H. G. WELLS IN LOVE: Postscript to an Experiment in Autobiography by H. G. Wells
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H. G. WELLS IN LOVE: Postscript to an Experiment in Autobiography

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In his 1934 Experiment in Autobiography, H. G. Wells traced his intellectual development but discreetly suppressed the facts of his non-marital sex life. Through the late 1930s, however, he worked on an earnest, candid analysis of his stormy romantic involvements, to be published after most of those mentioned had died. Here, then, is that curious testimony--with few large surprises, lots of wry self-deprecation, and about equal portions of tedium and fascination. ""Except in-so-far as affection put barriers about me, I have done what I pleased; so that every bit of sexual impulse in me has expressed itself. Most other men probably have as much or more drive, I suspect, but less outlet."" So begins Wells' catalogue of liaisons--with brief mention of purely carnal encounters (""this coarser, less fastidious disposition to get girls and women"") and detailed chronicles of his quest for the ideal, total soulmate, the ""Lover-Shadow."" With Dorothy Richardson it was ""a sensuous affair,"" but ""a vein of evasive ego-centered mysticism in her has always made her mentally irritating to me."" The notorious Amber Reeves affair was a confused mixture of sexual obsession and hopeless intellectual idealism--""jagged masses of inconsistent impulse,"" producing scandal and an illegitimate daughter. Elizabeth van Arnim offered ""a gay and innocent liaison""--until she made the mistake of making malicious fun of Wells' beloved wife Jane! Next, of course: Rebecca West, who had ""a splendid disturbed brain""--resulting in ""the fight of two very willful people to compel each other to accept the conditions of an uncongenial Lover-Shadow."" (""It wasn't so easy for either of us to break away,"" writes Wells--contradicting the anti-Rebecca version of the affair in Anthony West's recent Wells biography.) But finally, after years of struggle with insecure, tiresome Odette Keun, came ""the very human"" Moura Budberg--deceitful, disappointing (""I asked impossible things. . . I wanted a match for the colour of my own mind""), ""faulty, wise, silly, and I love her."" In sum? ""My story of my relations with women is mainly a story of greed, foolishness, and great expectation."" And later, fragmentary diaries here shift from romance to illness, depression, and suicidal urges. A strange document indeed--much more than a list of conquests, much less than an absorbing self-portrait, half-endearing and half-repellent throughout.

Pub Date: Nov. 13th, 1984
Publisher: Little, Brown