Herbert George Wells (1866-1946)
Wells was born in Bromley, Kent. His father was a shopkeeper and a professional cricketer until he broke his leg. In his early childhood, Wells developed a love for literature. His mother served from time to time as a housekeeper at the nearby estate of Uppark, and young Wells studied books in the library secretly. When his father’s business failed, Wells was apprenticed like his brothers to a draper. He spent the years between 1880 and 1883 in Windsor and Southsea, and later recorded them in KIPPS (1905).
Adult Life, Loves and Children
“I was never a great amorist,” Wells wrote in Experiment in Autobiography (1934), “though I have loved several people very deeply.” In 1891 Wells married his cousin Isabel Mary Wells, but left her in 1894 for one of his students, Amy Catherine Robbins, whom he married in 1895. He had two sons with Amy: George Philip (known as ‘Gip’) in 1901 and Frank Richard in 1903. During his marriage to Amy, Wells had liaisons with a number of women, including the American birth-control activist Margaret Sanger (They had no children!) and novelist Elizabeth von Arnim. In 1909 he had a daughter, Anna-Jane, with the writer Amber Reeves; and in 1914, a son, Anthony West, by the novelist and feminist Rebecca West, twenty-six years his junior. Wells also had liaisons with Odette Keun and Moura Budberg. In spite of Amy Catherine’s knowledge of some of these affairs, she remained married to Wells until her death in 1927.
Visionary (From a 1945 issue of The Nation.)
OF COURSE it was H.G. Wells who first perfected the atomic bomb and put it to work. And not only did he put it to work, demolishing most of the world’s capital cities and destroying governments, but then he got busy and built an entirely new society. In less time than you can imagine after the last bomb fell, everybody was settling down nicely in a global socialist community under a World Republic; atomic energy, internationally controlled, was performing all the necessary jobs of production, transportation, heating, and such, and the creative energies of mankind were being applied to higher things. In 1914, when “The World Set Free” was published and no bombs of any sort had been dropped it all sounded fantastic and even funny.
Seeking a more structured way to play war games, Wells wrote Floor Games (1911) followed by Little Wars (1913). Little Wars is recognised today as the first recreational wargame and Wells is regarded by gamers and hobbyists as “the Father of Miniature War Gaming.”
From early in his career, he searched for a better way to organize society. He wrote a number of novels related to idealized worlds. The first of these was A Modern Utopia (1905), which shows a world-wide utopia with “no imports but meteorites, and no exports at all.” Two travellers from our world fall into its alternate history. The others usually begin with the world rushing to catastrophe, until people come up with a better way of living: whether by mysterious gases from a comet causing people to behave rationally and abandoning a European war (In the Days of the Comet (1906)), or a world council of scientists taking over, as in The Shape of Things to Come (1933, which he later adapted for the 1936 Alexander Korda film, Things to Come). This depicted, all too accurately, the impending World War, with cities being destroyed by aerial bombs. He also portrayed the rise of fascist dictators in The Autocracy of Mr Parham (1930) and The Holy Terror (1939), though in the former novel, the tale is revealed at the last to have been Mr Parham’s dream vision.
A Trip to the Moon · The First Men in the Moon (1919) · The Invisible Man · Island of Lost Souls · The Man Who Could Work Miracles · Things to Come · The History of Mr. Polly · The War of the Worlds (various versions) · The Time Machine (1960) · First Men in the Moon (1964) · The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977) · The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996) · The Time Machine (2002)
“No one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that human affairs were being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their affairs they were scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.” (from War of the Worlds)