Paul Johnson

He Smelt Of Honey

H G Wells: Another Kind of Life


Peter Owen 405pp £25 order from our bookshop

Michael Sherborne is a schoolteacher who has spent much of his life doing editing jobs on H G Wells. This 400-page biography is the product of continuous hard work over many years. It is worthy but some of his turns of phrase make me wince. Wells had an interesting background in Bromley, and carried a faint whiff of south London about him all his life, rather like Kingsley Amis. His mother was a lady’s maid with social longings and religious instincts, his father a querulous and unsuccessful shopkeeper, who had one glorious spell as a first-class cricketer, in which he got into the record books by dismissing four batsmen with successive balls. Wells scrambled himself into a little education but failed to get a science degree despite having T H Huxley as a teacher for a time. The one great unfulfilled longing of his life was to be elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, though London University gave him a science PhD in his old age. Instead he turned to fiction and the rest is history.

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