H. G. Wells

WELLS, Herbert George, B.Sc. Lond.; D.Lit.Lond.; b. Bromley, Kent, 21 Sep. 1866; s. of Joseph Wells, professional cricketer; m. Amy Catherine Robbins (d. 1927); two s. Educ.: private school, Bromley, Kent; Midhurst Grammar School; Royal College of Science. Publications: Select Conversations with an Uncle, 1895; The Time Machine, 1895; The Stolen Bacillus and other stories, 1895; The Wonderful Visit, 1895; The Island of Doctor Moreau, 1896; The Wheels of Chance, 1896; The Plattner Story and others, 1897; Certain Personal Matters (essays), 1897; The Invisible Man, 1897; The War of the Worlds, 1898; When the Sleeper Wakes, 1899; a revised edition of this under the title The Sleeper Awakes, 1911; Tales of Space and Time, 1899; Love and Mr. Lewisham, 1900; The First Men in the Moon, 1901; Anticipations, 1901; The Discovery of the Future (lecture to the Royal Instutition reprinted as pamphlet), 1902; The Sea Lady, 1902; Mankind in the Making, 1903; Twelve Stories and a Dream, 1903; The Food of the Gods, 1904; A Modern Utopia, 1905; Kipps, 1905; In the Days of the Comet, 1906; The Future in America, 1906; This Misery of Boots, a tract in favour of Socialism, 1907; New Worlds for Old (an account of Socialism), 1908; First and Last Things, a confession of faith, 1908, republished, revised, 1917; The War in the Air, 1908; Tono Bungay, a novel of contemporary life, 1909; Ann Veronica, 1909; The History of Mr. Polly, 1910; The New Machiavelli, 1911; Floor Games for Children, 1911; Marriage, 1912; Little Wars, a floor game book, 1913; The Passionate Friends, 1913; The Wife of Sir Isaac Harman, 1914; An Englishman looks at the World, 1914; The World Set Free, 1914; The War that will end War, 1914, and The Peace of the World, 1915 (war pamphlets); Boon (under the pseudonym Reginald Bliss), 1915; Bealby, 1915; The Research Magnificent, 1915; What is Coming? 1916; Mr. Britling Sees it Through, 1916; The Elements of Reconstruction (under the pseudonym D.P.), 1916; War and the Future; God, the Invisible King; The Soul of a Bishop, 1917; In the Fourth Year (League of Nations); Joan and Peter, 1918; The Undying Fire, 1919; The Outline of History, first published in fortnightly parts and then in several book editions, 1920, is an attempt to reform history-teaching by replacing narrow nationalist by a general review of the human record; Russia in the Shadows, 1920; The Salvaging of Civilization, 1921; The Secret Places of the Heart; Washington and the Hope of Peace; A Short History of the World, 1922; Men like Gods, 1923; The Story of a Great Schoolmaster (F. W. Sanderson); The Dream, 1924; A Year of Prophesying, 1924; Christina Alberta's Father, 1925; Collected Works (Atlantic edition), 1925; Mr. Belloc Objects to the Outline of History, 1926; The World of William Clissold, 1926; Democracy under Revision (Sorbonne lecture), 1927; Meanwhile, 1927; The Book of Catherine Wells, 1928; The Way the World is Going, 1928; Mr. Blettsworthy on Rampole Island, 1928; Common Sense of World Peace (Address in Reichstag), 1929; The Science of Life (with Julian Huxley and G. P. Wells), a companion to the Outline of History, 1929; The King who was a King (Film Synopsis published as book), 1929; The Autocracy of Mr. Parham, 1930; The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind (an Outline of Economic, Social and Political Science), 1932; After Democracy, 1932; The Bulpington of Blup, 1933; The Shape of Things to come, 1933; Experiment in Autobiography, 1934; The New America: The New World, 1935; The Anatomy of Frustration, 1936; has created four films: Things to Come, 1935; The Man who could work Miracles, 1936; The Food of the Gods, 1937; The New Faust, 1937. Address: 13 Hanover Terrace, Regents Park, N.W.1, T.: Paddington 6204. Clubs: Reform, Royal Automobile, University of London, Garrick.

Who's Who 1937. London: A & C Black, 1937.

H. G. Wells (1866-1946) remains enduringly famous, though mostly for his fiction (and in particular his science fiction) than for the many non-fictional works he wrote. The above is not a complete listing of his publications (and obviously shows nothing after 1937).

While only a small fraction of Wells's output concerned airpower, he clearly thought the subject was of crucial importance for the future of the human race. In fact, he thought that airpower, though it had the potential to wreck civilisation, could provide the basis for his cherished dream of a technocratic world state. He developed his ideas in three novels: The War in the Air and Particularly how Mr Bert Smallways Fared while it Lasted (1908), one of the earliest air warfare novels; The World Set Free: A Story of Mankind (1914), wherein the phrase "atom bomb" was coined; and particularly The Shape of Things to Come: The Ultimate Revolution (1933), filmed as Things to Come (1936). During the Second World War Wells continued to warn against the "Air Terror" and to proselytise for his airpower-based New World Order in works such as Guide to the New World: A Handbook of Constructive World Revolution (1941).

See also W. Warren Wagar, H. G. Wells: Traversing Time (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2004); Wikipedia; Oxford DNB. A list of archival sources is available at The National Register of Archives.

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4 thoughts on “H. G. Wells

  1. Chris Williams

    I’ve always thought that _The Land Ironclads_ is also a key to Wells’ understanding. Short version: brain beats brawn.

  2. Post author

    Well, sure, if you think something without aircraft in it could conceivably be signficant … ;) That’s probably a fair three word summary of his airpower works as well, but it’s not merely technological triumphalism that he’s peddling: the destructive power of technology destroys the foundations of the old, irrational society, enabling the constructive power of technology to lay the foundations of a new, rational society. I have no idea what Wells scholars would make of that but it’s a pretty clear thread in the works cited above, though by the end of his life I think he feared that the destructive side of technology outweighed the constructive side (in the 1941 preface to The War in the Air he suggested that his epitaph should read ‘I told you so. You damned fools.’ Amusingly, Wikipedia thinks this is what his epitaph actually reads, but as far as I know, his ashes were scattered at sea. Might have to fix that.

  3. Post author

    Thanks; interesting post. I agree that dystopias seem to be more interesting to us than utopias; but then again the dramatic possibilities are greater in the former so they are always going to be more interesting stories told about them.

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