Jules Verne, Bracebridge Hemyng,
and Edward Stratemeyer:
A Case of Nineteenth-Century Plagiarism

by James D. Keeline (James@Keeline.com)

"Imitation is the sincerest of flattery."

The Lacon, Charles Caleb Coltar (1780-1832)

Where do authors get their story ideas?

Jules Verne (1828-1905) is often cited as the "father of science fiction," a distinction sometimes shared by H.G. Wells (1866-1946). Biographers and scholars of Verne have pointed out that he was not the first person to describe voyages to the moon or travel under the sea aboard a submarine. However, his stories were the first to achieve international acclaim and popularity. This same popularity served to popularize the ideas within the books as well.

Verne's "Vingt milles lieues sous les mers" was first published in the Magasin d'education et de recreation as a magazine serial (20 Mar 1869 - 20 Jun 1870). It was published in two volumes within Verne's Voyages Extraordinares in 1870 and 1871. The story was translated by Lewis Mercier and published in England and the United States in late-November 1872. The date on the title pages for these editions was 1873. It was one of several stories which became the inspiration to science fiction writers, including Five Weeks in a Balloon (1863; 1869), Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1864; 1874), From the Earth to the Moon (1865, 1870; 1874), and Around the World in Eighty Days (1873; 1873).

So successful were these stories, that they made a permanent mark on the genre. For example, few authors could write about a submarine voyage without closely paralleling Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas (George M. Smith, 1873), even down to the obligatory giant squid attack. Some of these imitations were embarrassingly close to Verne's story about Captain Nemo's Nautilus.


One early example of this type of imitation was written by Bracebridge Hemyng (1841-1901), "Dick Lightheart; or, the Scapegrace at Sea," which was published in serial form in Young Men of Great Britain (260-?:1873) by Edwin J. Brett. It was immediately pirated in Boys of America (6-12: Feb 1874 - Aug 1874), a magazine published by Frank Leslie (1821-1880) that was closely patterned after Brett's Boys of England, in which most of Hemyng's stories first appeared. American and British copies of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas have been seen with 1872 inscriptions. Thus when the Dick Lightheart story began to appear in 1873, it followed the English-language publication of Verne's story by mere months.

The Hemyng story was reprinted several times including a version without illustrations in Frank Tousey's Five Cent Wide Awake Library (85-86: 22 Mar 1879 - 24 Mar 1879; 1257-1258: 6 1896 - 13 Mar 1896). It was published in book form as The Scapegrace at Sea. The British version was advertised in Boys of England (11 Jul 1874). It was published in the United States by the American News Company.

The Dick Lightheart story, like many of Hemyng's popular Jack Harkaway stories, is part of a continuing narrative with only the slightest amount of transitional text to connect one story to the next. Thus, little explanation is given, initially, about how Dick Lightheart,his chum, Harry Messiter, and servant, Teddy are on Captain Simpson's ship, the Indiana. However, we soon learn that they were picked up and the Captain and his officers intend to impress Dick Lightheart and his friends into maritime service. To this, Dick resists in his usual fashion. He wins a fight against one member of the crew and earns their respect. In a later incident, Dick stops the captain from flogging one of the regular crew. Captain Simpson turns his rage towards our hero. When he plans to flog Dick Lightheart, the crew intercedes on his behalf.

As this incident concludes, a strange sail is spotted on the horizon. This turns out to be the remains of a vessel with its only survivor, Professor Crawley Crab, who is the "Secretary to the Society for Exploration of the Unknown Parts of the World." He demands food and fresh clothing while he tells how his ship, the General Johnstone, was destroyed by a sea monster. Naturally, this conversation does not go unnoticed by the crew. When the monster appears, none of the crew, save our heroes, will go in the small boat with Professor Crab to attempt to harpoon it. Harry Messiter takes the place of Verne's Ned Land as harpoonist, although this role is merely perfunctory. Dick Lightheart's other companion, Teddy, who is analogous to Professor Arronax's servant, Conseil, seems to be present solely to complain and state "I know I'm only an odd boy but I've got feelings" every few dozen paragraphs.

From this point, Hemyng's story simply lifts the adventure elements of Verne's story, while adding some dime novel plot formulas. The monster attacks and sinks the Indiana. Professor Crab and our heroes are knocked out of their small boat into the water. They eventually regroup on the back of the sea monster which has iron plates and rivets hewn by hand. They soon realize that this is a man-made submarine boat. Figuring the occupants to be pirates, they are uncertain as to whether they should alert the attention of the men in the vessel. However, a quick survey of the situation suggests that they have little choice. If the craft were to submerge, they would surely drown. Although they try to kick the plate with their feet, there is no response from the occupants of the submarine. After several hours of uncertainty, a hatch opens and an unseen person from the submarine drags in each member of the party, one at a time. They are locked in a small room.

After a long delay, they are fed upon dinner plates with a large letter "N" and the motto "Dead to the World" inscribed upon them. In time they meet the captain who listens to their story repeated in several languages without response. Only on a later visit does Captain Nemo reveal that he speaks English as well as the other languages used. He explains that the survivors of the shipwreck can never be released, thus the submarine Enigma will become their prison.

Captain Nemo of the Hemyng story, like his Verne counterpart, is as enigmatic as the name of his vessel. He also experiences the same manic-depressive mood swings characterized by the captain of the Nautilus. In Verne's story, the motto on the dinner plate is "Mobilis in Mobili" ("movable in a movable element"). The crew of the Enigma uses special rifles to hunt and kill undersea game. Although these are not described in the same detail as the ones in Verne's story, they are clearly the same devices. Both stories include an underwater burial; the captives attempted escape on to an island which is filled with cannibals who are repelled by electricity; and an excursion into a oyster bed with a giant pearl in a place known only to Captain Nemo. There is even a trip through a submarine tunnel between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea in both versions. The Enigma is also trapped in ice near the South Pole for a time. Of course, no submarine story would be complete without an attack by a giant squid or octopus.

As previously stated, this story contains all of the adventure elements of the Verne narrative in a shameless plagiarization. There is also a subtext added about why Hemyng's Captain Nemo has abandoned the civilized world. As a soldier for the South in the American Civil War, his fiancée was convinced of his death by another suitor. She eventually marries him and leads an unhappy xistence on his ship, the Belle of New Orleans. Nemo, whose real name is Harold Duggard, has sworn vengance and sinks several ships throughout the course of the story. Strangely, none of the prisoners, save Dick Lightheart, notice each time the Enigma collides with and sinks a ship. The last portion of the story describes their escape and rescue by Captain Crawley (Hemyng must have been fond of this name) Vipond of the Belle of New Orleans, Duggard's target. They also meet the object of Duggard's misery, Adele. Dick Lightheart warns Captain Vipond about Duggard which makes him a nervous man indeed. In fact, only because the machinery broke on the Enigma did they have the slightest reprieve. The remaining chapters describe how Dick Lightheart and his friends are landed in Africa, presumably leading to the next story, "Dick Lightheart Around the World."

To simply summarize "Dick Lightheart at Sea" reveals how this story was based on a bare-bones version of the Verne story with Hemyng's style of characterizations. The Hemyng version also includes several examples of pronounced racism. When the group tries to escape, they kill one of Captain Nemo's crew, one of Duggard's former slaves, who speaks in dialect. When Lightheart learns what they have done, Teddy replies "it was only a nigger."

As was typical in the dime novel industry, this story was itself stolen by another writer. The theft in this case is nearly word for word with the only changes being the character and vessel names. The beginning and ending of this story are different and the characterizations softened but the essential elements are identical to the Hemyng story already stolen from Verne.

This story was published in Young Sports of America (10 Aug 1895 - 14 Sep 1895) as "The Wizard of the Deep; or, the Search for the Million Dollar Pearl" by "Theodore Edison." The story was published in hardcover as The Wizard of the Sea by the Mershon Company in 1900. It was reprinted by Chatterton-Peck around 1907 and later by A.L. Burt. The hardcover editions were published using the "Roy Rockwood" pseudonym.

Roy Rockwood was one of the principal pseudonyms used by Edward Stratemeyer (1862-1930) and his Stratemeyer Syndicate, an organization established in 1905 which hired writers to complete manuscripts based upon story outlines created by Stratemeyer. Through this organization, Stratemeyer created some of the most popular series of novels for children including the Bobbsey Twins, Tom Swift, the Hardy Boys, and Nancy Drew.

Edward Stratemeyer was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey on 4 October 1862. As a boy he read the dime novels and story papers available at the time. The authors who wrote for these publications were William T. Adams (1822-1897) (as Oliver Optic), Horatio Alger Jr. (1834-1899), Charles A. Fosdick (1842-1915) (as Harry Castlemon), James Otis Kaler (1848-1912) (as James Otis), and many others.

In early interviews, Stratemeyer remarked how he aspired to write like Horatio Alger; what he did not reveal was that for several years since Alger's death, he had written as Alger as well. Stratemeyer wrote eleven Alger "completions" which were supposedly based upon notes left by Alger. Although the first one or two of these stories may have been composed in this fashion, the later volumes seem to be wholly Stratemeyer's work. Stratemeyer also wrote one volume as "Oliver Optic" when William&nbspT. Adams died before completing the Blue and Grey series, published by Lee&nbsp& Shepard, as planned.

One story about Stratemeyer told how he received a small toy printing press as a boy upon which he would print poetry and short stories to give to friends and family. When he was twenty, he tried to start his own story paper, Our American Boys, which apparently had only a single issue in January 1883. The surviving copy, held by the University of Oregon at Eugene, is arranged as a quarto with eight pages of text and no illustrations. The departments and stories in this first issue were probably written entirely by him. Some of the advertisements offer typesetting services.

A few years later, in 1889, Stratemeyer sold his first long story, "Victor Horton's Idea" to Golden Days for $75. Upon hearing the amount they paid, his father, Henry Julius Stratemeyer, assented the Edward should write more of these stories. Stratemeyer certainly seemed to take this advice to heart. He wrote many stories that were published as dime novels and were serialized in story papers of the time.

By 1893, he was working as the editor of Good News, a Street & Smith publication, contributing many of the stories published during his reign in the editor's chair. Here he learned many of the writing, editing, and publishing techniques that would be used in his Stratemeyer Syndicate a decade later. For example, writers were expected to develop a story of a given length in a short time period after being given only a title and the basics of the characters and plot. For this, the writer would be paid a flat sum in exchange for all rights to the story. The publishers would risk that the story sold and reap the rewards if it sold well.

In fact, it was a common practice to have a given story published many times over a number of years. Thus, if a writer or group of writers contributing to a dime novel series needed a break from their frenetic pace, older stories would be inserted into the publishing schedule, sometimes with different titles. As you can imagine, this causes many problems for the bibliographers of this type of literature.

Another common practice, especially before 1891, was to steal stories from England, Germany, and France and publish them here in the United States, in English. The international copyright agreement that Charles Dickens (1812-1870) fought for during most of his later life would not appear until twenty years after his death. Thus, pre-1891 historical novels by G.A.(1832-1902) were routinely pirated by American book publishers.

In a similar fashion, Frank Leslie's Boys of America would contain essentially the same material as Edwin J. Brett's Boys of England after a short delay. At one point around 1873, Leslie persuaded Bracebridge Hemyng to move to the United States and write exclusively for him. However, "Dick Lightheart; or, the Scapegrace at Sea" which had its first installment in Boys of America February 1874 was originally published in Young Men of Great Britain (issue 260-?: 1873), another Edwin J. Brett paper.

Since Hemyng was perceived as being a British writer and most of his stories were stolen from their naitive England, it is not very surprising that publishers, like Frank Tousey, reprinted "Dick Lightheart at Sea" in 1896. This theft of literary property went in both directions. Samuel L. Clemens (1835-1910) (Mark Twain) often had his stories published first in England to secure non-citizen copyright and prevent piracy of his stories as fast as the pages could be printed here in the United States.

Most of the dime novels and many of the story papers had weekly publication schedules. The demands of the publishing schedule required writers to compose stories of approximately 60,000 words in a short length of time. If an author was a fast enough writer, he could provide nearly all of the stories in a given dime novel series. An example of this is (William) Gilbert Patten (1866-1945) who wrote sports, school, and travel stories about Frank Merriwell and family for Street & Smith's Tip Top Weekly as "Burt L. Standish."

Many of the writers for these publications were also voracious readers both of fiction in the genre and of newspapers. In fact, it was very common for a writer of dime novels and story papers to write for newspapers as well. A common practice of fiction writers was to take a popular news story and fictionalize it with only the slightest embellishment. In some cases, a writer simply lifted the description in a news story and inserted it into his story.

For example, Edward Stratemeyer wrote dime novel stories for the New York Five Cent Library (published by Street & Smith) about a boxer, Gentleman Jack (between Nov 1892 and Nov 1893), who was largely based on Gentleman Jim Corbett, a boxer with a short term of fame. An eminent Stratemeyer scholar, Dr. Deidre Johnson, has recently uncovered evidence that descriptions of the fights were simply lifted from local newspaper accounts. Stratemeyer also wrote several boxing stories for Young Sports of America (1895), some of which are about Gentleman Jim Corbett.

In another example, a forthcoming article in the Dime Novel Round-Up will outline a Samuel Hopkins Adams (1871-1958) novel plagiarized by Gilbert Patten (1866-1945).

Weldon J. Cobb (1850-1922), a Chicago newspaperman, real estate agent, and dime novel author simply rewrote a newspaper version of H.G. Wells' War of The Worlds (Pearson's Magazine, 1897; Heinemann, 1898) in a story that became "AtWith Mars" (Golden Hours, Sep-Nov 1897). One of Cobb's new elements when he stole the story was the Martian attack on the U.S., rather than England. Cobb wrote several other stories with Mars as a theme. In 1905, Cobb began to write for the Stratemeyer Syndicate. He wrote early volumes in the Dave Fearless series, Boys of Business series, and Ralph of the Railroad series.

Edward Stratemeyer tended to use certain pseudonyms to identify his personal writing and other names for stories which he owned as a literary agent. Thus, stories he wrote were published under his own name, and "Captain Ralph Bonehill" and "Arthur M. Winfield" while stories he purchased from other writers, when published in hardcover, might use names like "Roy Rockwood" or "Allen Chapman." Obviously, there were several early stories written by Stratemeyer published under the Chapman and Rockwood names; however, these names are usually associated with hardcover series books which were contracted "works for hire" from his Syndicate.

An observant reader can learn to detect the style of a given writer and note his choice of spelling, favorite character names and adverbs and phrases. One scholar, Dr. John T. Dizer Jr., who has spent most of his life reading works by Stratemeyer and his Syndicate has suggested that "The Wizard of the Deep" (Young Sports of America, #11-16: 10 Aug 1895 - 14 Sep 1895) and its hardcover cousin, The Wizard of the Sea (Mershon, 1900), does not appear to be Stratemeyer's writing. "Were it not for Stratemeyer's known connection with Young Sports of America and the `Rockwood' name, it would be difficult to identify this book as his writing" (Tom Swift & Co., p. 135). Curiously, the story was not listed among titles that were transferred from Frank J. Earll, the publisher of Young Sports of America, to Stratemeyer in 1896. Nevertheless, Stratemeyer owned the story and must assume some of the responsibility for this plagiarism. Now it seems clear that the unpaid writer of this story was Bracebridge Hemyng.

There is no evidence to suggest that Stratemeyer read Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas (George M. Hill, 1873), although it would have been published when he was eleven years old. However, the Verne story was not widely adopted as a juvenile story until later. It is also unclear if he read "Dick Lightheart at Sea" as a boy. However a brief comparison between the Hemyng and the Rockwood stories quickly shows that whoever composed the Wizard of the Sea had a copy of "Dick Lightheart at Sea" in hand.

The first six and one-half chapters (38 pages) of The Wizard of the Sea are essentially a reprint of a story Stratemeyer published in Bright Days, a story paper that he owned and edited, called "The Schoolboy Cadets; or, Fun and Mystery at Washington Hall" (Bright Days, #6-10: 5 Sep 1896 - 3 Oct 1896) under the Roy Rockwood pseudonym. As the title implies, this short story is about several boys who attend a small military academy. A few years later, Stratemeyer would create his Rover Boys series (1899-1926) of school stories under his Arthur M. Winfield personal pseudonym.

After an abrupt transition at the beginning of page 39, the story begins to merge with the Hemyng story. [On this page, text not highlighted was taken direct from Hemyng word-for-word.] The main character, Mont Folsom, his chum Carl Barnaby, and servant John "Stump" Stumpton were on a small boat that was run down by an outgoing ship. This ship picks them up but is unwilling to drop them off at any port.

Since this book is a direct copy of the Hemyng story, each character in the Hemyng story has a corresponding character in the Rockwood version. Thus, Dick Lightheart becomes Mont Folsom, Harry Messiter becomes Carl Barnaby, and Teddy becomes Stump. Similarly, the ship that picks them up is called the Indiana run by Captain Simpson in the Hemyng story while in the Rockwood story it is Captain Savage and the Comet.

After the flogging incident, Doctor Homer Woodle, who is also the "Secretary to the Society for Exploration of the Unknown Parts of the World," appears; just like Professor Crawley Crab in the Hemyng story. In the Rockwood story, Captain Nemo is replaced by Captain Vindex and the submarine is called the Searcher rather than the Enigma or the Nautilus.

The Rockwood story is considerably streamlined from the Hemyng. The Civil War subplot is absent. For this reason, there is no mention made of the motto or emblem on the dinner plates. Stump has fewer scenes where he complains "I know I'm only an odd boy but...."

Most of the major events described in the Hemyng story are included in the Rockwood version. After the Searcher emerges from the submarine tunnel into the Mediterranean Sea, our heroes plan their escape. When they are off the coast of Cyprus, an explosion destroys the Searcher and everyone aboard is presumed dead. Our heroes return to civilization aboard a small boat.

How much of Wizard of the Sea was written by Stratemeyer?

With the exception of the first 38 pages, which is a retelling of "The School Boy Cadets" and some pages before and after the Hemyng story, only about 1% of the material in the Rockwood story was added or changed by Stratemeyer.

The nature of the changes is interesting and serves to illustrate Stratemeyer's probable authorship of them. For example, Stratemeyer restructured many of Hemyng's short, single-sentence paragraphs into complex sentences and longer paragraphs with the addition of simple conjunctions. He also restructures the story into chapters with cliff hanger endings. Most of Stratemeyer's text appears at the beginning or ending of a chapter. [Some pages had no new material by Stratemeyer.] Stratemeyer only used approximately 75% of the submarine portion of the Hemyng story, in turn stolen from Jules Verne. Stratemeyer's version sticks to the adventure elements and reads quickly.

Stratemeyer changed textual references which were specifically British to ones with which American readers could relate. A mention of the Crystal Palace in London (Hemyng 16) was changed to Coney Island (Rockwood 157). Captain Nemo who "appeared to be an Englishman" in Hemyng's story (Hemyng 7) became Captain Vindex, an "American" (Rockwood 81). "American oysters stewed in whale's milk" (Hemyng 9) are described as simply "oysters stewed in whale's milk" (Rockwood 96).

At one point in the story, the characters are marvelling about the progress of technology:

"... He has invented a singular ship which can go under the sea at will, but why not? Was not the invention of steam engines laughed at, as well as the invention of gas? Who, a hundred years ago, would have believed in the electric telegraph, by means of which we can send a message to the end of the earth in a minute?" (Hemyng 9)

To the above, Stratemeyer adds:

"Very true," replied Mont. "And don't forget the telephone, and the submarine boat the government is trying to build." (Rockwood 96)

This addition was part of Stratemeyer's attempt to bring Hemyng's 1873 story up-to-date. Stratemeyer's version was first published in 1895. In that same year, Simon Lake (1866-1945) and John Philip Holland (1840-1914) were competing in a U.S. government competition to develop a submarine boat for the U.S. Navy. Holland's design and prototype was purchased.

A few years later, Stratemeyer wrote "Holland the Destroyer; or, America against the world" (Golden Hours 669-676: 24 Nov 1900 - 12 Jan 1901) by Hal Harkaway, a pseudonym similar to Bracebridge Hemyng's main character, Jack Harkaway. The story was reprinted in hardcover as The Young Naval Captain; or, the War of all Nations (Thompson & Thomas, 1902) and as Oscar the Naval Cadet; or, Under the Sea (M.A.&nbspDonohue, circa 1915). In the story, a young inventor builds a revolutionary new submarine, called the Holland X, since it is the tenth submarine in the United States' fleet.

In The Wizard of the Sea, Stratemeyer removed or changed any references in Hemyng's story to alcohol or games which might be used for gambling. In Hemyng's version, the prisoner's first meal included: "no bread and wine, but a bottle of water supplied its place." (Hemyng 8) Stratemeyer's characters had "no bread, tea, or coffee ...." When Dick Lightheart has a private meeting with Captain Nemo, he offers to play "dominoes or crib" (Hemyng 10) with the captain. This is changed to "dominoes or checkers" (Rockwood 100) by Stratemeyer. Later in the book, Hemyng says that the prisoners played "cards, or some game they liked" (Hemyng 19) while Stratemeyer uses "checkers, dominoes, or some game they liked" (Rockwood 183). Stratemeyer clearly felt that checkers or dominoes was more genteel than cards or cribbage.

Finally, Stratemeyer uses the phrase "our hero" in place of Mont Folsom's name. This phrase is not used by Hemyng. Likewise, he uses "the Wizard of the Sea" on several occasions when the Hemyng story simply mentions "the captain" or "Captain Nemo." Aside from the above changes, Stratemeyer's story is a direct copy of Hemyng's.

In contrast, Hemyng's story does not contain a word-for-word plagiarism of the Verne text. The appearance of the story in 1873 leaves two possibilities: either Hemyng read the 1870 French-language text and copied it, or he had more creativity in his plagiarism when he copied the English translation of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas. Stratemeyer was not the first to steal Hemyng's story. It was stolen first by Frank Leslie for his Boys of America (1874) from Edwin J. Brett's Young Men of Great Brittain (1873). Once in the United States, it was stolen by Frank Tousey for his Five Cent Wide Awake Library where it was published twice (1879, 1896). Stratemeyer's version appeared in 1895, after Frank Tousey's 1879 reprint.

As previously stated, Hemyng's story uses the essential adventure elements from the Verne original. Stratemeyer copied Hemyng's story directly, changing only the names of characters, vessels, and locations.

For example, in Verne, the Nautilus merely passes the island of "Vanikoro ... the islands on which La Perouse had been lost" (ch. XVIII). In Hemyng "Vanikova" becomes the name of the island where the party lands and is chased by savages. In Verne, the landing takes place on the island of Gilboa in chapter XX. In Stratemeyer's version, the island is called "Malonon" and the French explorer is "Posterri."

Below is a comparison of aspects of the three stories.

Title Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas "Dick Lightheart; or, the Scapegrace at Sea" "The Wizard of the Deep; or, In Search of the $1,000,000 Pearl"
Author Jules Verne (1828-1905) Bracebridge Hemyng (1841-1901) Edward Stratemeyer (1862-1930)
First Publication French 1869; English 1872 1873 serial 1895; book 1900
Name of Submarine Nautilus Enigma Searcher
Submarine Captain Capt. Nemo Capt. Nemo (Harold Duggard) Capt. Vindex
Main Character Prof. Pierre Arronax Dick Lightheart Mont Folsom
Servant to Main Consiel Teddy John "Stump" Stumpton
Secondary Character Ned Land Harry Messiter Carl Barnaby
Know-it-all Character (see main character)* Prof. Crawley Crab Dr. Homer Woodle
Ship sunk Abraham Lincoln Indiana Golden Cross
Captain of ship Admiral Farragut Capt. Simpson Capt. Savage
* In Verne, Prof. Arronax is the main character. In the Hemyng/Stratemeyer version he is charicatured as the know-it-all character. Arronax becomes the friend of Capt. Nemo, while the main character befriends the captain of the other versions.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas (George M. Smith, 1873):

How long I remained buried in this drowsiness, I cannot judge; but when I woke, the sun seemed sinking towards the horizon. Captain Nemo had already risen, and I was beginning to stretch my limbs, when an unexpected apparition brought me briskly to my feet.

A few steps off, a monstrous sea-spider, about thirty-eight inches high, was watching me with squinting eyes, ready to spring upon me. Though my diver's dress was thick enough to defend me from the bite of this animal, I could not help shuddering with horror. Conseil and the sailor of the Nautilus awoke at this moment. Captain Nemo pointed out the hideous crustacean, which a blow from the butt end of the gun knocked over, and I saw the horrible claws of the monster writhe in terrible convulsions. This accident reminded me that other animals more to be feared might haunt these obscure depths, aginst whose attacks my diving-dress would not protect me. I had never thought of this before, but I now resolved to be upon my guardd. Indeed, I thought that this halt would mark the termination of our walk; but I was mistaken, for, instead of returning to the Nautilus, Captain Nemo continued his bold excursion. The ground was still on the incline, its declivity seemed to be greater, and to be leading us to greater depths. It must have been about three o'clock when we reached a narrow valley, between high perpendicular walls, situated about seventy-five fathoms deep. Thanks to the perfection of our apparatus, we were forty-five fathoms below the limit which nature seems to have imposed on man as to his submarine excursions.

I say seventy-five fathoms, though I had no instrument by which to judge the distance. But I knew that even in the clearest waters, the solar rays could not penetrate further. And accordingly the darkness deepened. At ten paces not an object was visible. I was groping my way, when I suddenly saw a brilliant white light. Captain Nemo had just put his electric apparatus into use; his companion did the same, and Conseil and I followed their example.

(XVI "A Submarine Forest", p. 91)

"Dick Lightheart; or, the Scapegrace at Sea" Boys of America #6-12 (Feb - Aug 1874):

They had not proceeded far through this dense jungle of weeds, amongst which it was difficult to pick a path, when the captain halted.

In front of him was a huge sea spider, over three feet in height, with long terrible claws, and a scaly back like a crawfish.

It endeavoured to seize the professor, who, sinking upon his knees, presented his head to it as the least vulnerable part of his body.

The captain, however, clubbed his gun, and, with one blow of the butt, broke its back and left it convulsed in its dying agonies.

As they continued to descend into a valley, bounded on each side by high rocks, the darkness increased, for the sun's rays could not penetrate more than a hundred and fifty yards.

It was now that the electric lamps became of importance.

As they got lower and lower, Dick felt an oppression about the head, and a great desire to sleep overcame him.

He lagged behind the others, and with difficulty kept up with them.

(IX "Lost in the Ocean Wilds", p. 94)

The Wizard of the Sea; or, a Trip Under the Ocean (Mershon, 1900):

They had not proceeded far through this dense jungle of weeds, amongst which it was difficult to pick a path, when the captain halted.

In front of him was a huge octopus, or devil fish, over three feet in diameter, with long terrible arms.

It endeavoured to seize the professor, who, sinking upon his knees, shivered in silent terror!


It looked as if Professor Woodle's last moment had come.

In a moment more the devil fish had the shivering man in its fearful embrace.

The captain and Mont, however, raised their guns, and, with one shot left it convulsed in its dying agonies.

As they continued to descend into a valley, bounded on each side by high rocks, the darkness increased, for the sun's rays could not penetrate more than a hundred and fifty yards.

It was now that the electric lamps became of importance.

As they got lower and lower, Dick felt an oppression about the head, and a great desire to sleep overcame him.

He lagged behind the others, and with difficulty kept up with them.

(XVII "The Devil Fish" - XVIII "Mont is Lost", p. 112-113)

Images depicting the same scene (clocwise):

    1. Twenty Thousand Leagues
    2. "Dick Lightheart at Sea"
    3. The Wizard of the Sea

Perhaps it is fitting to close with the following quote by John Milton (1608-1674):

"For such kind of borrowing as this, if it be not bettered by the borrower, among good authors is accounted plagiary."

(Iconoclastes, ch. 23)

Primary Sources

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas

Verne, Jules. "Vingt milles lieues sous les mers." in Magasin d'education et de recreation (20 1869 - 20 Jun 1870).

Verne, Jules. Vingt milles lieues sous les mers. (Paris: J. Hetzel, 1870-1871). 2 volumes.

Verne, Jules. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas. (London: Sampson Low, Marston, Low & Searle, 1873). Translated by Mercier Lewis, published Nov 1872.

Verne, Jules. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas. (Boston: James R. Osgood, 1873), (Boston: George M. Smith, 1873). Translated by Lewis Mercier, published 30 Nov 1872. The Osgood and Smith editions show slight variations in cover design and typesetting of the first signature. They are considered to be approximately simultaneous. The Osgood edition is extremely scarce.

"Dick Lightheart; or, the Scapegrace at Sea"

By the author of Jack Harkaway. "Dick Lightheart; or, the Scapegrace at Sea." in Young Men of Great Britain #260-?? (circa 1873). Published by Edwin J. Brett.

By the author of Jack Harkaway. "Dick Lightheart; or, the Scapegrace at Sea." in Boys of America #6-12 (Feb 1874 - Aug 1874). Published by Frank Leslie.

Hemyng, Bracebridge. The Scapegrace at Sea; or, Adventures of Dick Lightheart after leaving school. (1874). Published by Edwin J. Brett. Advertised in Boys of England #400 (11 Jul 1874). Characterized as the "exclusive property of Mr. Edwin J. Brett."

Hemyng, Bracebridge. The Scapegrace at Sea; or, Adventures of Dick Lightheart after leaving school. (American News Company, circa 1874). Listed in American Catalogue, July 1 1876.

Hemyng, Bracebridge. "Dick Lightheart at Sea." Five Cent Wide Awake Library #85 (22 Mar 1879). Published by Frank Tousey.

Hemyng, Bracebridge. "Dick Lightheart at Sea." Five Cent Wide Awake Library #1257 (6 Mar 1896). Published by Frank Tousey.

"The Wizard of the Deep; or, In Search of the $1,000,000 Pearl"

Edison, Theodore. "The Wizard of the Deep; or, In Search of the $1,000,000 Pearl." Young Sports of America #11-16 (10 Aug 1895 - 14 Sep 1895). Published by Frank J. Earll.

Rockwood, Roy. The Wizard of the Sea; or, A Trip Under the Ocean. (Mershon, 1900). Reprinted by Chatterton-Peck (1907) and A.L. Burt (1910).


I would like to thank all of the people who helped me collect the information in this paper: J.Cox, Jack Dizer, Deidre Johnson, Karen Nelson-Hoyle, my wife, Kimberlee Lusk Keeline, and especially Gil O'Gara, editor of the Yellowback Library who wrote an article that first spotted the Hemyng story as a copy of Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas. Without all of your help, this paper would not have been possible.

©1995, 2000 by James D. Keeline.  First presented at the 1996 Popular Culture Association national conference.  Reprinted in Dime Novel Round-Up.