• by hgwellscompetition
  • So wrote HG Wells in a letter to the Times 80 years ago, in 1934.
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The Time Machine (Dover Thrift Editions)


In HG Wells: Aspects of a Life (1984) Anthony West asserts, naming Gip as his source, that Wells and his son deduced between them that Moura must be a spy working for Russian intelligence, that she had been planted on him at the very beginning of their relationship in 1920 and had been reporting on him ever since. When Wells accused Moura of this in Tallinn she admitted it. She told him that it was the only way she could have survived the revolution and that, "as a biologist, he had to know that survival was the first law of life." According to West, although Wells patched up their relationship, he never recovered from the disillusionment, and it was the underlying reason for the misanthropy of his last years.

Or not, as the case may be. For Wells's other great theme is that money is no help in negotiating the complex obstacle course of early 20th-century English social life. His moral is the moral of Great Expectations brought forward into the Edwardian age: don't throw over the class you were born into; don't imagine that the process of "bettering yourself" won't involve huge amounts of moral compromise and self-delusion. The great enemy in every book from Love and Mr Lewisham (1900) to Ann Veronica (1909) is what Wells calls "the ruling power of this land, Stupidity". Against this he envisions a world in which people will behave better to each other, a world in which honest aspiration and fellow-feeling won't automatically be snuffed out by snobbery and hidebound tradition, a world in which "equality" is not a dirty word. At the same time, it is self-evidently a world in which people like HG Wells are allowed to luxuriate and prosper. On one level, Kipps is an exposé of an outdated social system, of a life based fundamentally on the principle of fooling yourself, but is also, you imagine, an apologia pro vita sua.


HG Wells: "Goddamn you all, I told you so!"

orn in 1935, is the author of 14 novels including Nice Work, Thinks... and Deaf Sentence. He is also Emeritus Professor of English Literature at the University of Birmingham, where he taught between 1960 and 1987. As well as his fiction, he has written numerous books of criticism. His new novel, A Man of Parts, is a fictionalised account of HG Wells's life and career. Reviewing it in the Guardian, Blake Morrison said it "bounds along terrifically and never tires" while showing "what made Wells, in his lifetime, so irresistible".