“En l’année 1872, la maison portant le numéro 7 de Saville-row, Burlington Gardens – maison dans laquelle Sheridan mourut en 1814 –, était habitée par Phileas Fogg, esq., l’un des membres les plus singuliers et les plus remarqués du Reform-Club de Londres, bien qu’il semblât prendre à tâche de ne rien faire qui pût attirer l’attention.”
In the summer of 1995 I was on a holiday trip in England with my family, during which we visited London for one day. Of course I could not leave this capital without having a look at the Reform Club and Phileas Fogg’s house in Savile Row (not Saville Row, as in some editions of Around the World in 80 Days).
The first thing I noticed when I was walking up the stairs to the enormous front door of the well-known Reform Club, 104 Pall Mall, was the air of luxury that hung all around the place. At the door I addressed a member of the Club. I told him that I was a Jules Verne collector and that I was eager to see this Club in real, flattering him a little (“So this is the famous Reform Club, wow, this is really it,” etc.). I asked politely if I could have a look inside. “I’m afraid not,” said the gentleman. I tried to persuade him, but now the porter joined us. Unfortunately he had his orders, although he was sincerely sorry for me. But: “Strictly members only, Sir. No photographs, no visitors, strictly members only,” was the best I could get out of the gentleman. I asked if I was allowed, then, to take a photograph, but that too was strictly forbidden. No photographs, no visitors, strictly members only.
Meanwhile I had cast a quick glance through the door. What I perceived was an extremely luxurious interior, with portraits, giant stairs with brass and gold and red carpets everywhere. I had my camera ready, but an old man with grey whiskers came down the stairs and stretched out his hand so as to prevent me from making a picture. They were all very persistent, in any case more persistent than I was, so I took a photograph of the door mat, with the Reform Club logo on it, and I left. I doubt whether the members know their illustrious colleague. Of course they wouldn’t care much, because Fogg was invented by a French writer.
My next goal was to see the house in which Phileas Fogg had lived. I had noted the address at home: 47 Savile Row, London. Savile Row is an old road, parallel to the very crowded and well-known Regent Street. Lots of tailors have their residence here; they are all quite expensive. The numbers in Savile Row were distributed at random, it seemed. Houses had been destroyed, houses had been built, and it was quite a mess. I looked for no. 47 throughout the entire street, but I could not find it anywhere; 39 was as far as it went. I decided to ask one of the tailors, so I went into a shop (Anderson and Co, established somewhere in the 19th century) to ask if there was, or had ever been, a no. 47, Savile Row. They thought not. The tailor knew the book vaguely; his opinion was that the address was “probably fictitious”.
In Prince’s Street there are many second-hand bookshops. I went into all of them of course, and beside buying some books, I checked a good edition of Around the World to see if Fogg’s address was really 47. Surprise: in this edition it was 7! I went back to Savile Row to watch the house (nothing special, just a dull front door next to some shops; it has probably known better times) and to take a photograph. Anyway, I was glad that I had seen Phileas’ house after all. And this little excursion in the footsteps of Fogg had taken me to some nice locations that I might otherwise have missed.