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Wells, Jung and the Persona By Michael Draper Editor of The Wellsian Hertford, England The index of C. G. Jung's Collected Writings shows the distinguished psychiatrist and philosopher to have been famUiar with a range of H. G. Wells's books from The Time Machine to God the Invisible King. The two authors met in 1924 and took the opportunity to compare notes on their differing coUective-mind theories. Despite the quiet reservations each had about the other's work, Wells admired Jung sufficiently to preserve the conversation, lightly fictionaUzed , in The World of William Clissold (Bk. I, Chap. 13).1 The link between Wells and Jung has as yet attracted scant attention. Even Vincent Brome, who as biographer of both men was uniquely able to discuss each with the other, offers us no suggestions as to why Wells was drawn to certain Jungian ideas, nor to what extent he modified them to suit the needs of his own life, thought and fiction.2 The present essay seeks to tackle these very questions, which are central to our understanding not only of Wells the man, but of Wells the Uterary artist. Jung's intuitions led him away from the normal bounds of science towards a revaluation of the mind's mythopoeic powers, a quest for truth which was sometimes very unorthodox but which nonetheless yielded such rewarding notions as "introvert," "extrovert," "complex," "archetype," and "persona." It was the last idea which most appealed to Wells. In origin the word "persona" referred to the mask worn by actors in the classical theatre. Jung revived it as a name for the partial personalities which individuals have to develop in order to deal effectively with the outside world. In his Experiment in Autobiography Wells remarks that throughout his life "a main strand of interest has been to anchor personas to a common conception of reality" (Chap. 8:5). He instances four novels of his which embody the "theme of the floating persona, the dramatized self. ... at various levels of complexity and self-deception": The Wheels of Chance, The Research Magnificent, Christina Alberta's Father, and Mr. Blettsworthy on Rampole Island. Presumably WeUs was keen to give these lesser-known books some publicity; he could equally well have cited The Invisible Man and Kipps, books which depict—one negatively , the other positively—an individual shedding a constricting identity and painfuUy struggling toward a more ideal one. Each contains a scene in which the lone protagonist wanders London, unable to get food without betraying his alienated, transitional state (Invisible Man, Chap. 23; Kipps, Bk. II, Chap. 7). 437 Draper: Wells, Jung and the Persona From his undergraduate years, when he too as a poor science student sometimes wandered through London with an empty stomach, Wells presented the world with a persona which combined aspects of the artist and the scientist. Strictly speaking, these two elements might better be described as the intuitive and the rational, the broad categories of mental activity which are now thought to be controlled respectively by the right and left sides of the brain. Still, it is fair to say that Wells associated the two types of thinking with distinct social roles, and it is also fair to say that his best works of fiction were written during the period when he was struggling to combine the subject matter of the scientist with the creative response and self-expression of the artist, a period stretching from the early 1890s to the Great War. In the "Note to the Reader" which opens A Modern Utopia (1905) Wells describes himself as primarily an "imaginative writer," though an imaginative writer ready to hazard occasional non-fictional books on "social and political questions." His standpoint had shifted drastically by 1915 when he countered the aesthetic criticisms of Henry James by retorting, "I had rather be called a journaUst than an artist."3 It seems that by this point Wells had used up as source material all the formative experiences he really cared about. Without these particulars to be true to, he felt free to restate the world view he had built up, with less rendering of experience and more generaUzed discussion of it. In...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 437-449
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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