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Picshuas

P.N. Furbank, 18 October 1984

Experiment in Autobiography: Discoveries and Conclusion of a Very Ordinary Brain (since 1866) 
by H.G. Wells.
Faber, 838 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 571 13330 4
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H.G. Wells in Love: Postscript to an Experiment in Autobiography 
edited by G.P. Wells.
Faber, 253 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 571 13329 0
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The Man with a Nose, and the Other Uncollected Short Stories of H.G. Wells 
edited by J.R. Hammond.
Athlone, 212 pp., £9.95, September 1984, 0 485 11247 7
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... criticising, condensing, and clearing the ground for further speculation.’ So writes H.G. Wells in A Modern Utopia in 1905, neatly envisioning the micro-computer. And there is a lot to be said for the micro-computer. But such ‘glow’ as it possesses is purely literal and mechanical. Indeed, already in Wells’s ...

Cheeky

J.I.M. Stewart, 23 October 1986

H.G. WellsDesperately Mortal 
by David Smith.
Yale, 634 pp., £18.50, September 1986, 0 300 03672 8
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... desperately mortal’. David Smith finds most of this description eminently applicable to H.G. Wells (whom he intensely admires) and he adopts its final two words as a subtitle for his biography. What sense Shakespeare attached to them is doubtful. Johnson suggests ‘likely to die in a desperate state’, but Professor Smith seems to view them as ...

Devil take the hindmost

John Sutherland, 14 December 1995

Shadows of the Future: H.G. Wells, Science Fiction and Prophecy 
by Patrick Parrinder.
Liverpool, 170 pp., £25, July 1995, 0 85323 439 6
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The History of Mr Wells 
by Michael Foot.
Doubleday, 318 pp., £20, October 1995, 0 385 40366 6
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A Modern Utopia 
by H.G. Wells, edited by Krishan Kumar.
Everyman, 271 pp., £5.99, November 1994, 0 460 87498 5
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... work of science fiction will ever win the Booker Prize – not even the joke 1890s version. H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine had no chance against ‘literary’ authors like Hardy and Conrad. In the twenty-five years it has been running, no SF title, as I recall, has even been shortlisted for Martyn Goff’s real thing. In 1940, T.S. Eliot struck the ...

Big Head, Many Brains

Colin Burrow: H.G. Wells, 16 June 2011

A Man of Parts 
by David Lodge.
Harvill, 565 pp., £18.99, March 2011, 978 1 84655 496 4
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... In 1892, while H.G. Wells was transforming himself from a draper’s assistant to a student of science, he married his cousin Isabel. He ungallantly described her in his Experiment in Autobiography (1934) as being at the time of their marriage ‘the one human being who was conceivable as an actual lover’. She did not much like having sex with him, however, and when he started teaching in Holborn he rapidly moved his attention to a student, Amy Catherine Robbins, whom he married (having divorced Isabel) in 1895, and whom he came to call ‘Jane ...

Sour Apple

José Harris, 5 July 1984

H.G. WellsAspects of a Life 
by Anthony West.
Hutchinson, 405 pp., £12.95, June 1984, 0 09 134540 5
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Heritage 
by Anthony West.
Secker, 305 pp., £8.95, April 1984, 0 436 56592 7
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... One of H.G. Wells’s abiding obsessions was the fear that the ‘woman of the future’ would bring about ‘race suicide’ by refusing to bear children: which may be a reason why he embarked on fatherhood so energetically, with a variety of women in addition to his wife. One of Wells’s most famous liaisons was with Rebecca West, mother of the author of the latest Wells biography ...

Maughamisms

Elizabeth Mavor, 18 July 1985

A Traveller in Romance 
by W. Somerset Maugham, edited by John Whitehead.
Muller, Blond and White, 275 pp., £12.95, November 1984, 0 85634 184 3
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... light of one intriguing anecdote included in this book. It appears that on a visit to Maugham H.G. Wells drew his fingers along the edition of his complete works that he had presented to his fellow author. ‘You know, they’re dead,’ he said. ‘They deal with matters of topical interest and now of course they’re unreadable.’ Maugham considered they ...

Little Men

Susannah Clapp, 7 August 1986

Sunflower 
by Rebecca West.
Virago, 276 pp., £9.95, June 1986, 0 86068 719 8
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... novel Sunflower features fictional versions of two small men with big names: little H.G. Wells is one; little Lord Beaverbrook is the other. Beaverbrook is one of the surprises of this unfinished novel. The other surprise is Rebecca West herself. Sunflower is a book about falling in and out of love: it reveals that while West was having her ...

Sidney and Beatrice

Michael Holroyd, 25 October 1979

A Victorian Courtship: The Story of Beatrice Potter and Sidney Webb 
by Jeanne Mackenzie.
Weidenfeld, 148 pp., £5.50
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... pair – ‘two active self-centred people, excessively devoted to the public cause,’ as H.G. Wells characterised them in The New Machiavelli – was the oddest romance in the Fabian calendar and a triumph for Sidney’s policy of gradualism. Beatrice was 34 at the time of their marriage and apparently determined to prove an old maid. Handsome, with ...

Flying Mud

Patrick Parrinder, 8 April 1993

The Invisible Man: The Life and Liberties of H.G. Wells 
by Michael Coren.
Bloomsbury, 240 pp., £20, January 1993, 0 7475 1158 6
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... Late in 1900 H.G. Wells sat down to draft the series of articles which were to make his reputation as the foremost prophet of the new century. His working title was ‘Speculations’ or ‘The New Prospectus’, and the essays were later published as Anticipations. His friend Arnold Bennett referred to them mockingly as ‘Uncle’s-dissipations’, but for Wells futurology was anything but a sideline ...

Big Thinks

Patricia Beer, 20 August 1992

Sleepwalker in a Fog 
by Tatyana Tolstaya, translated by Jamey Gambrell.
Virago, 192 pp., £13.99, April 1992, 1 85381 305 2
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... respectively, ‘memento mori’ and ‘lazybones’? As Rebecca West’s career developed, H.G. Wells commented unkindly on her increasing efforts to achieve Big Thinks, and suggested they were not paying off. It looks as though Tolstaya has been attempting the same thing and nobody has had the nerve of H.G. Wells. That ...

Holy Terrors

Penelope Fitzgerald, 4 December 1986

‘Elizabeth’: The Author of ‘Elizabeth and her German Garden’ 
by Karen Usborne.
Bodley Head, 341 pp., £15, October 1986, 0 370 30887 5
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Alison Uttley: The Life of a Country Child 
by Denis Judd.
Joseph, 264 pp., £15.95, October 1986, 0 7181 2449 9
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Richmal Crompton: The Woman behind William 
by Mary Cadogan.
Allen and Unwin, 169 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 0 04 928054 6
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... we live,’ she wrote. Rebecca West, who competed later with the Countess as a lover of H.G. Wells, was wrong in calling the book ‘a not too creditable early success’. There was no shortage, in the 1890s, of enigmatic, slight-seeming, best-selling novels – Beatrice Harraden’s Ships that Pass in the Night, for example, with its anti-hero, the ...

Ivy’s Feelings

Gabriele Annan, 1 March 1984

The Exile: A Life of Ivy Litvinov 
by John Carswell.
Faber, 216 pp., £10.95, November 1983, 0 571 13135 2
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... and the imperial ideal’. Ivy’s father Walter was not one of these but a close friend of H.G. Wells and ‘a kind of paradigm of the progressiveness of his time: a zealot for education, a Fabian, a sympathiser with oppressed and obliterated nationalities, among them his own’. He lived by teaching, writing, editing and translating, and died of pneumonia ...

Homeric Cheese v. Technophiliac Relish

David Cooper: GM food, 18 May 2000

... These might have been predictions from a utopian tract by some 1930s technophile – H.G. Wells, perhaps, or J.B.S. Haldane. However, change the tense and replace ‘wonder’ by ‘genetically engineered’ and ‘grocer’ by ‘supermarket’, and you have an actual passage from a recent book, Eat Your Genes. Tense and names are not all that have ...

Troglodytes

Patrick Parrinder, 25 October 1990

Notes on the Underground: An Essay on Technology, Society and the Imagination 
by Rosalind Williams.
MIT, 265 pp., £22.50, March 1990, 9780262231459
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The Mask of the Prophet: The Extraordinary Fictions of Jules Verne 
by Andrew Martin.
Oxford, 222 pp., £27.50, May 1990, 0 19 815798 3
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... Mary Shelley and her husband visited the cave of the Cumaean Sibyl, and eighty years later, H.G. Wells joined the throng of sightseers at the entrance to the Blue Grotto of Capri. Lake Avernus, the site of Aeneas’s descent into the underworld, was a place of pilgrimage for the Victorians even though (as one of them reported) it meant being carried on the ...

Big Thinks

Rosemary Dinnage, 22 June 2000

Selected Letters of Rebecca West 
edited by Bonnie Kime Scott.
Yale, 497 pp., £22.50, May 2000, 0 300 07904 4
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... to know quite well that she would be remembered for her private life: her affair with H.G. Wells – girl, 21, meets bounder, 47 – and the birth of their son. The story is not gossip fodder, but tragic and central to her life. When Wells is properly reassessed as a writer, it will be known which of the two leaves ...

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