The Time Traveller, Smithby JC McLaughlin / Fantasy / Actions & Adventure / Science Fiction / Historical Fiction
THE TIME TRAVELLER, SMITH
by JC McLaughlin
The Time Traveller, Smith
Copyright © 2010 JC McLaughlin
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
My great great grandfather, the now largely forgotten, though in his time prolific author, Vane Ireton Shaftesbury St John, died on 20th December 1911 in Camberwell, south London. He had been bedridden for the last eight years of his life suffering from a paralysis of the lower limbs; an affliction exacerbated, no doubt, by his having fathered more than 27 children both in and out of wedlock between the 1850s and 1890s....
St John's work was published mainly in the penny dreadful market of the mid to late 19th Century and, along with hundreds of stories of which his authorship is not in question, serials which appeared in Parlour Journal, Reynolds’s Miscellany, The London Reader, The Young Englishman, Sons of Brittania, Boys of England, Boys World, Twice a Week and their like, he has also been attributed at least part-authorship of some of the most famous of all penny dreadfuls, 'The Wild Boys of London; or, the Children of the Night' (1864-66) and 'The Boy Detective; or, the Crimes of London' (1865-66). He also published at least three popular, sensationalist novels in his early career, 'St. Eustace; or, The Hundred-and-One' (1857), 'Undercurrents' (1860) and 'The Chain of Destiny' (1862).
It had long been thought that St John's writing career came to an end in the late 1890s, when he entered a retirement enforced on him by the illness that would eventually see him bedridden. However, in July 2008, after some years of genealogical research in which I believed I had found out all I could about my great great grandfather, there came into my possession (at the behest of a distant St John cousin who, for reasons of privacy, has asked to remain anonymous) certain papers belonging to the old man. These included several small notebooks that purport to be his private journals, kept in the last decade of his life. The journals, the contents of which are taken up on the whole with the unpublishable ramblings and minute obsessions of a sick and ailing man, also prove that St John had not entirely given up the pen. Interspersed with the mundane lists of monies he thought himself owed and rants against the perceived slights on his person by family members and acquaintances, are a number of notes and in places, entire chapters, in his inimitable sensationalist style.
Ever one to ingratiate himself with the popular literary fashion of the time, it seems, in those final few years, St John's literary preoccupation took a turn to the speculative, an interest no doubt spurred by the popular success at that time of writers such as GK Chesterton, E Nesbit and, of course, HG Wells. Much of the prose writings in his late journals (and I am loathe to use the word 'derivative' to describe the work of a man who spent his life writing fiction to formula) owe much to these authors but, beyond that, I believe the speculations of that old mind prove at least an equal prescience.
Except for some minor editorial amendments made where St John's prose veered towards the incomprehensible (amendments so minor I haven't seen the need to mark them), what is published here for the first time is the text of a speculative serial entitled 'The Time Traveller, Smith; or the End of London' which, judging by its position in the journals and by the references made in the text was written sometime after 1908. In an attempt to stay true to St John’s penny dreadful legacy, it is arranged in seven parts, for added authenticity....
JCM, London, March 2010
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