H. G. Wells

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Herbert George Wells
H G Wells pre 1922.jpg
Born: September 21, 1866
Bromley, Kent, England
Died: August 13, 1946
London, England
Occupation(s): Novelist, Historian, Journalist
Nationality: English
Literary genre: Science Fiction

Herbert George Wells (September 21, 1866 – August 13, 1946), better known as H. G. Wells, was an English author of science fiction novels such as The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man, and The Island of Doctor Moreau. H.G. Wells is often considered to be remarkable for his ability to accurately forecast a number of technological and scientific developments, including the invention of the atomic bomb. Wells was a master prose stylist, and his novels are well-regarded not only because they provide insights into science and society, but also because they are easy and entertaining to read.

Wells was a prolific writer of both fiction and non-fiction, producing works in many different genres, including contemporary novels, history, and social commentary. He was also an outspoken socialist. His later works become increasingly political and didactic, and only his early science fiction novels are widely read today. Wells, along with Hugo Gernsback and Jules Verne, is sometimes referred to as "The Father of Science Fiction," as it is almost impossible to imagine science fiction without Wells' contributions.


Early life

Herbert George Wells, was the fourth and last child of Joseph Wells and his wife, Sarah Neal. The family was of the impoverished lower-middle-class. An inheritance had allowed them to purchase a china shop, but the shop never provided much income. To make ends meet, Joseph sold cricket bats and balls and other equipment at matches in which he played, but this was an unsteady amount of money, since at that time there were no professional cricketers, and payment for skilled bowlers and batters came from voluntary donations after the match, or from small payments from the clubs where matches were played.

A defining incident of young Wells's life is said to be an accident he had in 1874, when he was seven years old, which left him bedridden with a broken leg. To pass the time he started reading, and 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 another accident had affected his life, when his father, Joseph Wells, fractured his thigh. The accident effectively put an end to Joseph's career as a cricketer, and his earnings as a shopkeeper were not enough to compensate for the loss.

No longer able to support themselves financially, the family instead sought to place their boys as apprentices to various professions. From 1881 to 1883 Wells had an unhappy apprenticeship as a draper at the Southsea Drapery Emporium. His experiences were later used as inspiration for his novels The Wheels of Chance and Kipps, which describe the life of a draper's apprentice and serve as a critique of the world's distribution of wealth.


In 1883, Wells's employer dismissed him, claiming to be dissatisfied with him. The young man was reportedly not displeased with this ending to his apprenticeship. Later that year, he became an assistant teacher at Midhurst Grammar School, in West Sussex, until he won a scholarship to the Normal School of Science in London, studying biology under T. H. 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 an allowance of 21 shillings a week thanks to his scholarship.

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 studying The Republic by Plato, he soon turned to contemporary ideas of socialism as expressed by the recently-formed Fabian Society dedicated to socialism, 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 that allowed him to express his views on literature and society. The school year 1886-1887 was the last year of his studies. Having previously successfully passed his exams in both biology and physics, his lack of interest in geology resulted in his failure to pass and the loss of his scholarship.

In 1891 Wells married his cousin Isabel Mary Wells, who divorced him when she discovered the nature of his affair with one of his students, Amy Catherine Robbins, whom he married in 1895. He had two sons by Amy: George Philip in 1901 and Frank Richard in 1903.

Wells the writer

Wells' first bestseller was Anticipations (1901). When originally serialized in a magazine it was subtitled, "An Experiment in Prophecy," and it is still considered his most explicitly futuristic work. Anticipating what the world would be like in the year 2000, the book is interesting both for its accurate predictions — trains and cars resulting in the dispersion of population; moral restrictions declining as men and women seek greater sexual liberation; the defeat of German militarism, and the existence of a European Union — as well as for its less-than-accurate musings.

Wells called his early novels, "scientific romances," inventing a number of themes now classic in science fiction in such works as The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, and The War of the Worlds. He also wrote other, non-fantastic novels which have received critical acclaim, including the satire on Edwardian advertising Tono-Bungay and Kipps.

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 Wells' most striking prophecy of the future of science: Scientists of the Wells' day were well aware that the natural decay of radium releases energy at a slow rate over thousands of years. Although the rate of release is too slow to have practical utility, the total amount of energy released by the decay of radium is huge. The World Set Free 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." Leó Szilárd acknowledged that the book inspired him to theorize the nuclear chain reaction — leading directly to the invention of the atomic bomb.

Wells also wrote nonfiction. His bestselling two-volume work, The Outline of History (1920), began a new era of popularized world history. It received a mixed critical response from professional historians, but was praised by Arnold J. Toynbee as the best introductory history available.[1] 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[2], and two long efforts, The Science of Life (1930) and The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind (1931).

Political efforts

Wells called his political views socialist, but he occasionally found himself at odds with other socialists. He was for a time a member of the left-of-center Fabian Society associated with the Labour Party, but who "broke with the Fabians in 1909 on the issue of mass agitation (or rather lack of it)."[3]He broke with them because they were not sufficiently radical enough for his tastes. He became a staunch critic of their grasp of economics and educational reform. He also ran as a Labour Party candidate for London University in 1922 and 1923, but even at that point his faith in that party was flagging.

His most consistent political ideal was the concept of the World State. He stated in his autobiography that from 1900 onward he considered a world-state inevitable. The details of this state varied but in general it would be a planned society that would advance science, end nationalism, and allow people to advance solely by merit rather than birth. While supporting a meritocracy, he viewed parliamentary democracy as an insufficient foundation for a world-state. Wells remained fairly consistent in his rejection of parliamentary democracy as a basis for a world-state, opposing any mention of democracy during his work on the United Nations Charter. He feared that the average citizen could never be educated or aware enough to decide the major issues of the world. Therefore he favored the vote be limited to scientists, organizers, engineers, and others of merit. At the same time he strongly believed citizens should have as much freedom as they could without consequently restricting the freedom of others. These values came under increasing criticism from the 1920s and afterwards.[4] [5]


(Entries marked with an * are available at the Project Gutenberg website.)

  • "The Chronic Argonauts" (short story, 1888)
  • Textbook of Biology (1893) (revised in 1898 as Textbook of Zoology)
  • Honours Physiography, co-written with R. A. Gregory, (1893)
  • Select Conversations with an Uncle (now extinct) (1895)
  • The Time Machine: An Invention (1895)*
  • The Wonderful Visit (1895)
  • The Stolen Bacillus and Other Incidents (1895)*
  • The Argonauts of the Air (1895)
  • Under the Knife (1896)
  • In The Abyss (1896)
  • The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896)*
  • The Red Room (1896)*
  • The Wheels of Chance: A Bicycling Idyll (1896)*
  • The Sea Raiders (1896)
  • The Crystal Egg (1897)
  • The Star (1897)
  • A Story of the Stone Age (1897)
  • The Plattner Story, and Others (1897)
  • The Invisible Man: A Grotesque Romance (1897)*
  • Certain Personal Matters: A Collection of Material, Mainly Autobiographical (1898)
  • The War of the Worlds (1898)*
  • The Man Who Could Work Miracles (1898)
  • When the Sleeper Wakes (1899) (later revised as The Sleeper Awakes, 1910)*
  • Tales of Space and Time (1899)
  • A Story of the Days To Come (1899)
  • Love and Mr Lewisham: The Story of a Very Young Couple (1900)*
  • A Dream of Armageddon (1901)
  • The First Men in the Moon (1901)*
  • Filmer (1901)
  • The New Accelerator (1901)
  • Anticipations of the Reaction of Mechanical and Scientific Progress upon Human Life and Thought (1902)
  • The Discovery of the Future (1902)
  • The Sea Lady: A Tissue of Moonshine (1902)
  • Mankind in the Making (1903)*
  • The Magic Shop (1903)*
  • Twelve Stories and a Dream (1903)
  • The Truth About Pyecraft (1903)
  • The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth (1904)*
  • The Land Ironclads (1904)
  • Kipps: The Story of a Simple Soul (1905)
  • A Modern Utopia (1905)*
  • The Empire of the Ants (1905)
  • In the Days of the Comet (1906)*
  • The Future in America: A Search After Realities (1906)
  • Faults of the Fabian (1906)
  • Socialism and the Family (1906)
  • Reconstruction of the Fabian Society (1906)
  • This Misery of Boots (1907), reprinted from the Independent Review, Dec. 1905.
  • Will Socialism Destroy the Home? (paper, written in 1907)
  • New Worlds for Old (1908)
  • The War in the Air (1908)*
  • First and Last Things: A Confession of Faith and Rule of Life (1908)*
  • The Valley of Spiders (1909)
  • Ann Veronica (1909)*
  • Tono-Bungay (1909)*
  • The History of Mr. Polly (1910)*
  • The Sleeper Awakes (1910)* - Revised edition of When the Sleeper Wakes 1899
  • The Late Mr Elvesham (1911)
  • The New Machiavelli (1911)*
  • The Country of the Blind and Other Stories (1911)*
  • The Door in the Wall and Other Stories (1911)
  • Floor Games (1911)*
  • The Great State: Essays in Construction (U.S. title: Socialism and the Great State: Essays in Construction) (edited by Wells, G. R. S. Taylor and Lady Warwick (1912)
  • The Labour Unrest (1912)
  • Marriage (1912)
  • War and Common Sense (1913)
  • Liberalism and Its Party: What Are the Liberals to Do? (1913)
  • Little Wars: A Game for Boys from Twelve Years of Age to One Hundred and Fifty and for that More Intelligent Sort of Girls who Like Boys' Games and Books (1913)
  • The Passionate Friends: A Novel (1913)
  • An Englishman Looks at the World: Being A Series of Unrestrained Remarks upon Contemporary Matters (U.S. title: Social Forces in England and America) (1914)
  • The World Set Free: A Story of Mankind (1914)
  • The Wife of Sir Isaac Harman (1914)
  • The War That Will End War (1914)
  • The Peace of the World (1915)
  • Boon, The Mind of the Race, The Wild Asses of the Devil, and The Last Trump: Being a First Selection from the Literary Remains of George Boon, Appropriate to the Times (the first edition was published pseudonymously under the name 'Reginald Bliss') (1915)
  • Bealby: A Holiday (1915)
  • Tidstänkar (1915)
  • The Research Magnificent (1915)
  • What is Coming? A Forecast of Things After the War (1916)
  • Mr. Britling Sees It Through (1916)
  • The Elements of Reconstruction: A Series of Articles Contributed in July and August 1916 to The Times (the first edition was published pseudonymously under the initals 'D. P.') (1916)
  • God the Invisible King (1917)*
  • War and the Future: Italy, France and Britain at War (US edition published as Italy, France and Britain at War) (1917)*
  • The Soul of a Bishop (1917)*
  • A Reasonable Man's Peace (1917)
  • Joan and Peter: The Story of an Education (1918)
  • In the Fourth Year: Anticipations of a World Peace (1918)
  • The Undying Fire: A Contemporary Novel (1919)
  • The Idea of a League of Nations (with Viscount Edward Grey, Lionel Curtis, William Archer, H. Wickham Steed, A. E. Zimmern, J. A. Spender, Viscount Bryce and Gilbert Murray) (1919)
  • The Way to a League of Nations (with Viscount Edward Grey, Lionel Curtis, William Archer, H. Wickham Steed, A. E. Zimmern, J. A. Spender, Viscount Bryce and Gilbert Murray) (1919)
  • History is One (1919)
  • The Outline of History: Being a Plain History of Life and Mankind, I, II (1920, 1931, 1940; posthumous revisions by Raymond Postgate 1949, 1956, 1961, 1971)
  • Russia in the Shadows (1920)
  • The Salvaging of Civilization (1921)
  • The New Teaching of History. With a Reply to Some Criticisms of 'The Outline of History' (1921)
  • Washington and the Hope of Peace (US title: Washington and the Riddle of Peace) (1922)
  • What H.G. Wells Thinks about 'The Mind in the Making' (1922)
  • University of London Election: An Electoral Letter (1922)
  • The World, its Debts and the Rich Men (1922)
  • A Short History of the World (1922, 1931, 1938, 1945; with several posthumous revisions by G. P. Wells and Raymond Postgate)
  • The Secret Places of the Heart (1922)*
  • Men Like Gods: A Novel (1923)
  • Socialism and the Scientific Motive (1923)
  • To the Electors of London University, University General Election, 1923, from H.G. Wells, B.Sc., London (1923)
  • The Labour Ideal of Education (1923)
  • A Walk Along the Thames Embankment (1923)
  • The Story of a Great School Master (1924)
  • The Dream: A Novel (1924)
  • The P.R. Parliament (1924)
  • A Year of Prophesying (1924)
  • Christina Alberta's Father (1925)
  • A Forecast of the World's Affairs (1925)
  • The World of William Clissold: A Novel at a New Angle, I, II, III (1926)
  • Mr. Belloc Objects to the 'Outline of History' (1926)
  • Democracy Under Revision (1927)
  • Playing at Peace (1927)
  • Meanwhile: The Picture of a Lady (1927)
  • The Stolen Body (1927)
  • The Short Stories of H. G. Wells (1927) (later retitled The Complete Short Stories of H. G. Wells and subsequently updated in 1998) - includes A Vision of Judgment
  • The Way the World is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of the Years Ahead (1928)
  • The Open Conspiracy: Blue Prints for a World Revolution (1928, 1930 [subtitled A Second Version of This Faith of a Modern Man Made More Explicit and Plain], 1933 [no subtitle]), also published under the title What are We to do With our Lives? [1931])
  • Mr. Blettsworthy on Rampole Island: Being the Story of a Gentleman of Culture and Refinement who suffered Shipwreck and saw no Human Beings other than Cruel and Savage Cannibals for several years. How he beheld Megatheria alive and made some notes of their Habits. How he became a Sacred Lunatic. How he did at last escape in a Strange Manner from the Horror and Barbarities of Rampole Island in time to fight in the Great War, and how afterwards he came near returning to that Island for ever. With much Amusing and Edifying Matter concerning Manners, Customs, Beliefs, Warfare, Crime, and a Storm at Sea. Concluding with some Reflections upon Life in General and upon these Present Times in Particular (1928)
  • The Book of Catherine Wells (1928) (edited by Wells)
  • The King Who Was A King: The Book of a Film (US subtitle An Unconventional Novel) (1929)
  • Common Sense of World Peace (1929)
  • The Adventures of Tommy (1929)
  • Imperialism and The Open Conspiracy (1929)
  • The Autocracy of Mr. Parham: His Remarkable Adventures in this Changing World (1930)
  • The Science of Life: A Summary of Contemporary Knowledge about Life and its Possibilities, I, II, III (with Julian S. Huxley and G. P. Wells) (1930) (subsequently reissued in nine volumes, 1934-1937, under the general title The 'Science of Life' Series)
  • The Way to World Peace (1930)
  • The Problem of the Troublesome Collaborator: An Account of Certain Difficulties in an Attempt to Produce a Work in Collaboration and of the Intervention of the Society of Authors Therein (1930)
  • Settlement of the Trouble between Mr. Thring and Mr. Wells: A Footnote to the Problem of the Troublesome Collaborator (1930)
  • What Are We To Do With Our Lives? (revision of The Open Conspiracy) (1931)
  • The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind (USA 1931; first UK edition, 1932)
  • After Democracy: Addresses and Papers on the Present World Situation (1932)
  • The Bulpington of Blup: Adventures, Poses, Stresses, Conflicts, and Disaster in a Contemporary Brain (1932)
  • What Should be Done Now? (1932)
  • The Shape of Things to Come: The Ultimate Revolution (1933)
  • Experiment in Autobiography: Discoveries and Conclusions of a Very Ordinary Brain (since 1866), I, II (1934) (a third volume, entitled H. G. Wells in Love was published posthumously in 1984)
  • Stalin-Wells Talk: The Verbatim Record and a Discussion (with Josef Stalin, George Bernard Shaw, J. M. Keynes, Ernst Toller and Dora Russell (1934)
  • The New America: The New World (1935)
  • Things to Come: A Film Story (1935)
  • The Anatomy of Frustration: A Modern Synthesis (1936)
  • The Croquet Player (1936)
  • The Idea of a World Encyclopaedia (1936)
  • The Man Who Could Work Miracles: A Film (1936)
  • Star Begotten: A Biological Fantasia (US title, Star-Begotten) (1937)
  • Brynhild, or the Show of Things (1937)
  • The Camford Visitation (1937)
  • The Informative Content of Education (1937)
  • The Brothers: A Story (1938)
  • World Brain (1938)
  • Apropos of Dolores (1938)
  • The Holy Terror (1939)
  • Travels of a Republican Radical in Search of Hot Water (1939)
  • The Fate of Homo Sapiens: An unemotional Statement of the Things that are happening to him now, and of the immediate Possibilities confronting him (US title: The Fate of Man) (1939)
  • The New World Order: Whether it is attainable, how it can be attained, and what sort of world a world at peace will have to be (1939)
  • The Rights of Man, Or What Are We Fighting For? (1940)
  • Babes in the Darkling Wood (1940)
  • The Common Sense of War and Peace: World Revolution of War Unending (1940)
  • All Aboard for Ararat (1940)
  • Guide to the New World: A Handbook of Constructive World Revolution (1941)
  • You Can't Be Too Careful (1941)
  • The Outlook for Homo Sapiens: An unemotional Statement of the Things that are happening to him now, and of the immediate Possibilities confrontinmg him (1942) (this is an amalgamation of The Fate of Homo Sapiens and The New World Order)
  • Science and the World-Mind (1942)
  • Phoenix: A Summary of the Inescapable Conditions of World Reorganization (1942)
  • A Thesis on the Quality of Illusion in the Continuity of Individual Life of the Higher Metazoa, with Particular Reference to the Species Homo Sapiens (1942)
  • The Conquest of Time (1942)
  • The New Rights of Man: Text of Letter to Wells from Soviet Writer, Who Pictures the Ordeal and Rescue of Humanistic Civilization - H. G. Wells' Reply and Program for Liberated Humanity (with Lev Uspensky) (1942)
  • Crux Ansata: An Indictment of the Roman Catholic Church (1943)
  • The Mosley Outrage (1943)
  • The Rights of Man: An Essay in Collective Definition (edited anonymously by Wells) (1943)
  • '42 to '44: A Contemporary Memoir upon Human Behaviour during the Crisis of the World Revolution (1944)
  • The Illusion of Personality (1944)
  • The Happy Turning: A Dream of Life (1945)
  • Mind at the End of Its Tether (1945)
  • The Desert Daisy (posthumous publication of a work written in c. 1878-1880) (1957)
  • The Wealth of Mr Waddy (posthumous publication of a work written in c. 1898-1905, which Wells revised and published as Kipps, edited by Harris Wilson) (1969)
  • H. G. Wells in Love (posthumous third volume of his autobiography, edited by G. P. Wells) (1984)
  • The Betterave Papers and Aesop's Quinine for Delphi, edited by John Hammond (2001)


  1. Geoffrey Doyle[1] Review of Outline of History. Clemson College.Retrieved March 16, 2008.
  2. Contents of A Short History of the World [2].www.bartleby. Retrieved March 16, 2008.
  3. The History of Economic Thought.
  4. H.G. Wells. An Experiment in Autobiography. (Macmillan Co. 1934. ASIN: B000GP0SWE556.)
  5. Mark Robert Hillegas. Future as Nightmare: H. G. Wells and the Anti-Utopians. (Southern Illinois University Press. 1974. Chapter Four. ISBN 080930676X)

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Wagar, W. Warren, H.G. Wells: Traversing Time. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2004. ISBN 0819567256
  • Draper, Michael. H.G. Wells. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988. ISBN 0312020902
  • Hillegas, Mark R. Future as Nightmare: H. G. Wells and the Anti-Utopians. Southern Illinois University Press. 1974. Chapter Four. ISBN 080930676X
  • Huntington, John. (ed.) Critical Essays on H.G. Wells. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1991. ISBN 0816188567
  • Wells, H.G. An Experiment in Autobiography. Macmillan Co. 1934. ASIN B000GP0SWE556

External links

All links retrieved June 21, 2024.


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