In an age that has seen frequent charges of Fake News and valedictory announcements of the Death of the Novel, it’s interesting and a wee bit consoling to come upon the following poem from Punch more than a century ago. Three other points of interest here: first, one notes the canonical authors cited: Austen, Dickens, Hardy, Meredith, and Thackeray. Second, Verne cites the loss of the novel to what is essentially a new information technology, high speed printing, which originally only newspapers used. Third, of course, the prophet’s one positive prediction, that Mudie’s Lending Library, would still exist, turns out to be false. — George P. Landow

[M. Jules Verne has confided to an interviewer his opinion that fifty years hence the novel will be wholly supplanted by the daily paper.]

’Tis said when you and I are old
There will not be the smallest chance
To seek in fancy’s realms of gold
The charming sprite of old romance;
The world will cease to care a jot
For any heroine’s dilemma,
And Waverley will be forgot, And equally neglected Emma!

Nor Weller's quips nor Carton's grit
Will save our Dickens from decay;
And all that play of mordant wit
Will not avail poor Thackeray;
No more shall I, when fancy yields
To the charmed spell of my Havana,
Wander with Tess through Wessex fields,
Or, at the Crossways, meet Diana!

We move so rapidly, they say,
And life ’s so full of storm and stress,
We needs must get, when we are grey,
Our fiction from the daily press;—
And yet it’s difficult, I vow,
To see at what the prophet’s driving;
For fiction fills the papers now,
And still the firm of Mudie’s thriving!


“Nothing New.” Punch (16 July 1902): 26. Online version provided by the Hathi Trust Digital Library. Web. 4 June 2017.

Last modified 14 March 2018