H.G. WELLS: Desperately Mortal by David C. Smith

H.G. WELLS: Desperately Mortal

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An engrossing biography of a seminal man. Wells is a formidable subject for any biographer. In his 80 years, he produced nearly an equal number of books plus some 3000 articles and pamphlets. His output included textbooks (The Outline of History, The Science of Life), science fiction (The War of the Worlds), satirical novels (Tono-Bungay), novels of male-female relations (The Passionate Friends) and books of political and social analysis (The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind) as well as numerous short stories. He was also an active socialist, a devoted friend to scores of luminaries and lesser-known folk, an assidious letter writer, a husband and father, and a womanizer who had a number of (often extended) extramarital affairs, during which he impregnated at least three of his lady friends. He was always setting up households, traveling, lecturing and promoting causes: women's rights, equal education and opportunity for all, responsible scientific progress, disarmament, a world socialist federation, and on and on. Faced with all this busyness, it is hardly surprising that Smith is unable to give flesh and blood to his subject, who comes across, if anything, as considerably more than mortal. Smith does welt in tracing Wells' intellectual development and in illuminating his relationships with his many friends and the women in his life. Although Wells is chiefly remembered today as a writer of science fiction, Smith singles out Kipps, Mr. Polly and Tono-Bungay as the most likely to give him a ""permanent place in English fiction, close to Dickens. . ."" These skewer the attitudes and rituals of the middle class and the social structure of the England he knew. Fifteen years in the making, this massive work adds much to our knowledge of one of the most important writers and thinkers of our century's earlier years.

Pub Date: Sept. 17th, 1986
Publisher: Yale Univ. Press