The Alteration Hypothesis

Dear Mrs. Dashwood,

My condolences on the recent loss of your husband, Mr. Henry Dashwood. I understand he was a loving husband and devoted father before being so horrendously devoured by a hammerhead shark. I apologize if this is indelicate, but I was wondering if you might be willing to meet with me to discuss your late husband’s hypothesis regarding the Alteration.

I understand Mr. Dashwood hypothesized…

…that there was discoverable, in some distant corner of the globe, the headwaters of a noxious stream that fed a virulent flow into every sea, every lake and estuary, poisoning the very well of the world.

He postulated that this noxious stream was responsible for the monstrous change in aquatic life, and even suggested that it had given rise to…

…new races of man-hating, shape-shifting ocean creatures, sirens and sea witches and mermaids and mermen…

It is a terrible blow to the community of scientific and adventurous exploration that his journey to find this source was kiboshed before much progress had been made. The reports I have received stated that he had not made it more than a quarter of a mile off the Sussex coast, hence it is unlikely that any of my colleagues would deem it worth their while to investigate his claims further. I, however, have elected to follow up on every possibility, no matter how insignificant.

This brings me to my desire to meet with you. I would like to view, and if possible obtain, any nautical charts he may have consulted. Did he by chance discuss with you or leave a record of his expedition plans? Had he any notion of the probable location of the headwaters?

I have been considering the possible connection of the Alteration to such legends as those of the lost city of Atlantis to that of the Fountain of Youth. While I grant that there may be no connection at all I cannot but wonder if your husband may have also suspected a connection to the source he believed existed. Is it not conceivable that if such an advanced city as Atlantis was rumored to be for its time were sunk that the forces that sunk its continent could be responsible for the rupture allowing for the poisoning of the waters of the world? Could the headwaters of the foul stream your husband sailed off in search of be a corruption of the fountain?

Please, do not laugh or think me foolish. I assure you I am slighted enough by my colleagues for such thinking, but I refuse to ignore any possibility until the answer has been discovered. I am endeavoring to assemble my own expeditionary venture. Any information you could provide me with would be most appreciated. I shall even be honored to credit your late husband with any discovery made as a result of the information you may provide.

Respectfully optimistic,


Dark Jane Austen Book Club


P.S.  What little I was able to gather on this matter I obtained from Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters.

, , ,