“Verne's Best Friend and his Worst Enemy”: I.O. Evans and the Fitzroy Edition of Jules Verne
While many scholars during the last two decades have contributed to revival of new translations, some that never appeared in English before, a similar, even more prolific effort still resonates from fifty years ago, the Fitzroy Edition of Jules Verne, the product of one person: I.O. Evans (1894-1977). The series achieved wide commercial success as Evans turned out many volumes a year, relying on both previous translations as well as originals he rendered himself. The various pressures upon Evans are examined, as he was required to turn out volumes of a uniform size on a regular schedule, and his abridgements often amplified the nationalistic sentiments of his 19th century predecessors. Yet delineating Evans’s own religious and political views does not support the ideological bent often attributed to his modifications of Verne. As a professional writer, he was sometimes too mindful of marketplace demands, which also allowed the Fitzroy series to permeate book stores and libraries and be sold in several paperback series and reprints. Ultimately comprising an impressive forty-eight separate stories in sixty-three volumes, the series dominated Verne publishing from the 1950s into the 1980s; even today, only fourteen of these books have been supplanted in terms of quality translations and critical commentary. At the same time, the shortcomings of the Fitzroy series made it a transition step from Anglophone Verne editions published during and shortly after the author’s lifetime, and the modern shift to more scholarly, annotated renderings. The verdict can only be mixed; despite Herculean labor, Evans did not take the few additional steps toward more rigorous scholarship that would have made him at least the grandfather of the modern Verne Anglophone renaissance—yet his achievement in the creation of such a major Verne series is unequaled.