Thursday, 12 August 2010

Working Miracles in 1896

‘And so, incredible as it may seem, in the study of the little house behind the Congregational Chapel, on the evening of Sunday, Nov. 10, 1896, Mr. Fotheringay, egged on and inspired by Mr. Maydig, began to work miracles. The reader’s attention is specially and definitely called to the date’. Thus H.G. Wells, in his short story ‘The Man Who Could Work Miracles’.

What a pity, then, that on that particular evening, a mere one month after the death of William Morris, and in a story that is much concerned with the satisfaction of utopian wishes, George McWhirter Fotheringay did not think, among his other miracles, to bring Morris back to life again. After all, he had sent the village policeman to Hades, so it wouldn’t have been beyond his powers to restore Morris to us from wherever he might then have been!

Alternatively, matters might have worked the other way round: not a fictional character calling a real human being back into substance, but an actual human summoning fictional figures to his beck and call. At Morris’s funeral in Kelmscott on October 6th, R.B. Cunningham Graham found that ‘dust to dust fell idly on my ears, and in its stead a vision of the England which he dreamed of filled my mind’. If only Cunningham Graham had been possessed of the enviable power of Will, the ability to reconfigure the laws of causation and work spectacular miracles, of Wells’s Mr Fotheringay. Morris’s socialist realm of Nowhere might have then come into being around him all at once, with Dick Hammond, Clara and Ellen materialising bemusedly out of the far future into the Oxfordshire fields of 1896.

1 comment:

Tony Pinkney said...

"The reader's attention is specially and definitely called to the date". You can say that again! Late 1896 seems to be positively charged with paranormal activity in Wellsian fiction. In 'The Stolen Body' Mr Bessel is "particularly interested in the question of thought transference and of apparitions of the living, and in November, 1896, he commenced a series of experiments in conjunction with Mr Vincey, of Staple Inn, in order to test the possibility of projecting an apparition of oneself by force of will through space". Morris's term for this phenomenon in his late romances, where there is a good deal of it, is "sending".