H.G. WELLS & REBECCA WEST by Gordon N. Ray


Email this review


Essentially the ten year liaison (1913-1923) between Wells and Rebecca West is a sad, commonplace story magnified by the intellectual calibre of the participants and made still more ironic and relevant in this day and age by the fact that West, when she was twenty, was a militant feminist although she was unable to extend any of her emancipation to the relationship per se which deteriorated steadily from real love to social exclusion and emotional neglect. Wells, who has had so much biographical attention of late, remains the stubby, irascible and selfish man that he was, permitted by his undisplaceable wife-housekeeper-accountant to have his amours -- many. But it was Rebecca -- who first called him an Old Maid in a review of one of his novels -- whom he loved best for her ""open hardhitting generous mind""; it was supposedly a ""union of equals"" which meant visiting privileges for him, an empty life for her in reduced and often ostracized circumstances, a child -- inadvertent -- Anthony (who became the writer and recorded a variant of this story in a novel Heritage), and her eventual separation from her ""Jaguar"" (she was ""dear Panfer"") after the first major quarrel through ""his love of scenes"" and her frivolities and acute appraisals of his work. Dame West who has collaborated on this account, read it and contributed more than her 800 letters from Wells -- he destroyed most of hers -- is clearly the object of Ray's attention and will attract the reader's even if the story has none of the hyperbolic sexual opera bouffe of the Nicolson story of last year. Be that as it may -- one is always grateful for a biography of intelligent reassessment, taste and tact. And surely it will be read with sympathetic interest.

Pub Date: Sept. 18th, 1974
Publisher: Yale Univ. Press