Well, it’s hard to know where to start.
It’s always easier to talk about the dim and poorly documented figures of the past than a multi-dimensional character like H.G.Wells, one of the most prolific writers of the 20th century.
Wells, along with Jules Verne, is a progenitor of modern science fiction and most of his best-sellers have been turned into movies at least once. War of the Worlds,The Invisible Man, The Time Machine, The Island of Dr. Moreau – even his story When the Sleeper Awakes was the basis for Woody Allen’s Sleeper.
He also wrote biographies, non-fiction, novels and apparently created the whole genre of war-gaming with something called Little Wars.
Wells – who was born on this date in 1866 – was a writer, poet, Socialist, and a believer in eugenics, women’s rights and a world government. He was also a notorious womanizer, fathering two children out of wedlock and having numerous affairs, including one with Margaret Sanger and another with Rebecca West.
His affair with West lasted ten years and resulted in the birth of their son Anthony. Rebecca West is another major literary figure of the last century whose fame is fading – she is, above all, the author of Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, a study of the Balkans that is not only without parallel as history, but a great read.
(More about West and her son in December, when we observe her natal day.)
Both Wells and West were masters of the barb – here’s Wells on Henry James: “[His fiction is like] a church, lit, but without a congregation. . . . And on the altar, very reverently placed, intensely there, is a dead kitten, an eggshell, a bit of string.”
If you want an overview of his life, Wikipedia does an excellent job. And here’s a link to a review of the latest bio of Wells, and here’s another to the H.G. Wells Society website – you’ll love it. Did you know that War of the Worlds is now available in Mongolian?
A lot of Wells must be out of print, as you can read oodles of his stuff at a great site called readprint.com.
Finally, completely off topic but weirdly interesting, there’s this: When the Nazis planned their invasion of England down to the last detail, they included a booklet for the invasion force listing some 2,800 Brits of influence who were to be arrested immediately. Listed under W were both H.G. Wells and Rebecca West.