H G Wells

Photograph of Herbert George Wells (H G Wells), author of The Time Machine and War of the Worlds.
Herbert George Wells, British Library

Biography

Acclaimed as a scientific and social prophet, Herbert George Wells was a prolific novelist famous primarily for science fiction but also for comic realism.

He was born in Bromley, Kent, the son of shopkeeper who was also a legendary fast bowler until disabled by an injury, and a lady's maid, who worked at the Sussex mansion of Uppark (where Wells had the run of the library), pictured in Tono-Bungay (1909). After a brief apprenticeship to a draper, Wells became a student-teacher, eventually winning a scholarship to the Normal School of Science (later Imperial College) where his studies under the great zoologist T H Huxley inspired his science fiction writing. By now he was a socialist and a member of the Fabian Society, as well as a writer of textbooks, short stories and reviews.

The Time Machine (1895) was the first of his hugely popular and prescient ‘scientific romances’ which foresaw the splitting of the atom, travel to the moon and aerial warfare. He also wrote anarchic and comic contemporary novels, defending the little man (and woman) against class oppression.

After a brief and unsuccessful marriage to a cousin, he married Catherine Robbins, who had been one of his students, in 1895; they had two children. She tolerated the ideal of free love which he explores in Utopian novels such as In The Days of The Comet (1906) and the starkly realistic Ann Veronica (1909); he had affairs with, among others, the novelists Dorothy Richardson, Elizabeth von Arnim and Rebecca West.

After World War One, Wells became an advocate of a world state dedicated to peaceful purposes, and wrote ambitious manifestos on the subject such as The War That Will End War (1914), The Outline of History (1920), and The Work, Wealth, and Happiness of Mankind (1931). He lived to see the end of World War Two, and his advocacy of human rights had a significant role in the formation of the United Nations.

Name
Herbert George Wells
Occupation
Novelist
Born
21 July 1866, Bromley, Kent, England
Died
13 August 1946, London, England
Gender
Male
Literary period
Victorian
Genre
Victorian Literature

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H G Wells’s politics

Article by
Matthew Taunton
Themes: 
Power and politics, Visions of the future, Fin de siècle

H G Wells was a committed socialist whose political writing influenced, among other things, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Dr Matthew Taunton considers how Wells engaged with socialist ideas in his journalism, social commentary and fiction.

Victorian utopias

Article by
Marcus Waithe
Theme: 
Visions of the future

The nature of the ideal society has occupied philosophers and writers for millennia. Dr Marcus Waithe considers how Victorian writers such as H G Wells, William Morris and Edward Bulwer-Lytton reimagined utopia to interrogate their own age.

Suburbia

Article by
Matthew Taunton
Theme: 
The middle classes

Dr Matthew Taunton takes us through 19th-century suburbia, showing how aspirations to respectability led the Victorian lower-middle class away from political involvement. The homogeneity and apathy of the suburbs provided rich satire for writers, as well as a setting for dystopian and science fiction.

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The Island of Dr. Moreau

Created by: H G Wells

A scientific romance by H G Wells (1866 – 1946), published in 1896. In 1895, Wells had written a paper on ...

The War of the Worlds

Created by: H G Wells

A scientific romance by H G Wells (1866 – 1946), published in 1898. A terrifying fable, the novel was written ...