H G Wells: Desperately Mortal by David C Smith - review by Sylvia Clayton

Sylvia Clayton

Damn you all, I told you so

H G Wells: Desperately Mortal


Yale University Press 544pp £18.50 order from our bookshop

The American author of this latest biography of H G Wells dedicates his book to his grandson Joshua ‘in the heartfelt hope and desire that his world might turn out to be a Wellsian one.’ Yet Professor Smith’s researches show that Wells imagined my futures, some not fit for human habitation, and late in life believed that the only hope for homo sapiens was to evolve into a different species. The author, unlike previous biographers, is loss concerned with Wells the writer of science fiction and social comedy, or the philanderer whose so-called ‘passades’ often lasted for years, than with the propagandist, the public man, in, Wells’s word ‘the utopiographer.’ A steadily prolific writer, whose career spans: 60 years, from the Nineties to the atom bomb, Wells has a bibliography running to 3,000 items. This monumental book, buttressed by over 100 pages of footnotes, embodies diligent research. What it lacks is a sure feel for English mores. Nearer the present day its touch becomes more secure.

Professor Smith is much impressed by Wells as a man who rose from a humble – beginning – his father was a professional cricketer and unsuccessful shopkeeper, his mother a domestic servant – to become a literary and social success. Of London in the 1890’s the professor writes: ‘A researcher

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