h.g. wells


  • [38] His short period in Woking was perhaps the most creative and productive of his whole writing career,[37] for while there he planned and wrote The War of the Worlds and
    The Time Machine, completed The Island of Doctor Moreau, wrote and published The Wonderful Visit and The Wheels of Chance, and began writing two other early books, When the Sleeper Wakes and Love and Mr Lewisham.

  • [15] • Born: Herbert George Wells, 21 September 1866, Bromley, Kent, England; Died: 13 August 1946 (aged 79), Regent’s Park, London, England; Occupation: Novelist, Teacher,
    historian, journalist; Alma mater: Royal College of Science (Imperial College London); Genre: Science fiction (notably social science fiction), social realism; Subject: World history, Progress; Years active: 1895–1946; Notable works: The Outline
    of History, The Country of the Blind, The Red Room, Novels: The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The First Men in the Moon, The Shape of Things to Come, Ann Veronica, When the Sleeper Wakes;
    Spouse: Isabel Mary Wells, (m. 1891; div.

  • Wells’s best-known statement of the “law” appears in his introduction to a collection of his works published in 1934: As soon as the magic trick has been done the whole business
    of the fantasy writer is to keep everything else human and real.

  • Since “Barbellion” was the real author’s pen name, many reviewers believed Wells to have been the true author of the Journal; Wells always denied this, despite being full
    of praise for the diaries.

  • He reprised his Outline in 1922 with a much shorter popular work, A Short History of the World, a history book praised by Albert Einstein,[74] and two long efforts, The Science
    of Life (1930)—written with his son G. P. Wells and evolutionary biologist Julian Huxley, and The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind (1931).

  • Wells also wrote dozens of short stories and novellas, including, “The Flowering of the Strange Orchid”, which helped bring the full impact of Darwin’s revolutionary botanical
    ideas to a wider public, and was followed by many later successes such as “The Country of the Blind” (1904).

  • He was also among the founders of The Science School Journal, a school magazine that allowed him to express his views on literature and society, as well as trying his hand
    at fiction; a precursor to his novel The Time Machine was published in the journal under the title The Chronic Argonauts.

  • [52] David Lodge’s novel A Man of Parts (2011)—a ‘narrative based on factual sources’ (author’s note)—gives a convincing and generally sympathetic account of Wells’s relations
    with the women mentioned above, and others.

  • Novels of social realism such as Kipps (1905) and The History of Mr Polly (1910), which describe lower-middle-class English life, led to the suggestion that he was a worthy
    successor to Charles Dickens,[9] but Wells described a range of social strata and even attempted, in Tono-Bungay (1909), a diagnosis of English society as a whole.

  • He soon became devoted to the other worlds and lives to which books gave him access; they also stimulated his desire to write.

  • [82] H. G. Wells, one day before his 60th birthday, on the front cover of Time magazine, 20 September 1926 In 1927, a Canadian teacher and writer Florence Deeks unsuccessfully
    sued Wells for infringement of copyright and breach of trust, claiming that much of The Outline of History had been plagiarised from her unpublished manuscript,[83] The Web of the World’s Romance, which had spent nearly nine months in the
    hands of Wells’s Canadian publisher, Macmillan Canada.

  • [89] Plaque by the H. G. Wells Society at Chiltern Court, Baker Street in the City of Westminster, where Wells lived between 1930 and 1936 In 1933, Wells predicted in The
    Shape of Things to Come that the world war he feared would begin in January 1940,[90] a prediction which ultimately came true four months early, in September 1939, with the outbreak of World War II.

  • [21] His experiences at Hyde’s, where he worked a thirteen-hour day and slept in a dormitory with other apprentices,[16] later inspired his novels The Wheels of Chance, The
    History of Mr Polly, and Kipps, which portray the life of a draper’s apprentice as well as providing a critique of society’s distribution of wealth.

  • [6][7] Wells rendered his works convincing by instilling commonplace detail alongside a single extraordinary assumption per work – dubbed “Wells’s law” – leading Joseph Conrad
    to hail him in 1898 with “O Realist of the Fantastic!”.

  • [95] A pacifist prior to the First World War, Wells stated “how much better is this amiable miniature [war] than the real thing”.

  • [50][51] In Experiment in Autobiography (1934), Wells wrote: “I was never a great amorist, though I have loved several people very deeply”.

  • [57] According to James E. Gunn, one of Wells’s major contributions to the science fiction genre was his approach, which he referred to as his “new system of ideas”.

  • At first approaching the subject through Plato’s Republic, he soon turned to contemporary ideas of socialism as expressed by the recently formed Fabian Society and free lectures
    delivered at Kelmscott House, the home of William Morris.

  • [12][13] In his later years, he wrote less fiction and more works expounding his political and social views, sometimes giving his profession as that of journalist.

  • Some of his early novels, called “scientific romances”, invented several themes now classic in science fiction in such works as The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau,
    The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, When the Sleeper Wakes, and The First Men in the Moon.

  • [91] In 1936, before the Royal Institution, Wells called for the compilation of a constantly growing and changing World Encyclopaedia, to be reviewed by outstanding authorities
    and made accessible to every human being.

  • [2] To pass the time he began to read books from the local library, brought to him by his father.

  • [77] H. G. Wells c. 1918 From quite early in Wells’s career, he sought a better way to organise society and wrote a number of Utopian novels.

  • [69] In 1932, the physicist and conceiver of nuclear chain reaction Leó Szilárd read The World Set Free (the same year Sir James Chadwick discovered the neutron), a book which
    he wrote in his memoirs had made “a very great impression on me.

  • [95] During August 1914, immediately after the outbreak of the First World War, Wells published a number of articles in London newspapers that subsequently appeared as a book
    entitled The War That Will End War.

  • [73] However, it was very popular amongst the general population and made Wells a rich man.

  • The couple agreed to separate in 1894, when he had fallen in love with one of his students, Amy Catherine Robbins (1872–1927; later known as Jane), with whom he moved to Woking,
    Surrey, in May 1895.

  • His stay in The Potteries also resulted in the macabre short story “The Cone” (1895, contemporaneous with his famous The Time Machine), set in the north of the city.

  • “[33] His success with these shorter pieces encouraged him to write book-length work, and he published his first novel, The Time Machine, in 1895.

  • This ought to have been a comfortable sum of money (at the time many working class families had “round about a pound a week” as their entire household income),[26] yet in
    his Experiment in Autobiography Wells speaks of constantly being hungry, and indeed photographs of him at the time show a youth who is very thin and malnourished.

  • [53] Director Simon Wells (born 1961), the author’s great-grandson, was a consultant on the future scenes in Back to the Future Part II (1989).

  • When his mother returned to work as a lady’s maid (at Uppark, a country house in Sussex), one of the conditions of work was that she would not be permitted to have living
    space for her husband and children.

  • [99] Wells used the shorter form of the phrase, “the war to end war”, in In the Fourth Year (1918), in which he noted that the phrase “got into circulation” in the second
    half of 1914.

  • [8] His most notable science fiction works include The Time Machine (1895), which was his first novel, The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), The War
    of the Worlds (1898), the military science fiction The War in the Air (1907), and the dystopian When the Sleeper Wakes (1910).

  • The others usually begin with the world rushing to catastrophe, until people realise a better way of living: whether by mysterious gases from a comet causing people to behave
    rationally and abandoning a European war (In the Days of the Comet (1906)), or a world council of scientists taking over, as in The Shape of Things to Come (1933, which he later adapted for the 1936 Alexander Korda film, Things to Come).

  • [23] He explained that while writing The Time Machine, he realized that “the more impossible the story I had to tell, the more ordinary must be the setting, and the circumstances
    in which I now set the Time Traveller were all that I could imagine of solid upper-class comforts.

  • [75][76] The “Outlines” became sufficiently common for James Thurber to parody the trend in his humorous essay, “An Outline of Scientists”—indeed, Wells’s Outline of History
    remains in print with a new 2005 edition, while A Short History of the World has been re-edited (2006).

  • [17][21] The years he spent in Southsea had been the most miserable of his life to that point, but his good fortune in securing a position at Midhurst Grammar School meant
    that Wells could continue his self-education in earnest.

  • [93] By 1933, he had attracted the attention of German officials because of his criticism of the political situation in Germany, and on 10 May 1933, Wells’s books were burned
    by the Nazi youth in Berlin’s Opernplatz, and his works were banned from libraries and book stores.

  • [71][72] His bestselling two-volume work, The Outline of History (1920), began a new era of popularised world history.

  • [94] Wartime works[edit] Title page of Wells’s The War That Will End War (1914) Seeking a more structured way to play war games, Wells wrote Floor Games (1911) followed by
    Little Wars (1913), which set out rules for fighting battles with toy soldiers (miniatures).

  • Anticipating what the world would be like in the year 2000, the book is interesting both for its hits (trains and cars resulting in the dispersion of populations from cities
    to suburbs; moral restrictions declining as men and women seek greater sexual freedom; the defeat of German militarism, and the existence of a European Union) and its misses (he did not expect successful aircraft before 1950, and averred that
    “my imagination refuses to see any sort of submarine doing anything but suffocate its crew and founder at sea”).

  • [55] These picshuas have been the topic of study by Wells scholars for many years, and in 2006, a book was published on the subject.

  • “[60] In “Wells’s Law”, a science fiction story should contain only a single extraordinary assumption.

  • In 1883, Wells persuaded his parents to release him from the apprenticeship, taking an opportunity offered by Midhurst Grammar School again to become a pupil–teacher; his
    proficiency in Latin and science during his earlier short stay had been remembered.

  • So prolific did Wells become at this mode of journalism that many of his early pieces remain unidentified.

  • [32] Upon leaving the Normal School of Science, Wells was left without a source of income.

  • [11] He was also an outspoken socialist from a young age, often (but not always, as at the beginning of the First World War) sympathising with pacifist views.

  • Radioactive decay plays a much larger role in The World Set Free (1914), a book dedicated to Frederick Soddy who would receive a Nobel for proving the existence of radioactive

  • According to David C. Smith, “Most of Wells’s occasional pieces have not been collected, and many have not even been identified as his.

  • [85] The court found no proof of copying, and decided the similarities were due to the fact that the books had similar nature and both writers had access to the same sources.

  • [92] Prior to 1933, Wells’s books were widely read in Germany and Austria, and most of his science fiction works had been translated shortly after publication.

  • However, Uppark had a magnificent library in which he immersed himself, reading many classic works, including Plato’s Republic, Thomas More’s Utopia, and the works of Daniel

  • Wells in this period was regarded as an enormously influential figure; the literary critic Malcolm Cowley stated: “by the time he was forty, his influence was wider than any
    other living English writer”.

  • To earn money, he began writing short humorous articles for journals such as The Pall Mall Gazette, later collecting these in volume form as Select Conversations with an Uncle
    (1895) and Certain Personal Matters (1897).

  • Not all his scientific romances ended in a Utopia, and Wells also wrote a dystopian novel, When the Sleeper Wakes (1899, rewritten as The Sleeper Awakes, 1910), which pictures
    a future society where the classes have become more and more separated, leading to a revolt of the masses against the rulers.

  • [99] In 1918 Wells worked for the British War Propaganda Bureau, also called Wellington House.

  • [79] Wells contemplates the ideas of nature and nurture and questions humanity in books such as The First Men in the Moon, where nature is completely suppressed by nurture,
    and The Island of Doctor Moreau, where the strong presence of nature represents a threat to a civilized society.

  • His first non-fiction bestseller was Anticipations of the Reaction of Mechanical and Scientific Progress upon Human Life and Thought (1901).

  • “[68] The H. G. Wells crater, located on the far side of the Moon, was named after the author of The First Men in the Moon (1901) in 1970 Wells also wrote non-fiction.

  • [66] In addition to science fiction, Wells produced work dealing with mythological beings like an angel in The Wonderful Visit (1895) and a mermaid in The Sea Lady (1902).

  • “[70] In 1934, Szilárd took his ideas for a chain reaction to the British War Office and later the Admiralty, assigning his patent to the Admiralty to keep the news from reaching
    the notice of the wider scientific community.

  • While having some sympathy for Deeks, he argues that she had a weak case that was not well presented, and though she may have met with sexism from her lawyers, she received
    a fair trial, adding that the law applied is essentially the same law that would be applied to a similar case today (i.e., 2004).

  • [100] In fact, it had become one of the most common catchphrases of the war.

  • These years mark the beginning of his interest in a possible reformation of society.

  • [25] As an alumnus, he later helped to set up the Royal College of Science Association, of which he became the first president in 1909.

  • He wrote, “Knowing what this [a chain reaction] would mean—and I knew it because I had read H. G. Wells—I did not want this patent to become public.

  • [93] Near the end of World War II, Allied forces discovered that the SS had compiled lists of people slated for immediate arrest during the invasion of Britain in the abandoned
    Operation Sea Lion, with Wells included in the alphabetical list of “The Black Book”.

  • It is obvious that many early Wells items have been lost.

  • Wells did not automatically receive the byline his reputation demanded until after 1896 or so … As a result, many of his early pieces are unknown.

  • The accident effectively put an end to Joseph’s career as a cricketer, and his subsequent earnings as a shopkeeper were not enough to compensate for the loss of the primary
    source of family income.

  • The inspiration for some of his descriptions in The War of the Worlds is thought to have come from his short time spent here, seeing the iron foundry furnaces burn over the
    city, shooting huge red light into the skies.

  • In 1938, he published a collection of essays on the future organisation of knowledge and education, World Brain, including the essay “The Idea of a Permanent World Encyclopaedia”.


Works Cited

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39. ^ In the run-up to the 143rd anniversary of Wells’s birth, Google published
a cartoon riddle series with the solution being the coordinates of Woking’s nearby Horsell Common—the location of the Martian landings in The War Of The Worlds—described in newspaper article by Schofield, Jack (21 September 2009). “HG Wells – Google
reveals answer to teaser doodles”. The Guardian. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
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