this profound darkness. And then, when day came, how would one be able to find so small a ship, lost on the high seas? As for getting out of trouble by their own efforts, how could these children achieve that?"]

Briant and his companions realized that no aid could come to them from land. A passing vessel was their only hope. But would such a vessel see a small schooner in the dark? (Marx 22)

Jules Verne: Deux ans de vacances (1888)

À Auckland, lorsque la disparition du Sloughi eut été constatée dans la nuit même du 14 au 15 février, on prévint le capitaine Garnett et les familles de ces malheureux enfants. Inutile d’insister sur l’effet qu’un tel événement produisit dans la ville, où la consternation fut générale.

Mais, si son amarre s’était détachée ou rompue, peut-être la dérive n’avait-elle pas rejeté le schooner au large du golfe ? Peut-être serait-il possible de le retrouver, bien que le vent d’ouest, qui prenait de la force, fût de nature à donner les plus douloureuses inquiétudes ?

Aussi, sans perdre un instant, le directeur du port prit-il ses mesures pour venir au secours du yacht. Deux petits vapeurs allèrent porter leurs recherches sur un espace de plusieurs milles en dehors du golfe Hauraki. Pendant la nuit entière, ils parcoururent ces parages, où la mer commençait à devenir très dure. Et, le jour venu, quand ils rentrèrent, ce fut pour enlever tout espoir aux familles frappées par cette épouvantable catastrophe.

En effet, s’ils n’avaient pas retrouvé le Sloughi, ces vapeurs en avaient du moins recueilli les épaves. C’étaient les débris du couronnement, tombés à la mer, après cette collision avec le steamer péruvien Quito – collision dont ce navire n’avait pas même eu connaissance.

Sur ces débris se lisaient encore trois ou quatre lettres du nom de Sloughi. Il parut donc certain que le yacht avait dû être démoli par quelque coup de mer, et que, par suite de cet accident, il s’était perdu corps et biens à une douzaine de milles au large de la Nouvelle-Zélande.
(Verne, 79-81)

["In Auckland, after the disappearance of the schooner had been noticed on the night of the 14th-15th of February, Captain Garnett and the various families of these unfortunate children were informed. It's unnecessary to stress what effect such an announcement had on the town, where it caused general consternation.

But, if the cable had been cut or broken, perhaps the ebb tide would have left the ship in the midst of the gulf? In which case, it might still be possible to find them, even though the west wind, which was gathering force, gave rise to much disquiet.

So, without losing a moment, the port director took measures to go to the assitance of the yacht. Two small steam tugs went out to search over a space of many miles around the Hauraki Gulf. Throughout the whole night, they continued their traverses, until the sea began to become very rough. And, when day came, and they returned, it was to remove all hope from the families struck by this terrible catastrophe.

In effect, if they hadn't found the Sloughi, these tugs had at least discovered a few traces of it, It was the debris from the bow, fallen into the sea, after that collision with the Peruvian steamer Quito - a collision which the ship in question had not even noticed.

On this debris three or four letters of the name Sloughi could be made out. It thus appeared certain that the yacht must have been destroyed by some giant wave, and, as a result of this accident, it had scattered bodies and goods over a dozen miles of the coast of New Zealand."]

In Auckland the disappearance of the schooner was discovered during the night of the fourteenth. Whether her lines had broken, whether someone had tampered with them, nobody knew. Two small steamers were immediately sent in search of the yacht. They went miles beyond the gulf and saw nothing of her. All they found was bits of floating wreckage. Part of a plank bore three or four letters which pointed to the name Sloughie. They reported their find, and everyone concluded that the schooner had been smashed to bits by the stormy sea. The families of the boys gave them up for lost, and the entire city of Auckland went into mourning. (Marx 24)

I suppose the collision with the South American tug wasn't strictly required by the exigencies of the narrative, but the floating wreckage seems a bit unmotivated as a result.

In any case, that's the end of the strictly Auckland-centred part of the story - until the triumphant return of the boys, after two years of adventures on a (mostly) deserted island.

Strangely enough, it's the French boy, Briant, and the American, Gordon, who really come up trumps: the British boys, led by 'Doniphan' [= Donovan?], hidebound by the rigid nature of their public school education, are too preoccupied with class and precedence to do much that's useful to ensure their own survival.

Jules Verne: A Long Vacation (1967)

Annex 3: Kindred and affinity

William Golding: Lord of the Flies (1957)

Some have seen in all this a forestaste of William Golding's book Lord of the Flies (1957), but Verne's is, for the most part, far too conventional a Robinsonade for that.

Johann Wyss: "New Switzerland" (1812)

To me, it's clear that the book's affinities lie more with Johann Wyss's The Swiss Family Robinson, as well as with Verne's own The Mysterious Island and L'École des Robinsons [School for Robinsons] (1882). There's still something haunting about it, though - for me, at any rate.

Jules Verne: L'Île mystérieuse (1875)

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