Books: Secrets Uncovered in Wells of Intrigue; Shadow Lovers. the Last Affairs of H G Wells, by Andrea Lynn (the Perseus Press, Pounds 19.19). Reviewed by Monica Foot
Byline: Monica Foot
Nobody much reads Herbert George Wells any more, but in his day he was incredibly popular and regarded as something of a seer for his apparent ability to predict the future, anticipating space travel and the like.
His mother had wanted him to be a draper but he escaped into science and teaching and then into the well-rewarded world of bestselling fiction. Along the way, he accumulated wives and children and then, as the money rolled in, exotic women like Rebecca West, who said she was attracted to him because his body smelt of honey (of course, you'd have to like honey a lot).
Shadow Lovers tells of his last three important love affairs. 'HG, the scientist, HG, the World Brain, imagined that in this huge universe there existed a woman (or several) who was (were) his complete female counterpart, his intellectual-emotional-sexual equal, his soulmate, his lovershadow. . . To be sure, there are those who argue that his perseverance with his lover-shadow was bunk; an elaborate excuse to justify his phenomenal sex drive and nonstop philandering.'
Theorising the concept may have been, but it has its echoes in Jung's ideas about animus and anima in love and partnerships, in which people find qualities in one another that compensate for and complement what they themselves bring or don't bring.
So the general idea of twin souls was out there in the zeitgeist, however daft it seems to us now.
The three sirens who form the bulk of Ms Lynn's narrative, which uses, as well as all obvious sources, previously suppressed and unpublished letters and manuscripts which were 'beautiful, rebellious, well-born, scheming, intelligent, beguiling femmes fatales, all decades younger than Wells'.
Baroness Moura Budwerg, probably the best known, had been the mistress of Maxim Gorky. Apparently born in the Ukraine and living in and out of Russia in a most suspicious way, Moura lived off her wits and her linguistic ability, but there were to be many allegations about what she was really up to and why. 'The least extreme was that Moura worked for the Cheka. At the middle range were claims of her romantic liaisons with various German Baltic nobles and her covert ties with the Bolsheviks. . . the most extreme that she helped kill Gorky.' Of course she could have done all these things and Wells would not have noticed. He seems to have seen only what he wanted to where his shadow-lovers were concerned; until the inevitable sad disillusion set in. …