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10 YOURS, H. G.i SOME MISSING WELLS LETTERS TO ARNOLD BENNETT William J. Scheick (University of Texas, Austin) In the introductory comments to his collection of the correspondence between H. G. Wells and Arnold Bennett, Harris Wilson notes that, insofar as he knows, he has compiled all the surviving letters exchanged between these two men, "except a few undated notes which I have excluded on the grounds of brevity and lack of significance or interest."·'In the archives of the Academic Center Library of the University of Texas at Austin, however, there exist other letters from this correspondence . 2 of the letters in the archives, those written by Bennett appear in James Hepburn's edition of Bennett's letters or will be printed in the succeeding volume ? But in this collection there are certain missing letters from Wells to Bennett which have gone unnoticed . Most of the items in this Wells-Bennett collection are trivial, largely consisting of brief invitations to lunch, dinner, or a visit; but there are a few letters which prove more substantial. Some provide biographical footnotes - the letters concerning Raphael Roche, for instance ; others reveal the critical side of Wells through his comments on G. K. Chesterton, Eden Phillpotts, and, of course, Bennett himself; and one, written in New York on New Year's Eve, represents as touching an attestation of Wells' affection for Bennett as any other letter of its kind. My purpose in making these letters available is to supplement Wilson's edition, to clear up a few matters left uncertain without them, and to provide further testimony that the relationship between the two men endured over the years in spite of very real differences. The earliest letter of any interest in the collection is slight and requires little commentary; Spade House Sandgate 20. 11. 01 My Dear Bennett. I hope you'll get "Anticipations' & the "F. M. in the Moon' in the natural course of reviewing. But if you don't, I'll send you the former because as a promising young man, you cannot go without reading it. Yours H. G. Bennett had read most of the two books in their serialized versions and had expressed a high regard for Anticipations (Wilson, p. 66). Shortly thereafter Wells wrote the following letter, one which pro- 11 vides a humorous moment in the correspondence - though the gripe expressed in Wells' short phillippic concerning G. K. Chesterton is indeed irate: Spade House Sandgate 20. 12. 01 My dear Bennett. I've just read this new light Chesterton on ME in the Pall Mall Magazine & Really, you know, he's an ass. "The most polished & futile of centuries," i. e., Either the century of Cromwell or the century of the French Revolution . His judgement does not penetrate,.it's sham. On me anyhow he's no better than Lewis Hind. I am confirmed in the opinion I derived from Zangwill's appraisal that Chesterton must be an imposter. No furth[er] light on 'The Crime' so far, but I hope.5 Yours H. G. [Added as an afterthought at the top of the letter!] Why should Chesterton flourish while Whitten is a violet? Tell Whitten to wake up & be a little pushful & tell people things. Chesterton had not, in fact, referred specifically to Wells' work when he wrote the phrase quoted in the letter: rather, he had said: "'Gulliver 's Travels' is, indeed, the great Bible of scepticism, and worthy to be the greatest literary work of the most polished and most futile of centuries·."' Why Wells understood this comment to refer to his own work is not difficult to ascertain. The answer lies in the fact that in the same essay Chesterton relates Wells to Swift, remarking that "the conception at the back of his [Wells'] mind appears to be essentially the same as that of Swift." Moreover, although Chesterton agrees that Wells is "a profoundly interesting and representative man of this age," he finds fault with the books he is considering in the review. He reports that "for some mysterious reason" Anticipations fails to satisfy him, that there is a weakness in "nearIy al^ of Mr. H. G. Wells's books" which "arises out of his sceptical...


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pp. 10-20
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