There was a large audience, on the 14th of January 1862, at the sitting of the Royal Geographical Society of London, 3, Waterloo Place. The president, Sir Francis M—, made an important speech to his honourable colleagues, and was frequently interrupted by applause. It ended thus:— “England has always marched at the head of other nations (for it has been remarked that nations universally march at the head of one another) by its geographical discoveries. (Hear, hear) Dr Samuel Fergusson will add to its glory. If his attempt succeed (a voice—‘It will succeed.’), it will complete the map of Africa; if it fail, it will remain one of the most daring conceptions of human genius!”
The applause was frantic. “Hurrah for Fergusson!”
So it began—so very typically—the first of the 74 (or so) books and the long literary career of Jules Verne. The total of his works is unclear—half a dozen were published after his death and new manuscripts keep bobbing up, the latest in 1987. We have to suppose this opening paragraph of Five Weeks in a Balloon is meant to be ironic—Verne despised England and all it stood for as mightily as a patriotic Frenchman should—that Hated Nation, as Captain Nemo constantly called it with a splutter of anger.
Five Weeks in a Balloon, in which an eccentric Englishman (is there any other kind?) travels across Africa by navigable hot air balloon, after which Verne wrote ten books more in the same number of years but somehow the publisher went broke and Jules had to bail him out. You gotta get hold of this—the guy published most of the Immortal Vernes— Five Weeks in a Balloon, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon, 20,0000 Leagues under the Sea, The Adventures of Captain Hatteras, The Children of Captain Grant, Measuring the Meridian and The Fur Country—and promptly went broke! Most of them remain in print to this day. Then Jules wrote Around the World in 80 Days which was a huge success and they both prospered over his next fifty lesser known books. But how the hell did he blow it in the first place? All of the great mysteries of literature collectively do not equal the immensity of the folly of publishers.