The Man Who Could Work Miracles (story)

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"The Man Who Could Work Miracles" is a British fantasycomedy short story by H. G. Wells first published in 1898 in The Illustrated London News.

Plot summary[edit]

In an English public house, The Long Dragon, George McWhirter Fotheringay is engaged in vigorously asserting the impossibility of miracles while arguing with the obnoxious Toddy Beamish. However, after an unintended command of Fotheringay's, an oil lamp does the impossible – flaming upside down. Although it is thought to be a trick, and quickly dismissed by his acquaintances, back home Fotheringay continues to use his new power for other petty uncanny deeds.

Then, after also magically accomplishing his everyday chores as a clerk at Gomshott's office, Fotheringay goes to a park to practise further. However, he has an untimely encounter with a local constable, Winch, who is then accidentally injured. In the ensuing confrontation Fotheringay unintentionally curses him, so the policeman literally goes to Hades; hours later, Fotheringay relocates him safely to San Francisco.

As a result of these and other miracles, Fotheringay decides to attend the local church services on Sunday. He is then moved by the clergyman, Mr. Maydig, as he coincidentally preaches about unnatural occurrences. Fotheringay meets him for advice at his quarters. After few petty demonstrations the priest becomes enthusiastic, suggesting that Fotheringay should do them on behalf of the public; during that night they traverse the town streets, healing the illness and the vice and revamping public works.

The priest then plans to reform the whole world. They could disregard their obligations for the next day, if Fotheringay could stop the night altogether.

Fotheringay does so, stopping the motion of the whole planet Earth. However, his clumsy wording backfires, resulting in all objects on Earth being hurled off the ground without control, "with more force than a cannon shot". As the surface becomes a pandemonium, Fotheringay miraculously ensures his own safety back on the ground.

Fotheringay would not be able to amend such a big mess though, so he repents; for his last two wishes he relinquishes such power forever and he commands a return to the time before he had it. Effectively, this happens: Fotheringay is back in the public house, discussing miracles with his friends as before, without any recollection of the uncanny events.

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations[edit]

In 1936, the story was adapted to a film starring Roland Young as Fotheringay. Wells himself co-wrote the screenplay with Lajos Bíró.

It was adapted for BBC Radio in 1959 by Dennis Main Wilson and broadcast on New Year's Day. It starred Tony Hancock as Fotheringay.

External links[edit]