The Natural History of H.G. Wells

The Natural History of H.G. Wells

The Natural History of H.G. Wells

The Natural History of H.G. Wells


This new study offers a general reassessment of H. G. Wells as a writer and thinker. It concentrates upon the close relationship between Wells developing philosophy and his literary techniques. The early chapters examine Wells treatment of such subjects as confinement and escape, sex, the nature of human identity, the relationship of individual to race, human progress, and the importance of education. At the same time, the describe the emotional topography that Wells created as a mean of vivifying his ideas, a topography constructed from image complexes largely based upon the analogy between individual and racial evolution.

The major contribution of the book comes in its later chapters, which deal with Wells metaphysical assumptions and his approach to his craft. His views on free will and strength of will were intimately related to his methods of literary composition. The important later chapters detail this relationship, while describing some of Wells characteristic literary devices, such as the intentional violations of certain novelistic conventions or the sly borrowing from and alluding to contemporary works of literature in what amounted to a covert polemic.

On the whole, this study argues for a coherent and consistent, though developing, philosophy operating throughout Wells career and manifested in experimental literary works which, while not always successful, were consistently inventive and intelligently crafted in the service of Wells principle aim, the education of the human species to a command of its own destiny."


There has been a good deal of sound writing on H. G. Wells. I am grateful for that work and have drawn upon it; but because my own study seeks to develop matters neither mentioned before nor treated in detail, I do not often refer to many general sources of information, especially the fine biographies of Wells from Geoffrey West's and Vincent Brome's to Norman and Jeanne MacKenzie's. Their studies have been essential to my framing a picture of Wells's nature, and I wish to state my debt to them here. Rosylnn D. Haynes's H. G. Wells: Discoverer of the Future (1980) appeared after I had completed my manuscript, and therefore I have not made much use of that study even though Professor Haynes and I obviously share many basic assumptions about Wells and his works.

Although my efforts depend upon a detailed picture of Wells's life and character, I have little to say about either except insofar as they illuminate Wells's intellectual and esthetic attitudes. in this book I argue that Wells had a world view that, while it developed and evolved over the half century of his career, remained coherent and mainly consistent—more so than with most men of letters. This world view was rooted in Wells's private fears and desires and found expression in powerful sets of images which, when studied with care, reinforce Wells's intellectual constructions.

There have been quarrels about whether Wells was an optimist or a pessimist, whether he changed radically from the time of the early romances to the time of the realist novels. I do not wish to engage in these quarrels, for my impression of Wells is of a man of immense intellectual energy and almost painful emotional craving who could envision marvels for humanity that he knew he would never himself witness. Inevitably, the tension of this condition generated shifts of mood, sudden despairs, abrupt reliances. in his calmer moments he recognized one essential point—that despair and confidence were equally false. the only rational faith was a . . .

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