THE HAMPDEN-SHIRE WONDER (1911) – Written by J.D. Beresford. The story centers around Victor Stott, the remarkable son of Cricket star Ginger Stott. A news reporter who is on friendly terms with Ginger Stott meets his one year old child Victor during a train trip.
The reporter is disturbed by Victor’s obvious intelligence and menacing, piercing stare, though the prodigy’s father has forbidden the child to speak in order to avoid confirming suspicions regarding his paranormal intellect.
When Victor is five years old the anthropologist Squire Challis, another friend of the family, lets the obviously brilliant child loose in his extensive library. Victor manages to complete every book in Challis’ library in a matter of days. He then proceeds to debate and demolish all of Challis’ deeply-held views in a variety of scholarly subjects.
The anthropologist is severely shaken and psychologically scarred by the experience, but still feels protective toward the young Victor, who is growing unstable since he cannot reconcile his extraordinary intelligence with his child-like emotional state.
The typically willful prodigy finds himself in a conflict with the local clergymen, who are angered and horrified over being “set straight” as it were, by a mere child. Victor’s mutant mentality makes him more and more of a threat to the narrow-minded religious zealots.
The possibility is in the air that Victor may lead humanity in a scientific revolution that will advance progress by several decades at least. Tragically, Victor Stott never gets to reach adulthood, as one of the insecure and threatened clergyman drowns the boy in a nearby stream.
The author doesn’t make that fact one hundred percent certain, no doubt at the request of editors or his publisher, but the implication is pretty clear. In fact there were hints that at some point SOMEBODY was going to commit violence against the paradigm-challenging boy.
The Hampdenshire Wonder brings to mind classic episodes of old anthology shows. I enjoyed the 1911 setting, and I would say the downbeat ending definitely stays with you. In 1917 this was published in America under the title The Wonder. +++
FOR EIGHT ADDITIONAL EXAMPLES OF ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION CLICK HERE
FOR TEN MORE EXAMPLES OF ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/2014/03/03/ten-neglected-examples-of-ancient-science-fiction/
FOR WASHINGTON IRVING’S 1809 depiction of an invasion from the moon click here: https://glitternight.com/2014/05/05/ancient-science-fiction-the-men-of-the-moon-1809-by-washington-irving/
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