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21 AN EARLY ESTIMATE OF H. G. WELLS By D. S. Bland (University of Liverpool) During the second half of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth a popular form of paperback publishing was the "Penny" series; the Penny Library of Famous Books, for example, produced by the publishers of the STRAND MAGAZINE, and the Penny Popular Novels, edited by Vi. T. Stead from the office of the REVIEW OF REVIEWS. On the occasion of Queen Victoria's Jubilee in 1897 Stead departed from his usual practice and produced as No. 77 in the series a sixty-page survey entitled VICTORIAN NOVELS, BEING THE JUBILEE NUMBER OF THE PENNY NOVELS. It fell Into two parts, the first being devoted to the growth of the novel since the Queen's accession, a panoramic view which begins with the acute prophecy: '"The Victorian novel' is a phrase not much used at present, but it may become as familiar as that of 'Elizabethan drama.'" The second part consists of very drastically abridged versions of "some typical novels of the day." Nine novels are listed on the contents page, the last of them being THE ViAR OF THE WORLDS,' though no abridgement In fact is offered. Stead makes up for this omission, however, by referring to Viel Is at some length In both parts of his survey. Since these ephemeral "Penny" books are now very hard to come by, it may be of interest to readers of EFT to see what an intelligent journalist, with his finger firmly on the pulse of popular taste, had to say about the newly risen star. THE WAR OF THE ViORLDS was the tenth book Viel Is had written after his text book on biology (1893). Ten books in four years, of which five were science fiction of more than one kind. No wonder Stead was forced to take notice of him. In Part I he includes him in the category of writers of "psychic romance." Stead sees this kind of novel as beginning with Godwin's ST. LEON and FRANKENSTEIN, and being given a fresh impetus by DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE. He continues: Among the newer school of novelists who have realized the immense wealth of suggestion that lies in the hints of recorded psychic phenomena, and the half-thought-out speculations of psychologists, Mr. H. G. Viel Is is conspicuous. His TIME MACHINE was the most successful attempt that has yet been made to enable the ordinary British Philistine to understand what immense possibilities are latent in a world in which our ideas of time cease to exist. . . . It is to Mr. Wells's credit that he has at last rendered thinkable a world in which the barriers of time be moved hither and thither at will. 1 The other eight were: Hall Caine, THE CHRISTIAN: Ouida, THE MASSARENES; Hamlin Garland, ROSE OF DUTCHER1S COOLY; Robert Hichens, FLAMES; Ian Maclaren, KATE CARNEGIE; S. R. Crockett, LOCHINVAR; Marie Corel Ii, THE PROBLEM OF A WICKED SOUL; George du Maurier, THE MARTIAN. 22 Stead then goes on to comment on that other broad division of V/ells's science fiction, his visions of the future: "His speculation as to the possible evolution of the human race [the Morlocks and the Eloi], was one of those nightmares of the scientific imagination which will not speedily be forgotten." Stead then compares this with Richard Jefferies' AFTER LONDON. In Part Il Stead continues to examine this class of fiction, which he calls "the fiction of futurity." He points out that the novelists of futurity approach the subject either as politicians or Utopians (he instances MEWS FROM NOWHERE) or as "men whose imagination has been fired up by recent scientific progress", who "find a delight in speculating as to the developments which the future may have in store. Once again it is Wells who is the best practitioner in this genre: "Of the scientific romances of the future, the most remarkable in recent fiction have been those by Mr. H. G. Wells. . .Mr. Wells is now contributing to PEARSON'S MAGAZINE a spirited and sensational serial entitled THE WAR OF THE WORLDS. [Here follows a brief summary of the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 21-22
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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