Victorian Translators of Verne:
Stephen W. White and William
Struthers Revealed
Norman Wolcott and Kieran O’Driscoll
May 2008
Stephen W. White, William Struthers
• I. * The Tour of the World in Eighty
Days, tr. by Stephen W. White,
Philadelphia Evening Telegraph: June 27,
1874--July 17, 1874; reprinted (with
deletions) by Charles E. Warburton (Bound
together with II.)
• II. A Fancy of Doctor Ox , tr. by Stephen
W. White, Philadelphia Evening Telegraph,
June 20, 1874: reprinted by Warburton,
(Bound together with I.)
Stephen W. White, William Struthers
• III. * A Journey to the Centre of the Earth,
tr. by Stephen W. White, Philadelphia Evening
Telegraph: Sept. 12, 1874—Oct. 5, 1874, reprinted
by Warburton. (Bound together with IV.)
• IV. A Winter’s Sojourn in the Ice, tr. by
William Struthers, Philadelphia Evening
Telegraph: Oct. 6, 1874—Oct. 10, 1874, reprinted
by Charles E. Warburton. (Bound together with
• V. *Mysterious Island, Philadelphia Evening
Telegraph: 1876, republished Project Gutenberg:
2003 (N. Wolcott and Sidney Kravitz, eds.)
Stephen W. White
• Operated a translation business in
Philadelphia near Evening Telegraph
• “Phonographer and Translator” who
"will furnish on short notice and at
reasonable terms, Phonographic reports
and Translations of German and French
legal and other documents."
• Translated literally as in a legal
document, with no embellishments
• NAJVS Meeting in Albuquerque—Kieran
O’Driscoll’s talk
• Kieran working on PhD after Towle
• Needed a 2nd Translation of 80 Days
• Suggested Stephen White as available
• Kieran finds a copy
Kieran’s Response
• "I have been studying sections of the White
translation of TM (80 Days) in detail and find it to
be generally of a meticulously accurate
standard, and as literal as possible, consistent
with the natural TL (Target Language)
formulation...“ -- 2007/09/07
• White might be entitled to an upgrade from the
black ball he received for his Mysterious Island
Stephen White’s Occupation
• Kieran’s email 17 October 2007:
• “…White's occupation is listed on that
1880 Census as 'Secretary - N.C.R.R.' ...
my hypothesis thus far is that it may refer
to the North Carolina Railroad Company”
• NW—“No, too far from Philadelphia”
1910 Census
• On 11/18/2007 I wrote:
Kieran, hold your breath!
“In the 1910 census...the address is listed
as 70 Broad St. At the right in handwriting
beside SWW under occupation is -• "Secy of Northern Central RR”
• Mystery solved, but where was the RR?
• Try Wikipedia!
Northern Central Railway
• One of the oldest railroads in the country
operating 1828-1972, from Baltimore, MD to
York PA and later beyond to Harrisburg PA and
north to Lake Ontario.
• Controlling interest acquired by Pennsylvania
RR in 1861
• Lincoln rode Railway 3 times
Inauguration, Gettysburg, Funeral Cortege
• Only connection to North during Civil War (no
bridge over the Susquehanna)
Northern Central Railway II
• Passenger service terminated in 1957 and
line abandoned after hurricane Agnes
• PA portion rebuilt for freight, 1985
• Abandoned 1996, operated as a dinner
train “Liberty Limited” until 2001 when shut
• Line from Baltimore to York now a bike
trail, Northern Central and York County
Heritage Trail
Heritage Bike Trail
Baltimore MD to
York PA
Kieran’s E-mail of 2007/11/09
• On White ". . .his "problem-solving"
approach to translating Verne, his straightforward language transfer of Verne's
French without the creative, literary, and
non-imitative embellishments of other
translators such as Desages, Towle, or
• Then nothing until spring
Pay Dirt
• On 2008/04/14 a google search reveals:
• "History of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company:
with plan of Organization", published by Henry T.
Coates, 1895
• On Page 52 of Volume II we find the biography
of Stephen W. White, and on page 51 we have a
full page spread of the photos of four people,
one of whom is Stephen W. White.
Stephen W White
White Biography
• Born July 16, 1840 in Philadelphia
• Entered Central High School February,
1854, from Jefferson Grammar School
• Graduated February, 1858, as Bachelor of
Arts at the head of his class
• Later received the degree of Master of Arts
from the High School
• 1858—1870 Shorthand clerk, bookkeeper,
editor of Sunday School paper
White Biography II
• 1870—1873 Private secretary to the banker
Jay Cooke, remaining with him until after the
bankruptcy of the firm in the Panic of 1873.(18
September 1873).
• 1873—Sets up translating business
• 1875— Enters railroad service as Assistant
Secretary of the Northern Central Railway, (a
position he held until his retirement). Later
appointed to numerous boards of sections of
the Pennsylvania Railroad.
White Biography III
• Active churchman in the Episcopal
Diocese of Pennsylvania
• Published some excellent translations
from the German and the French
• "His writings are all clean and terse,
displaying careful study and methodical
arrangement, resultants of his early
training in stenography, in which science
he is not only an expert but an
accomplished devotee (my italics)."
Translators of Verne in need of Money
Lewis Page Mercier (1870-1873)
Stephen W. White (1873-1876)
Mrs Agnes Kinloch Kingston (1876-1882)
Agnes Dundas Kingston (1880-1881)
Mrs Frances Cashel Hoey (1897-1899)
How did White acquire his BA, MA
(Kieran) and literary skills?
Central High School of Philadelphia
• Only high school in US with authority, by
Act of Assembly in 1849, to grant
academic degrees
• Curriculum included mathematics, physics,
natural science, chemistry, French,
German, Latin, Greek, and drawing.
• Now a magnet school in Philadelphia
Notable Alumni of Central HS
• Ignatius Donnelly
(Atlantis myth)
• Noam Chomsky
• Bill Cosby (humorist)
• Frank Stockton
• Douglas Feith
(Invasion of Iraq)
• Alexander Woolcott
(columnist, author)
• Jeremiah Wright
(Obama’s nemesis)
From History of Central HS
• "I would mention my indebtedness to the
study of phonography, which we were
taught by Professor Kirkpatrick during the
first two terms. He was very successful in
the imparting of a thorough knowledge of
shorthand, and it has had a very important
bearing on the major portion of my
business career."—Stephen W. White
History of Central HS II
• “Professor Roesse. . . I recall now with
much pleasure the time spent with him in
reading Schiller and Goethe, to say
nothing of some of the minor poets.
Stephen W. White, of the Thirty-first
Class, was a student with me in these
private lessons, and was the most apt of
any of us in acquiring the German
Clearly not a hack writer, he was a literate product of
the American public schools capable of comparison
and perhaps superior to many of the translators
employed by Sampson Low in England. His training
in phonography gave him an excellent ear for
languages, supplementing his academic
achievements. Unfortunately we do not have any
indication of his other translations from the German,
but at least he has emerged as a real person, and no
longer just a footnote in a library catalogue.
William Struthers, the Poet
(October 14, 1854—1930+)
Born October 14, 1854
Grandson of John Struthers, in marble busines
Son of John S. Struthers, b. January 1827
John a Railway conductor in Newark, 1860, 34
Bank Clerk, Philadelphia, 1890 age 73
Grandmother a cousin of Harriet Beecher Stowe
Father served in Pennsylvania cavalry in war
Family lived together encamped in Washington
Later wrote poems about camp life
Willliam The Poet, Continued
• Family moved to Baltimore, NJ, then back to
• Privately educated, an invalid
• Listed occupation as “Musical Critic” 1890, 45 yr
• Never functionally “employed”
• Translated from the French, Italian, and Spanish
• Could not raise voice above a whisper (1890)
• Wrote mostly sonnets
• Lived on until after 1930
• Only Victorian poet who might have translated
The Poet, Commentary
• From Magazine of Poetry, 1890
• “—In his early years he was a delicate creature,
with too slender a hold on life for his father to
entrust him with books; and though he managed
to weather through the years to manhood, it was
with the struggle of an invalid, too powerless
even now to raise his voice above a whisper. Yet
he is an accomplished scholar and linguist. . .
As a writer of original verse his pleasing poems,
sonnets, rondeaus, etc.,have made his name
familiar. —J. W., editor
Poetry of William Struthers
• Transcriptions from Art and Nature, 96 p.,
Philadelphia, London: Drexel Biddle, 1902
• Lyric Moods and Tenses, Philadelphia:
J.B. Lippincott, 1910
• Rythmic Soliloquies, Philadelphia: Wm. F.
Fell, 1910 (reprinted in part from various
Walt Whitman, 1901
The paling stars proclaimed another day—
He fell asleep when in the century's skies
With smiling lips and trustful, dauntless eyes;
He. genial still, amidst the chill and gray,
He. the Columbus of a vast emprise,
Whose realization in the future lay:
He. who stepped from the well-worn, narrow way
To walk with Poetry in larger guise.
The years announce him in a new born age;
And fortunate, despite of transient griefs,
The ship of his fair fame, past crags and reefs,
Sails bravely on. and less and less the rage
Of gainsaying winds becomes; while to his phrase
The world each day gives ampler heed and praise!
William Struthers, Jr the Millionaire
William Struthers, son of John Struthers
Grew the marble & architectural business
Awarded $5 million contract for city work
His son William Struthers, Jr. b. June 1848,
became a millionaire—cousin of poet
Lived in Europe, 1888-1892
Retired early, early member of the “Jekyll Island
Club”, May 20, 1877; re-elected 1895
Built “Moss Cottage” on Jekyll Island 1896
First person to bring an automobile onto the
Island; had to remove it for noise
Moss Cottage 1896
William Struthers, the Translator?
Only 20 yrs old at time of translation
Member of famous “Struthers” family
Akin to “Kennedy’s” today
“Wm Struthers” name would help
circulation of paper
• White’s business would benefit from
association with “Struthers”
• White active in church & community
One may question whether the 20 year
old invalid was indeed capable of this
translation (as I did at first). But unless
another William Struthers is found, of
the current period, in Philadelphia,
(and none seem to appear in the
census) with a literary background and
knowledge of three languages I believe
we must accept the fact that
William Struthers, the Poet,
has indeed translated
Jules Verne !