The following extracts are taken from the working notebooks of Erik Clevedon (1886-1950). It was the author’s usual practice to destroy his notes once the text of his manuscript had been finalised, but in the case of his final, semi-autobiographical novella Peculiar Lives, his death intervened. The following are the most substantial passages which were excised from the published version of Peculiar Lives. They have been organised according to their original placement in the text.

From Chapter III.3
[Following ‘Besides, there was no other refuge to which they might escape’, p61.]

     ‘There might have been one alternative escape which the children would have considered, had one of their engineers’ more ambitious projects been complete. This very remarkable idea for a sanctuary was based upon what has been fancifully named the “many-worlds” theory, designed to explain certain anomalies of sub-atomic physics. According to this interpretation, there exists a plurality of other cosmoses which lie adjacent to our own, occupying the same space as ours. Under normal conditions, these disparate realities become entangled only at the particulate level, but Jimmie and the others had been working on a scheme which they believed might bring such interactions into the macroscopic arena.

     ‘Thus far, however, their success had been partial at best, and as Jimmie observed, without a careful prior investigation of the destination world, there was no telling whether conditions there would be in any manner preferable. It might be that, of all the other cosmoses which were reachable from our own, there would be another, identical Retreat which was similarly threatened, and whose inhabitants would not be best pleased at the unlooked-for advent of a host of refugees. By the same token, all these possible destinations might be inimical to human life. Jimmie had hopes that in time he would be able to resolve all such issues, but for the moment any scheme to evacuate the Retreat by such a route was entirely impractical.’

From Chapter IV.1
[Following ‘a confusion of unrelated impressions and incidents’, p76.]

     ‘[Lechasseur] remembers that he saw what looked like a herd of animals, driven by two or three copper-skinned men-women. The fat, waddling bipeds were hunched over like chimpanzees, and their features, although sheep-like in their stupidity, seemed to present a markedly human quality.

     ‘At one point he was forced to ford a stream whose waters proved to be not water at all, but a palely translucent jelly-like substance. His first attempt to cross resulted in his sinking into the fluid and being dragged along as by fast-flowing quicksand: he was fortunately close enough still to the bank that he was able to pull himself free. On his second attempt he took the channel at a brisk pace, and found himself able to trot rapidly and lightly across its surface.

     ‘At intervals, whether regular or irregular Lechasseur could not tell, the sky above him became infused with turbulent radiance, reminiscent of the Earth’s aurora, which he believed to be flowing from one particular point on the great world’s surface to another, and which were perhaps some means of conveying electrical power between locations.

[There follows the account of the discovery of the ‘conch-shell’.]

     ‘At last he gave up the attempt, and walked away from the structure, whereupon a screeching sound began to issue from its membraneous surface. He hurried his step, reflecting in his momentary clarity that he must already be adjusting to the fierce weight of his body.

     ‘At once he had his first, and only, encounter with one of the flying men. The figure, who had perhaps been passing overhead when its attention was attracted by the shell-thing’s clamour, swooped down on the Negro from above, circled him twice and alighted on the ground before him.

     ‘It was, he thinks, a female, apparently naked save for what looked like reddish-blue pine-needles, but were perhaps a kind of fur. Her wingspan was huge, twenty feet at least, although at barely barely five feet tall she was herself far shorter than that world’s ground-borne inhabitants. Her wings were constructed much like those of a bat. She had no separate arms, but each of the several finger-like struts ended in one of the manipulating-anemones. Save for the usual multiplicity of eyes, her face resembled that of a sheep or goat, and she even sported small horns at her temples.

     ‘Lechasseur is not a superstitious man by inclination, but the flying creature’s resemblance to the Christian devil was altogether too much for his shell-shocked nerves, and he turned tail and ran.’

From Chapter V.1
[In place of the sentence which in the published text runs ‘Emily, who as I have mentioned [...] sat down on my bed’, p96.]

     ‘Emily stepped forward boldly and sat down on the bed at my side. She was, as I have mentioned, a most unconventional young woman in outlook, and it is very likely that she perceived no impropriety in the gesture.

     ‘Despite this, and despite the fact that such a liaison would have been of considerable eugenic interest, to say the least, I do not believe that she and Lechasseur have ever been lovers. Had they produced a child between them, it would likely have not only benefited from benefited from the usual hybrid vigour of the half-caste, but might also have inherited one of its parents’ more unusual talents, or perhaps indeed some unique combination of the two.

     ‘A child would not have suited the life-style of either parent well, of course.

     ‘Emily and Lechasseur are undoubtedly very attached to one another, and I had ample opportunity to observe how hard my young friend worried during the days of her partner’s unexplained absence. Nevertheless, I was not able to detect in her concern for him, or later his for her, any element of sexual feeling, however ambivalent. Indeed, I now believe that their association to be completely platonic.

     ‘Presumably Lechasseur, who is to all appearances a virile enough young man, takes his pleasures elsewhere. I do not know if Emily does likewise.’

From Chapter VI.4
[Written on a separate page following the paragraph which ends ‘and now perhaps the historian may know peace’. There is some doubt as to whether this passage was ever intended to form part of the story: it may instead be a discursive meditation, written in character as the fictional narrator, on the nature of fantasy and reality. It is included here for completeness’ sake.]


     ‘I say I am a sufferer from Beech’s complaint. I also say that Beech experiences difficulty in distinguishing between his own dramatic fantasies and reality; the operative words there being his own.

     ‘In other words: I myself may by association be expected to have trouble telling whether a given idea is the product of my own brain, or derives from objective reality, whether observed by me or related to me by another. This, mind you, I assert in the final pages of a work which also states, without a shadow of a doubt, that my characters, my worlds, have proven themselves to be indubitably real.

     ‘It is to be expected that certain of my readers may detect some considerable irony in this. Charitably, some may well ask me how it is I know Beech to be wrong in confusing his theatrical inventions with the truth; while others, with equal justification, will inquire sarcastically how I myself may be so confident in my own, just as unlikely, assertion.

     ‘If Beech’s Turn Back Nebuchadnezzar and God and Demigod remain fictions, then surely the same is true of The Coming Times, Men of the Times and (yes, why not?) even The Peculiar.

     ‘How can I answer such a very reasonable complaint? I can only reply that I would scarcely have myself believed the compelling evidence which I have been vouchsafed for the factual truth of my purported fictions, had I not experienced it for myself. Beech has no such substantial grounds; or none that have an existence beyond the sad encroachment of his own senility.

     ‘I know that Sanfeil is as real as Percival, and that Percival is as real as Emily, Lechasseur, and I. It is to this truth that I must cleave, and not become a man divided against myself. If I maintain a steady grounding in reality at all times, only then will my flights of fancy (or what have seemed my flights of fancy) be believed.

     ‘This I must keep in mind.

     ‘Enough of this. I need fresh air.’

[The coda headed ‘5th September’ – the day preceding Clevedon’s death – begins on the next page.]

Buy Peculiar Lives: created and maintained by Philip Purser-Hallard.
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Peculiar Lives cover artwork © Matthew Laznicka 2005.
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