WHH Short Fiction: “A Timely Escape”

Review: “A Timely Escape”, William Hope Hodgson, 1922.

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Cover by Jason Van Hollander

Hodgson does an unusual variation on a plot that, I’ve heard, still shows up in magazine slush piles: the young writer taking shortcuts to fame by stealing someone else’s work.

Here Dicky Temple is a young writer, but he is the victim not the perpetrator.

There is a theft of literary work, but it isn’t via a time machine or dictation by spirits or common theft. Temple is a writer but, with the callowness of youth, believes his friend George Vivian’s subtle denigration of his work.

It is, in fact, better and more honest than Vivian’s threadbare and commonplace prose glossed over with what Temple thinks is “grace and beauty of style”.

There is a sort of realistic triangle here though of a non-sexual sort.

Temple’s fiancé, Madge Jackson, dislikes Vivian, but Temple worships him. She is angered when he takes his side and spends more time with Vivian than her.

After a fight, she goes without seeing Temple for a while. She finds out he’s staying with Vivian (Temple is independently wealthy.)

Temple seems to look very haggard these days. With the help of her sister, Madge eventually finds out that Vivian has been hypnotizing Temple and getting him to write down his stories while hooked up to an electronic device and in a somniloquistant state

The plot is foiled (and Vivian stops Madge and Temple from being electrocuted).

In the confrontation, Vivian doesn’t deny anything or defend himself. He just hands a manuscript to Temple. He does say Temple entered this scheme of his own free will.

At story’s end, Temple won’t hate Vivian, but he won’t see him again either.

The story is told in a bit of a jocular style. Hodgson’s authorial voice certainly sides with Madge in her estimation of Vivian.

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