Sue Young Histories

Herbert George Wells 1866 - 1946

August 28, 2008

Herbert George Wells 1866 -
1946Herbert George Wells 1866 – 1946 better known as H. G. Wells, was an English writer most famous today for the science fiction novels he published between 1895 and 1901. He was a prolific writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and produced works in many genres, including contemporary novels, history, and social commentary. He was an outspoken socialist, his later works becoming increasingly political and didactic.

Wells was a vegetarian and a supporter of homeopathy, and he recommended homeopathic treatment for his wife Jane when she was ill with cancer (Norman Ian MacKenzie, Jeanne MacKenzie, H. G. Wells: a biography, (Simon and Schuster, 1973). Page 351.).

Wells was a friend of Aubrey Vincent Beardsley, and Mary Everest Boole, the daughter of homeopath Thomas Roupell Everest, and he was also close friend of George Bernard Shaw and Henry James Junior, and he studied under Thomas Henry Huxley at the Royal College of Science, now part of Imperial College London. Wells also taught and admired Alan Alexander Milne. Wells had an affair with Margaret Sanger, who was a friend of Charles Vickery Drysdale and his wife, members of the famous homeopathic Drysdale family. Wells also had an affair with Moura Budberg. All of these friends were advocates of homeopathy.

Wells worked as a chemist’s assistant as a young man, so he was aware of medicaments and pharmaceuticals. His early life was overshadowed by poverty, which predisposed him to his radical politics.

Wells was a member of the Fabian Society and a Vice President of the National Council for Civil Liberties. Wells was reputed to be a Freemason and he wrote The Open Conspiracy and A Modern Utopiawhere he purportedly approved of this new World Government, though his friend G K Chesterton sounded many alarm bells around this issue.

In War of the Worlds, Wells demonstrates how completely he understood that humanity would survive when the Martians invaded because our immune system, which has had to battle with the virus’ and bacteria on our planet for millions of years, was going to be far stronger than the Martians alien immune systems. Modern allopathic physicians need to understand this point much better, as they are tinkering with our Herd Immunity with vaccination programmes and overuse of antibiotics!

Wells’ most famous books are The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, When the Sleeper Wakes, and The First Men in the Moon.

From Fabian leaders were drawn to Wells and his ideas of the ‘New Republic’ which he described as “a sort of outspoken Secret Society … an informal and open freemasonry”, made up of the educated class, whose common goals would lead to the creation of a new World State, thus saving the human race from disaster.

Known as the ‘Prophet of Our Time’ because of writing about many things before they came to be, in books like The Time Machine and War of the Worlds, Wells would give the Fabians the notoriety they needed.

Edward Pease, Secretary of the Fabians, wrote to Wells on January 10, 1902, to say that Sidney Webb and his wife Beatrice were the “pioneers of your New Republic”.

Sponsored by Graham Wallas and George Bernard Shaw, Wells joined them in February, 1903. In his first lecture after joining, he said that the World State was a necessity.

In his 1905 book, _A Modern Utopia_, he wrote of the World State taking control and creating a “sane order”, and how they maintained a central records system in Paris which they used to keep track of every person on Earth and aided the state to eliminate the unfit.

Wells was unimpressed with the [effectiveness of the] Fabian organization, and called for expansion by raising money, getting new offices, appointing a new staff, and relaxing the guidelines for membership.

He wanted to initiate an all out propaganda campaign, and outlined his views in a paper called The Faults of the Fabian which dealt with the need for reorganization and why he wanted to change their name to the ‘British Socialist Society’.

His views were not shared by the Fabian inner circle, and in September, 1908, he resigned.

Wells maintained his socialistic views and in 1928 wrote The Open Conspiracy which was an elaboration of ideas from his 1926 book The World of William Clissold, which gave a seven point program for the development of the “new human community” and was inspired by the rise of Communism.

These ideas had been fleshed out in his 1897 short story A Story of the Days to Come, and his 1901 book, Anticipations of the Reaction to Mechanical and Scientific Progress Upon Human Life and Thought.

From In 1883, Wells’s employer dismissed him, claiming to be dissatisfied with his work (a verdict with which Wells later came to agree) and the young man was far from displeased with this ending to his apprenticeship. Later that year, he became an assistant teacher at Midhurst Grammar School, in West Sussex, until he won a scholarship to the Normal School of Science (later the Royal College of Science, now part of Imperial College London) in London, studying biology under Thomas Henry Huxley.

As an alumnus, he later helped to set up the Royal College of Science Association, of which he became the first president in 1909. Wells studied in his new school until 1887 with a weekly allowance of twenty one shillings (a guinea) thanks to his scholarship. This ought to have been a comfortable sum of money (at the time many working class families had “round about a pound a week” as their entire household income)yet in his Autobiography,

Wells speaks of constantly being hungry, and indeed, photographs of him at the time show a youth so thin as to be virtually starving. He soon entered the Debating Society of the school. These years mark the beginning of his interest in a possible reformation of society. At first approaching the subject through The Republic by Plato, he soon turned to contemporary ideas of socialism as expressed by the recently formed Fabian Society and free lectures delivered at Kelmscott House, the home of William Morris.

He was also among the founders of The Science School Journal, a school magazine which allowed him to express his views on literature and society, as well as trying his hand at fiction: the first version of his novel The Time Machine was published in the journal under the title, The Chronic Argonauts.

The school year 1886-1887 was the last year of his studies. In spite of having previously successfully passed his exams in both biology and physics, his lack of interest in geology resulted in his failure to pass and the loss of his scholarship. It was not until 1890 that Wells earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology from the University of London External Programme.

Upon leaving the Normal School of Science, Wells was left without a source of income. His aunt Mary, a cousin of his father, invited him to stay with her for a while, so at least he did not face the problem of housing. During his stay with his aunt, he grew interested in her daughter, Isabel.

In 1889-90 he was a teacher at Henley House School where he taught and admired A.A. Milne. In 1891 Wells married his cousin Isabel Mary Wells, but left her in 1894 for one of his students, Amy Catherine Robbins, whom he married in 1895. He had two sons by Amy: George Philip (known as ‘Gip’) in 1901 and Frank Richard in 1903.

During his marriage to Amy, Wells had liaisons with a number of women, including the American birth-control activist and eugenicist Margaret Sanger and novelist Elizabeth von Arnim. In 1909 he had a daughter, Anna Jane, with the writer Amber Reeves, whose parents, William and Maud Pember Reeves, he had met through the Fabian Society; and in 1914, a son, Anthony West, by the novelist and feminist Rebecca West, twenty-six years his junior. In spite of Amy Catherine’s knowledge of some of these affairs, she remained married to Wells until her death in 1927. Wells also had liaisons with Odette Keun and Moura Budberg

Near the end of the Second World War, Allied forces discovered that the SS had compiled lists of intellectuals and politicians slated for immediate liquidation upon the invasion of England in the abandoned Operation Sea Lion. The name “H. G. Wells” appeared high on the list for the “crime” of being a socialist.

Wells, as president of the International PEN (Poets, Essayists, Novelists), had already angered the Nazis by overseeing the expulsion of the German PEN club from the international body in 1934 following the German PEN’s refusal to admit non Aryan writers to its membership.

Wells called his political views socialist. He was for a time a member of the socialist Fabian Society, but broke with them as he intended them to be an organisation far more radical than they wanted. He later grew staunchly critical of them as having a poor understanding of economics and educational reform. He ran as a Labour Party candidate for London University in the 1922 and 1923 general elections after the death of his friend W. H. R. Rivers, but at that point his faith in the party was weak or uncertain.

His most consistent political ideal was the World State. He stated in his autobiography that from 1900 onward he considered a world-state inevitable. He envisioned the state to be a planned society that will advance science, end nationalism, and allow people to advance by merit rather than birth. During his work on the United Nations Charter, he opposed any mention of democracy. He feared the average citizen could never be educated or aware enough to decide major world issues. Therefore he favoured suffrage to be limited to scientists, organisers, engineers, and others of merit. On the other hand, he strongly believed citizens should have as much freedom as possible without restricting the freedom of others. These values came under increasing criticism from the 1920s and afterwards.

Lenin’s attempts at reconstructing the shattered Russian economy, as his account of a visit (Russia in the Shadows; 1920) shows, also related towards that. This is because at first he believed Lenin might lead to the kind of planned world he envisioned. This was in spite of the fact that he was a strongly anti Marxist socialist who would later state that it would’ve been better if Karl Marx was never born.

The leadership of Joseph Stalin led to a change in his view of the Soviet Union even though his initial impression of Joseph Stalin himself was mixed. He disliked what he saw as a narrow orthodoxy and obdurance to the facts in Joseph Stalin.

However he did give Joseph Stalin some praise saying in an article in the left-leaning New Statesman magazine, “I have never met a man more fair, candid, and honest” and making it clear that he felt the “sinister” image of Joseph Stalin was unfair or simply false. Nevertheless he judged Joseph Stalin’s rule to be far too rigid, restrictive of independent thought, and blinkered to lead toward the Cosmopolis he hoped for.

In the end his contemporary political impact was limited. His efforts to help form the League of Nations became a disappointment as the organisation turned out to be a weak one unable to prevent World War II.

The war itself increased the pessimistic side of his nature. In his last book Mind at the End of its Tether (1945) he considered the idea that humanity being replaced by another species might not be a bad idea. He also came to call the era “The age of frustration.”

He spent his final years venting this frustration at various targets which included a neighbour who erected a large sign to a servicemen’s club.

As he devoted his final decades toward causes which were largely rejected by contemporaries, this caused his literary reputation to decline…

Wells, like many in his time, believed in the theory of eugenics. In 1904 he discussed a survey paper by Francis Galton, co-founder of eugenics, saying “I believe .. It is in the sterilisation of failure, and not in the selection of successes for breeding, that the possibility of an improvement of the human stock lies.”

Wells, a diabetic, died of unspecified causes on 13 August 1946 at his home at 13 Hanover Terrace, Regent’s Park, London, although some reports indicate the cause of death was diabetes or liver cancer… Wells was a co-founder in 1934 of what is now Diabetes UK, the leading charity for people living with diabetes in the UK.


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