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message 1: by Ivan (last edited Jul 13, 2011 10:47AM) (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
from Spartacus Educational:


Herbert George Wells, the son of an unsuccessful tradesman, was born in Bromley on 21st September, 1866. After a basic education at a local school, Wells was apprenticed as a draper. Wells disliked the work and in 1883 became a pupil-teacher at Midhurst Grammar School.

While at Midhurst Wells won a scholarship to the School of Science where he was taught biology by T. H. Huxley. Wells found Huxley an inspiring teacher and as a result developed a strong interest in evolution. Wells founded and edited the Science Schools Journal while at university. Wells was disappointing with the teaching he received in the second year and so in 1887 he left without obtaining a degree.

Wells spent the next few years teaching and writing and in 1891 his major essay on science, The Rediscovery of the Unique, was published in The Fortnightly Review. In 1895 Wells established himself as a novelist in 1895 with his science fiction story, The Time Machine. This was followed by more successful "scientific romance" novels, The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), The War of the Worlds (1898), When the Sleeper Wakes (1899), The First Men in the Moon (1901) and The Food of the Gods (1904). Wells was also praised for his social satires, most notably Kipps (1905) and Tono-Bungay (1909).

Wells also became very popular in the United States. The popular magazine Cosmopolitan serialised two of his books, The War of the Worlds (1897) and The First Men in the Moon (1900). His work also appeared in Collier's Magazine, the New Republic and the Saturday Evening Post.

Wells also began writing non-fiction books about politics, technology and the future. This included Anticipations of the Reaction of Mechanical and Scientific Progress Upon Human Life and Thought (1901), The Discovery of the Future (1902) and Mankind in the Making (1903). These books impressed the three leaders of the Fabian Society, George Bernard Shaw, Sidney Webb and Beatrice Webb. Wells accepted their suggestion that he should join the society.

Once a member of the Fabian Society, Wells tried to change it. Rather than a small group of intellectuals discussing socialist reform, Wells thought that it should be a large pressure group agitating for change. When the existing leadership resisted these ideas, Wells attempted to gain control of the organisation. Wells managed to gain election to the Fabian Society's Executive Committee but gained little support for change from the rest of the group.

In 1904 Beatrice Webb wrote: "We had a couple of days with H. G. Wells and his wife at Sandgate, and they are returning the visit here. We like him very much - he is absolutely genuine and full of inventiveness, a speculator in ideas, somewhat of a gambler but perfectly aware that his hypotheses are not verified. In one sense he is a romancer spoilt by romancing, but in the present stage of sociology he is useful to gradgrinds like ourselves in supplying us with loose generalizations which we can use as instruments of research."

Wells resigned from the Fabian Society in 1908 but continued to be active in the campaign for socialism. His book A Modern Utopia expressed a desire for a society that was run and organised by humanistic and well-educated people. Wells, who was extremely critical of the role that privilege and hereditary factors in capitalist society and in his utopia, people gain power as a result of their intelligence and training.

Wells argued: "The Socialist (asks) what freedom is there today for the vast majority of mankind? They are free to do nothing but work for a bare subsistence all their lives, they may not go freely about the earth even, but are prosecuted for trespassing upon the health-giving breast of our universal mother. Consider the clerks and girls who hurry to their work of a morning across Brooklyn Bridge in New York, or Hungerford Bridge in London; go and see them, study their faces. They are free, with a freedom Socialism would destroy. Consider the poor painted girls who pursue bread with nameless indignities through our streets at night. They are free by the current standard. And the poor half-starved wretches struggling with the impossible stint of oakum in a casual ward, they too are free! The nimble footman is free, the crushed porter between the trucks is free, the woman in the mill, the child in the mine. Ask them! They will tell you how free they are."

In his early scientific writings Wells predicted the invention of modern weapons such as the tank and the atom bomb. He was therefore horrified by the outbreak of the First World War. Unlike many socialists, he supported Britain's involvement in the war, however, he believed politicians should use this opportunity to create a new world order.

Wells was encouraged by the news of the communist revolution in Russia. He visited the country and lectured Lenin and Trotsky on how they should run their country. Wells was disillusioned by what he saw in Russia and in 1920 Wells published The Outline of History. The book described human history since the earliest times and attempted to show how society had evolved to the present state. Wells illustrated the triumphs and failures and pointed out the dangers that faced the human race. The main theme of the book was that the world would be saved by education and not by revolution.

Wells book was widely discussed and the abridged version, A Short History of the World, published in 1922, sold in large numbers. Wells was now considered to be one of the world's most important political thinkers and during the 1920s and 30s he was in great demand as a contributor to newspapers and journals. In his books and articles H. G. Wells argued that society had reached the stage where it needed world government and strongly supported the League of Nations that was established after the First World War. Wells also stressed that society needed to establish structures that ensured that the most intelligent gained power. Some socialists criticised Wells claiming that he was now preaching a form of elitism.

Some socialists became critical of his attitude towards the Great Depression: The left-wing MP Jennie Lee wrote about a meeting with Wells in 1929: "H. G. Wells was one of the bright guiding stars of my youth. I read avidly everything he wrote. That day in Parliament there had been a violent debate about all the issues that meant most to me - the cruelty and indignities of the Means Test, failure to get on with the building of urgently needed houses, schools and hospitals, and all this against a background of hundreds of thousands of unemployed building workers. I arrived at Great College Street brimming over with indignation. H. G. Wells brushed aside anything I tried to say, returning obsessively to the teaching of history in schools. We began glaring at one another with growing hostility. So this was H. G. Wells, this dumpy little man with the squeaky voice, totally indifferent to the problems that concerned the great mass of ordinary people."

In his novel The Shape of Things to Come published in 1933, Wells describes a world that had been devastated by decades of war and was now being rebuilt by the use of humanistic technology. David Low pointed out: "H. G. Wells had the rare ability to make himself clear, to make difficult ideas assimilable, to excite curiosity and to prompt enquiry. Scientist, novelist, sociologist, prophet - but primarily the co-ordinating link between all these and the ordinary man, who, without his like, must live forever in darkness of mind."

In 1934 Wells visited the Soviet Union and the United States. Although Wells clearly preferred what Roosevelt was trying to do, some people believed he was far too sympathetic to Joseph Stalin. One of his main critics was his old adversary at the Fabian Society, the successful writer, George Bernard Shaw.

Wells was appalled by the outbreak of the Second World War and wrote extensively about the need to make sure that we used the conflict to establish a new, rational world order. Herbert George Wells died on 13th August, 1946, while working on a project that dealt with the dangers of nuclear war.

Margaret Cole later wrote: "I was just one of the many young who over three generations at least took their hope of the world from the vivid, many-gifted, generous, cantankerous personality, and accepted, not merely once but again and again over forty years, his eager conviction that the ideal of Socialism, which included world government, the abolition of all authority not based on reason, and of all inequality based on prejudice or privilege of any kind, of complete freedom of association, speech and movement, and of an immense increase of human welfare and material resources achieved by all-wise non-profit-making organisation of economic life, both could and would save humanity within a measurable space of time. Only at the very end, when he was all but on his death-bed, did H. G. Wells give up hoping for humanity."


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

So early in the morning, Ivan. Thanks for such an interesting post. I am looking forward to reading my first Wells book. (You have a typo in the topic title.)


message 3: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
Oh, he's a GREAT and important writer - the father of science fiction as we know it. I find him fascinating. There is a new novel out about him A Man of Parts by David Lodge A Man of Parts by David Lodge - which I'm thinking of ordering.


message 4: by Max (new)

Max | 26 comments I'm in the middle of The Invisible Man right now


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

I have a small amount of knowledge of Wells, accumulated over the years, but don't know a lot about him, really. I look forward to learning more about him.


message 6: by Hayes (last edited Jul 13, 2011 11:07AM) (new)

Hayes (hayes13) I am too (in the middle). Interesting his discussion of optics and color theory. I'm also finding interesting the discussion of power, illusion of power and corruption of power. When was it written? will go check...

ETA: 1897... wow!


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

I will probably start the book tomorrow, to catch up to Hayes! :)


message 8: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
His writing feels very contemporary as well. If you've never read his original text of The War of the Worlds (which has NEVER actually been filmed faithfully) you will be blown away; truly one of those books that more than lives up to the literary cliche: "I couldn't put it down."


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

It's been added to my list.


message 10: by Max (new)

Max | 26 comments it's lying on my bed next to Jurassic Park waiting for me to complete the Invisible Man. Apparently this is science fiction week for me


message 11: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
Speaking of Jurassic Park...have you ever read The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle? Enthralling entertainment.


message 12: by Hayes (new)

Hayes (hayes13) I loved it, Ivan. It was so much fun, and incredibly accurate given when it was written.


message 13: by Max (new)

Max | 26 comments not yet but I marked it as to read, it sounds good


message 14: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
Wells is one of my heros because of his talent (obviously) and his politics. I am a socialist (not a communist).


message 15: by Lora (new)

Lora (lorabanora) The War of the Worlds was one of those books I discovered long after assuming that I knew what was in them based on the movies I had seen. Why do I do that? I think it was the first book I ever read on a screen, too. I stumbled across it at Project Gutenberg and thought, 'why not?'. It was amazing and eye opening.


message 16: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
I'm loving your posts Lora :-)


message 17: by Lora (new)

Lora (lorabanora) Thanks, Ivan. I really am enjoying Goodreads. The odd thing is, when I went to join this year, I discovered I was already on here, from about three years ago. It was a weird sensation, seeing the list of what that Lora was reading back then, when this Lora was reading something else.


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