EP182: The Story of the Late Mr. Elvesham

By H.G. Wells.
Read by Alasdair Stuart (of Pseudopod).

“I must tell you, then, that I am an old man, a very old man.” He paused momentarily. “And it happens that I have money that I must presently be leaving, and never a child have I to leave it to.” I thought of the confidence trick, and resolved I would be on the alert for the vestiges of my five hundred pounds. He proceeded to enlarge on his loneliness, and the trouble he had to find a proper disposition of his money. “I have weighed this plan and that plan, charities, institutions, and scholarships, and libraries, and I have come to this conclusion at last,”–he fixed his eyes on my face,–“that I will find some young fellow, ambitious, pure-minded, and poor, healthy in body and healthy in mind, and, in short, make him my heir, give him all that I have.” He repeated, “Give him all that I have. So that he will suddenly be lifted out of all the trouble and struggle in which his sympathies have been educated, to freedom and influence.”

I tried to seem disinterested. With a transparent hypocrisy I said, “And you want my help, my professional services maybe, to find that person.”

He smiled, and looked at me over his cigarette, and I laughed at his quiet exposure of my modest pretence.

Rated PG. Kids, don’t do drugs. Also, some profanity in the outro.

Comments (50)

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  1. Spook says:

    Show’s not downloading. “500 – Internal server error.”

  2. Al says:

    ugh, the audio on this one is terrible

    many of the consonants are screetchy

    tah puh suh

    I can’t listen to it

  3. phignewton says:

    yup, 500 error

  4. Mari Mitchell says:

    I tried it too and found I heard nothing.

  5. Phil says:

    Played and sounded fine for me.

    I was surprised how modern the prose sounded, I had expected it to be really dated.

    PS – Keep up the good work and consider adding donate via Google checkout button somewhere.

  6. Hypeiron says:

    Great story.

    Great reading.

    And, land sakes, what an Outro! Such passion!

    I didn’t follow any of the “discussion” on the Reparations story, so I don’t know what people said and didn’t say. I remember at the time thinking two things: I wouldn’t be surprised if there was an outcry, and what a great story it was.

    Moral justification is one thing, and a totally legitimate discussion, but I think you hit the nail on the head. People forget that history is about people. Every “just” war, every moral military action ends up killing people who didn’t deserve it.

    A piece of art is not supposed to encompass all relevant thought. It is supposed to stretch out with its truth, whatever that might be. I thought Reparations was incredibly powerful, and whatever day you ran it, I was glad to listen.

    And I’m glad for H.G. Wells.

  7. phignewton says:

    wow, somebody went and pissed off Mr Eley, ahem.. glad it wasnt me! What a great story, Yes, he should of known better but.. well if he was fated to get hit by the car perhaps the exchange actually prolonged his life.

  8. Rachel says:

    Loved the Outro. Well said.

    The story itself, I thought was a good choice. It’s an old trope, but a good one and it Mr. Wells played very well to the concepts of old age and how scary it is. I still wonder to some fashion though if it’s not a touch ageist… but then he did switch bodies and didn’t gain the wisdom he would have gotten with age.

  9. GJS says:

    I loved this episode and am eagerly looking forward to the next one. Keep up the great work!

  10. Duellist Origins says:

    Good story. Reminded me I need to get back to reading some Wells. I do like the narration too. He’s got a good voice.

    As regards outro palaver, rise above it. It’s unnecessary to state a rebuttal, partially ruining such usually enjoyable episodes.

  11. Rughat says:

    I love the classics, and I think you should keep them. BUT, I find them a nice spice – good as a hint, but not to be over used.

    Side question: did Wells really invent the idea of body-swapping? Wow. The man was more influential than I thought. It’s like someone once said about Shakespeare: all he did was take a bunch of well known phrases and put them together.

  12. Raving_Lunatic says:

    Liked the story quite a bit, even though I had read it before. I now have Alisdair’s voice stuck in my head.

  13. Overlord Alpha says:

    I appreciated the outro, you stood up for your beliefs and choices and should be respected for doing so.

  14. Mike G says:

    Great reading and classic old story – hard to believe it was published in 1896.

    I didn’t like the outro so much – sounded indignant and condescending to my ears – I felt like I was a naughty school boy being reprimanded by a stern teacher – if I want that experience, there’s plenty of NPR podcasts out there. Please stay on point? It should be about the short stories and the craft yes?

  15. jake says:

    I loved this story.
    I actualy anticipated what would happen very early in the story, which normaly would have ruined the whole story, but with such a great author it didn’t matter. I also didn’t find anything wrong with the recording and though it was well done.

  16. norm says:

    Every time Al reads an EP story his audio is horrible. Odd, because on Psedopod it’s good. Use a pop filter please. My internal mic is better. Sorry, I guess we’re all spoiled by the usual professional quality. I was excited about the story, but I didn’t get into it. The character is a boring wuss and the constant references to Old English culture were lost on me.

  17. Raving_Lunatic says:

    Jake, I totally agree. I anticipated what would happen very early, and I assumed that the young man would have realised something was amiss. No such thing as a free lunch.

  18. Jeff Bennett says:

    I enjoyed the story, even with the predictability. Sound quality was fine for me. The outro inspired me to donate. I really appreciate it when someone doesn’t back down to bullying from offended people with extreme viewpoints.

  19. Calculating... says:

    i guessed the climax of the story within 5 min. of listening to it, but not the end. i really enjoyed it. the classics are almost always the best. i love horror stories that play on real fears, not just tons of blood, gore, and surprises.

    the outro
    just wow
    steve, you got really angry
    dropping the f bomb really surprised me

    but way to go steve for standing up for what YOU think is right. i cannot agree with everything you said, but way to go man, its about time you took a stand

  20. Jeff says:

    Fantastic story for the Halloween show, Steve! I haven’t read this one; thanks for introducing me to a classic.

    Audio quality wasn’t up to standards, but you gotta love Alasdair Stewart. Give the guy a raise, Steve. He deserves it!

  21. Kel,Zel,Bell and T says:

    I enjoyed this story but mostly because of Alisdair’s reading of it. I was more inspired by Steves outro and felt the need to comment. I would like to say THANK YOU Steve Eley. Thank you for making escapepod personal. Thank You for being you, sharing your insights and for bringing us stories that invoke thought and feeling (good or bad). My expectation of escapepod is not to be numbly entertained but rather exposed and inspired. Your personal insights do that by connecting me to the person behind the podcast as well as the person behind the story and you help keep me grounded in the idea that stories are there to teach us… about ourselves, our beliefs, about relating to the immediate world around us and our dreams. So thank you again Steve..Your efforts have made a difference in my life.

  22. Sabre Runner says:

    Reparations was a great story and it echoed well with 9/11 for the exact reasons stated. It doesn’t matter why it happened. In the long run, and for most people, we don’t care what justification it had, we only care that it was horrific and it should have been avoided. And that sense displayed in the story, the need to reach out and help, that’s what makes us truly human and that is what this story touched.

    On the current note, I knew what was going to happen and how it was going to end the minute he said “Take my years”. H.G. Wells was a revolutionary for his time and when he wrote grand stories about people, like War of the Worlds or the Time Machine, they were truly awesome. But when he wrote tiny, point-oriented stories, they were just that, a point and nothing more. It might have sufficed at the time but now I think that time is long gone and I want more meat in my stories.

    And yes, the audio quality on this one wasn’t great and there were even some editing glitches along the way. If you could, Mr. Eley, elaborate on some of the behind the scenes work on Escape Pod, I would really appreciate it. Mostly because we’re trying to get the thing going in my home country, Israel.

    And finally, thank you very much for that closing quotation. It was exactly what I needed to say to a friend of mine to raise her spirits.

  23. jimmyt9574 says:

    I thought the outro was badass.

    Haha yeah I pretty much just wanted to say that and I think it’s pretty sick that I can just listen to all these stories for free when I’m drawing or whatever. So, thanks for that.

  24. ExiledinSeattle says:

    Yeah, I don’t know that this H.G. Wells guy has much of a future… I mean no giant squids or space travel, what’s up with that?

    /Jules Verne

  25. Hans Voss says:

    I agree with most of the comments so far:
    1) Audio quality SUCKED. Specially on the ‘s’-es. I had to tweak both the iPod and car stereo sound to remove all the high tones to make it palatable. (Same as with the previous story by Alisdair).
    2) Good story, even though you could see what would happen (the switch it self) a mile away. (Although, from the excerpt I thought it was a Nigerian scan in Victorian times).
    3) The Outtro. I totally agree with you. However there was something off-putting about the way it was delivered. Don’t let it get to you. It is your publication, you can do with it what you like. Listeners don’t even have to pay for it, so they have no right to bitch-n-moan about it. Some times I like the story better then others, at one time it disturbes me, well, better luck next week. I didn’t stick around for 182 episodes for nothing.

  26. DrCrisp says:

    It would probably be a fascinating and educational “sidelight” to have a special podcast specifically on H.G. Wells. He spanned the post Victorian Empire up to its final victory during WWII, a war he scarily predicted. It’s also worthwhile to have the children writing Science Fiction today to remember that the shoulders we all write and read from are from an old Frenchman and Englishman. Or is that an ageist comment too?

    Of course its total nonsense that someone would be able to move bodies like that, especially having them change their name and all that; pure stuff and nonsense. I mean, who in the world would take on some sort of name combination like Herbert and George, eh? Can’t think of any George Herberts at all…

  27. scatterbrain says:

    Seven things:

    1) Why is the audio when Alastair Stuart reads at Escape Pod always so horrible, yet so clear and crisp at Pseudopod?

    2) This is actually more fantasy-horror than straight SF horror, but since there is an inclusion of mathematics, I must give it a pass.

    3) I deeply enjoy HG Wells, not just for his ideas, but for the deeper, satiric meanings of his work, such as in the War of the Worlds, which is not about alien invasion, but actually about British Imperialism, or that the Time Machine is actually a polemic/examination of the English class structure. Elvesham is no different, being a critique of two-way “charity” in a capitalist society which–I dare say–completely agree with.

    4) Oh Eley! Why did you go and express your opinion!

    5) Good on you for expressing your opinion; I probably would have done the same.

    6) That word to describe the feeling you get when you think of the fire fighters, the rescue workers and all the other persons who were brave enough to risk their lives on 9/11 is ‘humanity.’ Be glad you have it.

    7) With that quote at the end, Babylon 5 is now on my to-do list…

  28. DrCrisp says:

    Scatterbrain: Oh R-rated word! I’ve enjoyed HG Wells so much and never thought of him like that. As a kid, I just read the stories as they were and saw them without an Imperial lens, so to speak. But now that you mention it, and knowing his opinion on the Empire and all, you are right! What’s amazing is how, being an American Baby Boomer and raised ignorant of British history, how well the stories work outside of that milieu. Its like Gilbert and Sullivan which is great fun even now but even more fun when you get into the historical frame of reference, or Alice in Wonderland being about Math.

    I have my HG Wells book in hand now and am starting page 1 tonight to re-read with that point of view in mind.

  29. Merrill says:

    Thanks so much for going to the world’s SF archives for this story. predictable? Only because it’s a classic. Knowing what was happening to our narrator was the fun of it. As for the quality, it was just fine. I listen to other people and machines read because I cannot read the printed word myself. I had no difficulties “reading” this one. I would invite you to donate the story reading to the librivox.org collection. I also think dipping into the public domain from time to time gives depth to the podcast.

  30. "Q" says:

    Good story…..
    The most valuable part of the whole Escape pod experience was the out tor. Listening to this pod cast over the last year their have been many story that have made me reconsider my view on live and eves some that have made me cry. I was very happy to hear that the person who choose story’s was so passionately committed to the pod cast. Thanks Steve you have Turned me in to a lifer of this pod cast.

  31. Changwa Steve says:

    Really, how dare anyone criticize this beautiful soul who floats serenely above your grubby political bickering?

    SE could be making millions off this podcast, millions I tell you, but he gives it away for free…because he loves you.

  32. Raving_Lunatic says:

    Can I just say that I agree completely with Changwa Steve. Kickass.

  33. Scatterbrained says:

    Wow. I encouraged someone to read a novel. Again. A re-read. I don’t no what to say right now, but here’s two more things I missed in my original comment:

    8) I was half expecting Eley, after saying today’s story was by HG Wells, to say that “Mr Wells lives in Milwalkee with his wife and three kids, and has been published in Asimov’s, F&SF, Analog and several of Mike Resnick’s anthologies. This story was originally published in September last year at Strange Horizons.”

    9) For the original publishment, ‘Elvesham’ was originally printed in the May edition of The Idler in 1896.

  34. valjean24601 says:

    Very predictable. I find in most classic stories, that you can tell what the ending is going to be. The same goes for this story. There were no suprises.

  35. DrCrisp says:

    Scatterbrained: Its worse. I renewed my library card to check out Mr. Wells complete Science Fiction Short Stories.

  36. Stumo says:

    The outro made me comment – well said Steve. A shame that you needed to, but sometimes people need perspective.

    The story – the audio wasn’t too bad for me, other than the fact that Alisdair never seems to pause where I would between sentences, giving the story an interesting, sometimes confusing rhythm.

  37. StrawberryFrog says:

    Saw it coming a mile off, couln’t bear listening to it approach in slow motion, gave up. Sorry.

  38. Man, what is it with the poor editing on the EP family lately? Is it someone new, or perhaps someone who’s currently distracted by other things?

    Also, I could hear Alasdair bumping the mic, or flipping pages, or clicking the mouse, or whatever the hell he was doing. It was like he recorded this one on his home PC’s webcam mic instead of in the studio. I don’t know what method you guys usually use, but it’s usually better than this.

    Anyway, this one was too, too predictable, and once you knew what was going to happen (about a minute in), it was just a matter of wading through the rest of the story.

    When it was first written, I’ve no doubt that it was groundbreaking and terrifying, but as you say, Steve, this plot has been recycled ad nauseam, and no longer holds any surprises for even a casual fan of either genre.

    No worries, though, I’m not asking for my money back. The best part about EP- if you don’t like this week’s story, there’s always next week’s! Keep ’em coming and I’ll keep listening.

  39. Gary H says:

    Audio quality was so bad I couldn’t finish the story. Apparently, I need to go listen to the outro, though.

    I don’t mind a few editing mistakes, it is a free podcast. I guess the same could be said for the audio quality, except that, for the most part, the audio quality of Escape Pod is excellent, so my expectations are high. This actually hurt my ears. I had to turn it off.

  40. shavedgoat says:

    Am a subscriber…but dontated another $5.00 just for the outro.

    Don’t stop Steve…just don’t stop.

  41. devora says:

    Wow, I’m surprised so few folks mentioned the bumping/tapping and lousy recording quality. He’s a great reader, it is a cool story, but can’t it sound better? I got distracted by the thumping.

  42. DrCrisp says:

    Once upon a midday’s listening,
    Eley’s podcast weak and reeling,
    Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
    While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
    As of some one gently rapping, rapping midst the story’s core.
    'Tis some gremlin,' I muttered,slapping at poor Alisdair –
    Only this, and nothing more.’

  43. disapointed says:

    Good story. I love the classics.

    The outro… I usually look forward to Steve’s outro’s but this one was uncomfortable for listeners like me who enjoy the stories and don’t follow the snarkfest forums, it was unneeded in the body of the actual podcast where everything should be about the artform instead of the politics, and it just seemed like more of a typical snark found in internet forum replies. You don’t see this in other media offering collections of stories and it was wholly unprofessional to bring that conversation into the podcast itself. The outro did nothing but take away from what we are all here for, that being, good and enjoyable stories.

    Here’s my suggestion, have the courage to address the conversation where it is, on the forum, and don’t subject your other listeners to it just so you can do it where you are safe from people directly replying to your statement. Sorry, but this just struck me as cowardly and avoiding the actual conversation. I and other listeners like me don’t care what goes on in the forum with all of the pseudo-intellectuals who type just to hear their keyboards click and if you don’t have the courage to address the issue where it lives maybe there shouldn’t be forums in the first place.

  44. V says:

    Good story, but your outro made this ep, Mr. Eley.

    Thank you for saying what you said.

  45. C. June Wolf says:

    Good story, good reading, good thinking. Thanks.

  46. trinityseven says:

    Interesting story, good reading but the audio quality was awful. I was listening in the car and the sound quality almost made me skip the story entirely! Glad I persevered!

  47. […] I neglected to check if the same thing had happened with Escape Pod. It had, so my review of “The Story of the Late Mr. Elvesham” is a month late. This is science-fictional horror from the pen of H. G. Wells, and Alasdair […]

  48. Ethernight says:

    Huh. I hadn’t realized the Nigerian scam had been around for quite so long.

  49. D says:

    Not great audio quality. Metallic, tinny, grating.

    Really hard to get into the story with the audio quality being what it is.

  50. alfijane says:

    nice story, the audio quality wasn’t as bad as people are making out… the outro was great