H. G. Wells
|H. G. Wells|
Wells some time before 1916
|Born||Herbert George Wells
21 September 1866
Bromley, Kent, England, UK
|Died||13 August 1946
London, England, UK
|Occupation||Novelist, teacher, historian, journalist|
|Alma mater||Royal College of Science (Imperial College London)|
|Genres||Science fiction (notably social science fiction)|
|Subjects||World history, progress|
|Spouse(s)||Isabel Mary Wells
Amy Catherine Robbins (1895–1927, her death)
|Children||George Phillip "G. P." Wells (1901–1985)
Frank Richard Wells (1903–1982)
Anna-Jane Blanco-White (1909)
Anthony West (1914–1987)
Herbert George "H. G." Wells (21 September 1866 – 13 August 1946) was an English writer, now best known for his work in the science fiction genre. He was also a prolific writer in many other genres, including contemporary novels, history, politics and social commentary, even writing textbooks and rules for war games. Wells is sometimes called "The Father of Science Fiction", as are Jules Verne and Hugo Gernsback.[a] His most notable science fiction works include The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, The Invisible Man and The Island of Doctor Moreau.
Wells's earliest specialised training was in biology, and his thinking on ethical matters took place in a specifically and fundamentally Darwinian context. He was also from an early date an outspoken socialist, often (but not always, as at the beginning of the First World War) sympathising with pacifist views. His later works became increasingly political and didactic, and he sometimes indicated on official documents that his profession was that of "Journalist." Most of his later novels were not science fiction. Some described lower-middle class life (Kipps; The History of Mr Polly), leading him to be touted as a worthy successor to Charles Dickens, but Wells described a range of social strata and even attempted, in Tono-Bungay (1909), a diagnosis of English society as a whole.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Teacher
- 3 Personal life
- 4 Artist
- 5 Writer
- 6 Politics
- 7 Religion
- 8 Final years
- 9 Literary Influence
- 10 In popular fiction and film
- 11 Bibliography
- 12 See also
- 13 Notes
- 14 References
- 15 Further reading
- 16 External links
Herbert George Wells was born at Atlas House, 46 High Street, Bromley, in the county of Kent, on 21 September 1866. Called "Bertie" in the family, he was the fourth and last child of Joseph Wells (a former domestic gardener, and at the time a shopkeeper and professional cricketer) and his wife Sarah Neal (a former domestic servant). An inheritance had allowed the family to acquire a shop in which they sold china and sporting goods, although it failed to prosper: the stock was old and worn out, and the location was poor. Joseph Wells managed to earn a meagre income, but little of it came from the shop and he received an unsteady amount of money from playing professional cricket for the Kent county team. Payment for skilled bowlers and batsmen came from voluntary donations afterwards, or from small payments from the clubs where matches were played.
A defining incident of young Wells's life was an accident in 1874 that left him bedridden with a broken leg. To pass the time he started reading books from the local library, brought to him by his father. He soon became devoted to the other worlds and lives to which books gave him access; they also stimulated his desire to write. Later that year he entered Thomas Morley's Commercial Academy, a private school founded in 1849 following the bankruptcy of Morley's earlier school. The teaching was erratic, the curriculum mostly focused, Wells later said, on producing copperplate handwriting and doing the sort of sums useful to tradesmen. Wells continued at Morley's Academy until 1880. In 1877, his father, Joseph Wells, fractured his thigh. The accident effectively put an end to Joseph's career as a cricketer, and his subsequent earnings as a shopkeeper were not enough to compensate for the loss of the primary source of family income.
No longer able to support themselves financially, the family instead sought to place their sons as apprentices in various occupations. From 1880 to 1883, Wells had an unhappy apprenticeship as a draper at the Southsea Drapery Emporium, Hyde's. His experiences at Hyde's, where he worked a thirteen-hour day and slept in a dormitory with other apprentices, later inspired his novels The Wheels of Chance and Kipps, which portray the life of a draper's apprentice as well as providing a critique of society's distribution of wealth.
Wells's parents had a turbulent marriage, due primarily to his mother being a Protestant and his father a freethinker. When his mother returned to work as a lady's maid (at Uppark, a country house in Sussex), one of the conditions of work was that she would not be permitted to have living space for her husband and children. Thereafter, she and Joseph lived separate lives, though they never divorced and remained faithful to each other. As a consequence, Herbert's personal troubles increased as he subsequently failed as a draper and also, later, as a chemist's assistant. After each failure, he would arrive at Uppark—"the bad shilling back again!" as he said—and stay there until a fresh start could be arranged for him. Fortunately for Herbert, Uppark had a magnificent library in which he immersed himself, reading many classic works, including Plato's Republic, and More's Utopia. This would be the beginning of Herbert George Wells's venture into literature.
In October 1879 Wells's mother arranged through a distant relative, Arthur Williams, for him to join the National School at Wookey in Somerset as a pupil-teacher, a senior pupil who acted as a teacher of younger children. In December that year, however, Williams was dismissed for irregularities in his qualifications and Wells was returned to Uppark. After a short apprenticeship at a chemist in nearby Midhurst, and an even shorter stay as a boarder at Midhurst Grammar School, he signed his apprenticeship papers at Hyde's. In 1883 Wells persuaded his parents to release him from the apprenticeship, taking an opportunity offered by Midhurst Grammar School again to become a pupil-teacher; his proficiency in Latin and science during his previous, short stay had been remembered.
The years he spent in Southsea had been the most miserable of his life to that point, but his good fortune at securing a position at Midhurst Grammar School meant that Wells could continue his self-education in earnest. The following year, Wells won a scholarship to the Normal School of Science (later the Royal College of Science in South Kensington, now part of Imperial College London) in London, studying biology under Thomas Henry Huxley. As an alumnus, he later helped to set up the Royal College of Science Association, of which he became the first president in 1909. Wells studied in his new school until 1887 with a weekly allowance of twenty-one shillings (a guinea) thanks to his scholarship. This ought to have been a comfortable sum of money (at the time many working-class families had "round about a pound a week" as their entire household income) yet in his Experiment in Autobiography, Wells speaks of constantly being hungry, and indeed, photographs of him at the time show a youth very thin and malnourished.
He soon entered the Debating Society of the school. These years mark the beginning of his interest in a possible reformation of society. At first approaching the subject through The Republic by Plato, he soon turned to contemporary ideas of socialism as expressed by the recently formed Fabian Society and free lectures delivered at Kelmscott House, the home of William Morris. He was also among the founders of The Science School Journal, a school magazine which allowed him to express his views on literature and society, as well as trying his hand at fiction: the first version of his novel The Time Machine was published in the journal under the title, The Chronic Argonauts. The school year 1886–1887 was the last year of his studies. In spite of having previously passed his exams in both biology and physics, his lack of interest in geology resulted in his failure to pass and the subsequent loss of his scholarship.
During 1888 H. G. Wells stayed in Stoke-on-Trent, living in Basford and also at the Leopard Hotel in Burslem. The unique environment of the Potteries was certainly an inspiration. He wrote in a letter to a friend from the area that “the district made an immense impression on me”. The inspiration for some of his descriptions in The War of the Worlds is thought to have come from his short time spent here, seeing the Iron Foundry furnaces burn over the city, shooting huge red light into the skies. His stay in The Potteries also resulted in the macabre short-story “The Cone” (1895, contemporaneous with his famous The Time Machine) which is set in the north of the city.
After teaching for some time, Wells found it necessary to supplement his knowledge relating to educational principles and methodology and entered the College of Preceptors (College of Teachers). He later received his Licentiate and Fellowship FCP diplomas from the College. It was not until 1890 that Wells earned a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology from the University of London External Programme. In 1889–90 he managed to find a post as a teacher at Henley House School where he taught A. A. Milne.
Upon leaving the Normal School of Science, Wells was left without a source of income. His aunt Mary—his father's sister-in-law—invited him to stay with her for a while, which solved his immediate problem of accommodation. During his stay at his aunt's residence, he grew increasingly interested in her daughter, Isabel. He would later go on to court her.
In 1891, Wells married his cousin Isabel Mary Wells; the couple agreed to separate in 1894 when he fell in love with one of his students, Amy Catherine Robbins (later known as Jane), whom he married in 1895. Poor health took him to Sandgate, near Folkestone, where in 1901 he constructed a large family home: Spade House. He had two sons with Jane: George Philip (known as "Gip") in 1901 (d.1985) and Frank Richard in 1903 (d.1982). The marriage lasted until her death in 1927.
With his wife Jane's consent, Wells had affairs with a number of women, including the American birth control activist Margaret Sanger and novelist Elizabeth von Arnim. In 1909 he had a daughter, Anna-Jane, with the writer Amber Reeves, whose parents, William and Maud Pember Reeves, he had met through the Fabian Society; and in 1914, a son, Anthony West (1914–1987), by the novelist and feminist Rebecca West, twenty-six years his junior.
In Experiment in Autobiography (1934), Wells wrote: "I was never a great amorist, though I have loved several people very deeply."
One of the most interesting ways that Wells expressed himself was through his drawings and sketches. One common location for these was the endpapers and title pages of his own diaries, and they covered a wide variety of topics, from political commentary to his feelings toward his literary contemporaries and his current romantic interests. During his marriage to Amy Catherine, whom he nicknamed Jane, he drew a considerable number of pictures, many of them being overt comments on their marriage. It was during this period, and this period only, that he called these pictures "picshuas". These picshuas have been the topic of study by Wells scholars for many years, and in 2006 a book was published on the subject.
Wells's first non-fiction bestseller was Anticipations of the Reaction of Mechanical and Scientific Progress Upon Human Life and Thought (1901). When originally serialised in a magazine it was subtitled, "An Experiment in Prophecy", and is considered his most explicitly futuristic work. It offered the immediate political message of the privileged sections of society continuing to bar capable men from other classes from advancement until war would force a need to employ those most able, rather than the traditional upper classes, as leaders. Anticipating what the world would be like in the year 2000, the book is interesting both for its hits (trains and cars resulting in the dispersion of population from cities to suburbs; moral restrictions declining as men and women seek greater sexual freedom; the defeat of German militarism, and the existence of a European Union) and its misses (he did not expect successful aircraft before 1950, and averred that "my imagination refuses to see any sort of submarine doing anything but suffocate its crew and founder at sea").
Some of his early novels, called "scientific romances", invented a number of themes now classic in science fiction in such works as The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, When the Sleeper Wakes, and The First Men in the Moon. He also wrote realistic novels that received critical acclaim, including Kipps and a satire on Edwardian advertising, Tono-Bungay.
Wells also wrote dozens of short stories and novellas, the best known of which is "The Country of the Blind" (1904).
Though Tono-Bungay was not a science-fiction novel, radioactive decay plays a small but consequential role in it. Radioactive decay plays a much larger role in The World Set Free (1914). This book contains what is surely his biggest prophetic "hit". Scientists of the day were well aware that the natural decay of radium releases energy at a slow rate over thousands of years. The rate of release is too slow to have practical utility, but the total amount released is huge. Wells's novel revolves around an (unspecified) invention that accelerates the process of radioactive decay, producing bombs that explode with no more than the force of ordinary high explosive—but which "continue to explode" for days on end. "Nothing could have been more obvious to the people of the earlier twentieth century", he wrote, "than the rapidity with which war was becoming impossible... [but] they did not see it until the atomic bombs burst in their fumbling hands". In 1932, the physicist and conceiver of nuclear chain reaction Leó Szilárd read The World Set Free, a book which he said made a great impression on him.
Wells also wrote nonfiction. His bestselling three-volume work, The Outline of History (1920), began a new era of popularised world history. It received a mixed critical response from professional historians. Many other authors followed with "Outlines" of their own in other subjects. Wells reprised his Outline in 1922 with a much shorter popular work, A Short History of the World, and two long efforts, The Science of Life (1930) and The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind (1931). The "Outlines" became sufficiently common for James Thurber to parody the trend in his humorous essay, "An Outline of Scientists"—indeed, Wells's Outline of History remains in print with a new 2005 edition, while A Short History of the World has been recently reedited (2006).
From quite early in his career, he sought a better way to organise society, and wrote a number of Utopian novels. The first of these was A Modern Utopia (1905), which shows a worldwide 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 realise a better way of living: whether by mysterious gases from a comet causing people to behave rationally and abandoning a European war (In the Days of the Comet (1906)), or a world council of scientists taking over, as in The Shape of Things to Come (1933, which he later adapted for the 1936 Alexander Korda film, Things to Come). 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). Men Like Gods (1923) is also a utopian novel. Wells in this period was regarded as an enormously influential figure; the critic Malcolm Cowley stated "by the time he was forty, his influence was wider than any other living English writer." 
Wells contemplates the ideas of nature versus nurture and questions humanity in books such as The Island of Doctor Moreau. Not all his scientific romances ended in a happy Utopia, and in fact, Wells also wrote a dystopian novel, When the Sleeper Wakes (1899, rewritten as The Sleeper Awakes, 1910), which pictures a future society where the classes have become more and more separated, leading to a revolt of the masses against the rulers. The Island of Doctor Moreau is even darker. The narrator, having been trapped on an island of animals vivisected (unsuccessfully) into human beings, eventually returns to England; like Gulliver on his return from the Houyhnhnms, he finds himself unable to shake off the perceptions of his fellow humans as barely civilised beasts, slowly reverting to their animal natures.
Wells also wrote the preface for the first edition of W. N. P. Barbellion's diaries, The Journal of a Disappointed Man, published in 1919. Since "Barbellion" was the real author's pen name, many reviewers believed Wells to have been the true author of the Journal; Wells always denied this, despite being full of praise for the diaries, but the rumours persisted until Barbellion's death later that year.
In 1927 a Canadian citizen, Florence Deeks, sued Wells for plagiarism, claiming that he had stolen much of the content of The Outline of History from a work, The Web, she had submitted to the Canadian Macmillan Company, but who held onto the manuscript for eight months before rejecting it. Despite numerous similarities in phrasing and factual errors, the court found the evidence inadequate and dismissed the case. A Privy Council report added that, as Deek's work had not been printed, there were no legal grounds at all for the action.
In 1933 Wells predicted in The Shape of Things to Come that the world war he feared would begin January 1940, a prediction which ultimately came true just four months early, when the Second World War broke out in September 1939.
In 1936, before the Royal Institution, Wells called for the compilation of a constantly growing and changing World Encyclopaedia, to be reviewed by outstanding authorities and made accessible to every human being. In 1938, he published a collection of essays on the future organisation of knowledge and education, World Brain, including the essay, "The Idea of a Permanent World Encyclopaedia".
Near the end of the Second World War, Allied forces discovered that the SS had compiled lists of people slated for immediate arrest during the invasion of Britain in the abandoned Operation Sea Lion, and Wells was included in the alphabetical list on the same page of "The Black Book" as Rebecca West. Wells, as president of PEN International (Poets, Essayists, Novelists), had already angered the Nazis by overseeing the expulsion of the German PEN club from the international body in 1934 following the German PEN's refusal to admit non-Aryan writers to its membership.
Seeking a more structured way to play war games, Wells also wrote Floor Games (1911) followed by Little Wars (1913). Little Wars is recognised today as the first recreational war game and Wells is regarded by gamers and hobbyists as "the Father of Miniature War Gaming".
The Fabian Society
Wells called his political views socialist. He was for a time a member of the socialist Fabian Society, but broke with them as his creative political imagination, matching the originality shown in his fiction, outran theirs. He later grew staunchly critical of them as having a poor understanding of economics and educational reform. He ran as a Labour Party candidate for London University in the 1922 and 1923 general elections after the death of his friend W. H. R. Rivers, but at that point his faith in the party was weak or uncertain.
Social class was a theme in Wells's The Time Machine in which the Time Traveller speaks of the future world, with its two races, as having evolved from
the gradual widening of the present (19th century) merely temporary and social difference between the Capitalist and the Labourer ... Even now, does not an East-end worker live in such artificial conditions as practically to be cut off from the natural surface of the earth? Again, the exclusive tendency of richer people ... is already leading to the closing, in their interest, of considerable portions of the surface of the land. About London, for instance, perhaps half the prettier country is shut in against intrusion.
Nevertheless, Wells has this very same Time Traveller speak in terms unusual for socialist thought, referring as "perfect" and with no social problem unsolved, to an imagined world of stark class division between the rich assured of their wealth and comfort, and the rest of humanity assigned to lifelong toil:
Once, life and property must have reached almost absolute safety. The rich had been assured of his wealth and comfort, the toiler assured of his life and work. No doubt in that perfect world there had been no unemployed problem, no social question left unsolved.
His most consistent political ideal was the World State. He stated in his autobiography that from 1900 onward he considered a World State inevitable. He envisioned the state to be a planned society that would advance science, end nationalism, and allow people to progress by merit rather than birth. Wells' 1928 book The Open Conspiracy argued that groups of campaigners should begin advocating for a "world commonwealth", governed by a scientific elite, that would work to eliminate problems such as poverty and warfare. In 1932, he told Young Liberals at the University of Oxford that progressive leaders must become liberal fascists or enlightened Nazis who would "compete in their enthusiasm and self-sacrifice" against the advocates of dictatorship. In 1940, Wells published a book called The New World Order that outlined his plan as to how a World Government will be set up. In The New World Order, Wells admitted that the establishment of such a government could take a long time, and be created in a piecemeal fashion.
World War I
He supported Britain in the First World War, despite his many criticisms of British policy, and opposed, in 1916, moves for an early peace. In an essay published that year he acknowledged that he could not understand those British pacifists who were reconciled to "handing over great blocks of the black and coloured races to the [German Empire] to exploit and experiment upon" and that the extent of his own pacifism depended in the first instance upon an armed peace, with "England keep[ing] to England and Germany to Germany". State boundaries would be established according to natural ethnic affinities, rather than by planners in distant imperial capitals, and overseen by his envisaged world alliance of states.
In his book In the Fourth Year published in 1918 he suggested how each nation of the world would elect, "upon democratic lines" by proportional representation, an electoral college in the manner of the United States of America, in turn to select its delegate to the proposed League of Nations. This international body he contrasted with imperialism, not only the imperialism of Germany, against which the war was being fought, but also the imperialism, which he considered more benign, of Britain and France.
His values and political thinking came under increasing criticism from the 1920s and afterwards.
The Soviet Union
The leadership of Joseph Stalin led to a change in his view of the Soviet Union even though his initial impression of Stalin himself was mixed. He disliked what he saw as a narrow orthodoxy and intransigence in Stalin. However, he did give him some praise saying in an article in the left-leaning New Statesman magazine, "I have never met a man more fair, candid, and honest" and making it clear that he felt the "sinister" image of Stalin was unfair or simply false. Nevertheless he judged Stalin's rule to be far too rigid, restrictive of independent thought, and blinkered to lead toward the Cosmopolis he hoped for. In the course of his visit to the Soviet Union in 1934, he debated the merits of reformist socialism over Marxism-Leninism with Stalin.
Wells believed in eugenics, in theory, and some of his early science fiction reflects his thoughts about the degeneration of humanity. However, Wells doubted whether human knowledge had advanced sufficiently for eugenics to be successful. In 1904 he discussed a survey paper by Francis Galton, co-founder of eugenics, saying, "I believe that now and always the conscious selection of the best for reproduction will be impossible; that to propose it is to display a fundamental misunderstanding of what individuality implies... It is in the sterilisation of failure, and not in the selection of successes for breeding, that the possibility of an improvement of the human stock lies". In his 1940 book The Rights of Man: Or What are we fighting for? Wells included among the human rights he believed should be available to all people, "a prohibition on mutilation, sterilization, torture, and any bodily punishment".
Wells had given some moderate, unenthusiastic support for Territorialism before the First World War, but later became a bitter opponent of the Zionist movement in general. He saw Zionism as an exclusive and separatist movement which challenged the collective solidarity he advocated in his vision of a world state. No supporter of Jewish identity in general, Wells had in his utopian writings predicted the ultimate assimilation of the Jewish people. In notes to accompany his biographical novel A Man of Parts David Lodge describes how Wells came to regret his attitudes to the Jews as he became more aware of the extent of the Nazi atrocities. This included a letter of apology written to Chaim Weizmann for earlier statements he had made.
Wells's 1906 book The Future in America, contains a chapter, "The Tragedy of Colour", which discusses the problems facing black Americans. While writing the book, Wells met with Booker T. Washington, who provided him with much of his information for "The Tragedy of Colour". Wells praised the "heroic" resolve of black Americans, stating he doubted if the US could:
show any thing finer than the quality of the resolve, the steadfast effort hundreds of black and coloured men are making to-day to live blamelessly, honourably, and patiently, getting for themselves what scraps of refinement, learning, and beauty they may, keeping their hold on a civilization they are grudged and denied.
In his 1916 book What is Coming? Wells states, "I hate and despise a shrewish suspicion of foreigners and foreign ways; a man who can look me in the face, laugh with me, speak truth and deal fairly, is my brother, though his skin is as black as ink or as yellow as an evening primrose".
In The Outline of History, Wells argued against the racist idea of "racial purity", stating: "Mankind from the point of view of a biologist is an animal species in a state of arrested differentiation and possible admixture . . . [A]ll races are more or less mixed.".
In 1943 Wells wrote an article for the Evening Standard, "What A Zulu thinks of the English", prompted by receiving a letter from a Zulu soldier, Lance Coporal Aaron Hlope. "What a Zulu thinks of the English" was a strong attack on anti-black discrimination in South Africa. Wells claimed he had "the utmost contempt and indignation for the unfairness of the handicaps put upon men of colour". Wells also denounced the South African government as a "petty white tyranny".
Wells brought his interest in Art & Design and politics together when he and other notables signed a memorandum to the Permanent Secretaries of the Board of Trade, among others. The November 1914 memorandum expressed the signatories concerns about British industrial design in the face of foreign competition. The suggestions were accepted, leading to the foundation of the Design and Industries Association. In the 1920s he was an enthusiastic supporter of rejuvenation attempts by Eugen Steinach and others. He was a patient of Dr Norman Haire (perhaps a rejuvenated one) and in response to Haire's 1924 book Rejuvenation: the Work of Steinach, Voronoff, and others, Wells prophesised a more mature, graver society with 'active and hopeful children' and adults 'full of years' where none will be 'aged'.
In his later political writing, Wells incorporated into his discussions of the World State a notion of universal human rights that would protect and guarantee the freedom of the individual. His 1940 publication The Rights of Man laid the groundwork for the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In the end Wells's contemporary political impact was limited, excluding his fiction's positivist stance on the leaps that could be made by physics towards world peace. His efforts regarding the League of Nations became a disappointment as the organisation turned out to be a weak one unable to prevent World War II, which was itself towards the very end of his life, increased the pessimistic side of his nature. In his last book Mind at the End of its Tether (1945) he considered the idea that humanity being replaced by another species might not be a bad idea. He also came to call the era "The Age of Frustration".
Wells wrote in his book God the Invisible King (1917) that his idea of God did not draw upon the traditional religions of the world: "This book sets out as forcibly and exactly as possible the religious belief of the writer. [Which] is a profound belief in a personal and intimate God. ... Putting the leading idea of this book very roughly, these two antagonistic typical conceptions of God may be best contrasted by speaking of one of them as God-as-Nature or the Creator, and of the other as God-as-Christ or the Redeemer. One is the great Outward God; the other is the Inmost God. The first idea was perhaps developed most highly and completely in the God of Spinoza. It is a conception of God tending to pantheism, to an idea of a comprehensive God as ruling with justice rather than affection, to a conception of aloofness and awestriking worshipfulness. The second idea, which is opposed to this idea of an absolute God, is the God of the human heart. The writer would suggest that the great outline of the theological struggles of that phase of civilisation and world unity which produced Christianity, was a persistent but unsuccessful attempt to get these two different ideas of God into one focus." Later in the work he aligns himself with a "renascent or modern religion ... neither atheist nor Buddhist nor Mohammedan nor Christian ... [that] he has found growing up in himself".
Of Christianity he has this to say: "... it is not now true for me ... Every believing Christian is, I am sure, my spiritual brother ... but if systemically I called myself a Christian I feel that to most men I should imply too much and so tell a lie." Of other world religions he writes: "All these religions are true for me as Canterbury Cathedral is a true thing and as a Swiss chalet is a true thing. There they are, and they have served a purpose, they have worked. Only they are not true for me to live in them ... They do not work for me."
In his final years he began to be particularly outspoken in his criticism of the Catholic Church. Wells's literary reputation declined as he spent his later years promoting causes that were rejected by most of his contemporaries as well as younger authors whom he had previously influenced, and in this connection George Orwell described him as "too sane to understand the modern world." G. K. Chesterton quipped: "Mr. Wells is a born storyteller who has sold his birthright for a pot of message."
On 28 October 1940, on the KTSA radio station in San Antonio, Texas, Wells took part in a radio interview with Orson Welles, who two years previously had performed an infamous radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds. During the interview, by Charles C Shaw, a KTSA radio host, Wells admitted his surprise at the widespread panic that resulted from the broadcast, but acknowledged his debt to Welles for increasing sales of one of his "more obscure" titles.
Wells died of unspecified causes on 13 August 1946 at his home at 13 Hanover Terrace, Regent's Park, London, aged 79. Some reports also say he died of a heart attack at the flat of a friend in London. In his preface to the 1941 edition of The War in the Air, Wells had stated that his epitaph should be: "I told you so. You damned fools." He was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium on 16 August 1946, his ashes scattered at sea near Old Harry Rocks. A commemorative blue plaque in his honour was installed at his home in Regent's Park.
In Britain, Wells' work was a key model for the British "Scientific Romance", and other writers in that mode, such as Olaf Stapledon, J. D. Beresford, S. Fowler Wright, and Naomi Mitchison, all drew on Wells' example. Wells was also an important influence on British science fiction of the period after the Second World War, with Arthur C. Clarke and Brian Aldiss expressing strong admiration for Wells' work.
In the United States, Hugo Gernsback reprinted most of Wells' work in the pulp magazine Amazing Stories, regarding Wells' work as "texts of central importance to the self-concious new genre". Later American writers such as Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert and Ursula K. Le Guin all recalled being influenced by Wells' work.
In popular fiction and film
In M. P. Shiel's short story "The Primate of the Rose" (1928), there is an unpleasant womanizer named E. P. Crooks, who was written as a parody of Wells. Wells had attacked Shiel's Prince Zaleski in 1895, and this was Shiel's response. Wells would later praise Shiel's The Purple Cloud; in turn Shiel expressed admiration for Wells, referring to him at a speech to the Horsham Rotary Club in 1933 as "my friend Mr. Wells".
In C. S. Lewis's novel That Hideous Strength, the character Jules is a caricature of Wells, and much of Lewis's science fiction was written both under the influence of Wells and as an antithesis to his work (or, as he put it, an "exorcism" of the influence it had on him).
The 1985 Doctor Who serial Timelash depicts the character of Herbert, a young Victorian man who helps the Sixth Doctor. At the end of the story, the Doctor shows his companion Peri Herbert's card - it turns out that Herbert is actually H.G. Wells, and the events of Timelash will inspire the writing of The Time Machine.
Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman features a similar H. G. Wells character who invents a time machine and travels through time and alternate dimensions chasing a villain from the Utopian future named Tempus. The younger version of the character appears in two episodes, played by Terry Kiser. The older version of the character, played by Hamilton Camp, also appears in two episodes.
Wells is also a character in The Infinite Worlds of H. G. Wells.
Wells is the subject of the biographical novel A Man of Parts by David Lodge, published in 2011.
In the Syfy television series Warehouse 13 a new avenue of H. G. Wells is taken, with Jaime Murray's portrayal of a female version of the author. Helena G. Wells allowed her brother to take the credit for her works of fiction because no one would believe a woman could write such fantastical stories.
Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's comic book The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume II is set in London during the invasion described in The War of the Worlds. The authors also included several of Wells' characters and stories, The Invisible Man is one of the main protagonists in the two volumes, and Dr Alphonse Moreau and his hybrids appear from chapter 5. In Allan and the Sundered Veil, published alongside the first volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Moore and O'Neill have the main character Allan encounter the Time Traveller and the Morlocks from The Time Machine.
- The Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame inducted Wells in 1997, its second class of two deceased and two living persons. SF magazine editors Gernsback and John W. Campbell were the deceased members in the first class, science fiction writers Wells and Isaac Asimov in the second class, Verne in the fourth class. Gernsbach, Wells, and Verne preceded other hall of fame members (now about 70) by one, two, and three generations.
"Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame". Mid American Science Fiction and Fantasy Conventions, Inc. Retrieved 2013-03-25. This was the official website of the hall of fame to 2004.
- Parrinder, Patrick (2004). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press.
- Adam Charles Roberts (2000), "The History of Science Fiction": Page 48 in Science Fiction, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-19204-8.
- Robert M. Philmus and David Y. Hughes, ed., H. G. Wells: Early Writings in Science and Science Fiction (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1975), p. 179.
- Vincent Brome, H. G. Wells: A Biography (London, New York, and Toronto: Longmans, Green, 1951).
- Vincent Brome, H. G. Wells: A Biography (London, New York, and Toronto: Longmans, Green, 1951), p. 99.
- Wells, H. G. (2005) [First published 1905]. Gregory Claeys, Patrick Parrinder, ed. A Modern Utopia. Gregory Claeys, Francis Wheen, Andy Sawyer. Penguin Classics. ISBN 978-0-14-144112-2.
- Smith, David C. (1986) H. G. Wells: Desperately mortal. A biography. Yale University Press, New Haven and London ISBN 0-300-03672-8
- Wells, Geoffrey H. (1925). The Works of H. G. Wells. London: Routledge. p. xvi. ISBN 0-86012-096-1. OCLC 458934085.
- Batchelor, John (1985). H. G. Wells. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. p. 2. ISBN 0-521-27804-X.
- Reeves, M.S. Round About a Pound a Week. New York: Garland Pub., 1980. ISBN 0-8240-0119-2 Some of the text is available online.
- "Hampstead: Education". A History of the County of Middlesex 9: 159–169. 1989. Retrieved 9 June 2008.
- "A(lan) A(lexander) Milne (1882–1956)". Authors' Calendar. Retrieved 13 April 2007.
- On the 143rd anniversary of Wells's birth Google published a riddle with this location on Google Maps as the solution, but the significance of the 143rd birthday—143 Maybury Road—was not explained: Schofield, Jack (21 September 2009). "HG Wells - Google reveals answer to teaser doodles". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 July 2010.
- Batchelor (1985: 165)
- Lynn, Andrea (2001). Shadow Lovers: The Last Affairs of H. G. Wells. Boulder, CO: Westview. pp. 10; 14; 47 et sec. ISBN 978-0-8133-3394-6.
- Margaret Drabble (1 April 2005). "A room of her own". The Guardian.
- Pegasos – A Literature Related Resource Site. H(erbert) G(eorge) Wells (1866–1946).
- Wells, Herbert George (1934). Experiment in Autobiography. Discoveries and Conclusions of a Very Ordinary Brain (Since 1866). Retrieved from http://gutenberg.ca/ebooks/wellshg-autobiography/wellshg-autobiography-00-h-dir/wellshg-autobiography-00-h.html.
- "H. G. Wells' cartoons, a window on his second marriage, focus of new book | Archives | News Bureau". University of Illinois. 31 May 2006. Retrieved 10 June 2012.
- Rinkel, Gene and Margaret. The Picshuas of H. G. Wells: A burlesque diary. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2006. ISBN 0-252-03045-1 (cloth : acid-free paper).
- "Annual HG Wells Award for Outstanding Contributions to Transhumanism". Web.archive.org. 20 May 2009. Archived from the original on 20 May 2009. Retrieved 10 June 2012.
- Turner, Frank Miller (1993). "Public Science in Britain 1880–1919". Contesting Cultural Authority: Essays in Victorian Intellectual Life. Cambridge University Press. pp. 219–20. ISBN 0-521-37257-7.
- Richard Rhodes (1986). The Making of the Atomic Bomb. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 24. ISBN 0-684-81378-5.
- "The Outline of History – H. G. Wells". Cs.clemson.edu. 20 April 2003. Retrieved 21 September 2009.
- "Wells, H. G. 1922. A Short History of the World". Bartleby.com. Retrieved 21 September 2009.
- A Modern Utopia
- Cowley, Malcolm. "Outline of Wells's History." The New Republic Vol. 81 Issue 1041, 14 November 1934 (p. 22–23).
- Mackenzie, Norman and Jeanne (1973). The Time Traveller – The Life of H. G. Wells. London: Weidenfield and Nicolson. pp. 356–366. ISBN 0-297-76531-0.
- "9. The Last War Cyclone, 1940–50". The shape of things to come: the ultimate revolution (Penguin 2005 ed.). 1933. p. 208. ISBN 0-14-144104-6.
- Wagar, W. Warren (2004). H. G. Wells: traversing time. Middletown, Conn: Wesleyan University Press. p. 209. ISBN 0-8195-6725-6.
- Wells, Frank. H. G. Wells—A Pictorial Biography. London: Jupiter Books, 1977, p. 91.
- The Miniatures Page. The World of Miniatures – An Overview.
- Cole, Margaret (1974). "H. G. Wells and the Fabian Society". In Morris, A. J. Anthony. Edwardian radicalism, 1900–1914: some aspects of British radicalism. London: Routledge. pp. 97–114. ISBN 0-7100-7866-8.
- "The Time Machine". Retrieved 10 June 2012.
- H. G. Wells, The Way the World is Going. London, Ernest Benn, 1928, (p. 49).
- Wells, H. G. The Open Conspiracy: Blue Prints for a World Revolution (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Doran, 1928), (pp. 28, 44, 196).
- Mazower, Mark, Dark Continent:Europe's Twentieth Century. New York : A.A. Knopf, 1998. ISBN 0679438092 (p. 21–22).
- Coupland, Philip (October 2000). "H. G. Wells's "Liberal Fascism"". Journal of Contemporary History 35 (4): 549.
- Partington, John S. Building Cosmopolis: The Political Thought of H. G. Wells. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2003. ISBN 0754633837, (p. 16).
- H. G. Wells: Why Britain Went To War (10 August 1914). The War Illustrated album de luxe. The story of the great European war told by camera, pen and pencil. The Amalgamated Press, London 1915
- Daily Herald, 27 May 1916
- Wells, H. G. (1916). "The White Man's Burthen". What is coming? : a forecast of things after the war. London: Cassell. p. 240. ISBN 0-554-16469-8. OCLC 9446824.
- Wells, H. G. (1918). "The League must be representative". In the Fourth Year. London: Chatto and Windus. ISBN 1-4191-2598-2. OCLC 458935146. "The president ... is chosen by a special college elected by the people .... Is there any reason why we should not adopt this method in this sending representatives to the Council of the League of Nations?"
- "The Necessary Powers of the League". In the Fourth Year. "[T]he League of Free Nations, if it is to be a reality ... must do no less than supersede Empire; it must end not only this new German imperialism, which is struggling so savagely and powerfully to possess the earth, but it must also wind up British imperialism and French imperialism, which do now so largely and inaggressively possess it."
- Experiment in Autobiography 556. Also chapter four of Future as Nightmare: H. G. Wells and the Anti-Utopians by Mark Robert Hillegas.
- Experiment in Autobiography, pp. 215, 687–689
- "Joseph Stalin and H. G. Wells, Marxism vs. Liberalism: An Interview". Rationalrevolution.net. Retrieved 10 June 2012.
- H. G. Wells and the uses of Degeneration in Literature
- Andrew Clapham, Human Rights:A Very Short Introduction. Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2007. ISBN 9780199205523 (pp. 29-31).
- Cheyette, Bryan. Constructions of "the Jew" in English Literature and Society. Cambridge University Press, 1995, pp. 143–148
- Hamerow, Theodore S. Why we watched: Europe, America, and the Holocaust. W. W. Norton & Company, 2008., pp. 98–100, 219
- "Desirable Aliens: British Men of Letters on The Jews". The Review of Reviews Vol. XXXIII Jan–Jun 1906, p. 378
- Lodge, David (2011). A Man of Parts. London: Secker. p. 521. ISBN 9781846554964.
- H. G. Wells, The Future in America (New York and London: Harper and Brothers, 1906), p. 201 (Chs.11 & 12,).
- Virginia L. Denton, Booker T. Washington and the Adult Education Movement. University Press of Florida, 1993. ISBN 0813011825. (p. 150, 231)
- What is Coming? A Forecast of things after the war, London, Cassell, 1916 (p. 256).
- H. G. Wells, The Outline of History, 3rd ed. rev. (NY: Macmillan, 1921), p. 110 (Ch. XII, §§1–2).
- Susan D. Pennybacker, From Scottsboro to Munich: race and political culture in 1930s Britain Princeton University Press, 2009. ISBN 0691088284, (p. 29).
- "What a Zulu Thinks of the English" was reprinted as "The Rights of Man in South Africa" in '42 to '44: A Contemporary Memoir (London, Secker and Warburg, 1944) (p. 68–74).
- Robert Crossley, "Wells's Common Readers" in Patrick Parrinder and Christopher Rolfe, H. G. Wells Under Revision: Proceedings of the International Hg Wells Symposium London July 1986. Associated University Press, 1990. ISBN 0945636059, (p. 247).
- John Huntington, Critical essays on H. G. Wells. G. K. Hall, 1991. ISBN 0816188564 (p. 176,177, 179)
- Raymond Plummer, Nothing Need be Ugly Design & Industries Assn. Jun 1985
- Haire, Norman (1924), Rejuvenation : the work of Steinach, Voronoff, and others, G. Allen & Unwin, retrieved 15 April 2013
- Diana Wyndham. "'Norman Haire and the Study of Sex'". Foreword by the Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG. Sydney: "Sydney University Press"., 2012, p. 117
- ‘Human Rights and Public Accountability in H. G. Wells’ Functional World State’ | John Partington. Academia.edu. Retrieved on 9 August 2013.
- Wells, H. G. (1917). "Preface". God the Invisible King. London: Cassell. ISBN 0-585-00604-0. OCLC 261326125. Link to the online book.
- Wells (1917: "The cosmology of modern religion")
- Wells, H. G. (1908). First & last things; a confession of faith and rules of life. Putnam. pp. 77–80. OCLC 68958585.
- Parrinder, Patrick (2005). Parrinder, Patrick; Partington, John S, ed. The reception of H. G. Wells in Europe. London: Thoemmes Continuum. p. 11. ISBN 0-8264-6253-7.
- Orwell, George (August 1941). "Wells, Hitler and the World State". Horizon.
- Chesterton's reference is to the biblical "mess of pottage", implying that Wells had sold out his artistic birthright in mid-career: Rolfe, Christopher; Parrinder, Patrick (1990). H. G. Wells under revision: proceedings of the International H. G. Wells Symposium, London, Jul 1986. Selinsgrove, PA: Susquehanna University Press. p. 9. ISBN 0-945636-05-9.
- "HG Wells – Diabetes UK". Diabetes.org.uk. 14 April 2008. Retrieved 10 June 2012.
- Flynn, John L. "The legacy of Orson Welles and the Radio Broadcast". War of the Worlds: from Wells to Spielberg by. Owens Mills, MD: Galactic. p. 45. ISBN 978-0-9769400-0-5.
- "H. G. Wells Dies in London". St. Petersburg Times. 13 August 1946. Retrieved 29 October 2008.
- "Calendar". Classics & Cheese. Retrieved 12 February 2008.
- "Preface to the 1941 edition of The War in the Air". Retrieved 11 February 2008.
- West, Anthony. H. G. Wells: Aspects of a Life, p. 153. London: Hutchinson & Co, 1984. ISBN 0-09-134540-5.
- John Clute, Science Fiction :The Illustrated Encyclopedia. Dorling Kindersley London, ISBN 0751302023 (p. 114–15).
- Andy Sawyer, "[William] Olaf Stapledon (1886–1950)", in Fifty Key Figures in Science Fiction. New York: Routledge, 2010. ISBN 0203874706 (pp. 205–210).
- Richard Bleiler, "John Davis Beresford (1873–1947)" in Darren Harris-Fain, ed. British Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers Before World War I. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1997. (pp. 27–34). ISBN 0810399415
- Brian Stableford, "Against the New Gods: The Speculative Fiction of S. Fowler Wright". in Against the New Gods and Other Essays on Writers of Imaginative Fiction Wildside Press LLC, 2009 ISBN 1434457435 (pp. 9–90).
- "Mitchison, Naomi", in Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature: A Checklist, 1700–1974 : with Contemporary Science Fiction Authors II. Robert Reginald, Douglas Menville, Mary A. Burgess Detroit - Gale Research Company. ISBN 0810310511 (p.1002)
- Michael D. Sharp, Popular Contemporary Writers, Marshall Cavendish, 2005 ISBN 0761476016, (p. 422)
- Michael R. Collings, Brian Aldiss. Mercer Island, WA : Starmont House, 1986. ISBN 0916732746 (p. 60).
- In Memory Yet Green: The Autobiography of Isaac Asimov 1920–1954 Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday, 1979. (p. 167)
- Vertex Magazine Interview with Frank Herbert, by Paul Turner. October 1973 Volume 1, Issue 4.
- John Huntington, "Utopian and Anti-Utopian Logic: H. G. Wells and his Successors". Science Fiction Studies, July 1982.
- George Hay, "Shiel Versus the Renegade Romantic", in A. Reynolds Morse, Shiel in Diverse Hands: A Collection of Essays. Cleveland, OH: Reynolds Morse Foundation, 1983. (pp. 109–113).
- Rolfe; Parrinder (1990: 226)
- Lewis, C. S., Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life. New York & London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1955. p. 36.
- R. A. York, The Extension of Life: Fiction and History in the American Novel. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2003. ISBN 0838639895, (p. 40.)
- "TimeRiders: City of Shadows (Book 6) - TimeRiders". http://www.amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
- "The Map of Time: A Novel - Felix J Palma". Google Books. Retrieved 20 August 2012.
- Dickson, Lovat. H. G. Wells: His Turbulent Life & Times. 1969.
- Gilmour, David. The Long Recessional: The Imperial Life of Rudyard Kipling. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002 (paperback, ISBN 0-374-18702-9); 2003 (paperback, ISBN 0-374-52896-9).
- Gomme, A. W., Mr. Wells as Historian. Glasgow: MacLehose, Jackson, and Co., 1921.
- Gosling, John. Waging the War of the Worlds. Jefferson, North Carolina, McFarland, 2009 (paperback, ISBN 0-7864-4105-4).
- Mauthner, Martin. German Writers in French Exile, 1933–1940, London: Vallentine and Mitchell, 2007, ISBN 978-0-85303-540-4.
- McLean, Steven. 'The Early Fiction of H. G. Wells: Fantasies of Science'. Palgrave, 2009, ISBN 9780230535626.
- Partington, John S. Building Cosmopolis: The Political Thought of H. G. Wells. Ashgate, 2003, ISBN 978-0754633839.
- Sherborne. Michael. H. G. Wells: Another Kind of Life. London: Peter Owen, 2010, ISBN 978-0-72061-351-3.
- West, Anthony. H. G. Wells: Aspects of a Life. London: Hutchinson, 1984.
- Foot, Michael. H. G.: History of Mr. Wells. Doubleday, 1985 (ISBN 978-1-887178-04-4), Black Swan, New edition, Oct 1996 (paperback, ISBN 0-552-99530-4)
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|Source texts from Wikisource|
- H. G. Wells papers at University of Illinois
- Works by H. G. Wells at Project Gutenberg, pre-1923.
- Works by H. G. Wells at Project Gutenberg Australia, post-1923.
- H. G. Wells public domain audiobooks from LibriVox
- Works by H. G. Wells at Internet Archive (scanned books original editions color illustrated)
- H. G. Wells at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- A Short History of the World, at bartleby.com.
- Works by or about H. G. Wells in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
-  at Project Gutenberg Canada
- Quotes by H. G. Wells
Sources—letters, essays and interviews
- Archive of Wells's BBC broadcasts
- Film interview with H. G. Wells
- "Stephen Crane. From an English Standpoint", by Wells, 1900.
- Rabindranath Tagore: In conversation with H. G. Wells. Rabindranath Tagore and Wells conversing in Geneva in 1930.
- "Introduction", to W. N. P. Barbellion's The Journal of a Disappointed Man, by Wells, 1919.
- "Woman and Primitive Culture", by Wells, 1895.
- Letter, to M. P. Shiel, by Wells, 1937.
- New Statesman – In the footsteps of H G Wells at www.newstatesman.com, H. G. Wells called for a Human Rights Act.
- "Wells, Herbert George". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911
- "H. G. Wells". In Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
- Parrinder, Patrick. ‘Wells, Herbert George (1866–1946)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, January 2011 accessed 21 March 2012.
- H. G. Wells biography at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame
- "Socialism and the Family" (1906) by Belfort Bax, Part 1, Part 2.
- "H. G. Wells warned us how it would feel to fight a War of the Worlds", by Niall Ferguson, in The Telegraph, 24 Jun 2005.
- "H. G. Wells's Idea of a World Brain: A Critical Re-assessment", by W. Boyd Rayward, in Journal of the American Society for Information Science 50 (15 May 1999): 557–579
- "Mr H. G. Wells and the Giants", by G. K. Chesterton, from his book Heretics (1908).
- "The Internet: a world brain?", by Martin Gardner, in Skeptical Inquirer, Jan–Feb 1999.
- "Science Fiction: The Shape of Things to Come", by Mark Bould, in The Socialist Review, May 2005.
- "Who needs Utopia? A dialogue with my utopian self (with apologies, and thanks, to H. G. Wells)", by Gregory Claeys in Spaces of Utopia: An Electronic Journal, no 1, Spring 2006.
- "When H. G. Wells Split the Atom: A 1914 Preview of 1945", by Freda Kirchwey, in The Nation, posted 4 Sep 2003 (original 18 Aug 1945 issue).
- "Wells, Hitler and the World State", by George Orwell. First published: Horizon. GB, London. Aug 1941.
- "War of the Worldviews", by John J. Miller, in The Wall Street Journal Opinion Journal, 21 Jun 2005.
- "Wells' Autobiography", by John Hart, from New International, Vol.2 No.2, Mar 1935, pp. 75–76
- "History in the Science Fiction of H. G. Wells", by Patrick Parrinder, Cycnos, 22.2 (2006).
- "From the World Brain to the Worldwide Web", by Martin Campbell-Kelly, Gresham College Lecture, 9 Nov 2006.
- "The Beginning of Wisdom: On Reading H. G. Wells", by Vivian Gornick, "Boston Review", 31.1 (2007).
- John Hammond, The Complete List of Short Stories of H. G. Wells
- Biography at a website examining the legacy of The War Of The Worlds
- "H. G. Wells Predictions Ring True, 143 Years Later" at National Geographic
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