H.G. Wells:
An Introduction



Wells at age 29

Photographer unknown.

 

H.G. Wells
( September 21, 1866-August 13, 1946)
The man reponsible for all this.



"The Time Machine" was first published in 1895. Wells' first story about time travel was entitled "The Chronic Argonauts" and was published serially in April, May, and June of 1888 in the Science Schools Journal of the Normal School of Science, now Imperial College.
You may also want to visit the H.G. Wells Society web site.

Humble beginnings

     Herbert George Wells was born on September 21, 1866 in Bromley, Kent, England. His parents were working class Victorians. They opened a china shop but were not successful. His mother obtained a job as a maid and his father became a gardener for a time. A turning point in his early years was when at the age of seven he broke his leg. Recovery in those days meant lying in bed for up to three months to allow the bones to heal. During this convalescence he read voraciously any book his father would bring home. By the age of ten he had written his first novel which he illustrated himself. He wrote several more, all hand written. Only one of these novels exists today "Desert Daisy".

     At the age of thirteen he was taken from school and became a draper's apprentice. As such he worked thirteen hours per day. His heart wasn't in it and after three months he was let go. He went to stay with his mother who was working as a maid at the Uppark estate. During his stay there he had access to the estate's vast library and also a telescope which he used to study the surface of the moon. This opportunity also allowed him the chance to observe the social life of the "upstairs" world of the Victorian era.

    At age fourteen he was again apprenticing as a draper at the South Sea Drapery Emporium. In less than a year he literally walked out and went back to Uppark. He convinced his mother he was not interested in being a draper. He went to Midhurst where he taught full time as a teacher's assistant and while there he crammed a full education into two years of study. He earned a scholarship to the Normal School of Science, currently named Imperial College. Here he met T.H. Huxley who proved to have a great influence on Wells. T.H. Huxley was the dean and professor of biology at the Normal School of Science and he explained and defended Darwin's theories of evolution. Wells began to question if man's future held extinction or adaptation.

Marriage and responsibility

    After college, in 1891, H.G. married his cousin Isabel and took on two teaching positions in order to support both his parents and his wife. By 1893 all this work and responsibility took its toll on Wells and during this time he came down with TB. During his recovery period he met and fell in love with Amy Catherine Robbins, whom he also referred to as Jane, and left his wife. H.G. and Amy lived together as man and wife. This behavior was just not done in Victorian times. They were evicted several times when landlords discovered they were not married. He wrote his first book "Text-Book of Biology" which was published at this time.

The beginnings of Science Fiction

    While at the Normal School of Science he started and was editor of the Science School's Journal. He began to write his first time travel story, "The Chronic Argonauts" which was published serially in the April, May, and June of 1888 issues. It would take Wells seven years and many rewrites to transform "The Chronic Argonauts" into "The Time Machine: An Invention." The term invention in this instance does not refer to the physical machine but to the story model, a science romance "an invention" (of the mind). One of the unique aspects of "The Time Machine" was that Wells had a strong serious science education and used it as a basis to build the romance on. He incorporated Darwin's theories by traveling into the year 802701 and viewing the results of man's evolution. On the surface the story is a study of the upper and lower levels of Victorian society, the Eloi as the upper class living above and the Morlocks the lower class living below. For a full study of the novel I suggest reading:

The Time Machine:
An Invention
A Critical Text of the 1895
London First Edition, with an
Introduction and Appendices

H.G. Wells
EDITED BY
LEON STOVER


     
Wells received £100 for the book. With the success of "The Time Machine" Wells went on and wrote several more science romances, "War of the Worlds", "Island of Dr. Moreau", "Invisible Man" and "First Men in the Moon" to name a few. While other authors were writing according to tried and true story models, Wells was creating his own which would become the basis for most science fiction to come: time travel, alien invasions, space travel, man meddling in science.

    Wells divorced his first wife and married Amy the same year he wrote "The Time Machine" and in 1901 he and Amy "collaborated in the invention of a son" George. In 1903 a second son was born, Frank. H.G.'s mother moved in with them and finally accepted that her son had made something of himself as a writer.

Sexual freedom

    Wells turned from his science romances to writing autobiographical novels about the lower classes, sexual freedom and woman's rights. His ideas were both daring and radical for the time period. He believed in birth control and felt sex would become a refreshment for both men and women. After the birth of their second son, Amy became sexually distant and H.G. began having relationships with other women. This was all right with Amy so long as he came home on the weekends.

     Wells is thought of as a visionary and a prophet. He predicted tanks, military use of aircraft, WWI and WWII. He believed we needed a world government not individual nations. In an attempt to influence world thought he wrote "Outline of History." This was the first attempt to write a history of the entire world and was written in one year. "Outline of History" became the 2nd best seller in the 20th century with over two million copies sold in the first year, as a result H.G. Wells became more famous than ever before.

Predicting man's future

     With the death of Amy, H.G. fell into periods of deep depression. He realized that Amy was the only woman in his life that loved him in equal measure to himself. In 1936 Wells predicted England would enter into a world war in 1940, and the film "The Shape of Things to Come" was so accurate in predicting the Blitz in London that when the real thing came the film was used as a training film.

     Wells was "amused" at the Orson Welles October 30,1938 broadcast of "War of the Worlds." He had predicted a panic of the population in the event of alien invasion and found it "deliciously ironic" that it happened in real life due to the broadcast.

     In 1914 Wells had predicted the atomic bomb and after WWII H.G. Wells felt great despair at the inhumanity done during the war years including the Nazi death camps. He felt that the odds are against man, but still worth fighting for. Much the same as the time traveller when seeing the end of the world thirty million years in the future he still returned to his own time to carry on.

     Wells was sitting alone at a party and when asked what he was doing he replied he was writing his own epitaph "God damn you all, I told you so." Wells died August 13, 1946 and his ashes were cast on the sea. H.G. Wells was a remarkable writer and thinker who was definitely ahead of his time.



Wells in his later years.

Other images of H.G. Wells



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