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SCENE OF THE WAGER - Not fiction, but a real institution, with genuine ideals. No wonder then that Jules Verne used the landmark in his story, to illustrate and enhance his fictional character.


Phileas Fogg is a fictional character who frequents the Reform Club in London, an institution that many readers may think is also fictional, as befits the narrative and intricate interweave of Jules Verne's classic: Around the world in eighty days.


The Reform Club is a private members' club on the south side of Pall Mall in central London, England. As with all of London's original gentlemen's clubs, it comprised an all-male membership for decades, but it was one of the first all-male clubs to change its rules to include the admission of women on equal terms in 1981. Since its founding in 1836, the Reform Club has been the traditional home for those committed to progressive political ideas, with its membership initially consisting of Radicals and Whigs. However, it is no longer associated with any particular political party, and it now serves a purely social function.

"The Reform" (as it is known in common parlance) currently enjoys extensive reciprocity with similar clubs around the world. It attracts a significant number of foreign members, such as diplomats accredited to the Court of St James's. Of the current membership of around 2,700, some 500 are "overseas members", and over 400 are women.

The Reform maintains reciprocity with many notable clubs around the world, among them The Gridiron Club (Oxford University), the Metropolitan Club (Washington, D.C.), the Jonathan Club of Los Angeles, the Lotos Club of New York City and the Cercle de l'Union interalliée in Paris. 

The Reform Club appears in Anthony Trollope's novel Phineas Finn (1867). This eponymous main character becomes a member of the club and there acquaints Liberal members of the House of Commons, who arrange to get him elected to an Irish parliamentary borough. The book is one of the political novels in the Palliser series, and the political events it describes are a fictionalized account of the build-up to the Second Reform Act (passed in 1867) which effectively extended the franchise to the working classes.

The club also appears in Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days (published in 1872, as a novel in 1873); the protagonist, Phileas Fogg, is a member of the Reform Club who sets out to circumnavigate the world on a bet from his fellow members, beginning and ending at the club.

Michael Palin, following his fictional predecessor, also began and ended his televised journey around the world in 80 days at the Reform Club. At the time, the Reform Club, like other London clubs since the 1950s, went through a phase of stipulating a dress code requiring gentlemen to wear a jacket and tie; Palin had not packed a tie, and he was not permitted to enter the building to complete his journey as had been his intention, so his trip ended on the steps outside.


Another BBC TV series features the landmark building, starring David Tennant as the intrepid Phileas Fogg.






Phileas Fogg represents the lifestyle of many English gentlemen, who indulge themselves in social habits, with strict views on the world around them, while not usually engaging such as to soil their hands. The one exception, that turns Fogg's life upside down, is the attitudes of his peers to advancement in transportation, that is shrinking the world. At first he simply repeats his assertions as to calculations he has made, but as his contemporaries escalate the challenge as to his understanding of the world, that they claim is wide of the mark, they make outrageous bets, Fogg is forced to meet the dares being thrown at him, and finally picks up the gauntlet. The aim being to prove the pompous club members incorrect.






The story starts in London on October 2, 1872. Phileas Fogg is a wealthy, solitary, unmarried gentleman with regular habits. The source of his wealth is not known and he lives modestly. He fires his former valet, James Forster, for bringing him shaving water two degrees too cold. He hires as a replacement, Jean Passepartout, a Frenchman of around 30 years of age.

Later that day in the Reform Club, he gets involved in an argument over an article in The Daily Telegraph, stating that with the opening of a new railway section in India, it is now possible to travel around the world in 80 days.

Fogg accepts a wager for £20,000 from his fellow club members, which he will receive if he makes it around the world in 80 days. Accompanied by his manservant Passepartout, he leaves London by train at 8.45 p.m. on October 2, 1872, and thus is due back at the Reform Club at the same time 80 days later, on December 21.



Jules Verne is known as the Father of Science Fiction




Where Jules Verne's suggested that it might be possible to travel Around The World In 80 Days, we would like to extend that ethos to include traveling in a Zero Emission yacht (ZEWT or ZEV) driven by electric hydro-jets? With the advent of solar power and liquid hydrogen, it is a distinct possibility - on a scale of the wager that the legendary Philleas Fogg entered into at the Reform Club in 1872.























Original book cover: Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne



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