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Sunday, 21 September 2014

Happy Birthday H.G.Wells - British Science Fiction Author

H.G.Wells
Herbert George Wells was born on 21st September 1866 at Atlas House in Bromley, Kent. He began his literary career in earnest in 1895 with the publication of his first novel, "The Time Machine." Until this first success his life had been a patchwork of unsatisfactory drapery and chemist apprenticeships that were interrupted by stints as a teacher's assistant, and eventually acceptance into London's Normal School of Science where he studied biology under Darwin's "bull dog," the great T.H. Huxley.

The 1890's saw the publication of the "scientific romances" that were to make him the most successful author of his time. Following "The Time Machine" was "The Island of Dr. Moreau" (1896), "The Invisible Man" (1897), "The War of the Worlds" (1898), "When the Sleeper Wakes" (1899), and "The First Men in the Moon" (1901). After this point he turned his prolific pen to social topics, history, and even a bit of hopeful prophecy with books like "Anticipations" (1901), "The Discovery of the Future" (1902), "Mankind in the Making" (1903), "The War in the Air" ,"War and the Future" (1917), "The Open Conspiracy" (1928), "The Shape of Things to Come" (1933), and "The New World Order" (1939).

Martian Invasion!: The War of the Worlds
A revolutionary in thought and deed, Wells was often the subject of public controversy owing to his attitude on so-called "free love" and women's rights. He was also a life-long believer in Socialism as the means to mankind's ultimate social salvation. His particular brand had nothing to do with the retrogressive Marxist strain and also helped bring him in conflict with other leading Socialist thinkers of his day during his brief stint with The Fabian Society. The outbreak of the First World War found a heretofore pacifist Wells changing his mind to support this Great War against the Hohenzollern "Blood and Iron" Imperial aggression. He reacted by writing a pamphlet in 1914 addressing the anti-war and pacifist elements in Britain entitled "The War That Will End War." Its title became proverbial almost instantly and is used to refer to the First World War even today. After spending time with the British government's War Office in the Propaganda Department and helping to define a clear set of war aims, he resigned and returned to writing propaganda his way. Even before the Great War began he published "The World Set Free" early in 1914. It was a prophetic novel about a world war against Imperial Germany and her "Central European Allies" which included a remarkably accurate forecast of atomic warfare and even coined the term "atomic bomb." He was amongst the first to call for a post war League of Nations but was bitterly disappointed with and critical of the actual League that developed. He spent the early part of the 1920's writing "The Outline of History," which like so many of his previous works was also enormously successful on both sides of the Atlantic. The 1930's found H.G. Wells profoundly disturbed by the rising din of Nietzschean nationalism from Nazi Germany and Fascism in Italy. His critical writings on the aggressive "Krupp cum Kaiser" Imperial Germany coupled with his outright vicious attacks on Adolf Hitler and his accomplices earned H.G. Wells the distinction of having his "anti-German" books burned by Goebbels during the infamous book bonfires at German universities. The name "H.G. Wells" also appeared very near the top of a list compiled by the SS/SD command staff of those intellectuals and politicians slated for immediate liquidation upon the invasion of Britain by the Nazis. Winston Churchill was also named. He remained at his flat at number 13 Hanover Terrace, Regent's Park, London throughout the war and walked his own fire watch, even as his equally wealthy neighbors fled the Luftwaffe's Blitz to their comfortable country estates.

On the 13th August 1946, H.G.Wells died at his London home in Regent's Park. In his preface to the 1941 edition of "The War in the Air", Wells had stated that his epitaph should be: "I told you so. You damned fools!" but his wish was not granted as he was cremated on 16th August 1946.

His ashes were later scattered at sea, off Old Harry Rocks, Studland. In his book "H.G.Wells: Aspects of a Life" the son of Wells, Anthony West gives a moving account.
"My father died on the afternoon of the thirteenth of August 1946, a few weeks before reaching his eightieth birthday. His body was cremated three days later, and rather more than a year after that I chartered a boat named the Deirdre, owned by Captain Miller of Poole in Dorset. My half-brother George Philip Wells came down from London bringing the ashes with him, and we went out to scatter them on the sea at a point we had picked out on a line between Alum Bay on the Isle of Wight and St. Alban's Head on the Dorset shore. That was our intention. But when the Deirdre cleared the narrow mouth of Poole Harbour we found that the wind coming up the Solent from the South West beyond St. Alban's Head was freshening. The tide was just turning and beginning to run out into the face of the wind. A wind blowing over a contrary tide is a recipe for short steep seas, and the Deirdre was soon pitching nastily.

The idea of burying my father at sea had come to my half-brother during the memorial service at the crematorium. A passage from the last chapter of his novel Tono-Bungay, "Night and the Open Sea," had then been read with telling effect, and while listening to its description of the book's narrator taking his newly launched torpedo-boat destroyer down the Thames and out into the North Sea to run its speed trials, my half-brother had thought, yes, that will be it, that will be the right thing to do. "We make and pass," the passage concludes by saying. "We are all things that make and pass, striving upon a hidden mission, out to the open sea."
Old Harry Rocks
The idea had seemed romantic and suitable when it was put to me,and I had been for it. But its defects soon became clear in that condition of wind and tide. My half-brother and I both became quiet and thoughtful. Captain Miller became entirely expressionless as he kept his boat bunting into the waves. We could all see that as soon as we were out of the shelter of Purbeck Island and in the open Solent things were going to be a lot wetter and much more uncomfortable. While we were still abeam of the two chalk stacks called Old Harry and Old Harry's Wife that stand below the white cliffs between Swanage and Studland, my father's ashes went into the sea. The wind took them off as a long veil that struck the very pale green water with a hiss. The Deirdre wallowed as Captain Miller put her about, and I had a moment of agony. He was really gone now, and I was never, ever going to get that stupid business about blackmail and the pro-Nazi conspirators in the BBC straightened out with him. I was surprised by the intense bitterness this thought aroused in me, and by the discovery that I could feel so strongly about the matter when he was no longer in a position to care about anything at all."
Websites:

The H.G.Wells Society

Online Literature: HG Wells. Biography of HG Wells and a searchable collection of works.

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