By Byron Beynon
The first book I ever read by H G Wells was The Time Machine. I was at school. I was thirteen years old, and I enjoyed the experience of reading it very much. I was not to know then that Wells was considered the founder of modern science fiction and that during his lifetime he had published over fifty works of fiction, and, in total 150 books and pamphlets.
Claire Tomalin is the celebrated author of several highly acclaimed biographies, including works on Mary Wollstonecraft, Austen, Hardy ad Dickens. She has now turned her skilled eyes towards the life and works of H G Wells (1866-1946), she follows him until his forties, Tomalin adds “My excuse being that he still seems and behaves like a young man.”
Wells came from a working -class family but was determined to educate himself, and his sudden success with the Time Machine (1895) and The War of the Worlds (1898) transformed his life and catapulted him to international fame. He also became the writer who inspired George Orwell and predicted men walking on the moon seventy years before it happened.
As a child he was taught by his mother, and he took pleasure in reading. However, in the summer of 1874 he broke the tibia in his leg and became immobilised. Wells himself said that the accident changed his life for the better, and while he was recovering his father supplied him with books, on geography, history, natural history and the magazines Punch and Fun. He read these with a passion and blessed with a good memory, Tomalin notes “This time of uninterrupted reading was crucial to his mental development”.
Wells also understood that “he would have to work hard to learn to write well – to revolutionize himself, as he put it.” This he achieved through perseverance, dedication and hard work, and driven by curiosity he would produce works such as The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), The War of the Worlds (1898) The First Man in the Moon (1901), Kipps (1905), The History of Mr Polly (1910) and The Shape of Things to Come (1933). Many of his novels would later be made into popular movies.
In 1906 he spent several months in America, and managed to visit Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, The Niagara Falls, Washington DC and New York. It was in New York that he met another socialist writer, the Russian, Maxim Gorky. By the early twentieth century he had become a very popular author on both sides of the Atlantic, and his books were being translated into French, German, Spanish, Russian and other European languages. In 1933 his books were publicly burnt by the Nazis in Berlin, and he was banned from visiting fascist Italy.
Wells was a man who revelled in life itself, “its pleasures, in landscape, sunshine, books, friendship, good conversation, sex, food, walking, bicycling, well-designed and well-built houses, children’s games, comfortable clothes – including boots. He wanted to reorganize the world so that everyone could enjoy it, and, if he did not succeed in that as well as he had hoped, he gave his superabundant energy to speaking and writing for the cause.”
Claire Tomalin has written a crisp, clear-eyed and well-balanced biography about this prophetic writer with a social and political message, who despite an impoverished childhood went on to produce several memorable novels that will continue to be read and who also influenced the works of several future writers.
You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08VRPBX3S/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i0
“Byron Beynon is a Welsh poet. His work has appeared in several publications including North of Oxford, South Bank Poetry, Santa Fe Literary Review, Poetry Wales, The London Magazine, The Worcester Review and the human rights anthology In Protest (University of London and Keats House Poets). He coordinated the Wales section of the anthology Fifty Strong (Heinemann). Recent collections include A View from the Other Side (Moonstone Press) and Where Shadows Stir (The Seventh Quarry Press).”