English Literature

 

 

 

H(erbert) G(eorge) Wells 1866-1946

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WELLS QUOTATIONS:

"Every time I see an adult on a bicycle I no longer despair for the human race"

"Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe"

"No-one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that human affairs were being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their affairs they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water."      (from WAR OF THE WORLDS 1898) 

 

MAJOR WORKS BY H. G. WELLS:

The Time Machine (1895)

The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896)

The Invisible Man (1897)

The War of the Worlds (1898)

The First Men on the Moon (1901)

The War in the Air (1908)

The History of Mr. Poly (1909)

The New Machiavelli (1911)

 

READ ONLINE:

The Island of Doctor Moreau

 

Along with George Orwell's Nineteen-Eighty-Four and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, Wells's novels are among the classics of science-fiction.  

Herbert George Wells was born in Bromley, Kent. In his early childhood Wells developed a love for literature. His mother served  as a housekeeper at the nearby estate of Uppark, and young Wells studied books in the library secretly. When his father's shop failed, Wells was apprenticed like his brothers to a draper.

In 1883 Wells became a teacher/pupil at Midhurst Grammar School. He obtained a scholarship to the Normal School of Science in London where he studied biology. However, his interest faltered and in 1887 he left without a degree. He taught in private schools for four years, not taking his B.S. degree until 1890. Next year he settled in London, married his cousin Isabel and continued his career as a teacher in a correspondence college. From 1893 Wells became a full-time writer.

Wells left Isabel for one of his brightest students, Amy Catherine, whom he married in 1895. As a novelist Wells made his debut with The Time Machine, a parody of English class division. The narrator is Hillyer, who discusses with his friends about theories of time travel. A week later their host has an incredible story to tell - he has returned from the year 802701. The Time Traveler had found two people: the Eloi, weak and little, who live above ground in a seemingly Edenic paradise, and the Morlocks, bestial creatures that live below ground, who eat the Eloi. The Traveler's beautiful friend Weena is killed, he flees into the far future, where he encounters "crab-like creatures" and things "like a huge white butterfly", that have taken over the planet. In the year 30,000,000 he finds lichens, blood-red sea and a creature with tentacles. He returns horrified back to the present. Much of the realistic atmosphere of the story was achieved by carefully studied technical details. The basic principles of the machine contained materials regarding time as the fourth dimension - years later Albert Einstein published his theory of the four dimensional continuum of space-time.

The Time Machine was followed by THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (1896), in which a mad scientist transforms animals into human creatures. The story is told in flashback by a man named Prendick. He travels with a biologist to a remote island, which is controlled by Dr. Moreau. In his laboratory he experiments with animals, and has created Beast People. Moreau is killed by Puma-Woman. Prendick escapes from the island, and returns to London. 

The Invisible Man (1897) was a Faustian story of a scientist who has tampered with nature in pursuit of superhuman powers, and The War of the Worlds (1898), a novel of an invasion of Martians.The narrator is an unnamed "philosophical writer" who tells about events that happened six years earlier. Martian cylinders land on earth outside London and the invaders, who have a "roundish bulk with tentacles" start to vaporize humans. The Martians build walking tripods which ruin towns. Panic spreads, London is evacuated. Martians release poisonous black smoke. However, Martians are slain "by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put on this earth." . THE FIRST MEN ON THE MOON (1901) was a prophetic description of the methodology of space flight, and THE WAR IN THE AIR (1908) foresaw the importance of air forces in combat. Although Wells's novels were highly entertaining, he also tried to arise debate about the future of  mankind.

Dissatisfied with his literary work, Wells moved into the novel genre with LOVE AND MR. LEWISHAM (1900).  Wells also published critical pamphlets attacking the Victorian social order, among them ANTICIPATIONS (1901), MANKIND IN THE MAKING (1903), and A MODERN UTOPIA (1905). 

At the outbreak of war in 1914, Wells was involved in a love affair with a young journalist, Rebecca West, 26 years his junior.  Their son Anthony West later wrote about their difficult relationship in Aspects of a Life (1984).

In his novels Wells used his two wives, Amber Reeves, Rebecca West, Odette Keun and all the passing mistresses as models for his characters. 

After WW I Wells published several non-fiction works, among them THE OUTLINE OF HISTORY (1920). Although Wells had many reservations about the Soviet system, he understood the broad aims of the Russian Revolution, and had in 1920 a fairly amiable meeting with Lenin. In the early 1920s Wells was a labour party candidate for Parliament. 

Orson Welles' Mercury Theater radio broadcast, based on The War of the Worlds, caused a panic in the Eastern United States on October 30, 1938. In Newark, New Jersey, all the occupants of a block of flats left their homes with wet towels round their heads and in Harlem a congregation fell to its knees. Welles, who first considered the show silly, was shaken by the panic he had unleashed and promised that he would never do anything like it again. Later Welles attempted to claim authorship for the script, but it was written by Howard Koch, whose inside story of the whole episode, The panic broadcast; portrait of an event, appeared in 1970. Wells himself was not amused with the radio play. 

Wells lived through World War II in his house on Regent's Park, refusing to let the blitz drive him out of London. His last book, MIND AT THE END OF ITS TETHER (1945), expressed pessimism about mankind's future prospects. Wells died in London on August 13. 1946.