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.

Biographies

There are numerous biographies of Wells available in many different formats. The most cited in academic scholarship is Mackenzie 1973, followed by West 1984, although the latter for the entirely different reason of the author’s family connection to Wells. Sherborne 2010 has been very highly praised and is set to become the authoritative biography for the foreseeable future. Beresford 2008 is interesting as it falls in the midst of Wells’s career and therefore offers a particular perspective that does not have the value of historical distance. Coren 1993 is important for the role it has played in highlighting Wells’s national politics, although it has not always been accepted as a fair and accurate portrait of Wells. Foot 1995 is equally focused on politics but, far less controversially than Coren, considers Wells’s contribution to socialism. Smith 1986 acts as an excellent counter to these political biographies by unveiling Wells’s broader role in public life, primarily his public persona in Britain.

Bibliographies

Three fine bibliographic works on Wells exist. Together, they are a comprehensive list. The most accessible is the complete H. G. Wells Bibliography maintained by the H. G. Wells Society, but it does not provide the details of publication to be found in Hammond 1977, which is the best single-volume bibliography. H. G. Wells Society 1972 is a supplemented and expanded version of the society’s online bibliography, with a useful introduction that lacks the academic authority of Hammond’s work, but is a useful source nevertheless.

Reference Works

Of most interest will be the scholarly works Parrinder 1972 and Parrinder and Philmus 1980. These give excellent insight into the views of the original readers for Wells’s work as well as Wells’s own view of his work published during his lifetime. Both Gossin 2002 and Clute and Nicholls 1993 place Wells in particular contexts of literature and science and science fiction. Philmus and Hughes 1975 is an excellent supplementary source for those who wish to read Wells’s essays on science and science fiction.

  • Clute, John, and Peter Nicholls, eds. Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. London: Orbit, 1993.

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    A one-volume encyclopedia of some 1,200 pages dedicated to science fiction, from its earliest roots to the present. Wells has his own lengthy entry, as well being cross-referenced in numerous other entries. Third edition available online.

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  • Gossin, Pamela, ed. Encyclopedia of Literature and Science. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2002.

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    Numerous entries on Wells and his work (see index), including extensive discussion of his science fiction and scientific utopias.

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  • Parrinder, Patrick, ed. H. G. Wells: The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge, 1972.

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    A collection of essays and reviews of Wells’s fiction published during the lifetime of the author.

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  • Parrinder, Patrick, and Robert M. Philmus. H. G. Wells’s Literary Criticism. Brighton, UK: Harvester, 1980.

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    An extensive collection of all of Wells’s work that might be called literary criticism. It includes his reflections on his own fiction as well as on the work of others. His important introduction to the collected edition of the scientific romances, for example, is included here.

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  • Philmus, Robert M., and David Y. Hughes, eds. Early Writings in Science and Science Fiction. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975.

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    An extensive collection of Wells’s fictional and nonfictional writings on science and fictions of science. It includes short essays and longer pieces and is the definitive bibliographic resource for Wells’s work on science.

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Collected Works

Although there are a number of popular anthologies of Wells’s works, either as collections of short stories, or as selections of novels (often the scientific romances), there are only three worth considering here. The most authoritative is Wells 1924–1927, although this is complete only until 1927 when its publication was halted. Hammond 1998, a complete collection of Wells’s short stories, is comprehensive. The annotated nine-volume Stover 2001–2007 is extensive but not complete.

Collected Letters

There are five useful collections of letters. The most comprehensive is Smith 1997, which reproduces a wide selection of Wells’s own letters, with some correspondence addressed to him. The four volumes cover the entirety of Wells’s writing life. Edel and Ray 1958 documents the correspondence between Wells and Henry James; Gettman 1961, that between Wells and George Gissing; Smith 1995, that between Wells and George Bernard Shaw; and Wilson 1960, that between Wells and Arnold Bennett. These are all widely cited, scholarly collections.

Editions

As one would expect of an author of such long-standing popularity and critical significance, there are numerous editions of Wells’s work. The most accessible critical editions are those published since 2005 by Penguin, in its Classics series, of which only a few are listed here. Where a useful alternative critical edition exists, that has been cited instead. Schutt 2005 (Ann Veronica), Parrinder 2005a (The Invisible Man), Claeys, et al. 2005 (A Modern Utopia), Parrinder 2005b (The Shape of Things to Come), Parrinder 2005c (The Sleeper Awakes), and Parrinder 2005d (Tono-Bungay) are all editions produced by Penguin with authoritative introductions, notes on the text and its history, lists of bibliographic sources, and series of scholarly notes. Philmus 1993 is a fine edition of The Island of Doctor Moreau, highlighting Wells’s process of revision from the original manuscript. Geduld 1987 offers a very valuable book history of The Time Machine, giving details of the novel’s evolution from a series of shorter parts, published first in periodicals. Hughes and Geduld 1993 provides the reader with the early manuscript version of The War of the Worlds and traces its revisions to print publication. It includes also a series of scholarly notes.

Nonfiction

Much of Wells’s nonfiction has not yet been collected together in a scholarly series, although some of it appears in the collected works. The original publications of a brief selection of the key political, sociological, and philosophical works that Wells produced in his lifetime are therefore cited here. Wells 1901 is the most important of Wells’s political works. It offers his vision of the modern world and is fascinating as a prophecy of future technologies and societies. Wells 1903 is a further example of Wells’s interest in prophetic writing. It considers the future for humanity by extrapolation from the position of mankind in 1903. Wells 1920 is Wells’s most ambitious nonfictional project: a three-volume history of humanity. The originality of this work was in Wells’s efforts to tell one human history, rather than a series of histories of separate human communities. As a work of history, it is flawed, but its ambition is extraordinary. Wells 1932 was completed as a companion to Wells 1920. It concentrates on the present position of humanity. Wells therefore completed works on mankind’s past, present, and future with this volume. Wells 1940 is a hugely important work in the then-developing social and political sphere of human rights.

  • Wells, H. G. Anticipations of the Reaction of Mechanical and Scientific Progress upon Human Life and Thought. London: Chapman and Hall, 1901.

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    One of Wells’s most important works of nonfiction, Anticipations was written at the beginning of the 20th century. It is commonly cited in the scholarship on Wells’s relationship to science and has been a cornerstone of his reputation as a political and social prophet of modernity.

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  • Wells, H. G. Mankind in the Making. London: Chapman and Hall, 1903.

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    One of Wells’s early political essays, focused on the future state of mankind and the prophecies that might be made from considering the situation of mankind in the present.

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  • Wells, H. G. The Outline of History. 2 vols. London: Newnes, 1920.

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    Wells’s attempt, as he notes in the introduction, to tell the entire story of the history of mankind from the beginning to the present day. Wells continues his interest in the global community of mankind by making an effort to tell one complete historical narrative rather than a series of individual national histories.

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  • Wells, H. G. The Work, Wealth, and Happiness of Mankind. London: William Heinemann, 1932.

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    Wells conceived of this as a present-day companion to his three-volume work on history. Its aim was to offer a complete picture of mankind at the present moment in 1932, with a view of his society, culture, politics, and economics.

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  • Wells, H. G. The Rights of Man, or What Are We Fighting For? Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1940.

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    One of Wells’s last works, written just after the outbreak of the World War II, is focused on the question of human rights. It is now regarded as a highly significant intervention in that field.

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General Surveys and Collections

Scholarship of general interest on Wells, dealing with a broad range of his fiction and nonfiction, has been produced consistently since the later 1970s. Hammond 1979, Hammond 1999, and Hammond 2001 offer some useful overviews of Wells’s life, work, and the contexts in which he wrote. Bloom 2005 is one of the most wide-reaching selections of critical essays on Wells’s writing, although this is matched by Parrinder and Rolfe 1990 and more recently by McLean 2008. A fine starting point might also be Murray 1990, whose introduction is accessible but comprehensive. Batchelor 1985 is equally good as an introduction to Wells’s work, especially in its comprehensive coverage of Wells’s fiction. Draper 1987 employs more biographical criticism than these others, but it is a useful general introduction to Wells’s works (and life).

The Invisible Man

Of the many critical essays on Wells’s scientific romances, The Invisible Man has attracted the least attention. The focus in the best work available has been on the figure of the scientist, either as a type, as in Haynes 2003, or as a specific narrative construction, as in Walker 1985.

  • Haynes, Roslynn. “From Alchemy to Artificial Intelligence: Stereotypes of the Scientist in Western Literature.” Public Understanding of Science 12.3 (2003): 243–253.

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    Places Wells’s novel The Invisible Man in the context of other fictions featuring what the author calls stereotypical scientists. Overall, the article demonstrates that there are seven stereotypes of the scientist: the invisible man is dangerous and incapable of controlling his work.

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  • Walker, Jeanne Murray. “Exchange Short-Circuited: The Isolated Scientist in H. G. Wells’s The Invisible Man.” Journal of Narrative Technique 15.2 (1985): 156–168.

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    This article makes an effort to recuperate the novel from its lowly position in comparison to the other scientific romances. It does so not only by focusing on the genres that the narrative plays with (romance and detective fiction) but also by considering the role of the scientist.

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The Island of Doctor Moreau

An extensive body of criticism exists that deals with this novel in varying ways. Evolutionary biology is a common critical context and is investigated profitably by Glendening 2002. Imperialism is another area of critical interest. Christensen 2004 and Hendershot 1996 deal with the imperial imagery of the narrative, while Christensen 2004 and Brody 1998 also consider race. Brody interprets the novel from a feminist perspective. Haynes 1988 and Willis 2006 focus on the relationship to specific histories of science, most importantly late Victorian debates on vivisection.

  • Brody, Jennifer Devere. Impossible Purities: Blackness, Femininity, and Victorian Culture. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998.

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    A chapter of this book considers Wells’s novel in the context of the new woman, as well as of slavery, degeneration, and monstrous masculinity in late Victorian culture.

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  • Christensen, Timothy. “The ‘Bestial Mark’ of Race in The Island of Dr. Moreau.” Criticism: A Quarterly for Literature and the Arts 46.4 (2004): 575–595.

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    This article reads Wells’s depiction of the beast people as markers of racial difference and argues that specific markings associate race with bestiality.

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  • Glendening, John. “‘Green Confusion’: Evolution and Entanglement in H. G. Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau.” Victorian Literature and Culture 30.2 (2002): 571–597.

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    This argues that the key context for the novel is Darwinian and post-Darwinian evolution, most especially in the relationship between individual biological beings (human and animal) and the environment.

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  • Haynes, R. D. “The Unholy Alliance of Science in The Island of Doctor Moreau.” The Wellsian: The Journal of the H. G. Wells Society 11 (1988): 13–24.

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    This article considers the depiction of science and the scientist in the novel, arguing that Wells depicts an ethically suspect science and questions its role in scientific experimentation.

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  • Hendershot, Cyndy. “The Animal Without: Masculinity and Imperialism in The Island of Doctor Moreau and ‘The Adventures of the Speckled Band.’” Nineteenth Century Studies 10 (1996): 1–32.

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    This compares Wells’s novel to Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes short story. It argues that the important context for both works of fiction is the interconnection between empire and manhood, and that one is interwoven with the other to produce a bestial otherness.

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  • Willis, Martin. Mesmerists, Monsters, and Machines: Science Fiction and the Cultures of Science in the Nineteenth Century. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2006.

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    This reconsideration of 19th-century science fiction and the history of science places Wells’s novel within the vivisection debates of the 1890s. It argues that Wells drew very specifically on vivisection’s representative features to describe and interrogate the places and practices of scientific experimentation.

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Kipps

Although it has received very little critical attention, Kipps does come under scrutiny in the general surveys and collections of Wells’s work and has received recent attention by Higgins 2008.

The Time Machine

The greatest amount of critical attention has been focused on this, Wells’s first novel. Particular attention was paid to it in the period from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s, when Wells’s critical reputation reached new heights. Parrinder 1976 began the interest with Wells’s early work and was followed by important readings from Lake 1979 and Lake 1981, which considered both its themes and narration. Commonly, the novel is regarded within specific generic structures or narrative categories: see Begiebing 1981 and Hennelly 1979 in particular. Ketterer 1982 deals with it in a different context, however, by focusing on its oedipal structures within a broader psychoanalytic approach. Scafella 1981 offers a different approach yet again—drawing attention to the novel’s place within fin de siècle culture.

Tono-Bungay

There has been continual interest in this novel in the general surveys and collections focused on Wells’s work, ever since Lodge 1966 offered a defense of the novel as an important work of British fiction. A further significant essay on the novel, Webb 1975 deals in a more focused way with its themes of family and loss. Tono-Bungay came to critical attention again in the 1990s, with ongoing studies of colonial and postcolonial relations, especially in the late Victorian and Edwardian period. Born 1995 reflects this critical trend.

  • Born, Daniel. The Birth of Liberal Guilt in the English Novel: Charles Dickens to H. G. Wells. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995.

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    A rare scholarly discussion of Wells’s Tono-Bungay, focusing on its place as a colonial text and assessing the nature of liberal guilt that emerges in the novel in relation to British imperialism.

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  • Lodge, David. “Tono-Bungay and the Condition of England.” In The Language of Fiction: Essays in Criticism and Verbal Analysis of the English Novel. By David Lodge, 214–242. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1966.

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    An enormously influential essay on the novel that argues for its importance on several levels, centrally that it made an aesthetic and intellectual contribution to the development of the novel in Britain.

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  • Webb, Max A. “The Missing Father and the Theme of Alienation in H. G. Wells’s Tono-Bungay.” English Literature in Transition 18.4 (1975): 243–247.

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    A short article dealing sociologically with the absent father and, through social psychology, with the theme of alienation.

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The War of the Worlds

The best critical work on this novel has focused on its scientific content. While widely considered, especially as one of the scientific romances, in the majority of general surveys of Wells’s career, specific essays consistently address the novel’s astronomy and the extraterrestrial life debate. See Fayter 1997 for the context for this, and Markley 2005 for a reading of its imaginative astronomy.

  • Fayter, Paul. “Strange New Worlds of Space and Time: Late Victorian Science and Science Fiction.” In Victorian Science in Context. Edited by Bernard Lightman, 256–281. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.

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    This essay contextualizes Wells’s novel within a broader range of fiction set on, or about, other planetary bodies. The author argues that the novel is a particular expression of fin de siècle melancholy.

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  • Markley, Robert. Dying Planet: Mars in Science and the Imagination. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005.

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    This work places Wells’s novel in the context of the history of scientific observations of the planet Mars. It considers the novel as an imaginative version of Mars and as a reflection of the scientific knowledge of the period.

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When the Sleeper Wakes

This is a novel always discussed in general surveys, but it is also widely considered in examinations of Wells’s politics and philosophy. Williams 2006 gives it interesting context by an examination of its relation to another important dystopia, Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis (1927).

  • Williams, Keith. “‘Seeing the Future’: Urban Dystopia in Wells and Lang.” European Studies 19 (2006): 127–145.

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    Examines the relationship between Wells’s novel and Fritz Lang’s important early film Metropolis. The article considers particularly the representation of the modern city, its techniques for surveillance, and its use of technology.

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Adaptation and Intertextuality

Some critical attention has been focused on Wells’s connections to other writers (his intertextuality) as well as to the many adaptations of his work in other media forms, such as cinema. Reed 1974 is the earliest critical work to explore Wells’s indebtedness to other writers, particularly the modernists. Manlove 1993 and McCarthy 1986 make connections between Wells and his contemporaries, while Williams 2007 and Wykes 1977 focus on adaptations of Wells’s fiction into film. Williams 2007 is the more scholarly work of the two.

  • Manlove, Colin. “Charles Kingsley, H. G. Wells and the Machine in Victorian Fiction.” Nineteenth-Century Literature 48.2 (1993): 212–239.

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    A comparative essay on the role of technology in the works of Wells and Kingsley, arguing that both these writers make the machine central to their investigations of human evolution.

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  • McCarthy, Patrick A. “Heart of Darkness and the Early Novels of H. G. Wells: Evolution, Anarchy, Entropy.” Journal of Modern Literature 13.1 (1986): 37–60.

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    This article draws a connection between Conrad’s novel and Wells’s The War of the Worlds before going on to suggest further similarities in the interrogation of evolution, anarchy, and entropy in the scientific romances as a whole.

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  • Reed, John R. “The Literary Piracy of H. G. Wells.” Journal of Modern Literature 7 (1974): 537–542.

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    This article discusses the intertextuality of Wells’s work, with a focus on the presumed inspirations for some of his most important fiction. There is an interesting discussion of Wells’s use of Ibsen, for example.

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  • Williams, Keith. H. G. Wells, Modernity and the Movies. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 2007.

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    With an early focus on Wells’s relationship to cinema and to technologies of the moving image, this book goes on to investigate the film adaptations of some of Wells’s key works, including The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, and When the Sleeper Wakes.

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  • Wykes, Alan. H. G. Wells in the Cinema. London: Jupiter, 1977.

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    A popular rather than scholarly work detailing cinematic (and video) adaptations of Wells’s fictions. Although not produced for an academic readership, this volume nevertheless includes a worthwhile list of Wells’s cinema up to the mid-1970s.

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Gender

A great deal of information on Wells’s relationships with (and to) women appears in the several biographies of the author (see Biographies). There are fewer scholarly investigations of Wells’s gender politics, but Steffen-Fluhr 1985 provides an interesting critical review of Wells’s autobiographical writing, while Harris 1994 attends to the role of women (and men) in his minor fiction.

  • Harris, Janice H. “Wifely Silence and Speech in Three Marriage Novels by H. G. Wells.” Studies in the Novel 26.4 (1994): 404–419.

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    This article focuses on Wells’s minor novels Marriage, The Passionate Friends, and The Wife of Sir Isaac Harmon. It interrogates Wells’s attitudes toward sex and the institution of marriage in British Edwardian culture.

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  • Steffen-Fluhr, Nancy. “Paper Tiger: Women and H. G. Wells.” Science Fiction Studies 12.3 (1985): 311–329.

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    Although categorized as a review essay, this detailed examination of Wells’s own autobiographical writing, as well as the several biographies written by family members or intimates, stands as one of relatively few commentaries on the role of women in Wells’s life.

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Political and Philosophical Thought

A key aspect of the critical interpretation of Wells is his political and philosophical writing. Many of these works focus on either his fictional utopias or his nonfiction. The earliest is Williamson 1973, which considers Wells’s scientific thought rather than his fiction. This was an important work of its time, despite being only semi-scholarly, but now it appears dated. Reed 1982 and Cantor and Hufnagel 2006 consider Wells’s fiction in the context of empire and world politics. Partington 2003 and Wagar 1961 look more closely at the nonfiction, especially in relation to Wells’s conception of a world government. Parrinder and Partington 2005, a collection of essays on Wells in Europe, considers his fiction and his politics in the context of modern Europe, its history, philosophies, culture, and politics.

  • Cantor, P., and P. Hufnagel. “The Empire of the Future: Imperialism and Modernism in H. G. Wells.” Studies in the Novel 38.1 (2006): 35–56.

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    A politically inflected analysis of the specific components of Wells’s thought and fiction that might be considered modernist and imperialist.

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  • Parrinder, Patrick, and John Partington, eds. The Reception of H. G. Wells in Europe. London: Thoemmes Continuum, 2005.

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    A very wide-ranging collection of essays dealing with Wells’s relationships to many of the nations of Europe. The focus is eclectic but broad. Wells’s fiction and nonfiction and adaptations of his work are all given consideration.

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  • Partington, John S. Building Cosmopolis: The Political Thought of H. G. Wells. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2003.

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    This work focuses in detail on the organization of world government that Wells envisages in his 20th-century writing. It argues that Wells’s contribution to international politics has been largely, and wrongly, forgotten, and that his internationalism and his evolutionary ethics were important in the evolution of political life across Europe in the 20th century.

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  • Reed, John R. The Natural History of H. G. Wells. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1982.

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    Despite its title, this work does not focus on Wells’s relationship to one aspect of the sciences but rather on his philosophical contributions. Focused on Wells’s fiction as opposed to his essays and other writings, Reed explores the philosophical foundations of his work, in his utopias, science fictions, and other later fictions.

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  • Wagar, W. Warren. H. G. Wells and the World State. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1961.

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    Wagar focuses on Wells’s vision of the future condition of the human world, largely through a consideration of his political work and utopian fiction.

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  • Williamson, Jack. H. G. Wells: Critic of Progress. Baltimore: Mirage, 1973.

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    A dated and semi-scholarly work, it is one of only a few to focus exclusively on Wells’s contribution to sociopolitical thought in the first half of the 20th century, and to contextualize that work within a broader social and political history of Britain and the rest of the world.

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Science and Science Fiction Textual Criticism

The most dominant theme in Wellsian criticism, far in advance of any other, is the consideration given to Wells’s work as science fiction. Bergonzi 1961 has been instrumental in that respect, with its important early study of Wells’s four scientific romances. Thereafter, there was a significant boom in studies of Wells as a science fiction writer in the early 1980s. Haynes 1980 surveyed Wells’s scientific ideas, Kemp 1982 considered specifically his use of biology, and Huntington 1982 his scientific logic. McConnell 1981 brought the scientific romances and the utopian fiction under the umbrella of science fiction. Parrinder 1995 has since been central to this critical work, and its exemplary work on Wells and prophecy is a further landmark of science fiction criticism. McLean 2009 and Wagar 2004 have reconsidered Wells’s science fiction by analyzing, as McLean does, the contexts of his scientific romances, or Wells’s other work more broadly, as Wagar has attempted to do.

Science and Science Fiction Contextual Criticism

Although the extensive work on Wells’s science and science fiction often also gives some indication of how this work was received in other contexts, it is also useful to consider some works that specifically contextualize Wells’s contribution to science and science fiction. Aldiss and Wingrove 2001 considers Wells one of the most important science fiction writers of the 19th century and the originator of the genre that it became after the 1930s. Philmus 1984 did a great deal to further that view by regarding Wells as a pivotal figure in the genre’s longer evolution. James and Mendelsohn 2003 considers Wells as only one of a number of important science fiction writers rather than as the touchstone for the genre that Aldiss and Philmus had made him. Luckhurst 2005 avoids this argument to focus instead on Wells’s science fiction in its historical context, while Cartwright and Baker 2005 considers Wells’s work from within the interdisciplinary field of literature and science.

  • Aldiss, Brian, and David Wingrove. Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction. London: House of Stratus, 2001.

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    The most recent version of a work that has been continually updated since first being published as Billion Year Spree in 1971 (New York: Schocken). There is an extensive chapter on Wells’s scientific romances, placing him as the father of the genre of science fiction and its most important 19th-century proponent.

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  • Cartwright, John H., and Brian Baker. Literature and Science: Social Impact and Interaction. London: ABC-CLIO, 2005.

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    An interdisciplinary guide to the relationship between literature and science, with a thoughtful discussion of Wells’s science fiction in the early chapters.

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  • James, Edward, and Farah Mendelsohn, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

    DOI: 10.1017/CCOL0521816262Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A worthwhile read as a counter to Aldiss and Wingrove 2001. This Companion considers Wells only as a writer of science fiction before the genre took shape. This significantly reduces his position as the lodestone of science fiction. Nevertheless, the continual references to Wells and his work in later chapters tend to undermine this thesis.

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  • Luckhurst, Roger. Science Fiction: Cultural History of Literature. London: Polity, 2005.

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    A valuable cultural history of science fiction that begins with the work of Wells and his late-19th-century counterparts. Luckhurst places Wells’s scientific romances within their important scientific contexts, but also within their political and historical contexts.

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  • Philmus, Robert M. Into the Unknown: The Evolution of Science Fiction from Francis Godwin to H. G. Wells. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984.

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    A work that did much to promote Wells’s early work as foundational to the genre of science fiction. Philmus sees Wells’s scientific romances as the culmination of a long-standing tradition of fictions or narratives focused on natural philosophy and science in English literary history.

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Utopias

Although Wells’s fictional utopias are regularly bound into criticism of his science fiction (and regarded as a subgenre of that work), there is also a significant body of scholarly work on the utopian fiction and thought of Wells in the general surveys. Important individual works on utopia include Parrinder 1985, an essay on the generic tropes of Wells’s utopian fiction; Hillegas 1967, a reading of the politics of utopia; and Bleich 1984, a psychoanalytic analysis of Wells in the context of other utopian writers.

  • Bleich, David. Utopia: The Psychology of a Cultural Fantasy. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press, 1984.

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    In a broad-reaching work on English and American fiction, Bleich places Wells’s utopian writing into the context of other utopian fiction across two centuries and more. The approach taken, as the title suggests, is largely psychoanalytic; there is, therefore, little discussion of the historical and social relevance of Wells’s work.

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  • Hillegas, Mark R. The Future as Nightmare: H. G. Wells and the Anti-Utopians. New York: Oxford University Press, 1967.

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    A somewhat dated work of literary criticism, but one that attends in detail to Wells’s utopian fiction and thought. It considers Wells’s vision of future utopia and dystopia and offers a contextual view of this alongside social and political thinkers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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  • Parrinder, Patrick. “Utopia and Meta-Utopia in H. G. Wells.” Science Fiction Studies 12.2 (1985): 115–128.

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    Argues that Wells’s A Modern Utopia is a meta-utopia, combining the narrative tropes of the fictional utopia with the archetypes of political utopian thinking. It stands therefore as a synthesis of the entire utopian tradition.

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