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H G Wells
Jun 07, '21

H. G. Wells

Herbert George Wells (21 September 1866 – 13 August 1946) was an English writer. Prolific in many genres, he wrote dozens of novels, short stories, and works of social commentary, history, satire, biography and autobiography. His work also included two books on recreational war games. Wells is now best remembered for his science fiction novels and is often called the "father of science fiction", along with Jules Verne and the publisher Hugo Gernsback.

One of the most prolific writers in literary history, Herbert George “H.G.” Wells is considered as one of the founding fathers of science fiction. Born in England in 1866, Wells was trained as a biologist and openly supported the work of Charles Darwin whose theories inspired many of his literary works. Widely enjoyed and taught today, some of his most notable classics include The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man, The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds.

Wells took another page out of Darwin’s scientific theory when he married his first cousin, Isabel Mary Wells, in 1891. However, as rumors spread that Wells was cheating on Mary with a student, the two called it quits and separated in 1894. Just a year later, Wells proved that the rumors were true as he and his student, Amy Catherine Robbins, married and started a family. Old habits, however, proved to die hard for Wells as he continued to have extramarital affairs though, this time, with his wife’s full consent.

And Wells certainly had a colourful personal life to match that of Harness's shocking storyline.

Born into a modest family in Bromley, Kent, he showed academic acumen in his childhood, specialising in biology, and went on to become a teacher.

In 1891 he married his first cousin, Isabel Mary Wells. They separated three years later because he had fallen for Amy Catherine Robbins, one of his students, who he called Jane. They moved into a rented house inWoking, Surrey, and lived in sin for 18 months before marrying at St Pancras registry office in London in 1895.

The time he spent as Amy's lover in Surrey was one of the most productive of his career and it was during this period that he planned and wrote The War of the Worlds, the story of a terrifying Martian invasion which threatens the existence of humans as the aliens mercilessly pulverise the planet. But after marrying Amy, Wells did not remain faithful to her and had countless affairs and two children out of wedlock.

Often he pursued the virgin daughters of intellectuals in the socialist Fabian Society. He had a daughter, Anna Jane, with writer Amber Reeves and a son, Anthony, with journalist Rebecca West who said of him: "He smelled of walnuts and he frisked like a nice animal." She nicknamed him "Jaguar".

At five feet five inches tall with a squeaky voice, Wells was an unlikely lothario but young women found themselves drawn to his powerful personality, animal lust and sparkling conversation.

"The War of the Worlds is a story of action and ideas, the first story of interplanetary invasion in fact, but it's pretty light on characterisation and romantic interest, so I can see that the makers might want to build up that aspect of the book," says Michael Sherborne, author of HG Wells: Another Kind of Life, of Harness's reworking.

"Actually it wasn't until some years after he wrote the book that Wells embarked on his industrious campaign of promiscuity, taking in famous authors, daughters of friends and even a Russian spy, with scores of 'one night stands' along the way.

"An American professor called John Huntington has claimed that the whole book has a subtext of marital frustration. The hero claims to be upset that the invasion separates him from his wife, but he secretly enjoys the way the Martians smash up the conventional, respectable world that's enclosed him. When he and a curate are trapped in a ruined house, squabbling and fighting, it becomes a kind of parody marriage and expresses the sense of being trapped that Wells couldn't admit to openly."

In Experiment in Autobiography, a book Wells insisted could only be published 50 years after his death, he said that he and Amy had reached an agreement: "We came at last to a very explicit understanding about the profound difference in our physical and imaginative responses.

"She suppressed any jealous impulse and gave me whatever freedom I desired. She knew as well as I did that for all its elements of artificiality, our alliance was indissoluble. We had intergrown and become parts of each other."

With the success of The Time Machine, scores of other works and his integration into the upper echelons of society - Winston Churchill and Somerset Maugham were friends - he made little attempt to keep his dalliances secret."It would be easy to dress up my story in a highly logical and creditable manner," he confessed in his autobiography. "But I have never quite succeeded in that sort of dressing-up.

"I hated having to fake a front to the world, and yet not only were my thoughts and fancies uncontrollable, but my conduct remained perplexingly disingenuous.

"My story of my relations with women is mainly a story of greed, foolishness and great expectation."

Throughout all his flings, loyal Amy typed up all his manuscripts, helped manage his meteoric career and provided a loving home life until her death from cancer in 1927. The man who foresaw the atomic bomb, armoured tanks and the internet, to name but a few, had found his ideal partner in her.

Tomlinson spent months researching the character of Amy, which is so obviously based on Wells' wife.

"It was so refreshing to read his (Harness's) adaptation of the novel which has a woman at the core of the drama, a choice which I feel is where Peter's adaptation really updates the book," says Eleanor.

"She is a very modern woman compared with her acquaintances. She is in a relationship with George who is married to another woman. She is strong and independent and her life force is captivating.

"At this time women were very much the property of their husbands and weren't really permitted to have their own independence."

Rafe Spall adds: "The couple moved to the new suburbs of London which were part of the urban sprawl of Edwardian London and although they love each other very much they also find themselves fighting the conventions of society."

In his frank autobiography, Wells confronted his inner struggle with conformity: "All this tangle of restriction, restraint, opposition and anger, could be explained as so much expansion, complication and organisation of jealousy. Two worlds are altered every time a man and woman associate. The alterations may vary widely in extent but an alteration is always there.

"Jane's (Amy's) humour and charity, and the fundamental human love between us, were to be tried out very severely in the years that lay ahead. Suffice it here to say that they stood the test."

Indeed. The couple had two sons together, George and Frank.

Wells later lived in Grasse, France, with the Dutch writer Odette Keun. Typically she was 22 years younger than him.

His last companion was Moura Budberg, a ravishingly beautiful Ukrainian-born baroness who spoke Russian, French, Italian and German fluently. She was suspected of being a double agent and was known as the "Russian Mata Hari". Wells proposed to her several times, unsuccessfully. Throughout his life he was never plagued by guilt or regrets about his pursuit of women, often describing himself as the Don Juan of the intelligentsia.

Giving his own moral epitaph, he once wrote: "I have done what I pleased so that every bit of sexual impulse in me has expressed itself.

"I am a very immoral person. I have preyed on people who loved me."


Frequency and Resonance

Jun 07, '21
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