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A Story of the Days to Come and News from Nowhere: H. G. Wells as a Writer of Anti-Utopian Fiction By Robert M. Philmus Concordia University A Story of the Days to Come lends itself to a number of generic configurations. At least three of these can be thought of as having authorial sanction inasmuch as they arise from connections that Wells is responsible for making with other works of fiction, including his own. Each of the three carries with it its own hermeneutic emphasis and bias; each also presides over, and inflects the meaning of, the romance element in WeUs's fiction. The following remarks concern only one of these configurations, the one which emerges, as it were, in the text of A Story of the Days to Come printed in the pages of the Pall Mall Magazine for 1899—i.e., in the text which does not immediately associate itself with any other by WeUs.1 Its opening sentence begins to establish its generic context by instantly bringing to mind another "excellent Mr. Morris" who "lived in the days of Queen Victoria the Good" (1:715).2 To be sure, what we are next told about the fictive Mr. Morris and his avatar, Mwres, does not properly fit the man to whom WeUs had recently paid tribute in an obituary-cum-review of The Well at the World's End? William Morris, after all, was in no usual sense of the words "heedless and impatient of the Future" (1:716); nor could he be said to have "nothing imaginative " about him (1:715). Yet it is here, and not at the very outset, that Days to Come ironicaUy misdirects us to the extent that it convinces us to give up any thought of the Morris from Hammersmith. Even so, it countenances such a persuasion only for a moment. Once we learn, as we presently do, that Mwres is "one of the officials of the Wind Vane and Waterfall Trust" (1:715), the significance of the disparity between him and his real-life namesake becomes clear. Its purpose, like that of the entire introductory disquisition on a character quite marginal to the events of the ensuing story, is orientational : it specifies, rather than obUterates, the connection with William Morris. The reference, that is, has nothing to do with persons, actual or fictive, or even to Morris-the-writer generally. Instead, WeUs points precisely to News from Nowhere, with its vision of a return to an idealized Fourteenth Century,4 a vision which latterly transpires through a leisurely voyage up a resuscitated Thames. By its recollection of Morris, Days to Come appears as a type of anti-utopian fiction. That is to say, it defines itself against—which also means in relation to—Nowhere, particularly as it derives its own dystopian possibility from the pastoral world that Morris there envisions as ideal. This ideal it more or 450 Philmus: A Story of the Days to Come less expUcitly evokes in Denton and Elizabeth's "dream" of escape from the mechanized ways of the London of the Twenty-Second Century; it even locates their Utopian longing for a better life in the selfsame "valley of the Thames" (2:742) that Nowhere occupies. But as their dream in the event turns into a nightmare, so the Nowhere re-presented in "The Vacant Country" proves to be very far from an Earthly Paradise. In this regard, Days to Come extends the critique of Morris inherent in The Time Machine. The "ruinous" world of the Eloi, as mediated through the hypotheses of the Time TraveUer, at first paradoxicaUy recalls Nowhere's "Epoch of Rest." Nor is it by accident that the word epitomizing his early impressions of 802,701 occurs to him as he stands in "the warm glow of the setting sun" after having partaken, Guest-like, of a communal banquet in "the great hall" (6:45-46);5 for the "Communism" that he speaks of (6:47) is certainly of Morris 's pastoral-utopian variety. This moment of affectionate parody, however, lasts only as long as the Time Traveller perceives the Eloi as living "in ease and deUght" (10:105)—that...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 450-455
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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