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Chapter One

The Gun Club

DURING THE Civil War in the United States an influential club was formed in Baltimore. The vigor with which the military instinct developed in that nation of ship owners, merchants, and mechanics is well known. Shopkeepers left their counters and became captains, colonels, and generals without ever having gone to West Point. They soon equaled their Old World colleagues in the "art of war" and, like them, won victories by lavishly expending ammunition, money, and men.

But in the science of ballistics the Americans far surpassed the Europeans. Not that their guns attained a higher degree of perfection, but they were made much larger and therefore reached much greater ranges. When it comes to grazing fire, plunging fire, direct fire, oblique fire, or raking fire, the English, French, and Prussians have nothing to learn, but their cannons, howitzers, and mortars are only pocket pistols compared to the awesome engines of the American artillery.

This should surprise no one. The Yankees, the world's best mechanics, are engineers the way Italians are mu_sicians and Germans are metaphysicians: by birth. Nothing could then be more natural than for them to bring their bold ingenuity to the science of ballistics. The wonders performed in this domain by men like Parrott, Dahlgren, and Rodman are known to everyone. Armstrong, Paliser, and Treuille de Beaulieu could only bow to their transatlantic rivals.

And so during the terrible struggle between the North and the South the artillerymen reigned supreme. The Union newspapers enthusiastically extolled their inventions, and there was no tradesman so humble, no idler so guileless that he did not rack his brain day and night calculating fantastic trajectories.

Now when an American has an idea he looks for another American who shares it. If there are three of them they elect a president and two vice presidents. If there are four they appoint a secretary and their staff is ready to function. If there are five they convene in a general assembly and their club is formed. That was how it happened in Baltimore. A man who had invented a new cannon associated himself with the man who had cast it and the man who had bored it. That was the nucleus of the Gun Club. A month after its formation it had 1,833 resident members and 30,575 corresponding members.

There was one strict condition for membership in the club: the applicant had to have invented or at least improved a cannon; or if not a cannon, some other kind of firearm. But it must be said that inventors of fifteen-shot revolvers, pivoting rifles, or saber pistols were not held in high esteem. The artillerymen took precedence over them in all circumstances.

"The respect they get," one of the most learned orators of the Gun Club said one day, "is proportional to the mass of their cannons and in direct ratio to the square of the distances reached by their projectiles." This was almost a psychological application of Newton's law of gravity.

Once the Gun Club had been founded, it was easy to imagine the results produced by the Americans' inventive genius. Their cannons took on colossal proportions, and their projectiles reached out beyond all normal limits to cut harmless strollers in half. All these inventions outstripped the timid instruments of European artillery, as the following figures will show.

In the "good old days," a 36-pound cannon ball would go through 36 horses and 68 men at a distance of 100 yards. The art was still in its infancy. It has come a long way since then. The Rodman cannon, which shot a projectile weighing half a ton to a distance of seven miles, could easily have flattened 150 horses and 300 men. The Gun Club considered testing this, but while the horses raised no objection to the experiment, it was unfortunately impossible to find men willing to take part in it.

Be that as it may, these cannons had extremely murderous effects. With each of their shots, combatants fell like wheat before the scythe. Compared to such projectiles what was the famous cannon ball which put twenty-five men out of action at Coutras in 1587, or the one that killed forty infantrymen at Zorndorf in 1758, or the Austrian cannon that felled seventy enemy soldiers each time it was fired at Kesseldorf in 1742? What was the amazing gunfire at Jena or Austerlitz, which decided the outcome of the battle? There was real artillery in the Civil War! At the battle of Gettysburg a conical projectile shot from a rifled cannon struck down 173 Confederates, and during the crossing of the Potomac a Rodman ball sent 215 Southerners into an obviously better world. We must also mention the formidable mortar invented by J. T. Maston, distinguished member and permanent secretary of the Gun Club. It was more lethal than any of the others, for it killed 337 people the first time it was fired, though it is true that it did so by bursting.

What can we add to these figures, so eloquent in themselves? Nothing. It will therefore be easy to accept the calculation made by the statistician Pitcairn: he divided the number of members in the Gun Club by the number of victims of their cannon balls and found that each member had killed an average of 2,375 and a fraction men.

From this figure it is clear that the aims of that learned society were the destruction of the human race for philanthropical reasons and the improvement of war weapons, regarded as instruments of civilization. It was an assemblage of Angels of Death who at the same time were thoroughly decent men.

It must be added that these dauntless Yankees did not confine themselves to theory: they also acquired direct, practical experience. Among them were officers of all ranks, from lieutenant to general, soldiers of all ages, some who had just begun their military career and others who had grown old over their gun carriages. Many fell on the field of battle, and their names were inscribed on the Gun Club's honor roll. Most of those who came back bore the marks of their unquestionable valor. Crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms with iron hooks at the wrist, rubber jaws, silver skulls, platinum noses—nothing was lacking in the collection. The aforementioned Pitcairn calculated that in the Gun Club there was not quite one arm for every four men, and only one leg for every three.

But these valiant artillerymen paid little heed to such trifles, and they felt rightfully proud when a battle report showed the number of casualties to be ten times as great as the number of projectiles used.

One day, however, one sad and wretched day, the survivors of the war made peace. The shooting gradually died down; the mortars fell silent; muzzled howitzers and drooping cannons were taken back to their arsenals; cannon balls were piled up in parks; bloody memories faded; cotton grew magnificently in abundantly fertilized fields; mourning clothes and the grief they represented began to wear thin, and the Gun Club was plunged in idle boredom.

A few relentless workers still made ballistic calculations and went on dreaming of gigantic, incomparable projectiles. But without opportunities for practical application these theories were meaningless, and so the rooms of the Gun Club became deserted, the servants dozed in the antechambers, the newspapers gathered dust on the tables, sounds of sad snoring came from the dark corners, and the members, once so noisy, now reduced to silence by a disastrous peace, lethargically abandoned themselves to visions of platonic artillery.

"It's disheartening!" the worthy Tom Hunter said one evening while his wooden legs were slowly charring in front of the fireplace in the smoking room. "There's nothing to do, nothing to hope for! What a tedious life! Where are the days when we were awakened every morning by the joyful booming of cannons?"

"Those days are gone," replied the dashing Bilsby, trying to stretch his missing arms. "How wonderful they were! You could invent a howitzer and try it out on the enemy as soon as it was cast, then when you came back to camp you'd get a word of praise from Sherman or a handshake from McClellan! But now the generals have become shopkeepers again, and balls of yarn are the deadliest projectiles they're likely to deal with. The future is bleak for artillery in America!"

"You're right, Bilsby, it's a cruel disappointment!" said Colonel Bloomsberry. "One day you give up your calm, peaceful life, you learn the manual of arms, you leave Baltimore and march off to battle, you fight heroically, and then, two or three years later, you have to lose the fruit of all your efforts and do nothing but stand around idly with your hands in your pockets."

The valiant colonel would have been unable to dem_onstrate his own idleness in this way, though not from lack of pockets.

"And no war in sight!" said the famous J. T. Maston, scratching his rubber skull with the iron hook at the end of his arm. "There's not even a cloud on the horizon, and yet there's still so much to be done in the science of artillery! Only this morning I drew up a complete set of plans of a mortar that's destined to change the laws of war!"

"Really?" said Tom Hunter, involuntarily recalling the test firing of Maston's last creation.
"Yes," said Maston. "But what good did it do me to make all those studies and work out all those difficulties? I was only wasting my time. The New World seems determined to live in peace, and the belligerent New York Tribune has begun predicting catastrophes caused by the scandalous growth of the population."

"But there's always a war going on in Europe to _support the principle of nationality," said Colonel Bloomsberry.

"What of it?"

"Well, there might be something for us to do over there, and if our services were accepted . . ."

"What!" cried Bilsby. "Are you suggesting that we do ballistic research for foreigners?"

"It would be better than not doing any at all," retorted the colonel.

"Yes, it would," said J. T. Maston, "but it's out of the question."


"Because in the Old World they have ideas about promotion that are contrary to all our American habits. They think a man can't become a general unless he's first been a second lieutenant, which is the same as saying that you can't be a good gunner unless you've cast the gun yourself! It's . . ."
"Ridiculous, that's what it is!" said Tom Hunter, stabbing the arm of his chair with his Bowie knife. "But since that's how things are, there's nothing left for us to do but plant tobacco or distill whale oil!"

"Do you mean to say," J. T. Maston exclaimed in a ringing voice, "that the last years of our lives will not be devoted to the improvement of firearms? That there will be no new opportunities to test the range of our projectiles? That the air will never again be bright with the flash of our cannons? That there will be no international difficulties which will enable us to declare war on some transatlantic country? That the French will never sink a single one of our steamers, or that the English will never hang any of our citizens in direct violation of the law of nations?"

"No, Maston," replied Colonel Bloomsberry, "we'll never be that lucky. Not one of those things will happen, and even if one of them did happen, it wouldn't do us any good! Americans are getting less and less touchy all the time. It won't be long before we're a nation of old women!"

"We're becoming humble," said Bilsby.

"And we're being humbled!" added Tom Hunter.

"It's all too true!" J. T. Maston said with renewed vehemence. "There are all kinds of reasons for fighting, but we don't fight! We're intent on saving arms and legs for people who don't know what to do with them! And there's no need to look very far for a reason for going to war. For example, America once belonged to England, didn't it?"

"Yes, it did," replied Tom Hunter, angrily poking the fire with the end of his crutch.

"Well, then," said J. T. Maston, "why shouldn't it be England's turn to belong to America?"

"That would be only fair," said Colonel Bloomsberry.

"Just go and suggest it to the President!" said J. T. Maston. "You'll see what kind of a reception he'll give you!"

"It wouldn't be a very polite reception," Bilsby murmured between the four teeth he had saved from battle.

"I certainly won't vote for him in the next election!" said J. T. Maston.

"Neither will I!" the bellicose cripples all shouted at once.

"Meanwhile," said the intrepid J. T. Maston, "if I'm not given a chance to try out my mortar on a real battlefield, I'll resign from the Gun Club and go off into the wilds of Arkansas."

"And we'll all go with you!" replied the others.

Things had reached this point, the members of the Gun Club were becoming more and more wrought up, and the club was threatened with dissolution when an unexpected event forestalled that catastrophe.

The day after the conversation reported above, each member of the club received the following notice:

Baltimore, October 3

The President of the Gun Club has the honor of informing his colleagues that during the meeting on October 5, he will make an announcement that will be of the greatest interest to them. He therefore strongly urges them to be present.
Impey Barbicane

Chapter Two

President's Barbicane's Announcement

AT EIGHT o'clock on the evening of October 5, a dense crowd was milling in the rooms of the Gun Club at 21 Union Square. All the members who lived in Baltimore had responded to their president's invitation. As for the corresponding members, express trains were bringing them in by the hundreds and they were pouring through the streets of the city. Large though the meeting hall was, it was unable to hold this influx of learned members, and so they overflowed into the adjoining rooms, the halls, and even into the grounds outside. There they encountered the ordinary people who were swarming around the doors, each one trying to make his way to the front, all eager to learn what President Barbicane's important announcement was going to be, pushing, jostling, and crushing one another with the freedom of action that is peculiar to a populace that has been raised with the idea of self-government.

That evening a stranger in Baltimore would have been unable to enter the meeting hall no matter how much he might have been willing to pay. It was reserved exclusively for the resident and corresponding members of the Gun Club, and no one else was admitted into it. Even the local dignitaries and the members of the city government had to mingle with the crowd and try to catch word of what was taking place inside. --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Poche .

Présentation de l'éditeur

Jules Gabriel Verne (February 8, 1828 – March 24, 1905) was a French author who pioneered the science fictiongenre. He is best known for his novels Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870), A Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), and Around the World in Eighty Days (1873). Verne wrote about space, air, and underwater travels before air travel and practical submarines were invented, and before practical means of space travel had been devised. He is the second most translated author in the world (after Agatha Christie). Some of his books have also been made into live-action and animated films and television shows. Verne is often referred to as the "Father of Science Fiction", a title sometimes shared with Hugo Gernsback and H. G. Wells. -wikipedia --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

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35 internautes sur 38 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
An Obsolete Translation--Barnes&Noble ISBN:0760765197 11 juin 2006
Par Norman M. Wolcott - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
This translation, one of the Barnes and Noble "Classics Editions", is the 1874 English translation by Edward Roth, a Philadelphia school-teacher. In no sense a translation, it is more a parody or retelling of the French original with many embelishments and additions by the author. The editor is Aaron Parett, an English professor from Montana. In an appendix the editor mentions that for furthur reading one might try the complete translation by Walter James Miller, "The Annotated Jules Verne: From the Earth to the Moon" published by Crowell: 1978 and reprinted by Gramercy: 1995. (In reading reviews, make sure the review applies to this ISBN: 07060765197)
15 internautes sur 16 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Preparations for a cannon shot to the moon. 4 juin 1999
Par R. D. Allison (dallison@biochem.med.ufl.edu) - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Poche
This is a prophetic, both scientifically and socially, novel by Jules Verne that was first published in 1865. Verne was a satiric critic whose novel strongly hints at the future military industrial complex. This story depicts a club of artillery experts, the Baltimore Gun Club, bemoaning the end of the U. S. Civil War. The President of the Club, Impey Barbicane, comes up with a new project: a cannon shot to the moon. The idea for having passengers comes from a Frenchman. Most of the novel is concerned with the preparations for the launch which occurs at the end of the book. The story continues in Verne's sequel, "Round the Moon" (1870). It's amazing how many things Verne correctly predicted. Verne was perhaps the first author who attempts to make his novels agree with the science known at his time, although there are still mistakes. Verne is also making a number of political points as well in comparing the freedom observed in the U. S. and the real lack of such freedom in France of the 1860s. Readers should also note that Walter James Miller has provided an annotated edition of this novel in 1978 that is excellent.
13 internautes sur 15 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A wildly entertaining story 29 novembre 2001
Par Daniel Jolley - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Poche
While I naturally have long admired Jules Verne for his outstanding scientific vision and prodigious talent as a writer, I really had no idea that he could also write in such an entertaining and humorous fashion as revealed in this short novel. My memories of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea consist to a large degree of stretches of pages devoted to pure scientific language that could be hard to get through, but this book is an easy read full of action and laugh-out-loud commentary. Don't get me wrong, though--the science is here, and Verne goes into a lot of details concerning the project from conception to reality, walking us through all of the steps involved in constructing the cannon and its projectile. Surely, though, Verne knew that the very idea of launching men to the moon via a superhuge cannon was not really an idea that could work; as such, he lets the story and especially his characterizations of the main players in the drama, take center stage over the science. What we end up with is a study of sorts of the American character, a tribute to the power of imagination and dreaming, the glorification of science, and a very funny story about some really amazing characters.
I can not begin to relate the number of truly humorous anecdotes and observations filling the pages of this story. Barbicane, J. T. Maston, and Michel Ardan are quite memorable characters, and their acts and exploits will entertain you to no end. Verne introduces subtle but hilarious remarks and observations throughout the entire book that will make you laugh out loud. If the idea of hard scientific theorizing has scared you away from Verne, pick this book up and be wholly entertained. I would recommend, though, that you pick up a copy that also contains the sequel, Round the Moon. This first book essentially culminates in the firing of the men into space inside the projectile, and you will certainly want to read the story of what happens to the men afterward. I now have to find a copy of the second book, so I urge others to save yourselves time and buy both stories in one package.
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Books of Enthusiasms 10 janvier 2011
Par Paul Camp - Publié sur Amazon.com
This is a review of the 1970 Heritage Press edition of Jules Verne's _From the Earth to the Moon_ and _Around the Moon_. The first novel was originally published in 1865, the second in 1870. The book does not credit a translator, but various bibliographies credit Harold Salemson and rate his translation as "excellent". There is a good introduction by Verne's grandson, Jean Jules-Verne and lovely (if somewhat modernistic) color illustrations by Robert Shore. The Heritage Press edition, then, would make a great gift package for even the most persnickety of Verne purists.

I would like to addresss a characteristic of these novels that is frequently overlooked: They are funny. It has been said that much of the humor is in the form of an anti-war satire, and I believe that this is partly true. Early in _From the Earth to the Moon_, the members of the Baltimore Gun Club (most of whom have missing limbs) mourn the end of the Civil War and wish ardently for a new war that will allow them to design new cannons that will kill hundreds of people at a time.

Later, when the ever-impetuous J.T. Maston wants to join the other travelers on the trip to the Moon, Michel Aden gently explains to him that he is "incomplete" (167), since he is missing an arm:

"Imagine our meeting some of the inhabitants up there! Would you like to give them such a melancholy notion of what goes on down here? To teach them what war is, to inform them that we employ our time chiefly in devouring each other, in smashing arms and legs, and that too on a globe which is capable of supporting a hundred billion inhabitants, and which actually does contain barely two hundred million? Why, my worthy friend, they would feel they had to turn us away!" (167)

But I believe that it is more accurate to say that Verne is laughing at _enthusiasms_. To be sure, some of these enthusiasms are from people who want to go to war with another country at the drop of a hat. But some enthusiasms lead to wild public support for a shell to be fired at the Moon (Americans want to plant their flag their and to make it a new state), a rivalry between Texas and Florida for the honor of the launching site, and members of a crowd proposing to "invent the necessary machines, and rectify the Earth's axis!" (142). Enthusiasms lead to the building of an observatory in the Rockies (though not at Palomar) and to the willingness of three men to risk their lives on a fantastic voyage. One of them at one point says that he doesn't plan to come back. Enthusiasm inspires a crowd of five million people to gather at the site of the launching, while bartenders hawk mint-juleps, claret sangarees, and cocktails.

On a more personal level, enthusiasms lead President Impey Barbicane and Captain Nicholl to challenge one another to a duel and then to absentmindedly get sidetracked. Barbicane and Nicholl also engage in in a rather elaborate wager that has to be seen to be believed. Enthusiasm inspires Michel Alden to proclaim that he would be willing to aquit a thief who demonstrated a sense of esthetics and to suggest that the spacecraft be populated with animals like Noah's ark.

But the single most enthusiastic character in the novels is J.T. Maston. He wishes to go to war with Mexico to gain a launching site, he burns his feet during the casting of the launch cannon, he almost falls down the bore of the cannon once it has cooled, and he is blown 120 feet in the air when the cannon fires. But he is also the one man who never gives up hope when it seems that the space travelors will be lost in space forever. And his hope is justified.

Perhaps it would be worthwhile to close with some attention given to Verne's scientific details. I am not referring here to a critique of what things Verne "got wrong" versus the things that he "got right".* What I am talking about here is Verne's _credibility_. He piles on detail upon detail so that he makes the planning of the launch, the casting of the cannon, the blastoff, the voyage, and the splashdown all seem believeable. We are able to willingly suspend our disbelief; it is never hung by the neck until dead.

*For an excellent essay of this sort, see Gregory Benford's introduction to the Bantam Classic edition of _From the Earth to the Moon_.
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
An exciting classic by a great prophetic mind 19 juin 2003
Par Michael J. Mazza - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Poche
Jules Verne's novel "From the Earth to the Moon" is the imaginative story of an attempt, made shortly after the U.S. Civil War, to send a projectile to the moon. This daring plan is masterminded by veteran artilleryman Impey Barbicane, president of the Baltimore Gun Club. The novel follows the progress and remarkable outcome of the venture.
"Earth. . .Moon" is a terrific adventure story and a pioneering classic of 19th century science fiction. It's also an affectionate satire of the United States and the American character as seen through Verne's eyes. Verne's witty writing had me laughing out loud throughout the book. And furthermore, the novel is about courage, loyalty, and faith in the ability of human beings to overcome incredible obstacles.
Verne populates his adventure tale with a number of likeable and memorably drawn characters. He cleverly mixes in real scientific data with his fantastic tale. He also establishes the book's literary genealogy early on with references to Locke's Moon Hoax and Edgar Allan Poe's story of Hans Pfaal.
I read this book in the Lowell Bair translation, which is published as a Bantam Classic. "Earth. . .Moon" is suspenseful and exciting; it's also surprisingly poignant and ultimately inspiring. It's an enduring masterpiece by one of the 19th century's great visionary geniuses.
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