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November/December 2016
 
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The Morlocks, by James C. Welsh, M.P. (1924)


"ABOVE ground, you must have the Haves, pursuing pleasure and comfort and beauty, and below ground the Have-nots. The Morlocks was the name by which these creatures were called" is the epigraph taken from The Time Machine by James C. Welsh (1880-1954). Welsh was a Labour Member of Parliament for an industrial area of his native Scotland. It is a thematic sequel to his equally Wellsian first novel, The Underworld (1920).

An intellectual young man called Sydney Barron staggers out of the snow-stormed moors into the fictional Scottish coal-mining village of Craigside. He might as well be a Time Traveler from 802,701 A.D. We are told next to nothing about his background. Before long, he has helped to form a Molly Maguires-type-organization called the Morlocks that—after fomenting a General Strike—will attempt to overthrow the post-Great War political system by violent revolution. First in Britain, then all over the world. "Take that, Eloi!"

To cut a long and often dreary story short, the Morlocks eventually create a mini-Utopia. "The old order is going," explains Sydney Barron "and a new age is being born. All births are brought about through suffering, and out of this sorrow, joy will come." There is a reconciliation between Morlocks and Eloi, which is all the more poignant for being so hard-won. But just how final can this mutual victory be…?

Welsh himself drifted away from firebrand socialism to become a true-blue Tory, as revealed in Norman Dale, M.P., his third and last and weakest novel. But he did leave us with the warning that we have met the Morlocks—and they are us.

—Graham Andrews

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