August 14, 1946
Source: New York Times
Pages: 1 & 25
Special to The New York Times
H. G. Wells Dead
in London at 79;
Forecast Atomic Age in 1914 Novel
LONDON, Aug. 13 - H. G.
Wells, famous British novelist, historian and sociologist, who was considered
one of the outstanding contemporary literary figures, died this afternoon
at his home in Hanover Terrace, Regents Park, London, at age 79. He
had been ill for several months.
[For many years Mr. Wells
successfully fought diabetes, but in recent months his health had deteriorated,
The United Press said. According to the news agency, Mr. Wells realized
a few weeks ago that the end was near. To a friend who chided him about
his inattentiveness in a conversation, the author said: "Don't interrupt
me. Can't you see I'm busy dying?"]
During a career that spanned
more than fifty years, Mr. Wells, by his writing and prognostications,
often made world-wide news. As early as 1914, he predicted the atomic
bomb in a novel, The World Set Free. Before that he had predicted
the use of tanks in warfare and the growth of the airplane as an advanced
weapon in battle. He also forecast the development of rockets.
Aside from his ability
as a writer and herald of things-to-come, Mr. Wells was a profound sociologist.
He was one of the leaders of socialist thought in England for many years
and sought a world in which war and poverty would be eliminated.
Early in May 1944, the
author of The Shape of Things to Come and Mr. Britling Sees
it Through published a 205-page book, 42 and 44, in which
he castigated many leading figures of our time, including Sir Samuel
Hoare and Lord Vansittart. When writing of the late Beatrice Webb, he
momentarily withheld his barbs - "she went down to the poor as the saints
do." Calling this work "strong meat for babes," Mr. Wells published
only 2,000 copies.
The eighty-odd books that
H. G. Wells wrote (among them his Outline of History), his steady
and numerous contributions to the press and to periodicals, and his
many activities in other fields, were the proof of what would be superhuman
energy to the average man.
Mr. Wells was a superman
in many respects. Compared with contemporaries like Shaw, Bennett, Galsworthy
and Chesterton, he differed from them by his extraordinary versatility.
He never sought for literary style, but rather wrote down, almost invariably
in apt and original phraseology, what he had to say in the most direct
and abrupt manner.
In his wide range of writing
there was scarely a subject upon which Mr. Wells did not touch. He wrote
prophetically and fantastically of future wars. He philosophized on
marriage and religion. He satirized - without the venom of some of his
contemporaries - many weaknesses of social life. He had political aspirations,
but was unsuccessful both times he presented himself for Parliament.
He invented floor games for children, 'covered' important assignments
for British and American newspapers, engaged in spirited debates with
authors and scientists, and withal, seemed to find ample time leisure.
The Outline of History,
generally regarded as Mr. Wells' most important work of non-fiction,
is a model of tersity of expression and sense of perspective. Beginning
as in the first chapter of Genesis, the author traced the major currents
of events throughout the ages and concluded with a brief prophetic chapter,
"The Next Stage of History."
ENVISIONED A WORLD GOVERNMENT
Typically Wellsian, too,
was his idea about a new and better world. He dreamed of an Utopia,
with no Parliament, no politics, no private wealth, no business competition,
no police nor prisons, no lunatics, no defectives nor cripples. He longed
for a world under world government, for, he argued, in no other fashion
is a secure world peace conceivable.
Mr. Wells foresaw the 1914
war with Germany thirteen years before it happened; he prophesied how
the war would be fought, and he was correct in several striking details.
He made no claims, however, to being a prophet. Personally a man of
great charm, hospitable, cheerful and genial, he never posed as a great
man of letters, developed no mannerisms, but remained a typical Englishman
of the lower middle classes.
He was not born with any
advantages of social or financial standing. His father, Joseph Wells,
was a professional cricketer, and head gardener for Lord de L'Isle in
Herbert George Wells was
born at Bromley, Kent, in the southeast corner of England, on Sept.
His early struggles are
best recorded in Kipps, probably the finest book he ever wrote.
He was only 13 when he was apprenticed to a draper's establishment -
emporium - in a coastal town about the size of Folkestone. Before that
he had been apprenticed to a chemist and from that short phase he found
much material for his great novel, Tono-Bungay.
WON COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIPS
Young Herbert George by
dint of hard plugging gained scholarships that admitted him to the University
of London and the Royal College of Science. There he studied under Prof.
Thomas Henry Huxley. Presently he began to write literary articles,
criticisms and short imaginative stories, in which he made use of the
teeming suggestions of modern sciences. There was considerable demand
for that sort of fiction in English-speaking countries, and his book
The Time Machine, published in 1895, attracted much attention.
Shortly before that he
had written Select Conversations With an Uncle, but his next
two works, The War of the Worlds and The Invisible Man,
became so popular that he was enabled to devote himself with a certain
sense of security to purely literary work.
The works of Wells must
be divided into several categories, which again should be sub-divided.
There are the fantastic and the pseudo-scientific novels, the satirical
and humorous novels, and the socialogical and historical works, interspersed
with semi-political and philosophical works.
The first category includes
The First Men in the Moon, The War in the Air, The Invisible Man,
and many other novels, which alone would have made him famous. The second
category includes The History of Mr. Polly, Kipps, and Tono-Bungay
of early years and The Bulpington of Blup as late as 1933.
To the other type of books
belong Marriage, An Englishman Looks at the World, The Soul of a
Bishop, and many more. It is difficult to be precise about categories,
however, for Mr. Wells astounded his readers by suddenly coming out
with a book like The World of William Clissold, which gave him
a vehicle for outspokenness on many men and many things of the day.
From his youth he had been
a Socialist - if not a party member, at least in his opinions. He joined
the Fabian Society, but stepped aside as soon as he became convinced
that the Socialists were aiming at the complete control of labor under
a new plutocracy less effecient than the plutocracy then existing.
WAS GUEST OF MAXIM GORKY
Wells traveled a good deal,
always with an aim to see things for himself. Thus, he went to Russia
in 1920 and was the guest of Maxim Gorky at Leningrad. Later he wrote
a series of articles entitled "Russia in the Shadows" which appeared
in The New York Times.
In 1921 he came to this
country and 'covered' the Washington arms conference for The New York
World and he wrote hundreds of special articles for the daily press
of this country.
When Adolph Hitler appeared
in the public eye, Wells spoke of the Nazi regime as a "clumsy lout's
revolution against civilization."
He was dubious first and
later openly critical about the League of Nations, and in this matter,
as in most matters of topical events, he was decided in his opinions.
The League of Nations he compared to "a homunculus in a bottle trying
to set up the reign of God on Earth."
Mr. Wells found the American
scene fascinating, particularly as it revealed itself during the first
administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. After a trip to this
country in 1934 he professed himself greatly interested in the operations
of the "Brain Trust," the group of advisers with which Mr. Roosevelt
had surrounded himself.
A year later, after Mr.
Wells had again visited the United States, he found occasion to modify
some of his views of the preceding year. The work of certain Brain Trusters,
whom he called "social-minded technicians," disappointed him somewhat.
He found men in Washington who do not "constitute a team, working together
for a common end."
VISITED HOLLYWOOD IN
In 1935 Mr. Wells made
one of his most important forays into the motion-picture world in Hollywood.
Long appreciative of the motion picture as a form of art, Mr. Wells,
on this occasion, did not hesitate to call it "the very greatest art,
with the possibility of becoming the the greatest art form that has
His motion picture The
Man Who Could Work Miracles was a critic's success, although it
did not sweep the public mind as Mr. Wells had hoped it would.
Mr. Wells came here again
in 1937 for his first lecture tour in the United States. He told ship
news reporters he did not expect war in Europe for another two years
because "the nations are not quite ready." After visiting President
Roosevelt for the third time since 1933, Mr. Wells said he did not see
any danger of the President trying to make himself a dictator. He could
not imagine a more honest man in control of a great State, he added.
After visiting the New
York World's Fair and terming the British Empire exhibit "stupid" in
its appeal to snobbery, Mr. Wells discounted the importance of the Fair
in its professed role as an agency for world peace. "At the present
educational level," he said, "world peace is an impossibility."
Mr. Wells denounced as
an "outrage" the rewriting of his fantasy, The War of the Worlds,
for the radio broadcast which caused a wave of mass hysteria in the
nation on the night of Oct 30, 1938, when Orson Welles led thousands
to believe that the "Men from Mars" were invading this planet and were
spreading death and destruction in New York and New Jersey.
PROPHETIC VISION IN
As the second World War
approached, Mr. Wells again showed his prophetic vision early in 1939,
when he visited Australia and urged closer relations with the United
States for the protection of the down-under continent. Returning to
London just before the outbreak of the war, he declared the United States
under President Roosevelt's guidance held the greatest hope for the
salvation of mankind.
In the same pamphlet he
called Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain "ignorant and narrow-minded,"
Hitler an "unqualified horror'" Mussolini "vain, rhetorical," Stalin
"honest, strong and human," though not of "overwhelming intelligence,"
and Japan's rulers "Nazis without a Hitler."
From the moment war was
declared Mr. Wells, in his role as England's most famous pamphleteer,
consistently expressed the conviction that the Nazis could not conquer
the traditional bulldog spirit of the English common people, and just
as consistently demanded shake-ups in the British War office and Foreign
Office to get rid of antiquated ideas, Colonel Blimps and appeasers.
He was one of the leaders
in the upsurge of public opinion which swept Prime Minister Chamberlain
out of office in 1940, charging him with conducting a "grossly incompetent"
Even after Winston Churchill
became Prime Minister, Mr. Wells kept up his hammer blows in the press
for further reforms in the army and diplomatic service. He created an
international sensation with an interview on his arrival in New York
on Oct 3, 1940, when he attacked Lord Halifax, the Foreign Secretary,
as exemplifying the "Bourbons" and appeasers, whom he accused of "criminal
lethargy" in the conduct of war. He insisted that the elimination of
Lord Halifax was essential and that other members of the government
should also go.
When news of Mr. Wells'
statements reached London, there was a vitriolic debate in the House
of Commons, during which Earl Winterton demanded what the Government
meant by allowing "a man of that type to go to America." The Government's
reply, delivered by Capt. Osbert Peake, Under-Secretary for the Home
Office, was that Mr. Wells was free to say what he liked, at home or
abroad, and that it would injure British interest in the United States
to let the notion get around that only hand-picked Government spokesmen
would be allowed to lecture here.
During the period of the
Nazi-Soviet pact Mr. Wells insisted that there was "not the remotest
possibility" that Russia would join the Axis. As early as September,
1941, three months after Hitler launched his attack on Russia, Mr. Wells
was urging a large-scale British offensive on the Continent of Europe,
on the ground that Hitler's entanglement in Russia had placed him in
almost the same vulnerable position as Napoleon, shortly before his
WROTE NOVEL IN 1942
Early in 1942, Mr. Wells
produced a novel, You Can't Be Too Careful, which critics here
declared started out as a story-telling book reminiscent of his earlier
and delightful History of Mr. Polly but which wandered off into
the familiar Wellsian sociological tract. Its central character was
Edward Albert Tewler, a man with an inbred fear of "ideers" who was,
Mr. Wells said, you or me.
At the age of 76, a year
later, Mr. Wells earned a doctorate in science at London University
with a thesis discussing personality. He called it: "Quality of Illusion
in the Continuity of the Individual Life in the Higher Metazoa, with
Particular Reference to Homo Sapiens." The Metozoic Age was one of great
reptiles, walking and flying, but in the thesis Mr. Wells concerned
himself with John Smith, one of the endless varieties of Smiths, whom
he found to be "definitely a degenerate creature in the sense that he
presents no collective resisitance in the face of change."
Despite his lifelong opposition
to the monarchy which was to reach a head in a bitter warning to English
royalty just before his death to quit the throne before it was rudely
pushed off, Mr. Wells was treated by Lord Horder, King George's physician,
when he became ill in April 1944.
Regaining his health, the
novelist and pamphleteer in the crisis occasioned by British intervention
in Greece in December, 1944, was opposed to Winston Churchill in a left-wing
paper article headed "Churchill Must Go." Mr. Wells called the Prime
Minister a "Would-be British Fuehrer," conceded that Mr. Churchill had
served Britain as a fighting symbol, but contended that he had outlived
After the atomic bomb had
been dropped on Hiroshima in August 1945, Mr. Wells was asked to comment
on the terrible new weapon he had envisaged. He said: "This can wipe
out everything bad - or good - in this world. It is up to the people
to decide which."
In November, 1945, Mr.
Wells left his literary and sociological testament, Mind at the End
of its Tether, in which he despaired of the existence of the human
animal, predicting that "he will have to give place to some other animal
better adapted to the fate that closes in."
REMARKS ON ROYALTY
Mr. Wells' attack on British
royalty came only a month ago. In a virtually unprecedented attack upon
British monarchs, he asked whether the royal family was involved in
the "huge" sums that the House of Commons had been "told" Mussolini
had paid Sir Oswald Mosley, British Fascist pre-war leader. If the royal
family was involved, Mr. Wells declared, "then there is every reason
why the House of Hanover (he used the Germanic title which was changed
to the House of Windsor during the first World War) should follow the
House of Savoy into the shadows of exile and leave England free to return
to its old and persistent republican tradition."
Mr. Wells did not explain
the "involvement" nor was there any suggestion in the alleged revelation
that the royal family was in any way connected with the reported payments.
The royal household would not even dignify the implications with a denial
and George Bernard Shaw, then on the eve of his ninetieth birthday,
Mr. Wells wife, the former
Amy Catherine Robbins, died in 1927. They had two sons.
Publication Date: August 16, 1946
Source: New York Times
BODY OF WELLS CREMATED
J. B. Priestley Delivers
Eulogy for Noted British Author
LONDON, Aug 16 - The body
of H. G. Wells, noted author and historian, was cremated at Golders
Green Crematorium, London, today. Mr. Wells died Tuesday at the age
of 79. Besides members of the family, those present included Lord Beaverbrook,
J. B. Priestley, author, and David Low, cartoonist, and his wife.