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Title: H. G. Wells
Author: Beresford, J. D. (John Davys), 1873-1947
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "H. G. Wells" ***

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[Illustration: H.G. WELLS]



H.G. WELLS
By
J.D. BERESFORD

[Illustration]


NEW YORK
HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY



_First Published in 1915_



CONTENTS

                               PAGE

  I.  INTRODUCTION                9
 II.  THE ROMANCES               17
III.  THE NOVELS                 58
 IV.  SOCIOLOGY                  97
      BIBLIOGRAPHY              117
      AMERICAN BIBLIOGRAPHY     121
      INDEX                     125



[Transcriber's Notes for e-book:

The spelling and punctuation are consistent with the original scans
with the following exceptions. If you are using this book for research, please
verify any spelling or punctuation with another source.

I added ["] at end of phrase: "to recover the full-bodied
self-satisfaction of his early days."

In the following sentence, I changed 'succeded' to 'succeeded': And
Bensington, the other experimenter, succeeded in separating a food
that produced regular instead of intermittent growth.]



TO
R.A.A.B.
THIS ESSAY IS FRATERNALLY
DEDICATED



I

INTRODUCTION

THE NORMALITY OF MR WELLS


In his Preface to the _Unpleasant Plays_, Mr Shaw boasts his
possession of "normal sight." The adjective is the oculist's, and the
application of it is Mr Shaw's, but while the phrase is misleading
until it is explained to suit a particular purpose, it has a pleasing
adaptability, and I can find none better as a key to the works of Mr
H.G. Wells.

We need not bungle over the word "normal," in any attempt to meet the
academic objection that it implies conformity to type. In this
connection, the gifted possessor of normal sight is differentiated
from his million neighbours by the fact that he wears no glasses; and
if a few happy people still exist here and there who have no need for
the mere physical assistance, the number of those whose mental outlook
is undistorted by tradition, prejudice or some form of bias is so
small that we regard them as inspired or criminal according to the
inclination of our own beloved predilection. And no spectacles will
correct the mental astigmatism of the multitude, a fact that is often
a cause of considerable annoyance to the possessors of normal sight.
That defect of vision, whether congenital or induced by the
confinements of early training, persists and increases throughout
life, like other forms of myopia. The man who sees a ball as slightly
flattened, like a tangerine orange too tightly packed (an "oblate
spheroid" would be the physicist's brief description), seeks the
society of other men who share his illusion; and the company of them
take arms against the opposing faction, which is confirmed in the
belief that the ball is egg-shaped, that the bulge, in fact, is not
"oblate" but "prolate."

I will not elaborate the parable; it is sufficient to indicate that in
my reading of Mr Wells, I have seen him as regarding all life from a
reasonable distance. By good fortune he avoided the influences of his
early training, which was too ineffectual to leave any permanent mark
upon him. His readers may infer, from certain descriptions in _Kipps_,
and _The History of Mr Polly_, that Wells himself sincerely regrets
the inadequacies of that "private school of dingy aspect and still
dingier pretensions, where there were no object lessons, and the
studies of book-keeping and French were pursued (but never effectually
overtaken) under the guidance of an elderly gentleman, who wore a
nondescript gown and took snuff, wrote copperplate, explained nothing,
and used a cane with remarkable dexterity and gusto." But, properly
considered, that inadequate elderly gentleman may be regarded as our
benefactor. If he had been more apt in his methods, he might have
influenced the blessed normality of his pupil, and bound upon him the
spectacles of his own order. Worse still, Mr Wells might have been
born into the leisured classes, and sent to Eton and Christchurch, and
if his genius had found any expression after that awful experience, he
would probably, at the best, have written polite essays or a history
of Napoleon, during the intervals of his leisured activity as a member
of the Upper House.

Happily, Fate provided a scheme for preserving his eyesight, and
pitched him into the care of Mr and Mrs Joseph Wells on the 21st
September 1866; behind or above a small general shop in Bromley. Mrs
Wells was the daughter of an innkeeper at Midhurst and had been in
service as a lady's maid before her marriage. Joseph Wells had had a
more distinguished career. He had been a great Kent bowler in the
early sixties, and it must have been, I think, only the year before
the subject of our essay appeared at Bromley that his father took four
wickets with consecutive balls and created a new record in the annals
of cricket. The late Sir Francis Galton might have made something out
of this ancestry; I must confess that it is entirely beyond my powers,
although I make the reservation that we know little of the abilities
of H.G. Wells' mother. She has not figured as a recognisable portrait
in any of his novels.

The Bromley shop, like most of its kind, was a failure. Moderate
success might have meant a Grammar School for young Wells, and the
temptations of property, but Fate gave our young radical another twist
by thrusting him temporarily within sight of an alien and magnificent
prosperity, where as the son of the housekeeper at Up Park, near
Petersfield, he might recognise his immense separation from the
members of the ruling class, as described in _Tono-Bungay_.

After that came "the drapery," first at Windsor and then at Southsea;
but we have no autobiography of this period, only the details of the
trade and its circumstances. For neither Hoopdriver, nor Kipps, nor
Polly could have qualified for the post of assistant at Midhurst
Grammar School, a position that H.G. Wells obtained at sixteen after
he had broken his indentures with the Southsea draper.

At this point we come up with Mr Lewisham, and may follow him in his
experiences after he obtained what was, in fact, a scholarship at the
Normal School of Science, South Kensington; but we drop that hero
again before his premature marriage and failure, to follow the
uncharted course of Wells obtaining his B.Sc. with first-class
honours; passing to an assistant-mastership at the Henley House
School, St John's Wood, and so coming by way of tutor, lecturer and
demonstrator to the beginnings of journalism, to the breaking of a
blood-vessel and thence, without further diversion, to the trade of
letters, somewhere in the summer of 1893.

I lave taken as my text the normality of Mr Wells, on the
understanding that I shall define the essential term as I will; and
this brief outline of his early experiences may help to show, _inter
alia_, that he viewed life from many angles before he was
twenty-seven. That he had the capacity so to see life was either a
lucky accident or due to some untraceable composition of heredity.
That he kept his power was an effect of his casual education. He was
fortunate enough to escape training in his observation of the sphere.

Persistent repetition will finally influence the young mind, however
gifted, and if Mr Wells had been subject to the discipline of what may
be called an efficient education, he might have seen his sphere at the
age of twenty-seven as slightly flattened--whether it appeared oblate
or prolate is no consequence--and I could not have crowned him with
the designation that heads this Introduction.

He is, in fact, normal just in so far as his gift of vision was
undistorted by the precepts and dogmas of his parents, teachers and
early companions.



II

THE ROMANCES


Mr Wells' romances have little or nothing in common with those of
Jules Verne, not even that peculiar quality of romance which revels in
the impossible. The heroes of Jules Verne were idealised creatures
making use of some wonderful invention for their own purposes; and the
future of mankind was of no account in the balance against the lust
for adventure under new mechanical conditions. Also, Jules Verne's
imagination was at the same time mathematical and Latin; and he was
entirely uninfluenced by the writings of Comte.

Mr Wells' experiments with the relatively improbable have become
increasingly involved with the social problem, and it would be
possible to trace the growth of his opinions from this evidence alone,
even if we had not the valuable commentary afforded by his novels and
his essays in sociology. But his interest in the present and future
welfare of man would not in the first place have prompted him to the
writing of romance (unless it had been cast in the severely
allegorical form of _The Pilgrim's Progress_), and if we are to
account for that ebullition, we shall be driven--like Darwin with his
confounding peacock--to take refuge in some theory of exuberance. The
later works have been so defensive and, in one sense, didactic that
one is apt to forget that many of the earlier books, and all the short
stories, must have originated in the effervescence of creative
imagination.

Mr Wells must, also, have been slightly intoxicated by the first
effects of reaction. A passage from _The Future in America_ exhibits
him somewhat gleefully reviving thoughts of the prison-house, and I
quote it in order to account for his first exercises in prophecy by a
study of contrasts. "I remember," he writes, "that to me in my boyhood
speculation about the Future was a monstrous joke. Like most people of
my generation, I was launched into life with millennial assumptions.
This present sort of thing, I believed, was going on for a time,
interesting personally, perhaps, but as a whole inconsecutive, and
then--it might be in my lifetime or a little after it--there would be
trumpets and shoutings and celestial phenomena, a battle of
Armageddon, and the Judgment.... To talk about the Man of the year
Million was, of course, in the face of this great conviction, a
whimsical play of fancy. The year Million was just as impossible, just
as gaily nonsensical as fairyland...."

The imprisoning bottle was opened when he became a student of biology,
under Huxley, and the liquid of his suppressed thought began to
bubble. He prefaced his romances by a sketch in the old _Pall Mall
Gazette_, entitled _The Man of the Year Million_, an a priori study
that made one thankful for one's prematurity. After that physiological
piece of logic, however, he tried another essay in evolution,
published in 1895 in book form under the title of _The Time
Machine_--the first of his romances.

The machine itself is the vaguest of mechanical assumptions; a thing
of ivory, quartz, nickel and brass that quite illogically carries its
rider into an existing past or future. We accept the machine as a
literary device to give an air of probability to the essential thing,
the experience; and forget the means in the effect. The criterion of
the prophecy in this case is influenced by the theory of "natural
selection." Mr Wells' vision of the "Sunset of Mankind" was of men so
nearly adapted to their environment that the need for struggle, with
its corollary of the extermination of the unfit, had practically
ceased. Humanity had become differentiated into two races, both
recessive; one, the Eloi, a race of childlike, simple, delicate
creatures living on the surface of a kindly earth; the other, the
Morlocks, a more active but debased race, of bestial habits, who lived
underground and preyed cannibalistically on the surface-dwellers whom
they helped to preserve, as a man may preserve game. The Eloi,
according to the hypothesis of the Time Traveller, are the descendants
of the leisured classes; the Morlocks of the workers. "The Eloi, like
the Carlovingian kings, had decayed to a mere beautiful futility. They
still possessed the earth on sufferance; since the Morlocks,
subterranean for innumerable generations, had come at last to find the
day-lit surface intolerable. And the Morlocks made their garments, I
inferred, and maintained them in their habitual needs perhaps through
the survival of an old habit of service." All this is in the year
802,701 A.D.

The prophecy is less convincing than the wonderful sight of the
declining earth some million years later, sinking slowly into the
dying fires of the worn-out sun. Man and the vertebrates have
disappeared, and the highest wonder of animal life is represented by
giant crustaceans, which in turn give way to a lower form. We have a
vision of an involution that shall succeed the highest curve of
development; of life ending where it began in the depths of the sea,
as the initial energy of the solar system is dissipated and the
material of it returns to rest at the temperature of the absolute
zero. And the picture is made more horrible to the imaginative by the
wonder whether the summit of the evolutionary curve has not already
been reached--or it may be passed in the days of the Greek
philosophers.

_The Time Machine_, despite certain obvious faults of imagination and
style, is a brilliant fantasy; and it affords a valuable picture of
the young Wells looking at the world, with his normal eyes, and
finding it, more particularly, incomplete. At the age of twenty-seven
or so, he has freed himself very completely from the bonds of
conventional thought, and is prepared to examine, and to present life
from the detached standpoint of one who views it all from a
respectable distance; but who is able, nevertheless--an essential
qualification--to enter life with all the passion and generosity of
his own humanity.

And in _The Wonderful Visit_--published in the same year as _The Time
Machine_--he comes closer to earth. That ardent ornithologist, the
Rev. K. Hilyer, Vicar of Siddermouth, who brought down an angel with a
shot-gun, is tenderly imagined; a man of gentle mind, for all the
limitations of his training. The mortalised angel, on the other hand,
is rather a tentative and simple creature. He may represent, perhaps,
the rather blank mind of one who sees country society without having
had the inestimable privilege of learning how it came about. His
temperament was something too childlike--without the child's
brutality--to investigate the enormous complexities of adjustment that
had brought about the conditions into which he was all too suddenly
plunged by a charge of duck-shot. He came and was filled with an
inalterable perplexity, but some of his questions were too ingenuous;
and while we may sympathise with the awful inertia of Hilyer before
the impossible task of explaining the inexplicable differences between
mortal precept and mortal practice, we feel that we might, in some
cases at least, have made a more determined effort. We might have
found some justification for chairs, by way of instance, and
certainly an excuse for raising beds above the floor. But the wounded
angel, like the metal machine, is only a device whereby the searching
examination of our author may be displayed in an engrossing and
intimate form. And in _The Wonderful Visit_, that exuberance we
postulated, that absorption in the development of idea, is more
marked; in the unfolding of the story we can trace the method of the
novelist.

Indeed, the three romances that follow discover hardly a trace of the
social investigator. _The Island of Dr Moreau_, _The Invisible Man_
and _The War of the Worlds_ are essays in pure fantasy, and although
the first of the three is influenced by biology I class it
unhesitatingly among the works of sheer exuberance. Each of these
books is, in effect, an answer to some rather whimsical question, and
the problem that Dr Moreau attempted to solve was: "Can we, by
surgery, so accelerate the evolutionary process as to make man out of
a beast in a few days or weeks?" And within limits he found that the
answer was: "Yes."

In the seclusion of his island, and with the poor assistance of the
outlawed medical student, Montgomery, Dr Moreau succeeded in producing
some creditable parodies of humanity by his operations on pigs, bulls,
dogs and other animals. These cut and remoulded creatures had
something the appearance and intelligence of Homo Sapiens, and could
be maintained at that level by the exercise of discipline and the
constant recital of "the Law"; left to themselves they gradually
reverted to the habits and manners of the individual beasts out of
which they had been carved. We may infer that some subtle organic
chemistry worked its determination upon their uncontrolled wills, but
Mr Wells offers no explanation, psychic, chemical or biological, and
I do not think that he intended any particular fable beyond the
evident one that, physically, one species is as like to the next as
makes no matter. What Moreau did well another man might have done
better. It is a good story, and the adventures of the marooned
Prendick, alone, are sufficient justification for the original
conception. (I feel bound to note, however, the absurd comments of
some early reviewers who seemed to imagine that the story was a
defence of vivisection.)

The next romance (1897) seeks to answer the question: "What could a
man do if he were invisible?" Various attempts to answer that question
had been made by other writers, but none of them had come to it with
Mr Wells' practical grasp of the real problem; the earlier romantics
had not grappled with the necessity for clothes and the various ways
in which a material man, however indistinguishable his body by our
sense of sight, must leave traces of his passage. The study from
beginning to end is finely realistic; and even the theory of the
albino, Griffin, and in a lesser degree his method of winning the
useless gift of invisibility, are convincing enough to make us wonder
whether the thing is not scientifically possible. As a pure romance
set in perfectly natural surroundings, _The Invisible Man_ is possibly
the high-water mark of Mr Wells' achievement in this kind. He has
perfected his technique, and the interest in the development of the
story works up steadily to the splendid climax, when the form of the
berserker Griffin returns to visibility, his hands clenched, his eyes
wide open, and on his face an expression of "anger and dismay," the
elements--as I choose to think--of man's revolt against imprisonment
in the flesh. It is worth while to note that by another statement, the
same problem is posed and solved in the short story called _The
Country of the Blind_.

_The War of the Worlds_ (1898), although written in the first person,
is in some ways the most detached of all these fantasies; and it is in
this book that Mr Wells frankly confesses his own occasional sense of
separation. "At times," says the narrator of the history, "I suffer
from the strangest sense of detachment from myself and the world about
me, I seem to watch it all from the outside, from somewhere
inconceivably remote, out of time, out of space, out of the stress and
tragedy of it all." That sense must have remained with him as he wrote
the account of the invading Martians, so little passion does the book
contain. The vision, however, is clear enough and there is more
invention than in many of the other romances. The picture of the
Martians themselves develops in one direction the theory of human
evolution expressed in _The Man of the Year Million_. The expansion
of the brain case, and the apotheosis of pure intellect, devoid, so
far as we can judge, of any emotional expression, are the steadily
biological deductions that we should expect from the Wells of this
period. The fighting machines of these incomprehensible entities, the
heat ray and the black smoke, are all excellent conceptions; and the
narrative is splendidly graphic. But only in the scenes with the
curate, when the narrator is stirred to passionate anger, and in his
later passages with the sapper, do we catch any glimpses of the
novelist intrigued with the intimate affairs of humanity. Even the
narrator's brother, in his account of the escape with two women in a
pony-carriage, has become infected with that sense of detachment. The
two women are strongly differentiated but leave little impression of
personality.

The fact that I have made this comment on lack of passion in
describing one of these earlier romances is indicative of a particular
difference between Mr Wells' method in this sort and the method of the
lesser writer of fantasias. The latter, whatever his idea, and it may
be a brilliant idea, is always intent on elaborating the wonder of his
theme by direct description. Mr Wells is far more subtle and more
effective. He takes an average individual, identifies him with the
world as we know it, and then proceeds gradually to bring his marvel
within the range of this individual's apprehension. We see the
improbable, not too definitely, through the eyes of one who is
prepared with the same incredulity as the reader of the story, and as
a result the strange phenomenon, whether fallen angel, invisible man,
converted beast or invading Martian, takes all the shape of reality.
That this shape is convincing is due to the brilliance of Mr Wells'
imagination and his power of graphic expression; the lesser writer
might adopt the method and fail utterly to attain the effect; but it
is this conception of the means to reach the intelligence and senses
of the average reader that chiefly distinguishes these romances from
those of such writers as Jules Verne. Our approach to the wonderful is
so gradual and so natural that when we are finally confronted with it
the incredible thing has become inevitable and expected. Finally, it
has become so identified with human surprise, anger or dismay that any
failure of humanity in the chief person of the story reacts upon our
conception of the wonderful intrusion among familiar phenomena.

Now, this power of creating the semblance of fact out of an ideal was
too valuable a thing to be wasted on the making of stories that had no
purpose beyond that of interesting or exciting the reader with such
imaginations as the Martians, whose only use was to threaten humanity
with extinction. Mr Wells' own sight of our blindness, our complacent
acceptance of the sphere as an oblate or prolate spheroid, might be,
he hoped, another of the marvels which we should come to accept
through the medium of romance. So he began tentatively at first to
introduce a vivid criticism of the futility of present-day society
into his fantasies, and the first and the least of these books was
that published in 1899 as _When the Sleeper Wakes_, a title afterwards
changed to _The Sleeper Awakes_.

In the two opening chapters we find the same delightfully realistic
treatment of the unprecedented slowly mingling with the commonplace.
The first appearance of Graham the Sleeper, tormented then by the
spectres and doubts that accompany insomnia, is made so credible that
we accept his symptoms without the least demur; his condition is
merely unusual enough to excite a trembling interest. Even the
passing of his early years of trance does not arouse scepticism. But
then we fall with one terrific plunge into the world of A.D. 2100,
and, like Graham, we cannot realise it. Moreover this changed,
developed world has a slightly mechanical air. The immense enclosed
London, imagined by Mr Wells, is no Utopia, yet, like the dream of
earlier prophets, it is too logical to entice us into any
hallucination; and we come, fatally, to a criticism of the syllogism.

Mr Wells himself has confessed, in a new Preface, that this is "one of
the most ambitious and least satisfactory" of his books; and explains
that it was written against time, when he was on the verge of a
serious illness. It is superfluous, therefore, to criticise it in
detail, but one or two points in relation to the sociological idea
must be emphasised.

The main theme is the growing division between Capital and Labour.
The Giant Trust--managing the funds accumulated in Graham's name, a
trust that has obtained possession of so immense a capital that it
controls the chief activities of the world--is figured in the command
of a certain Ostrog, who, with all the dependents that profit by the
use of his wealth and such mercenaries as he can hold to himself,
represents one party in opposition to the actual workers and
producers, generically the People. The picture is the struggle of our
own day in more acute form; the result, in the amended edition, is
left open. "Who will win--Ostrog or the People?" Mr Wells writes in
the Preface referred to above, and answers: "A thousand years hence
that will still be just the open question we leave to-day."

I am not concerned in this place to question the validity of that
answer, nor to suggest that the Wells of 1914 would not necessarily
give the same account of his beliefs as the Wells of 1909, but I must
draw attention to the attitude displayed in the book under
consideration in order to point the change of feeling recognisable in
later books. In _The Sleeper Awakes_, even in the revised version, the
sociological theory is still mechanical, the prophecy at once too
logical, and at the same time deduced from premises altogether too
restricted. The world of A.D. 2100 is the world of to-day, with its
more glaring contrasts still more glaringly emphasised; with its
social incongruities and blindness raised to a higher power. And all
that it lacked has been put into a romance called _In the Days of the
Comet_ (1906), a book to which I shall now leap, returning later to
consider the comparatively irrelevant theses of three other romances
that chronologically intervened.

The great change wrought by the coming of the Comet might be
sentimentally described as a change of heart; I prefer to call it a
change of reason. All the earlier part of the work, which is again
told in the first person, presents the life of a Midland industrial
area as seen by one who has suffered it. The Capital-Labour problem
bulks in the foreground, and is adequately supported by a passionate
exposition of the narrowness and misery of lower-middle-class life in
the jumble of limitations, barriers and injustices that arise from the
absolute ownership of property. Also, into this romance--the only one,
by the way--comes some examination of the relations of the sexes. And
all this jumble is due, if we are to believe the remedy, to human
misunderstanding. The influence of the Comet passed over the earth,
and men, after a few hours of trance, awoke to a new realisation. We
come to a first knowledge of the change in one of the most beautiful
passages that Mr Wells has written; and although I dislike to spoil a
passage by setting it out unclothed by the idea and expectations which
have led to its expression, given it form, and fitted it to a just
place in the whole composition, I will make an exception in this case
in order to justify my metaphor of "normal sight." The supposed writer
of the description had just awakened from the trance induced by the
passing of the Comet. He says:

    "I came slowly, stepping very carefully because of those drugged,
    feebly awakening things, through the barley to the hedge. It was a
    very glorious hedge, so that it held my eyes. It flowed along and
    interlaced like splendid music. It was rich with lupin,
    honeysuckle, campions and ragged robin; bed straw, hops and wild
    clematis twined and hung among its branches, and all along its
    ditch border the starry stitchwort lifted its childish faces and
    chorused in lines and masses. Never had I seen such a symphony of
    note-like flowers and tendrils and leaves. And suddenly, in its
    depths, I heard a chirrup and the whir of startled wings.

    "Nothing was dead, but everything had changed to beauty! And I
    stood for a time with clean and happy eyes looking at the
    intricate delicacy before me and marvelling how richly God has
    made his worlds...."

And not only the writer but also every other person on the earth had
been miraculously cured of their myopia and astigmatism. They saw
beauty and the means to still more perfect beauty, and, seeing, they
had but to believe and the old miseries vanished. In the old days men
preached a furious denial of self that led to the fatuity of an
asceticism such as that of St Simon Stylites. The lesson--I cannot
deny that the book is didactic--of the change wrought by the comet is
that man should find the full expression of his personality in
sympathy and understanding. The egotism remains, but it works to a
collective end....

War is necessarily touched upon in this book as an inevitable
corollary to the problems of personal and a fortiori of national
property; but the real counterblast against wholesale fratricide was
reserved for the following romance, published in 1908.

_The War in the Air_ definitely disclosed a change of method that was
adumbrated in its predecessor. The agent of experience is still
retained in the person of Bert Smallways, but the restrictions imposed
by the report of an eye-witness have become too limiting, and, like
Hardy in _The Dynasts_, Mr Wells alternates between a near and a
distant vision. The Welt-Politik could not be explained through the
intelligence of a "little Cockney cad," even though he was "by no
means a stupid person and up to a certain limit not badly educated";
and the general development of the world-war, the account of the
collapse of the credit system and all such large and general effects
necessitated the broad treatment of the historian. So the intimate,
personal narrative of Smallways' adventures is occasionally dropped
for a few pages; Mr Wells shuts off his magic-lantern and fills the
interval with an analysis of larger issues.

And the issues are so vital, the _dénouement_ so increasingly
probable, that, despite all the exaggerations necessary in a fiction
of this kind, the warning contained in this account of a world-war is
one that must remain in the minds of any thoughtful reader. Smallways'
pert reflection on the causes of the immense downfall represents the
wisdom that comes of bitter experience, and the application of it is
very pertinent to present conditions. "There was us in Europe all at
sixes and sevens with our silly flags and our silly newspapers raggin'
us up against each other and keepin' us apart," says Smallways, and
for the briefest analysis of causes that continually threaten us with
all the useless horrors of war, the summary could scarcely be
bettered.

Indeed, I think that _The War in the Air_ is the greatest of Mr Wells'
achievements in fantasy that has a deeper purpose than mere amusement.
The story is absorbing and Smallways a perfectly conceived character,
recommendations that serve to popularise the book as a romance; but
all the art of the construction is relevant to the theme, and to the
logical issue which is faced unflinchingly. In the many wild
prophecies that have been incorporated in various stories of a great
European war, there has been discoverable now and again some hint of
insight into the real dangers that await mankind. But such stories as
these degenerate into some accidental, but inferentially glorious,
victory of British arms, and any value in the earlier comments is
swamped in the sentimentality of the fortuitous, and designedly
popular, sequel. In the book now under consideration the conception is
too wide for any such lapses into the maudlin. British interests play
an insignificant part in the drama. We have to consider war not as an
incident in the history of a nation, but as a horrible disgrace in the
history of humanity.

And war is the theme also of _The World Set Free_ (1914), but it leads
here to a theory of reconstruction of which we have no sight in the
earlier work. The opening chapters describe the inception of the
means, the discovery of the new source of energy--a perfectly
reasonable conception--that led to the invention of the "atomic bomb,"
a thing so terribly powerful and continuous in its action that after
the first free use of it in a European outbreak, war became
impossible. As a romance, the book fails. The interest is not centred
in a single character, and we are given somewhat disconnected glimpses
of various phases in the discovery of the new energy, in its
application, and of the catastrophes that follow its use as an
instrument of destruction. The essay form has almost dominated the
method of the novelist, and consequently the essential parable has not
the same force as in _The War in the Air_. Nevertheless, the vision is
there, obscured by reason of its more personal expression; and before
I return to consider the three less pertinent romances interposed
between those that have a more recognisable critical tendency, I wish
to sum up the distinctive attitude of the four just considered.

And in this thing I claim that the conscious purpose of the artist is
of comparatively small account. I may be doing Mr Wells an injustice,
either by robbing him of the credit of a clearly conceived intention,
or by reading into his books a deliberation which he might wish to
disclaim. But my business is not justice to the author in this sense,
but an interpretation--necessarily personal--of the message his books
have conveyed to a particular reader. And the plain message that all
these romances--including those that follow--have conveyed to me is
the necessity for ridding the mind of traditions of the hypnotic
suggestions of parents and early teachers, of the parochial influences
of immediate surroundings, of the prejudices and self-interested
dogmatisms and hyperboles of common literature, especially of the
daily and weekly press; in order that we may, if only for an exercise
in simple reason, dissociate ourselves for a moment from all those
intimate forces, and regard life with the calmness of one detached
from personal interests and desires. No human being who has not thus
stood apart from life can claim to have realised himself; and in so
far as he is unable thus to separate himself temporarily from his
circumstances he confesses that he is less a personality than a bundle
of reactions to familiar stimuli. But given that power of detachment,
the reader may find in these four books matter for the reconsideration
of the whole social problem. Whether he accept such tentative
reconstructions as those suggested in _The World Set Free_ or _In the
Days of the Comet_ is relatively unimportant, the essential thing is
that he should view life with momentarily undistracted eyes; and see
both the failures of our civilisation and its potentialities for a
finer and more gracious existence....

_The First Men in the Moon_ (1901) is little more than a piece of
sheer exuberance. The theory of the means to the adventure and the
experience itself are both plausible. There are a few minor
discrepancies, but when the chief assumption is granted the
deductions will all stand examination. The invention of cavorite, the
substance that is impervious to the force--whatever it may be--of
gravitation, as other substances are impervious to light, heat, sound
or electricity, is not a priori impossible, nor is the theory that the
moon is hollow, that the "Selenites" live below the surface, or that
evolution has produced on our satellite an intelligent form which,
anatomically, is more nearly allied to the insect than to the
vertebrate type as we know it. The exposition of lunar social
conditions cannot be taken very seriously. Specialisation is the
key-note; the production by education and training, of minds, and, as
far as possible, bodies, adapted to a particular end, and incapable of
performing other technical functions. The picture of this highly
developed state, however, is not such as would tempt us to emulation.
As a machine it works; as an ideal it lacks any presentation of the
thing we call beauty. The apotheosis of intelligence in the concrete
example leaves us unambitious in that direction.

One chapter, however, stands apart and elaborates once more that
detachment for space and time which I have so particularly emphasised
as the more important feature of these particular books. Mr Bedford,
alone in his Cavorite sphere between the Earth and the Moon,
experiences this sensation of aloofness. "I became, if I may go
express it, dissociate from Bedford," he writes. "I looked down on
Bedford as a trivial, incidental thing with which I chanced to be
connected," Bedford, unfortunately for my moral, was a poor creature
who got no benefit from his privilege, who flouted it indeed and
regretted his inability "to recover the full-bodied self-satisfaction
of his early days." Possibly the fact that in his case the knowledge
was thrust upon him may account for his failure. It is only the
knowledge we seek that has any influence upon us.

_The Sea Lady_ (1902) stands alone among Mr Wells' romances. The
realistic method remains, but the conception is touched with a poetic
fancy of a kind that I have not found elsewhere in these books. The
Venus Annodomini who came out of the sea at Folkestone in the form of
an authentic mermaid was something more than a mere critic of our
civilised conventions. She was that, too; she asked why people walked
on the Leas "with little to talk about and nothing to look at, and
bound not to do all sorts of natural things, and bound to do all sorts
of preposterous things." But she was also the personification of
"other dreams." She had "the quality of the open sky, of deep tangled
places, of the flight of birds ... of the high sea." She represented
to one man, at least, "the Great Outside." And, if we still find a
repetition of the old statement in that last description, it is,
nevertheless, surrounded with a glamour that is not revealed in such
books as _In the Days of the Comet_. The ideal that is faintly
shadowed in _The Sea Lady_ is more ethereal, less practical; the
story, despite the naturalistic, half-cynical manner of its recountal,
has the elements of romance. The closing scene describes the
perplexity of a practical Kentish policeman "who in the small hours
before dawn came upon the wrap the Sea Lady had been wearing, just as
the tide overtook it," He stands there on the foreshore with a foolish
bewilderment, wondering chiefly "what people are up to." He is the
"simple citizen of a plain and obvious world." And Mr Wells concludes:
"I picture the interrogation of his lantern going out for a little
way, a stain of faint pink curiosity upon the mysterious vast serenity
of the night." And I make an application of the parable for my own
purposes, and wonder how far the curiosity of Mr Wells' readers will
carry them into the great mystery that lies behind the illusion of
this apparently obvious world.

We come, finally, without any suggestion of climax, to _The Food of
the Gods_ (1904). The food was produced, casually in the first
instance, by two experimenters who served no cause but that of their
own inquisitive science. One of them, Redwood, had become intrigued by
the fact that the growth of all living things proceeded with bursts
and intermissions; it was as if they had "to accumulate force to grow,
grew with vigour only for a time, and then had to wait for a space
before they could go on growing again." And Bensington, the other
experimenter, succeeded in separating a food that produced regular
instead of intermittent growth. It was universal in its effects,
influencing vegetable as well as animal life; and in the course of
twenty years it produced human giants, forty feet high. This is a
theme for Mr Wells to revel in, and he does, treating the detail of
the first two-thirds of the book with a fine realism. Like Bensington,
he saw, "behind the grotesque shapes and accidents of the present, the
coming world of giants and all the mighty things the future has in
store--vague and splendid, like some glittering palace seen suddenly
in the passing of a sunbeam far away." The parable is plain enough,
but the application of it weakens when we realise that so far as the
merely physical development goes, the food of the gods is only
bringing about a change of scale. If we grant that this "insurgent
bigness" must conquer the world, the final result is only humanity in
the same relation to life that it now occupies, and we are left to
reflect with Bensington, after the vision had faded, on "sinister
shadows, vast declivities and darknesses, inhospitable immensities,
cold, wild and terrible things."

The change of scale, however, so long as it was changing, presents in
another metaphor the old contrasts. The young giants, the Cossars and
Redwood, looking down on common humanity from a vantage-point some
thirty to forty feet higher than the "little people," are critical by
force of circumstances; and they are at the same time handicapped by
an inability to comprehend the thing criticised. They are too
differentiated; and for the purpose of the fable none of them is
gifted with the power to study these insects with the sympathy of a
Henri Fabre. We may find some quality of blundering stupidity in the
Cossars and in young Redwood, they were too prejudiced by their
physical scale; but the simple Caddles, born of peasant parents,
uneducated and set to work in a chalk quarry, is the true enquirer. He
walked up to London to solve his problem, and his fundamental
question: "What's it all _for_?" remained unanswered. The "little
people" could not exchange ideas with him, and he never met his
brother giants. It is, however, exceedingly doubtful whether they
could have offered him any satisfactory explanation of the purpose of
the universe. Their only ambition seemed to be reconstruction on a
larger scale.

I think the partial failure of _The Food of the Gods_ to furnish any
ethical satisfaction is due to the fact that in this romance Mr Wells
has identified himself too closely with the giants; a fault that
indicates a slight departure from normality. The inevitable contrast
between great and little lacks a sympathy and appreciation we find
elsewhere. "Endless conflict. Endless misunderstanding. All life is
that. Great and little cannot understand one another" is the true text
of the book; and it implies a weakness in the great not less than in
the little; a weakness that is hardly exonerated by the closing
sentence: "But in every child born of man lurks some seed of
greatness--waiting for the food." I find a quality of reasonableness
in the little people's antagonism to the blundering superiority of
those giants.

To the tail of these romances I may pin the majority of Mr Wells'
short stories. The best of them are all included in the collection
published under the title of _The Country of the Blind_. In this form
Mr Wells displays nothing but the exuberance of his invention. In the
Preface to the collection he defines his conception of short-story
writing as "the jolly art of making something very bright and moving;
it may be horrible or pathetic or funny, or beautiful, or profoundly
illuminating, having only this essential, that it should take from
fifteen to twenty minutes to read aloud." I can add nothing to that
description, and would only take away from it so much as is implied by
the statement that I cannot call to mind any one of these stories
which is "profoundly illuminating" in the same sense that I would
certainly apply the phrase to some of the romances. Jolly and bright
they undoubtedly are, but when they are moving, they provide food for
wonder rather than for enlightenment....

I cannot leave these romances without a comment on Mr Wells'
justification as preacher and prophet. Writing in the midst of the
turmoil of war, I am vividly conscious of having had my mind prepared
for it by the material I have here so inadequately described. All the
misunderstandings, the weaknesses, the noisy, meaningless ambitions,
the tepid acceptance of traditional standards, have been exposed by Mr
Wells in these fantasies of his. And in _The War in the Air_, with
just such exaggerations as are necessary for a fiction of this kind,
he has forecast the conditions which have now overtaken us. We
know--or we might know if we had the capacity for any sort of
consequent consideration of our conditions--that in a reasonably
conducted civilisation no such awful catastrophe as this senseless
conflagration could have been possible. No doubt we shall profit by
the lesson, but it is one that any individual might have learned for
himself from these romances, without paying the fearful price that is
now necessary. And because humanity is apt to forget its most drastic
punishments, to revert to its original inertia as soon as the smart is
healed, I feel that when the worst is over, these books will have a
greater value than ever before. I believe that in them may be found
just those essentials of detachment and broad vision which might serve
to promote a higher and more stable civilisation.



III

THE NOVELS


I am willing to maintain that H.G. Wells is second to none as a writer
of romances of the type I have just examined. I am less certain of his
position as a novelist. He brings to his fiction the open-eyed
recognition of realities, the fine analysis of modern conditions, the
lucid consequent thought and the clean, graphic style that mark the
qualities of his other method; he has that "poetic gift, the gift of
the creative and illuminating phrase," which, he has said, "alone
justifies writing"; but he has not the power of creating characters
that stand for some essential type of humanity. On the one hand he is
inclined to idealise the engineer and the scientific researcher, on
the other to satirise and, in effect, to group into one
sloppy-thinking mass every other kind of Englishman, not excepting
philosophers, politicians and social reformers. This broad
generalisation omits any consideration of the merely uneducated, such
as Hoopdriver or Kipps, and the many women he has drawn. But the
former, however sympathetically treated, are certainly not idealised;
and among the latter, the only real creation, in my opinion, is Susan
Ponderevo in _Tono-Bungay_; although there is a possible composite of
various women in the later books that may represent the general
insurgent character of recent young womanhood. But now that I have
made this too definite statement I want to go back over it, touch it
up and smooth it out. For if I have found Mr Wells' character types
too few and too specialised; and as if, with regard to his more or
less idealised males--such as Capes, George Ponderevo, Remington,
Trafford, Stafford--he had modelled and re-modelled them in the effort
to build up one finally estimable figure of masculine ability; there
still remains an enormous gallery of subsidiary portraits, for the
most part faintly caricatured, of men and women who do stand for
something in modern life; portraits that are valuable, interesting and
memorable. Nevertheless, I submit that Mr Wells' novels will not live
by reason of their characterisation.

The desire to write essays in this class of fiction does not seem to
have overcome Wells until the last few years. Before 1909, he had
written all his sociology and all his romances, with the exception of
_The World Set Free_, but only three novels--namely, _The Wheels of
Chance_, _Love and Mr Lewisham_ and _Kipps_; and none of them gives
any indication of the characteristic method of the later work.

The first of the three, published in 1896, is in one respect a
splendid answer to the objection against what has been called the
episodical novel. The story deals only with ten glorious days in the
life of Hoopdriver, a callow assistant in a draper's "emporium" at
Putney. He learnt to ride a bicycle, set out to tour the south coast
for his short summer holiday and rode into romance. One section of the
book is a trifle too hilarious, coming perilously near to farce, but
underlying the steady humour of it all is a perfectly consistent, even
saddening, criticism of the Hoopdriver type. He has imagination
without ability; life is made bearable for him chiefly by the means of
his poor little dreams and poses; he sees himself momentarily in the
part of a detective, a journalist, a South African millionaire, any
assumption to disguise the horrible reality of the draper's assistant;
and yet there is fine stuff in him. (Perhaps the suggested antithesis
is hardly justified!) We leave him at the door of the Putney shop full
of resolution to read, to undertake his own education, in some way, no
doubt, to better himself, as he might have phrased it. But we doubt
the quality of his determination and of the lasting influence of the
"more wonderful desires and ambitions replacing those discrepant
dreams." We have only followed Hoopdriver through a ten-day episode,
but all his story has been told.

We are in quite a different position with regard to Lewisham. The
history of his encounter with love and the world, published in 1900,
covers a period of four or five years, but while we leave him
down-at-heel, with a wife and a mother-in-law dependent upon him, and
the prospect of fatherhood adding to his responsibilities, we are
uncertain whither his career will take him. Lewisham is the first
sketch for the type that was to be elaborated in five subsequent
books. The allurements of his love for Ethel Henderson spoilt his
chances at the science school, but he has the quality that is so
conspicuously lacking in the Hoopdriver-Kipps-Polly succession.
Lewisham had some resolution, undoubted energy, and the beginnings of
that larger vision which was the gift of the later protagonists. But
he is not idealised; he comes nearer to the average of humanity than
the later pictures of his like; although they share with him that
tendency to sudden irascibility, to outbursts of a somewhat petty
temper against the obvious limitations of life--a common tendency
observable in nearly all Mr Wells' dominant male characters. Those few
years of Lewisham's life were so well done, so consistently developed,
that I have regretted the absence of a sequel. Indeed, I still regret
it, although I realise very well that Mr Wells' steady progress in the
conception of his own purpose as a writer has absolutely precluded
any return to an older method. Lewisham was not quite strong enough
to portray the further development of the dominant idea, not a
sufficiently tempered tool for the dissection of the modern world.

I have said little about the story of this fragment of Lewisham's
career; I have not even mentioned that deliciously plausible and able
rogue, Chaffery, the fraudulent medium; but in this essay I am more
concerned to trace the meaning of Mr Wells' books than to criticise or
praise the detail. With regard to the latter, the reader may always
feel so perfectly safe. He need have no doubt that description of
action, of mood, or of place will be vivid and convincing, true to
life and essential to the story. I do not pass this detail by because
I have found it better done in other contemporary writers; I have not;
but because I find a pregnancy and a growing force behind these
minutiæ that is strangely lacking from any other works of fiction in
which I can find any comparison.

There are, however, still two more novels to be disposed of before I
can examine the full expression of Mr Wells' purpose as I find it in
his later books. One of these novels, _Kipps_ (1905), is the next in
chronological order; the other, _The History of Mr Polly_, was
published in 1910, interpolated between _Ann Veronica_ and _The New
Machiavelli_. Both Kipps and Polly began active life in a draper's
shop. The former is explicitly labelled "a simple soul." He is at once
sillier and sharper than Hoopdriver, but, like that "dear fool" (the
phrase is Mr Wells'), Kipps has some very sterling qualities. He had
the good fortune to come into money--I cannot but count it good
fortune in his case--and was just wise enough to avoid a marriage with
Helen Walshingham--"County family. Related to the Earl of
Beauprés"--and if he shirked that match rather from sheer funk than
from any clear realisation of the futility of what he was avoiding, he
did, at least, run away with and marry that very charming little
housemaid, Ann Pornick, whom he had loved in his early boyhood. After
his marriage he lost the greater part of his money, and later
recovered it again; but all these shocks of fortune left him the same
simple soul, untroubled by any urgent problems outside the range of
his personal experience. His brief contact with the dreamer,
Masterman, and his friendship with the capable young
engineer-socialist, Sid Pornick, Ann's brother, only roused Kipps to a
momentary wonder, and his final enunciation of the great question was
representative. "I was thinking just what a Rum Go everything is," he
says. That question, to quote Mr Wells, "never reached the surface of
his mind, it never took to itself substance or form; it looked up
merely as the phantom of a face might look, out of deep waters, and
sank again into nothingness."

Mr Polly is a third variant of the Hoopdriver-Kipps genus. He had more
initiative, although he still presents a problem in inertia, and he is
the only one of the three who had a feeling for literature, and read
persistently, if vagariously. And Mr Polly did at last take his fate
into his own hands, commit arson, desert his wife and wander off, an
"exploratious adventurer," as he might have put it, to discover some
joy and poetry in life after a heroic battle that he funked most
horribly and might have avoided. This may sound rather a criminal
record, and even so I have taken no account of his fraud on the Life
Assurance Company, but no one could ever condemn Mr Polly--or wish him
a happier employment than that he finally achieved partly by luck and
partly by his own effort. He was the sport of the forces that break
out so ungovernably in this haphazard world. As the "high-browed
gentleman living at Highbury" explains: "Nothing can better
demonstrate the collective dullness of our community, the crying need
for a strenuous, intellectual renewal, than the consideration of that
vast mass of useless, uncomfortable, under-educated, under-trained,
and altogether pitiable people we contemplate when we use that
inaccurate and misleading term, the Lower Middle Class. A great
proportion of the lower middle class should properly be assigned to
the unemployed and the unemployable." And that is the moral we may lay
to heart from the presentation of these three quite lovable and quite
futile draper's assistants. Their stories are told without
didacticism; the method displays at its brightest Mr Wells' intimate
knowledge and understanding of the life and speech of the class
portrayed; the developments are natural and absorbing enough to hold
the interest of the most idle reader; and here and there, perhaps, an
intelligent man or woman may be stirred to realise that he or she is
in part responsible for the futility of a Hoopdriver or a Kipps, or
for the jovial crimes of Mr Polly....

I come now to the six novels which represent most truly the striving,
persistent idealism of the mature Wells. In these books he has come to
the mastery of his own technique--so far as a man may ever master it.
He admits that there remain inexpressible visions, he is apt at times
to be overtaken by his own mannerisms (a fault that in no way affects
the enjoyment or enlightenment of the average reader), but he has
wrought and perfected a delicate instrument of style that is finely
adapted to his purpose. I cannot avoid speaking of "purpose" in
relation to these five books, and yet the word is misleading. I do not
mean by it that Mr Wells has ever sat down to write a novel with the
deliberate intention of converting an honest reader or so. But I do
mean that he has tried very deliberately to express his own attitude
in these books, and that whether or not he was intentionally a
propagandist, he has done his utmost to explain and to glorify that
attitude of his. Perhaps I shrink from that word "purpose" too
sensitively, because it is so naturally associated in the mind with
all that is clumsy and didactic in fiction. The "novel with a
purpose," as the dreadful phrase has it, is a horrible thing, and none
of this five could be so misdescribed. Nevertheless it is very plain
that Mr Wells has deliberately selected his stories and his characters
to illustrate certain points of view. The characters are consistent,
and the story growing out of their influences and reactions is never
distorted in order to score a point for the maintainer of a theory.
But the preliminary selection cannot be overlooked. It has, without
question, been made in each case to illustrate a thesis.

_Ann Veronica_ (1909) opens an aspect of the sex question that has
been amplified in later novels. The chief person in the story
illustrates for us the revolt of young women against the limitations
of a certain, the most representative, type of home discipline. Ann
Veronica was a well-educated young woman with that leaning towards
biological science which seems an almost necessary element in the
make-up of Mr Wells' exemplars of the open mind. She came to an open
quarrel with her father on the question of attending a somewhat
Bohemian fancy-dress ball, and she had the courage and determination
to uphold her declaration of independence. She ran away, came up to
London from her father's suburb, took lodgings and essayed quite
unsuccessfully to make her own living. She failed in this endeavour
because she had not been educated or trained for any of those few and
specialised occupations that women may attempt in modern conditions.
She learned by experience various essentials that had been omitted
from any teaching she had received at home, and ended that phase of
her life by falling in love with Capes, demonstrator at the
Westminster Imperial College, a man who was living apart from his
wife. Ann Veronica's story is the first serious essay in feminism--a
term that takes a much wider meaning in Mr Wells' definition than is
commonly attributed to it. The novel presents the claim of the woman
to free herself from the restrictions that once almost necessarily
limited her sphere of action, restrictions that are ever becoming more
meaningless in a civilisation that has enforced new economic
conditions. But Mr Wells goes far beyond that elementary proposition.
He has tried in _Ann Veronica_--and again with a more delicate probe
in _Marriage_ and _The Passionate Friends_--to touch the hidden thing
that is causing all this surface inflammation. He has analysed and
diagnosed the exposed evil, always it seems with a certain
tentativeness, and we are left to carry on his line of research; many
of the difficulties of the problem are indicated, but no sovereign
specific for the malady.

_Tono-Bungay_ (1909) touches only casually on the sex question. The
involved love affairs of George Ponderevo are less essential than the
career of his uncle, the inventor of the patent medicine that gives a
title to the book. In many ways _Tono-Bungay_ is the best novel that
Mr Wells has given us. It is written in the first person, a narrative
form that afterwards served to convey Mr Wells' interpolated
criticisms of the bodies social and politic in something nearly
approaching the shape of an essay, but in _Tono-Bungay_ there are no
important divagations from the development of the story. The framework
of the book is provided by the life history of the narrator from early
boyhood to middle age, matter interesting enough in itself even if it
had not provided the means for revealing the inwardness of Edward
Ponderevo's character and career. He was not a bad little man, this
plump little chemist; a Lombroso or a Ferri would have found
difficulty in classifying him as a "criminal type," however eager
those investigators might have been to confirm their pet theories.
Ponderevo's wife--the inimitable Aunt Susan--called him "Teddy" and
his nephew endorses the appropriateness of that diminutive; he affirms
that there was a characteristic "teddiness" about Uncle Ponderevo. He
failed as a retail chemist in Wimblehurst. He was not naturally
dishonest, but he had windy ideas about finance, and he was careless
in the matter of certain trust monies. He was "imaginative, erratic,
inconsistent, recklessly inexact," and his imagination led him by way
of a patent medicine to company promoting on the Hooley scale. "Do you
realise the madness of the world that sanctions such a thing?" asks Mr
Wells in the person of the supposed narrator and points that question
on a later page as follows:--"At the climax of his Boom, my uncle at
the most sparing estimate must have possessed in substance and credit
about two million pounds' worth of property to set off against his
vague colossal liabilities, and from first to last he must have had a
controlling influence in the direction of nearly thirty millions. This
irrational muddle of a community in which we live gave him that, paid
him at that rate for sitting in a room and scheming and telling it
lies. For he created nothing, he invented nothing, he economised
nothing. I cannot claim that a single one of the great businesses we
organised added any real value to human life at all."

The enormous success and rapid failure of this futile, ambitious
little chemist--a success that is, unhappily, only too conceivable and
probable--are seen against the background of his nephew's life, Mr
Wells has given a greater value and credulity to the legal
criminalities of Ponderevo, by coming at him, as it were, through a
wider angle; just as he achieves all the circumstances of reality in
his romances by his postulation of an average eye-witness. But there
are many threads in George Ponderevo's life that were not immediately
intertwined with the _Tono-Bungay_ career, and his love for Beatrice
Normanby touches in quite another manner on the sex problem opened in
_Ann Veronica_. In both these books the story is the essential thing,
and the attack upon social conditions is relatively indirect. The
general criticism is at times quite explicit, but it is subordinated.

In _The New Machiavelli_ (1910) these relations are nearly reversed.
The detailed exposure of the moving forces that stimulate our
political energies, occupies long sections into which the human
relations of Remington (the form is again that of an autobiography)
hardly enter, except in an occasional conversation to sharpen up a
criticism. This comment on politics (regarded in his own constituency,
Remington says, not as a "great constructive process" but as a "kind
of dog-fight") is the chief theme; subsidiary to it is the comment on
a society that could waste so valuable a life as Remington's for the
sake of a moral convention. Both comments point Mr Wells' expression
of what he calls in this book "the essential antagonism ... in all
human affairs ... between ideas and the established method--that is to
say, between ideas and the rule of thumb." And he adds: "The world I
hate is the rule-of-thumb world; the thing I and my kind exist for
primarily is battle with that, to annoy it, disarrange it, reconstruct
it." This confession is so lucid and characteristic that I cannot
improve upon it, and yet I see that it is a statement likely to arouse
considerable resentment, "Of course we are detestable," Remington
admits in this connection; and in these later, more urgently critical
novels, we recognise a little too clearly that note of protest, almost
of defensive proclamation. And in none of them do we see it more
definitely than in the book now under consideration. In many ways _The
New Machiavelli_ stands apart from the other novels. I find it a
little bitter in places, because the thing condemned appears too small
for such unequivocal condemnation. The following superlative summary
is put into the mouth of a minor character, but I think it is fairly
representative of Remington's later attitude. "But of all the damned
things that ever were damned," says the plain-spoken Britten, "your
damned shirking, temperate, sham-efficient, self-satisfied,
respectable, make-believe, Fabian-spirited Young Liberal is the
utterly damnedest." As a commentary, I find this exaggerated; and
although it is in the mouth of one who is not presented as a spokesman
for Mr Wells' own opinions, I feel that it comes very near to being a
text for a considerable section of the political criticism; and that
it indicates bias, a departure from normality.

And yet, despite this occasional exhibition of temper, _The New
Machiavelli_ is a most illuminating book. It reveals with
extraordinary clearness the Wells of that period; but it also gives us
a sight of the spirit in him that does not change. All his books,
romances, novels and essays indicate a gradual process of growth; if
we were to apply any label to him, we should inevitably land ourselves
in confusion. He is nothing "in the first place" but a man with an
intense desire to understand life. As he says in this book: "A human
being who is a philosopher in the first place, a teacher in the first
place, or a statesman in the first place, is thereby and
inevitably--though he bring God-like gifts to the pretence--a quack."
But while he may dissociate himself from any clique, and disclaim any
fixed opinion that might earn for him the offensive and fiercely
rejected label, he nevertheless presents to us one unchanging attitude
in these very refusals. "I'm going to get experience for humanity out
of all my talents--and bury nothing," says Remington; and that purpose
is implicit in every book that Wells has written. He is an empiric,
using first this test and then that to try the phenomena of life;
publishing the detail of his experiment and noting certain
deductions. But while he may offer a prescription for certain
symptoms, he gives us to understand that he is only diagnosing a phase
in human development; that he is seeking an ultimate which he never
hopes to find, and that the deductions he draws to-day may be rejected
to-morrow without a shadow of regret. He would be constant, I think,
only in his inconstancy to any criterion of present conditions as
applicable or likely to be applicable to the future; he sees life as a
dynamic thing in process of change and growth. "All the history of
mankind," he writes, "all the history of life has been and will be the
story of something struggling out of the indiscriminated abyss,
struggling to exist and prevail over and comprehend individual
lives--an effect of insidious attraction, an idea of invincible
appeal." And it is for this reason that he is so eager to battle with,
annoy, disarrange and reconstruct that rule-of-thumb world he
censures so steadily; he is fighting the assumption of a static
condition which he knows to be impossible.

And for a moment in _The New Machiavelli_, and again in his next book,
_Marriage_, he has a passing vision of some greater movement of which
we are but the imperfect instruments. He develops and then drops the
idea of a "hinterland," not only to the individual mind but to the
general consciousness. The "permanent reality," he calls it, "which is
never really immediate, which draws continually upon human experience
and influences human action more and more, but which is itself never
the actual player upon the stage. It is the unseen dramatist who never
takes a call." And in another place he writes in the same connection:
" ... the ideas go on--as though we are all no more than little cells
and corpuscles in some great brain beyond our understanding."

We come again to a hint of that explanation at the end of _Marriage_,
published in 1912. The story, reduced to the barest outline, is that
of the relations of Trafford to his wife. It is not complicated by any
sexual temptations or jealousies, but it gradually evolves the
integral problem of the meaning of life.

Trafford, before his engagement to Marjorie Pope, and for a year or
two after his marriage, was engaged in research work. His speciality
was molecular physics and he was a particularly brilliant
investigator. That research, with all the possibilities that it held
of some immense discovery of the laws that govern the constitution of
inorganic and progressively, perhaps, of organic, matter, was
sufficient to engross his mental energies, to give him a sense of
satisfaction in life; but his six hundred pounds a year proved
insufficient to satisfy the demands of Marjorie's claim to enjoyment.
She was not a mere type of the worldly-minded woman. She represents,
indeed, the claim of modern women for a distinctive interest and
employment not less urgent and necessary than the interests and
employments of men. And when she failed, as she plainly must have
failed, to find any such occupation, her sense of beauty and her
justifiable demand for life found an outlet largely in shopping, in
entertaining, in all such ephemeral attractions and amusements as
women in her class may seek and reject. That way of escape, however,
soon raised financial obstructions to Trafford's work. He had to find
a means for increasing his income, and came at last and inevitably to
the necessity for making more money and continually still more. The
road to wealth was opened for him and he took it by sacrificing his
research work, but when the economic problem had been triumphantly
solved, he could not return to his first absorption in the problems
of molecular physics. Life pressed upon him at every moment of the
day, he had been inveigled into a net.

The manner of Trafford's escape from the thing that intrigued him has
been severely criticised. After I had first read the book I too was
inclined to deprecate the device of taking Trafford and Marjorie into
the loneliness of a Labrador winter, in order to set them right with
themselves and give them a clearer vision of life. But I have read
_Marriage_ twice since I formed that premature judgment, and each time
I have found a growing justification for what at first may seem a
somewhat whimsical solution to the difficulties of an essentially
social problem.

But in effect this is the same specific that I upheld in my comment on
the romances; it illustrates the need felt by a certain class of mind
for temporary withdrawal from all the immediate urgencies and calls
of social life; the overwhelming desire to see the movements and
intricacies of human initiative and reactions, from a momentarily
detached standpoint. And Mr Wells has offered us a further commentary
on the difficulties of this abstraction, by withholding any vision
from Trafford until he was finally isolated from Marjorie, and even
from any physical contact with the movement of what we call reality,
by illness and fever. Only then, indeed, did he touch the vital
issues. I find the statement of this ultimate thing, vaguely phrased
in Trafford's semi-delirium, presenting another expression of the
thought quoted from _The New Machiavelli_; the conception of humanity
as an instrument. "Something trying to exist," he says, something
"which isn't substance, doesn't belong to space or time, something
stifled and enclosed, struggling to get through." And later he
repeats: "It struggles to exist, becomes conscious, becomes now
conscious of itself. That is where I come in as a part of it. Above
the beast in me is that--the desire to know better, to
know--beautifully, and to transmit my knowledge. That's all there is
in life for me beyond food and shelter and tidying up. This
Being--opening its eyes, listening, trying to comprehend. Every good
thing in man is that--looking and making pictures, listening and
making songs.... We began with bone-scratching. We're still--near it.
I'm just a part of this beginning--mixed with other things. Every
book, every art, every religion is that, the attempt to understand and
express--mixed with other things."

I have reached something like a climax with this passage; a climax
that I would willingly maintain if it were possible, inasmuch as it
holds a representation of that unchanging influence which I find as an
inspiration and a force behind all H.G. Wells' books. Necessarily
this vital inspiration is, as he says, "mixed with other things"; he
has had to find a means to express it, and our means of expression is
limited not only by our own powers but in a large degree by the
limitations of the audience addressed. Moreover H.G. Wells' art
represents him in that it is a practical art. He is, in an
unspecialised sense, a pragmatist. He comes back from his isolations
to find in this world all the substance and potentialities of beauty
both in outward appearance and in conduct. And he is not content to
vapour of ideals. He recognises that the stuff of admiration and
desire that animates his own being is present throughout humanity.
Only the sight of it is obscured by all those stupidities and
condescensions to rule-of-thumb that he attacks so furiously. Those
are the impediments that he would clear away, and he acknowledges that
they stand between him and his own sight of beauty. He is compelled
always to struggle--and we can see the signs of it in all he
writes--with his own weakness and limitations; criticising himself as
he satirises the thing condemned, but striving without ceasing to
serve the purpose of that which he knows is "struggling to exist."
This, to me, is the spirit of H.G. Wells, and I find it a spirit that
is as admirable as it is human....

_The Passionate Friends_ (1913) is another experiment in exposition.
The very real and fine love of Stafford (the autobiographer in this
case) and Lady Mary Christian is spoiled, made to appear insignificant
and debased, by all the conventions and petty, unoriginal judgments
that go to the making of the rule of our society. The woman had to
make her choice between love in an undignified poverty for which all
her training had unfitted her, and a sterile ease and magnificence
that gave her those opportunities which her temperament and education
demanded. She chose for dignity and opportunity, was tempted to grasp
at love, and thus finally came into a blind alley from which death was
the only escape. It is another picture of the old conflict illustrated
in the persons of Ann Veronica and Marjorie Trafford; the constant
inability that our conditions impose on the desire to love
beautifully. The implicit demand is that for greater freedom for
women, socially and economically. Incidentally we see that the man,
Stafford, does not suffer in the same degree. His splendid love for
Lady Mary is thwarted, but he finds an outlet. It is a new aspect of
escape, by the way, for Stafford's illuminating business of spreading
and collating knowledge is a relief from the scientific research which
was in some form or another the specific of the earlier novels--if we
exclude Remington's political propaganda in _The New Machiavelli_, a
suggested solution that was, at the best, something half-hearted. And
Stafford's escape, and his version of going to the mountain apart--by
way of a sight of the East and of America--bring us back to that
integral theme which I have so insisted upon, even at the risk of
tedious repetition. "I was already beginning to see the great problem
of mankind," writes Stafford, "as indeed nothing other than a
magnification of the little problem of myself, as a problem in escape
from grooves, from preoccupations and suspicions, precautions and
ancient angers.... For all of us, as for each of us, salvation is
that. We have to get away from ourselves to a greater thing, to a
giant's desire and an unending life, ours and yet not our own."

The last novel published at the time I write is _The Wife of Sir Isaac
Harman_ (1914). The same theme is presented, but in other
circumstances. Ellen Sawbridge, when she married, at eighteen, the
founder and proprietor of "The International Bread Shops," was an
ingenuous schoolgirl; and for more than seven years the change from a
relatively independent poverty to the luxuries she could enjoy as the
wife of a man who had not outgrown the Eastern theory with regard to
the position of women, sufficed to keep her reasonably content. Mr
Brumley was the instrument of Fate that seriously disturbed her
satisfaction; but she must have come to much the same crisis, if Mr
Brumley had never existed. Brumley was a writer, but he was not one of
"the really imaginative people, the people with vision, the people who
let themselves go"--I quote the expression of George Wilkins, the
novelist--and Lady Harman never fell very deeply in love with him.
Nevertheless it was through Brumley's interference with her life that
she faced the crux of her position as the closely restricted occupant
of "a harem of one." She never broke out of that cage. One desperate
effort led her, by way of a suffragist demonstration on a post office
window, to a month's freedom in prison; but Sir Isaac and society were
too clever and too strong for her. When she was enlarged from the
solitude of confinement in a cell, she was tricked and bullied into
the resumption of her marital engagements. And presumably she must
have continued to act as the nurse of her now invalid husband for the
rest of her life, suffering the indignities of his abuse and the
restrictions of liberty that the paid attendant may escape by a change
of situation, if release had not come through Sir Isaac's death. By
that time Lady Harman had learnt her lesson. I am distinctly sorry for
Mr Brumley, but I should have been seriously disappointed in Ellen
Harman if she had consented to marry him.

Thus far I have only traced an imperfect outline of what I take to be
the more important motive of the book. But there is a second pattern
hardly less essential--namely, the criticism of the management and, _à
fortiori_, of the conception of principle, in relation to the
International Bread Shops. Arising out of this interwoven theme we
come to some examination of the status of the female employee in
general, and particularly in connection with the question of their
board and lodging outside business hours. But in _The Wife of Sir
Isaac Harman_ the essay manner has been abandoned. Any diversion from
the development of the story is carried out by the expressed opinions
of the characters themselves; and, as a consequence, the two essential
problems are not unduly intruded upon the reader, although for that
very reason they may remain longer in his thoughts. One more comment
should be added, which is that this is the wittiest book that Mr
Wells has yet given us. However serious the motives that give it life,
it must be classed as a comedy....

In concluding this brief review of Mr Wells' novels, I feel that I
must hark back to a passage in _The Passionate Friends_ in order to
indicate a spirit which, if it is not so definitely phrased in this
last book of his, is certainly upheld in the matter of the story. For
it is that spirit which seems to me the thing that should live and be
remembered. Here is one of its more characteristic expressions in the
mouth of Stafford, who writes:

"I know that a growing multitude of men and women outwear the ancient
ways. The bloodstained organised jealousies of religious intolerance,
the delusions of nationality and cult and race, that black hatred
which simple people, and young people and common people cherish
against all that is not in the likeness of themselves cease to be the
undisputed ruling forces of our collective life. We want to emancipate
our lives from this slavery and these stupidities, from dull hatreds
and suspicions.... A spirit ... arises and increases in human affairs,
a spirit that demands freedom and gracious living as our inheritance
too long deferred...."

And surely H.G. Wells has striven to give a freer and more vital
expression to that spirit, working through his own life, than any
other novelist of our day. Indeed I would go further and claim that no
such single and definite inspiration can be found in the works of any
other secular writer. Wells has given to the novel a new criticism
and, to a certain degree, a new form.



IV

SOCIOLOGY


Mr Wells' essays in sociology are not dry treatises, based on Blue
books and the gathering together of information and statistics from a
formless and largely worthless collection of earlier sources. He has
approached this question of man in relation to the State in the same
generous spirit displayed in his works of fiction; and it is only by
using the word "sociology" in its fuller sense as conceived by Comte,
rather than in the restricted sense of "social science" with its
implication of economics, as narrowed by Herbert Spencer, that I dare
to head this last chapter with so dangerously technicalised a term.
Indeed, I would not use the word "sociology" now if I could find a
more inclusive heading. For it must be obvious, I think, to anyone who
has followed my exposition of the romances and the novels that Mr
Wells has a way of treating all such subjects as relate to the
betterment of humanity with a broad outlook, an entire disrespect for
conventional forms however hallowed by precedent, and a habit of
trenchant criticism that could hardly be fettered by an analysis of
sociological literature or continual deference to this or that
experiment in practice or theory. He approaches his subject with the
normal mind of one who sees the world, its customs and rules of
conduct, from what is, after all, the point of view of
common-sense--another term that has been so grossly misused that the
possessor of true common-sense is apt to be regarded as a most
uncommon person. It is, in fact, the least common of qualities.

The first three books under this heading form some sort of a trilogy,
and have a definite air of consequence. Of these, _Anticipations_ was
published in 1901, and _Mankind in the Making_ and _A Modern Utopia_
followed in 1903 and 1905 respectively. The scheme of the first two
books combines a criticism of present conditions with a growing
constructiveness that points the way to the ideal of what is called
"The New Republic." Now, one of the labels that has been most
frequently and adhesively affixed to Mr Wells is that of "Socialist,"
and no doubt it would proclaim his purpose admirably enough if we
could satisfactorily define the word in its relation to him. But,
personally, I refuse so to label him, because I know that socialism
means as many things to different people as religion, and is as much a
term of reproach in the mouth of some self-labelled individualists as
the designation "Christian" might be in the mouth of the "true
believers"--as the Mohammedans call themselves. Wherefore I am
particularly anxious in approaching any description of "The New
Republic," to make it quite clear that that idealised State is not
built of the bricks that have been modelled and cast by any
recognisable group of propagandists, working to permeate, or more
forcibly to convert, a section of the public under the flags of, say,
Fabianism or Social Democracy. The essential thing about Mr Wells is
that he is not a Follower, whether of Marx, or Hyndman, or Shaw, or
Bebel; he may have learnt from any or all of them, but his theory of
social reconstruction is pre-eminently and characteristically his own.
He does not believe in the private ownership of land, for example, but
I do not remember that he has ever advocated the means of the "Single
Tax." And in these sociological essays, as in his novels, his method
is that of picturing the more desirable thing or condition, the
method of sweet persuasion rather than that of the sectarian who has
a pet specific. Nevertheless Mr Wells uses his sharpened weapon of
satire with considerable effect when he contemplates and displays for
us the world as he sees it to-day. I find no hint of sweetness or
persuasiveness on that side.

It would be impossible in an exposition of this kind to dissect these
essays in detail, nor would it be desirable. Many of the suggestions
with regard to actual practice, suggestions that might be embodied in
modern legislation, are open to criticism in detail, and I would not
pin Mr Wells down to the letter of any one of them. He has certainly
changed his mind on many points since he wrote these essays in
constructive sociology, and the fact that he has so altered and
enlarged his opinions is the best possible evidence of his reliability
and sincerity. He is before all else devoted to the services of
growth and progress. "To rebel against instinct," he writes, "to rebel
against limitation, to evade, to trip up, and at last to close with
and grapple and conquer the forces that dominate him, is the
fundamental being of man." And no man can hope to dominate those
forces, if he is content to let his opinions crystallise at the age of
thirty-five or so. If he would retain his powers of criticism and
construction he must have the patience and the energy to maintain the
normal, receptive mind with which he is naturally endowed.
Unfortunately with that endowment commonly comes another--namely, a
tendency to avoid the irk or constant struggle by taking the line of
least resistance; by adopting an opinion and upholding it in the face
of all reason; and only a man of exceptional patience, courage and
ability can keep himself free from the prejudices and fixed opinions
which not only bring him a delusive peace and certainty but also are
the means to worldly success.

So I would advise the readers of _Anticipations_ and _Mankind in the
Making_ to be influenced by the spirit rather than by the letter of
these two books. The spirit is definite enough; it is the spirit of
humaneness, of a passionate criticism of all the evils, miseries and
disease that are the outcome of our present haphazard civilisation;
the spirit for a desire for order, wider prospects and opportunities,
greater freedom for growth. Men are born unequal, with different
tendencies, different desires, different potentialities, but there
should be a place for every one of them in the great economy of "The
New Republic." Each has to learn the lesson--for discipline is
essential--that he is not an independent unit as regards his work, but
a factor, more or less insignificant, in the sum of individuals that
make up the greater State. The good New Republican "will seek
perpetually to gauge his quality, he will watch to see himself the
master of his habits and of his powers; he will take his brain, blood,
body and lineage as a trust to be administered for the world."

Such, I think, is the spirit, the permanent principle of these two
books. That remains and increases. The conception of the process by
which the New Republic shall be built is less constant, and Mr Wells
will change his opinions concerning it for just so long as he
continues to grow. Should he ever adopt an inalterable policy,
subscribe to some "ism," and wear a label, he would brand himself
truly as inconsistent. Then, indeed, he would have contradicted
himself. We search for truth never hoping to find it complete and
whole; and he who is contented with a part denies God....

_A Modern Utopia_ (1905) is an attempt to picture "The New Republic"
in being; a very different dream of reconstruction from that
displayed in Edward Bellamy's _Looking Backward_, and _Equality_, but
having nevertheless certain points of likeness to the former at least,
and especially in the method of marking contrasts by a form of
parallelism, by keeping the world as we know it within the circle of
attention in order to break the paralysing illusion that we are moving
in romantic and quite impossible surroundings. Mr Wells' machinery is
slightly complicated. He takes two figures from the beginning of this
twentieth century. The Owner of the Voice ("you will go with him
through curious and interesting experience. Yet, ever and again, you
will find him back at the table, the manuscript in his hand ...") and
the "botanist," a foil and a stimulator to the other expositor. "The
image of a cinematograph entertainment is the one to grasp," writes Mr
Wells in his preliminary explanation. "There will be an effect of
these two people going to and fro in front of the circle of a rather
defective lantern, which sometimes jams and sometimes gets out of
focus, but which does occasionally succeed in displaying on a screen a
momentary moving picture of Utopian conditions."

I think Mr Wells tried very valiantly to avoid the all too obvious
mistake made by other Utopian builders, both romantic and practical.
He began, I feel sure, with the admirable intention of depicting the
people of the early twentieth century in new conditions, changed only
in so far as they were influenced by the presentation of finer ideals
and by more beautiful circumstance. He even introduced a contemporary
critic of Utopian conditions in the shape of the talkative person, "a
conscious Ishmaelite in the world of wit, and in some subtly
inexplicable way a most consummate ass." But once we begin to
postulate our Utopian villains, the reader's thought is distracted
from the contemplation of the heroic which is the cement that binds
every stone in the visionary city. In order to change conditions it is
necessary to change much in the present cast of human nature. In a
fiction of Utopia there is no place for a Napoleon, a Rockefeller, or
an ambition-swelled Imperialist. So Mr Wells is driven with various
hesitations and resentments to assume that the interactions of cause
and effect have indeed tended to produce a sweeter-tempered, more
generous race of men and women; that the spirit which moves us now to
seek a larger liberty and a greater tolerance has been encouraged and
increased by the exercise of its own tendencies and the sight of its
own triumphs; and that those who set their minds to the building gain
an added grace in the labour. It is a perfectly fair and consistent
assumption, but Mr Wells has been warned by his predecessors, from
Robert Owen back to Plato and forward to Edward Bellamy, that the
designs for Utopia have always been flawed by an altered conception of
the humanity that walks within the city; and he has begun by trying to
avoid a fallacy and ended by begging a question that he might very
well have convincingly argued.

By many people _A Modern Utopia_ is definitely labelled as the
"Samurai" book. That conception of a natural aristocracy of spirit and
ability did indeed return upon its creator in the form of an object
lesson that filled him with a disgust for what was really a fine
ideal, only too temptingly displayed. So many of his readers, and
particularly his younger readers, formed the wish to become "Samurai"
without more ado, a high office for which none of them, perhaps, had
the ability or the determination to fill. For Utopias take even longer
to build than Rome or London. But the plan is there--vague and
tentative as the original scheme of a Gothic cathedral, a plan to be
continually modified and changed in its most important features; and
the building has begun....

The last books that can strictly fall into the present category are
_The Future of America_ (1906) and _New Worlds for Old_ (1908). The
former is rather a record of impressions than the attempt at prophecy
which the title and the first chapter indicate; and the final
conclusion is too hesitating even to convince us that America has a
future. "I came to America questioning the certitudes of progress," Mr
Wells says in his Envoy. "For a time I forgot my questionings, I
sincerely believed, 'These people can do anything,' and, now I have it
all in perspective, I have to confess that doubt has taken me again."
And without question he has changed his opinion with regard to many of
the observations he made nine years ago. I sincerely hope he has.

_New Worlds for Old_ is quite definitely a book of suggestions with
regard to certain aspects of socialism. It is the most practical of
all the sociological books, and makes so strong an appeal to the
buried common-sense of even prejudiced readers, that a devoted
Primrose Leaguer to whom I lent my copy was quite seriously disturbed
in mind for nearly a week after he had read it. Fortunately for his
own peace, he found an answer that permitted him comfortably to avoid
the perpetual burden of an active responsibility. He thought that
"Socialism would be all right in a perfect world," or words to that
effect; and it was quite evident to him that the effort to make some
small contribution towards raising the standard of human idealism was
no part of his duty. In any case he greatly preferred the solid
assurance of the Primrose League. And, speaking generally, as I have
tried to do throughout, I find that _New Worlds for Old_ presents a
clearer indication to the possible path for the idealist than any of
the other sociological essays. _Mankind in the Making_ dealt very
largely with education directed to a particular end, but in the book I
am now considering may be found certain outlets for the expression of
the less consistently strenuous. Education, whether of individual
children in the home or regarded as a function of the State, offers
continual perplexities that only the most resolute can confront day by
day with renewed zeal; the problems of collective ownership are less
confused by psychology, and the broad principles may be adopted and
the energy of the young believer directed towards the accomplishment
of minor detail. He may, for example, find good reason for the
nationalising of the milk supply without committing himself to any
broader theory of expropriation.

Finally I come to the collection of various papers issued in 1914
under the title _An Englishman Looks at the World_--a book that I may
pass with the comment that it exhibits Mr Wells in his more captious
moods, deliberately more captious in some instances, no doubt,
inasmuch as the various papers were written for serial
publication--and that _Confession of Faith and Rule of Life_,
published in 1907 as _First and Last Things_. The opening is
unnecessarily complicated by the exposition of a metaphysic that is
quite uncharacteristic and has little to do with the personal
exposition that follows; and, indeed, I feel with regard to the whole
work that it attempts to define the indefinable. I deprecate the note
of finality implied in the title. "It is as it stands now," I read in
the Introduction, "the frank confession of what one man of the early
Twentieth Century has found in life and himself," but that man has
found much since then, and will continue to find much as he grows
continually richer in experience. So that while no student of Wells'
writings can afford to overlook _First and Last Things_, I would warn
him against the danger of concluding that in that book he will find at
last the ultimate expression of character and belief, set out in the
form of a categorical creed. Again I find a spirit and overlook the
letter. I choose to take as representative such a passage as the
following, with all its splendid vagueness and lack of dogma, rather
than a definite expression of belief that Mr Wells does not believe in
a personal immortality. This passage runs: "It seems to me that the
whole living creation may be regarded as walking in its sleep, as
walking in the sleep of individualised illusion, and that now out of
it all rises man, beginning to perceive his larger self, his universal
brotherhood, and a collective synthetic purpose to increase Power and
realise Beauty...."

       *       *       *       *       *

And now that I have attempted my interpretation, I look back and
confess that it is a very personal reading of my subject. I may have
sought too eagerly for all those passages in which I found a note that
roused in me the most thrilling response. I may have omitted to
display vital issues that more truly characterise H.G. Wells than the
appealing urgencies, idealisms, and fluencies that I have found most
sympathetic and most admirable. But if I appear to have done him an
injustice in some particulars, it is rather because I have been
absorbed by the issue I sought to reveal, than because I deliberately
weighed and rejected others. This short essay can be no more than an
introduction to the works it describes. It was never intended to be
critical. I have had no intention of discussing technique, nor of
weighing Mr Wells against his contemporaries in any literary scale.
But I have attempted to interpret the spirit and the message that I
have found in his books; and I have made the essay in the hope that
any reader who may consequently be stirred to read or to re-read Wells
will do so with a mind prepared to look below the surface expression.

I feel no shade of hesitation when I say that H.G. Wells is a great
writer. His fecundity, his mastery of language, his comprehension of
character are gifts and abilities that certain of his contemporaries
have in equal, or in some particulars in larger measure. But he alone
has used his perfected art for a definite end. He has not been content
to record his observations of the world as he has seen it, to
elaborate this or that analysis of human motive, or to relate the
history of a few selected lives. He has done all this, but he has done
infinitely more by pointing the possible road of our endeavour.
Through all his work moves the urgency of one who would create
something more than a mere work of art to amuse the multitude or
afford satisfaction to the critic. His chief achievement is that he
has set up the ideal of a finer civilisation, of a more generous life
than that in which we live; an ideal that, if it is still too high for
us of this generation, will be appreciated and followed by the people
of the future.



A BIBLIOGRAPHY OF H.G. WELLS' PRINCIPAL WRITINGS

Select Conversations with an Uncle (_Lane_). 1895.

The Time Machine--An Invention (_Heinemann_). 1895.

*The Stolen Bacillus and Other Stories (_Macmillan_). 1895.

The Wonderful Visit (_Dent_). 1895.

The Island of Dr Moreau (_Heinemann_). 1896.

The Wheels of Chance (_Dent_). 1896.

*The Plattner Story (_Macmillan_). 1897.

The Invisible Man (_MacMillan_). 1897.

The War of the Worlds (_Heinemann_). 1898.

When the Sleeper Wakes (_Nelson_). 1899.

Afterwards published (1911) in a revised and altered
edition, as "The Sleeper Awakes."

*Tales of Space and Time (_Macmillan_). 1899.

Love and Mr Lewisham (_Macmillan_). 1900.

Certain Personal Matters (_Unwin_). 1901.

Anticipations of the Reaction of Mechanical and
Scientific Progress upon Human Life and Thought
(_Chapman & Hall_). 1901.

The First Men in the Moon (_Macmillan_). 1901.

The Discovery of the Future (A Lecture given at the
Royal Institute). 1902.

The Sea Lady--A Tissue of Moonshine. 1902.

Mankind in the Making (_Chapman & Hall_). 1903.

*Twelve Stories and a Dream (_Macmillan_). 1903.

The Food of the Gods and How it Came to Earth
(_Macmillan_). 1904.

A Modern Utopia (_Nelson_). 1905.

Kipps--The Story of a Simple Soul (_Macmillan_). 1905.

In the Days of the Comet (_Macmillan_). 1906.

The Future in America--A Search after Realities
(_Chapman & Hall_). 1906.

First and Last Things--A Confession of Faith and
Rule of Life (_Constable_). 1907.

The Misery of Boots (Fabian Tract). 1907.

Socialism and Marriage (Fabian Tract). 1908.

New Worlds for Old (_Constable_). 1908.

The War in the Air (_Bell_). 1908.

Tono-Bungay (_Macmillan_). 1909.

Ann Veronica--A Modern Love Story (_Unwin_). 1909.

The History of Mr Polly (_Nelson_). 1910.

The New Machiavelli (_Lane_) 1910.

The Country of the Blind and Other Stories
(_Nelson_). 1911.

Floor Games (A book about play for children)
(_Palmer_). 1911.

Socialism and the Great State (A contribution by
H.G. Wells. The book is written by fifteen
authors) (_Harper_). 1911.

Marriage (_Macmillan_). 1912.

The Passionate Friends--A Novel (_Macmillan_).
1913.

Little Wars (A book about play for children)
(_Palmer_). 1913.

An Englishman Looks at the World (_Cassell_).
1914.

The World Set Free--A Story of Mankind
(_Macmillan_). 1914.

The volumes marked * are collections of short
stories, the best of which were republished in "The
Country of the Blind," 1911.

NOTE.--Some of these volumes have been published
under different titles in the U.S.A. (See American
Bibliography.)



AMERICAN BIBLIOGRAPHY


Island of Dr Moreau (_Duffield_). 1896.

Invisible Man (_Harper_). 1898.

Thirty Strange Stories (_Harper_). 1898.

When the Sleeper Wakes [English title, "The Sleeper Awakes."] (_Harper_). 1899.

Anticipations (_Harper_). 1902.

Discovery of the Future (_Smithsonian Institute
Washington_). 1903.

Discovery of the Future (_Huebsch_). 1913.

Food of the Gods and How it Came to Earth
(_Scribners_). 1904.

Love and Mr Lewisham (_Stokes_). 1904.

Mankind in the Making (_Scribners_). 1904.

Modern Utopia (_Scribners_). 1905.

Twelve Stories and a Dream (_Scribners_). 1905.

Kipps (_Scribners_). 1905.

Future in America (_Harper_). 1906.

Time Machine--An Invention (_Holt & Company_).
1906.

In the Days of the Comet (_Century Company_).
1906.

First and Last Things (_Putnams_). 1908.

New Worlds for Old (_Macmillan Company_).
1908-13.

Socialism and the Family (_Ball Publishing Company,
Boston, Massachusetts_). 1908.

This Misery of Boots (_Ball Publishing Company,
Boston, Massachusetts_). 1908.

War in the Air (_Macmillan Company_). 1908.

War in the Air (_Grosset & Dunlap_). 1910.

Ann Veronica (_Harper_). 1909.

Select Conversations with an Uncle (_Saalfield
Publishing Company, Akron, Ohio_). 1909.

Tono-Bungay (_Duffield_). 1909.

War of the Worlds (_Harper_). 1909.

History of Mr Polly (_Duffield_). 1910.

History of Mr Polly (_Grosset & Dunlap_). 1912.

New Machiavelli (_Duffield_). 1910.

Door in the Wall and Other Stories (_Mitchell
Kennerley_). 1911.

Floor Games (_Small, Maynard & Company, Boston,
Massachusetts_). 1912.

Socialism and the Great State (_Harper_).
1912. (See page 119.)

Marriage (_Duffield_). 1912.

Little Wars (_Small, Maynard & Company, Boston,
Massachusetts_). 1913.

Passionate Friends (_Harper_). 1913.

Wheels of Chance--A Bicycling Idyll (_Macmillan
Company_). 1913. Illustrated by F.A. Symington. [English title, "The Wheels of Chance: A Holiday
Adventure."]

The Wonderful Visit (_E.P. Dutton & Company_). 1914.

Social Forces in England and America (_Harper_). 1914.

The World Set Free (_E.P. Dutton & Company_). 1914.



INDEX

_Ann Veronica_, 65, 76
_Anticipations_, 99

Bebel, 100
Bellamy, Edward, 105
Bromley, 13

Capital and Labour, 35
Characterisation, 60
Common-sense, 98
Comte, 97
_Country of the Blind, The_, 29, 55

_Dynasts, The_, 40

Education, 111
_Englishman Looks at the World, An_, 112

Fabre, Henri, 63
Fecundity, 115
Feminism, 72
_First and Last Things_, 112
_First Men in the Moon, The_, 46
Fixed Opinions, 102
_Food of the Gods, The_, 51, 54
_Future of America, The_, 109

Henley House, 15
_History of Mr Polly, The_, 65, 67
Huxley, 19
Hyndman, 100

Idealism, 69
Insurgent Bigness, 52
_In the Days of the Comet_, 36, 46
_Invisible Man, The_, 25, 28
_Island of Dr Moreau, The_, 25
Isolation, 86

_Kipps_, 60-65

_Love and Mr Lewisham_, 60-64

_Man of the Year Million, The_, 20, 30
_Mankind in the Making_, 99
_Marriage_, 73, 82-85
Marx, 100
Metaphysics, 112
Midhurst Grammar School, 14
_Modern Utopia, A_, 99, 104

_New Machiavelli, The_, 65, 77-79, 82, 86
New Republic, The, 99, 103, 104
_New Worlds for Old_, 109

_Passionate Friends, The_, 73, 89, 95

Rule of Thumb, 77, 78, 88

Samurai, 108
_Sea Lady, The_, 49, 50
Shaw, 100
Socialism, 99, 110
South Kensington School, 14
Spencer, Herbert, 97
Spirit of Freedom, 96, 103

_Time Machine, The_, 20, 23
_Tono-Bungay_, 59, 73

Up Park, 14
Utopias, 106-108

Verne, Jules, 17

_War in the Air, The_, 40, 42, 44, 56
_War of the Worlds, The_, 25, 29
Wells, Mr and Mrs Joseph, 12
_Wheels of Chance, The_, 60
_When the Sleeper Wakes (The Sleeper Awakes)_, 33, 36
_Wife of Sir Isaac Harman, The_, 91, etc.
Women Employees, 92, 94
_Wonderful Visit, The_, 23, 25
_World Set Free, The_, 43, 46





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