In This Article H. G. Wells

  • Introduction
  • Autobiographies
  • Biographies
  • Bibliographies
  • Reference Works
  • Collected Works
  • Collected Letters
  • Adaptation and Intertextuality
  • Gender
  • Political and Philosophical Thought
  • Science and Science Fiction Textual Criticism
  • Science and Science Fiction Contextual Criticism
  • Utopias

Victorian Literature H. G. Wells
by
Martin Willis
  • LAST REVIEWED: 06 May 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 April 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199799558-0082

Introduction

H. G. Wells (b. 1866–d. 1946) was one of the most important and productive writers of the last century. His work is particularly interesting as it bridges the 19th and 20th centuries, revealing that the perceived gap between the Victorians and the modernists is not always significant. Wells began his writing career in the short story form, but he gained literary fame with The Time Machine, the first of his scientific romances (which also include The War of the Worlds, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man, and The First Men in the Moon). These works of science fiction lead scholars to regard him as a pioneer in that genre. He continued to write fantastic fiction throughout his career, with a particular focus on utopian fiction in the early 20th century. Wells also wrote a number of realist novels (which we might see as typically Edwardian in tone and style) and a considerable body of nonfiction. His works on politics and history, especially of the later period of his career, are hugely significant contributions to the interwar period of 1919–1939. Wells’s fame in the 20th century was such that he became an important communicator on topics of national and international interest, and he was well regarded not only in Britain but also across Europe. In the final fifteen years of his life, he completed three works of autobiography, further enhancing his position as a leading cultural figure. His critical reputation in the later 20th century depended largely on his invaluable contributions as a writer on scientific themes. More recently, however, his reputation as a European intellectual has begun to be reinvestigated, and scholars from several fields (politics, sociology, literature, and history) continue to find his work stimulating and complex.

Autobiographies

Scholarship is fortunate to have a considerable amount of autobiographical material to consider. Most important is the two-volume Experiment in Autobiography (H. G. Wells 1984), but the collated materials in Wells 1898 are also interesting for their immediacy and for the perspectives they offer on Wells across his life. G. P. Wells 1984 is a more eccentric work of autobiography, dealing largely with Wells’s extramarital affairs.

  • Wells, G. P., ed. H. G. Wells in Love. London: Faber, 1984.

    E-mail Citation »

    This further autobiographical work was written as a third volume, or postscript, to Wells’s 1934 Experiment in Autobiography (Wells 1984).

  • Wells, H. G. Certain Personal Matters: A Collection of Materials, Mainly Autobiography. London: Lawrence and Bullen, 1898.

    E-mail Citation »

    A miscellany of biographical sketches and articles from various media publications, collated and introduced by Wells.

  • Wells, H. G. An Experiment in Autobiography: Discoveries and Conclusions of a Very Ordinary Brain (Since 1866). 2 vols. Boston: Little, Brown, 1984.

    E-mail Citation »

    In this two-volume autobiography, published first in 1934, Wells discusses his rise to eminence, beginning with his earliest childhood.

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