REVIEW: “The Professor’s Experiment” by Margaret Wolfe Hungerford

Review of Margaret Wolfe Hungerford, “The Professor’s Experiment” in A Brilliant Void: A Selection of Classic Irish Science Fiction, edited by Jack Fennell (Tramp Press, 2018): 107-123 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

In the days before cryogenics and assisted comas, the idea of being able to put a person to a dreamless sleep that can persist days or weeks or years without any degradation of the body is both fantastical and tantalising — since the days of Shakespeare and perhaps even longer people have dreamt of potions which can induce a sleep like death. In Hungerford’s story, the old Professor has been researching the potions of the ancient Peruvians and South American Indians for decades and is now ready to put his theory into practice, despite the worries of his student and friend, Paul Wyndham. As yet, he has been unable to find anyone in Ireland that he could experiment on…and then there is a knock upon his door…

There is one place in the story where I fear there may have been an editorial mishap in the abridgement process; on p. 117 there is a strange repetition of six sentences. In the first place, there is a queer shift in time which is inexplicable, while the second occurrence of the sentences a few paragraphs later makes a lot more narrative sense. It seems as if the first occurrence of the sentences was mistaken, and it makes me wonder what — if anything — should have been there instead.

(Originally published in 1895.)