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Utopia Limited

David Cannadine, 15 July 1982

Fabianism and Culture: A Study in British Socialism and the Arts, 1884-1918 
by Ian Britain.
Cambridge, 344 pp., £19.50, June 1982, 0 521 23563 4
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The Elmhirsts of Dartington: The Creation of an Utopian Community 
by Michael Young.
Routledge, 381 pp., £15, June 1982, 9780710090515
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... scientists and technocrats, most famously and prolifically articulated in the novels of H.G. Wells. It is in this fertile, Fin-de-Siècle context of confused and competing Utopias that these two authors set their studies of conjugal crusaders which tell us much about informed, élite attitudes to Utopian ideas in this most recent phase of sustained and ...

Peter Conrad’s Flight from Precision

Richard Poirier, 17 July 1980

Imagining America 
by Peter Conrad.
Routledge, 319 pp., £7.50, May 1980, 0 7100 0370 6
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... America’), Kipling and R.L. Stevenson (‘Epic (and Chivalric) America’), H.G. Wells (‘Futuristic America’), D.H. Lawrence (‘Primitive America’), W.H. Auden (‘Theological America’), Aldous Huxley (Psychedelic America’), and Christopher Isherwood (‘Mystical America’). As the chapter titles suggest, each of these writers is ...

No Sense of an Ending

Jane Eldridge Miller, 21 September 1995

Windows on Modernism: Selected Letters of Dorothy Richardson 
edited by Gloria Fromm.
Georgia, 696 pp., £58.50, February 1995, 0 8203 1659 8
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... image. Although she had acquaintances in the literary world (her correspondents included H.G. Wells, Bryher, H.D. and John Cowper Powys), most of her life was lived in obscurity, and her friendships were mainly epistolary ones. Her aversion to having her picture taken and her reluctance to submit to interviews (she believed that readers should ‘keep ...

How did the slime mould cross the maze?

Adrian Woolfson: The Future of Emergence, 21 March 2002

Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software 
by Steven Johnson.
Allen Lane, 288 pp., £14.99, October 2001, 0 7139 9400 2
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The Moment of Complexity: Emerging Network Culture 
by Mark Taylor.
Chicago, 340 pp., £20.50, January 2002, 0 226 79117 3
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... the guilds of Florence, Johnson addresses his key question – one that was anticipated by H.G. Wells in his World Brain (1938). Is it possible that the World Wide Web, a complex artificial system, might one day exhibit emergent behaviour or develop autonomous ‘higher-level consciousness’? Wells speculated that a ...

Brown Goo like Marmite

Neal Ascherson: Memories of the Fog, 8 October 2015

London Fog: The Biography 
by Christine Corton.
Harvard, 408 pp., £22.95, November 2015, 978 0 674 08835 1
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... pips were the bulbs of its lower-deck lights. It was quiet but not soundless. It was like the H.G. Wells story in which time is slowed down until sounds disintegrate into separate beats. Cars revved somewhere; a lorry far over towards Shoreditch hooted. A distant alarm pulsed. Across a distance which could have been far or close came the tap of a stick, then a ...


John Maynard Smith, 17 September 1981

The Panda’s Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History 
by Stephen Jay Gould.
Norton, 343 pp., £6.95, April 1981, 0 393 01380 4
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... age of almost thirty, depended entirely on reading the popular works of men like Julian Huxley, Wells, Haldane, Jeans, Eddington and lnfeld. Had I not been inspired by them, I would not later have become a scientist. More than that, the ideas I got from them were profound, not superficial. The list of writers I have just given, together with a later ...

Melton Constable

W.R. Mead, 22 May 1986

The past is a foreign country 
by David Lowenthal.
Cambridge, 489 pp., £27.50, November 1985, 0 521 22415 2
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... if the substance threatens to become too solid, it is relieved by some scrap of what H.G. Wells described as ‘forgotten gossamer’; if a topic inclines to the remote, it is jolted back to reality. And the reality is twofold. First of all, the concern for artifacts and visible remains from the past was never so widespread as today. Secondly, the ...

Editor’s Story

Peter Campbell, 18 November 1982

Of This Our Time 
by Tom Hopkinson.
Hutchinson, 317 pp., £8.95, April 1982, 9780091478605
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... pictures came first. Hopkinson would get rough lay-outs from Lorant with notes like ‘get H.G. Wells to write this article. Explain to him yourself exactly what he is to write.’ Writers would complain that the photographers were ‘treated like royal children’, but the hard fact was that without pictures there was no story. Even so, Picture Post’s ...

Time, Gentlemen, Please

David Cannadine, 19 July 1984

The Culture of Time and Space 1880-1918 
by Stephen Kern.
Weidenfeld, 372 pp., £16.50, October 1983, 0 297 78341 6
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Revolution in Time: Clocks and the Making of the Modern World 
by David Landes.
Harvard, 482 pp., £17, January 1984, 0 674 76800 0
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... flowers; Gnaws iron, bites steel; Grinds hard stones to meal; Slays king, ruins town, And beats high mountain down. But if time is of the essence, what is the essence of time? ‘I know what time is,’ St Augustine said, ‘but if someone asks me, I cannot tell him.’ Physicists and philosophers have much the same problem: when pressed for time, they ...

Grey Eminence

Edward Said, 5 March 1981

Walter Lippmann and the American Century 
by Ronald Steel.
Bodley Head, 669 pp., £8.95, February 1981, 0 370 30376 8
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... did (‘worked as a legman for Lincoln Steffens … debated socialism with Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells … became the éminence grise to Woodrow Wilson’s own alter ego, Colonel House’), the presidents, kings and leaders he knew, the great events he witnessed at very close quarters, the papers, books and journals he produced, the careers he espoused or ...

Grandiose Moments

Frank Kermode, 6 February 1997

Ford Madox Ford: A Dual Life, Vol. II 
by Max Saunders.
Oxford, 696 pp., £35, September 1996, 0 19 212608 3
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... that made the great your equals’, which identifies one major motive for mendacity. H.G. Wells thought Ford’s habit was a result of his shell shock. Nothing was too extravagant: Lizst had played for him; he had helped Marconi to transmit the first transatlantic radio signal; Henry James, ‘tears in his eyes’, would come running to him with a ...

Did Lady Brewster faint?

Eric Korn, 24 April 1997

Huxley: Evolution’s High Priest 
by Adrian Desmond.
Joseph, 372 pp., £20, March 1997, 0 7181 3882 1
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... the right. The image is smudged; one has a skull beside him, one may be a woman, one may be H.G. Wells. They are looking up at the camera; after the shutter has closed they will look down their microscopes and see what they are told to see, for microscopy is a mystery and Huxley its magus. In the great age of burgeoning laboratories, designed to turn out ...

Her Guns

Jeremy Harding, 8 March 1990

The View from the Ground 
by Martha Gellhorn.
Granta, 459 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 14 014200 2
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Towards Asmara 
by Thomas Keneally.
Hodder, 320 pp., £12.95, September 1989, 0 340 41517 7
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... of novellas, The trouble I’ve seen (1936), received generous praise from Graham Greene and H.G. Wells. For years, her literary standing was compromised by her ties to Ernest Hemingway in the Thirties and Forties. This has long since ceased to be the case. The Face of War, her collected war reporting, is one of the most readable accounts of conflict in the ...

Women of Quality

E.S. Turner, 9 October 1986

The Pebbled Shore 
by Elizabeth Longford.
Weidenfeld, 351 pp., £14.95, August 1986, 0 297 78863 9
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Leaves of the Tulip Tree 
by Juliette Huxley.
Murray, 248 pp., £7.95, June 1986, 9780719542886
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Enid Bagnold 
by Anne Sebba.
Weidenfeld, 317 pp., £15, September 1986, 0 297 78991 0
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... Harman entered the ‘charmed circle’ of aesthetes after passing a shibboleth test imposed by Hugh Gaitskell, who asked: ‘What do you think of Oscar Wilde and all that?’ Her reply, ‘Oh, I think that’s quite all right,’ was spoken with the assurance of one who ‘had not really thought much about it’. After this avowal of broad-mindedness (the ...

Lamentable Thumbs

Blake Morrison: The Marvellous Barbellion, 21 June 2018

The Journal of a Disappointed Man 
by W.N.P. Barbellion.
Penguin, 394 pp., £9.99, November 2017, 978 0 241 29769 8
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... the Emperor Nero and Pontius Pilate. The man behind the mask wasn’t, as some thought, H.G. Wells but a tall, skeletal entomologist in his twenties called Bruce Frederick Cummings. The alias gave him the freedom to be intimate – to publish ‘whatever is inexorably true, however unpleasant and discreditable’. Writing as himself, he’d have given ...

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