H. G. Wells
of the most influential and creative authors ever to set pen to page, H. G.
Wells would go on to influence dozens of successful writers
who would follow in his footsteps. His literary blockbusters, The
War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, The Island of Dr.
Moreau, and The First Men in the Moon, are still household names. In sheer volume,
he wrote more words in his career than
Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare combined.
George Wells was born in Bromley, England, on September 21, 1866. His
parents were from the working class. His father was a shopkeeper and a
professional cricket player, and his mother served from time to time as a
housekeeper at the nearby estate of Uppark. When his father's business
failed, Wells was apprenticed, along with his brothers, to work for a
draper, spending the years between 1880 and 1883 in Windsor and Southsea.
Later he recorded these years in Kipps (1905).
In 1883, Wells enrolled as a teacher-pupil at Midhurst Grammar School
from which he obtained a scholarship to the Normal School of Science in
London. There, he studied under famed biologist T. H. Huxley.
However, his interest in biology faded, and he left in 1887 without a
degree. He taught in private schools for four years, not receiving his
B.S. until 1890. The following year, he moved to London, married his
cousin Isabel, and continued his career as a teacher in a correspondence
college. He eventually left Isabel for one of his brightest students,
Amy Catherine, whom he married in 1895.
finishing school, Wells worked for several years writing biology textbooks.
In time, though, he grew tired of that, and he turned to writing fiction.
Between the years of 1895 and 1898, he published all of the novels for
which he is best remembered: The Time Machine (1895), The
Island of Dr. Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), and
The War of the Worlds (1898). During the time that Wells was
turning out his best work, scientists were still debating the
processes of evolution, the dangers of scientific knowledge, the
possibility of life on other planets, and the existence of a fourth
dimension: i.e., time. Wells was among the first writers to
explore these ideas in print.
passionate concerns for humankind led Wells to join the socialist Fabian
Society in London, but he soon quarreled with the society's leaders,
including playwright/activist George Bernard Shaw. His experience was
the basis for his novel, The New Machiavelli (1911), in which he
painted portraits of the Fabians. After WW I, Wells published several
nonfiction works, including The Outline Of History (1919-1920), his attempt to write a complete history of the world.
It ended up outselling all of his other books combined during his lifetime.
He also wrote The Science Of Life (1929-39) and Experiment In
Autobiography (1934). In 1917, he was named to the Research
Committee for the League of Nations and published several books about the
world organization. Between the years 1924 and 1933, he lived mainly
in France. From 1934 to 1946, he was the International president of
In The Holy Terror (1939), Wells studied the psychological
development of a modern dictator based on the careers of Stalin, Mussolini,
and Hitler. The author lived through World War II in his house on Regent's
Park, refusing to let the blitz drive him out of London. His last
book, Mind At The End Of Its Tether (1945), expressed pessimism about
mankind's future prospects.
The reputation that Wells enjoyed as a prophet was not without merit.
He foresaw the decisive use of tanks in modern warfare years before they
were developed, and he described in graphic detail the destruction of cities
by bombing and gas from aircraft barely five years after the Wright
Brothers’ first flight. He predicted with uncanny accuracy a
devastating world war with Germany and a new weapon he called an “atomic
bomb” in his novel, The World Set Free. Even though he
pre-dated real atomic bombs by decades, Wells’ "invention" similarly relied
on atomic chain reactions and rendered their target areas uninhabitable for
As remarkable as his prophecies proved, Wells was very human in one
respect. His love life was scandalously active. After marrying
Amy Catherine, who proved to be the stabilizing influence he needed for his
work and home, their sexual relationship cooled, and Wells began to wander.
It was a pattern he would follow for the rest of his life. Because of
his open marriage, his philandering was nearly always with Amy's full
knowledge. His three most notorious affairs included Baroness Moura
Budberg, American Constance Coolidge, and Martha Gellhorn, who would go on
to marry Ernest Hemingway.
H. G. Wells once said, "It is possible to believe that all the human mind has
ever accomplished is but the dream before the awakening." And, "Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the
future of the human race."
H. G. Wells died in London on August 13, 1946.
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