H. G. Wells eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 52 pages of information about H. G. Wells.
he has said, “alone justifies writing”; but he has not the power of creating characters that stand for some essential type of humanity.  On the one hand he is inclined to idealise the engineer and the scientific researcher, on the other to satirise and, in effect, to group into one sloppy-thinking mass every other kind of Englishman, not excepting philosophers, politicians and social reformers.  This broad generalisation omits any consideration of the merely uneducated, such as Hoopdriver or Kipps, and the many women he has drawn.  But the former, however sympathetically treated, are certainly not idealised; and among the latter, the only real creation, in my opinion, is Susan Ponderevo in Tono-Bungay; although there is a possible composite of various women in the later books that may represent the general insurgent character of recent young womanhood.  But now that I have made this too definite statement I want to go back over it, touch it up and smooth it out.  For if I have found Mr Wells’ character types too few and too specialised; and as if, with regard to his more or less idealised males—­such as Capes, George Ponderevo, Remington, Trafford, Stafford—­he had modelled and re-modelled them in the effort to build up one finally estimable figure of masculine ability; there still remains an enormous gallery of subsidiary portraits, for the most part faintly caricatured, of men and women who do stand for something in modern life; portraits that are valuable, interesting and memorable.  Nevertheless, I submit that Mr Wells’ novels will not live by reason of their characterisation.

The desire to write essays in this class of fiction does not seem to have overcome Wells until the last few years.  Before 1909, he had written all his sociology and all his romances, with the exception of The World Set Free, but only three novels—­namely, The Wheels of Chance, Love and Mr Lewisham and Kipps; and none of them gives any indication of the characteristic method of the later work.

The first of the three, published in 1896, is in one respect a splendid answer to the objection against what has been called the episodical novel.  The story deals only with ten glorious days in the life of Hoopdriver, a callow assistant in a draper’s “emporium” at Putney.  He learnt to ride a bicycle, set out to tour the south coast for his short summer holiday and rode into romance.  One section of the book is a trifle too hilarious, coming perilously near to farce, but underlying the steady humour of it all is a perfectly consistent, even saddening, criticism of the Hoopdriver type.  He has imagination without ability; life is made bearable for him chiefly by the means of his poor little dreams and poses; he sees himself momentarily in the part of a detective, a journalist, a South African millionaire, any assumption to disguise the horrible reality of the draper’s assistant; and yet there is fine stuff in him. (Perhaps the suggested antithesis is

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H. G. Wells from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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