Wells, the vatic reformer, was an undersized, testy, frail, skeptic, sometimes depressive little man of enormous vigor and resilience. The British publisher who knew him well has ""while there was still time, (caught) the memories of a few witnesses"" in spite of Wells' own autobiography, the many critical studies, and the definitive work to come. Actually Dickson's book is more than that--an interrelated portrait of both the man and his works of which only the early imaginative novels and the comic ones of the middle period (Kipps was Wells' own favorite) have endured. His later works as a pamphleteer, polemicist and parodist have for the most part been forgotten. Born in a dusty little china shop, Wells advanced himself steadily in spite of sketchy schooling and intermittent ill health. After his first marriage to his pallid first cousin, there was the longer relationship with the more intellectual Miss Robbins and many extramarital intervals--notably the relationship with Rebecca West. A positivist, an activist, a visionary rather than an analyst (Strachey stopped reading Wells ""the Thinker""), Wells did much to liberate the era and impose his own ideas re sex, science, religion. . . . Mr. Dickson gives a sympathetic but not indulgent portrait of him which moves easily if sometimes hurriedly (ardor[ent], a favorite qualifier, appearing 3 times in 9 lines). But until the official later magnum opus, an informal, informative view of a giant gadfly.