H.G. Wells was born 150 years ago

H.G. Wells photographed by George Charles Beresford in 1920
H.G. Wells photographed by George Charles Beresford in 1920

Herbert George Wells was born on September 21, 1866 in Bromley, a suburb of Greater London, England.

In 1874, following an accident, the young H.G. Wells broke his leg and was forced to stay in bed for some time. It was around that time that he started reading the books his father brought him from the local library to pass the time allowing him to start getting a broad education by reading many different topics.

In 1877 it was H.G. Wells’s father who broke a leg and that ended his career as a cricketer, which used to earn him some money. His children were forced to start working to contribute to their family’s subsistence. In 1880, the young Herbert became an apprentice to the Southsea Drapery Emporium, a company working in the textile field  in Windsor. The work was hard and long and Herbert slept with the other apprentices.

In subsequent years, H.G. Wells did other jobs of various kinds, experiences that inspired his novels “The Weels of Chance” (1895) and “Kipps” (1905), which speak of the lives of apprentices in the textile field and criticize the distribution of wealth. After several job changes, Wells had the chance to go on with his studies at Midhurst Grammar School, where he was a senior student who worked as a teacher for younger students.

In 1884 H.G. Wells obtained a scholarship to the Normal School of Science in South Kensington, where for some time he had as a teacher the biologist Thomas Huxley, one of the first major supporters of evolutionism. In those years he made his first experiences as a journalist directing the “Science School Journal”, which he had helped to found. After several ups and downs, in 1887 Wells moved to Wales to become a teacher at Holt Academy. After only a year, however, he returned to London, where he had to make do with various jobs.

Slowly, things for H.G. Wells improved and besides teaching he also started publishing didactic works. In those years, his relationship with his cousin Isabel Mary Wells turned into a romance that led to their marriage in 1891 but it lasted only three years. In 1895, Wells got married again with Amy Catherine Robbins, known when she was one of his students. H.G. Wells’ love life was full of relationships, so much that he had his daughter Anna-Jane in 1909 with the writer Amber Reeves and his son Anthony West in 1914 with the activist Rebecca West.

H.G. Wells’ activity as a writer expanded when he became a journalist and started writing literature. In 1895 he published the novels “The Time Machine” and “The Wonderful Visit” and the anthology “The Stolen Bacillus and Other Incidents”. For Wells that was the great success that brought him great satisfaction from the economic point of view, a consequence of the success with the public but also among critics.

In the following years, among the many works published there are the other ones for which Wells is considered one of the fathers of science fiction: “The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896), “The Invisible Man” (1897) and “The War of the Worlds” (1897).

Thanks to these novels H.G. Wells was already considered one of the fathers of what at the time was called scientific romance, the forerunner of today’s fiction. Wells was trying to give his stories a certain plausibility, however, he also developed psychological and social elements. The scientific part of his stories was important but the ethical and moral ones they were even more so.

In many works of H.G. Wells, the underlying theme is utopia but also its opposite, dystopia, for example “A Modern Utopia” (1905), “The Sleeper Awakes” (1910), “Men like Gods” (1923) or “The Shape of Things to Come” (1933).

H.G. Wells died on August 13, 1946, leaving a huge legacy composed of many works of various literary genres but also essays and various type of articles. He had been politically active for many years with little success. Instead, in the literary field he was especially important in the development of science fiction and after more than a century his works keep on being read and appreciated.

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