Again and again in his youth he was confronted with career opportunities that were wrong because of his diverse talents, originality, imagination and critical intelligence – for example as a chemist’s assistant and a rehearsal teacher at Hyde’s Drapery Emporium, which became “the unhappiest and most hopeless period. of his whole life. ” Still, some early work as a student-teacher served him well, giving him the chance to study anatomy, mathematics, chemistry, especially biology, geometry, and then win a scholarship to the Normal School of Science. There flourished his talent for debate and writing, his natural charm and sense of humor.
At the Normal School of Science, we see him “always ready to set off on fresh paths,” in Tomalin’s words. “Taking on too much was the way Wells lived his life.” He lectured at the College Debating Society, one of which was “The Past and Future of the Human Race,” which for a decade heralded his vision of the things to come in “The Time Machine,” a work originally published in the first issue of New Review by his friend William Henley, best known for his poem “Invictus.”
Tomalin, who has written biographies of Charles Dickens, Samuel Pepys and other writers, found that she could not just deliver the young Wells and admits that “I have found him too interesting to leave.” Thus, Wells’ entire life appears here, as she carefully guides us through three important, overlapping profiles of one of England’s enduring, most read, and quoted literary artists. One profile is Wells as a social activist who, he said, is determined to “write, speak and preach revolution.” He was an atheist, socialist and author of dozens of books, often dreaming of a better social world; his political publications were as influential and popular as his groundbreaking science fiction tales, which he called “scientific romances.” We learn about his important but not entirely comfortable engagement with the visionary progressives of the Fabian Society. In his bestselling work “Anticipations”, he told a friend, his intention was “to undermine and destroy the monarch, monogamy and respectability – and the British Empire, all under the guise of speculation about cars and electric heating.” It is no small feat that his 1940 “Human Rights” became “one of the sources of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly.
Wells actually destroyed monogamy and respectability in his own life. By examining this unpleasant, sad dimension thoroughly, Tomalin enables us to see that “he was a bad man and an unreliable lover,” with the person he hurt the most, is his second wife, Jane, who “found left himself for extended periods as the years passed as he continued his love affair in flames of publicity. ”
So it is this biography’s last profile of Wells as a productive, original storyteller that forced me as a young reader and as a writer cemented my respect for him. Although he was often ill and self-educated, his early literary work was wonderful. Prior to his success with “The Time Machine,” he took work copying charts for slides sold to medical students, taught students, devised quizzes for cheap magazines, and wrote two popular science textbooks, one of which he illustrated, but for him they were hackwork. . He edited a diary and weekly, rolled out book reviews, tried unsuccessfully to write plays, sold lightweight pieces to The Pall Mall Gazette, which to his surprise earned him more money than he received from teaching. All this is only the tip of the iceberg of his voluminous literary outpourings.