HG Wells: His Life and Work

The Father of Science Fiction

HG Wells
De Agostini / Biblioteca Ambrosiana / De Agostini Picture Library / Getty Images. De Agostini / Biblioteca Ambrosiana / De Agostini Picture Library / Getty Images 

Herbert George Wells, more commonly known as H.G. Wells, was born on September 21, 1866. He was a prolific English writer who wrote fiction and non-fiction. Wells is most famous for his science fiction novels and is sometimes referred to as "the father of science fiction." He died on August 13, 1946.

Early Years

H.G. Wells was born on September 21, 1866, in Bromley, England. His parents were Joseph Wells and Sarah Neal.

Both worked as domestic servants before using a small inheritance to purchase a hardware store. HG Wells, known as Bertie to his family, had three older siblings. The Wells family lived in poverty for many years; the store provided a limited income due to its poor location and shabby merchandise.

At the age of seven, H.G. Wells had an accident that left him bedridden. He turned to books to pass the time, reading everything from Charles Dickens to Washington Irving. When the family store went under, Sarah went to work as a housekeeper at a large estate. It was at this estate that H.G. Wells became even more of an avid reader, picking up books from authors like Voltaire.  

At the age of 18, H.G. Wells received a scholarship that allowed him to attend the Normal School of Science, where he studied biology. He later attended London University. After graduating in 1888, he became a science teacher.

His very first book, the "Textbook of Biology," was published in 1893.

Personal Life

H.G. Wells married his cousin, Isabel Mary Wells, in 1891, but left her in 1894 for one of his former students, Amy Catherine Robbins. They married in 1895. In that same year, his first fiction novel, The Time Machine, was published.

It brought Wells instant fame, inspiring him to embark on a serious career as a writer.

Famous Works

H.G. Wells was a very productive writer. He authored more than 100 books during his 60+ year career. His fiction works fall into many genres, including science fiction, fantasy, dystopia, satire and tragedy. He also wrote plenty of non-fiction, including biographies, autobiographies, social commentaries and textbooks.

Some of his most famous works include his first novel, "The Time Machine," which was published in 1895, and "The Island of Doctor Moreau" (1896), "The Invisible Man" (1897) and "The War of the Worlds" (1898). All four of these books have been turned into films.

Orson Welles quite famously adapted "The War of the Worlds" into a radio play that was first broadcast on October 30, 1938. Many radio listeners, who assumed that what they were hearing was real and not a radio play, panicked at the prospect of an alien invasion and fled their homes in fear.

Novels

  • "The Time Machine" (1895)
  • "The Wonderful Visit" (1895)
  • "The Island of Doctor Moreau" (1896)
  • "The Wheels of Chance" (1896)
  • "The Invisible Man" (1897)
  • "The War of the Worlds" (1898)
  • "When the Sleeper Wakes" (1899)
  • "Love and Mr Lewisham" (1900)
  • "The First Men in the Moon" (1901)
  • "The Sea Lady" (1902)
  • "The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth" (1904)
  • "Kipps" (1905)
  • "A Modern Utopia" (1905)
  • "In the Days of the Comet" (1906)
  • "The War in the Air" (1908)
  • "Tono-Bungay" (1909)
  • "Ann Veronica" (1909)
  • "The History of Mr. Polly" (1910)
  • "The Sleeper Awakes" (1910)
  • "The New Machiavelli" (1911)
  • "Marriage" (1912)
  • "The Passionate Friends" (1913)
  • "The Wife of Sir Isaac Harman" (1914)
  • "The World Set Free" (1914)
  • "Bealby: A Holiday" (1915)
  • "Boon" (1915)
  • "The Research Magnificent" (1915)
  • "Mr. Britling Sees It Through" (1916)
  • "The Soul of a Bishop" (1917)
  • "Joan and Peter: The Story of an Education" (1918)
  • "The Undying Fire" (1919)
  • "The Secret Places of the Heart" (1922)
  • "Men Like Gods" (1923)
  • "The Dream" (1924)
  • "Christina Alberta's Father" (1925)
  • "The World of William Clissold" (1926)
  • "Meanwhile" (1927)
  • "Mr. Blettsworthy on Rampole Island" (1928)
  • "The Autocracy of Mr. Parham" (1930)
  • "The Bulpington of Blup" (1932)
  • "The Shape of Things to Come" (1933)
  • "The Croquet Player" (1936)
  • "Brynhild" (1937)
  • "Star Begotten" (1937)
  • "The Camford Visitation" (1937)
  • "Apropos of Dolores" (1938)
  • "The Brothers" (1938)
  • "The Holy Terror" (1939)
  • "Babes in the Darkling Wood" (1940)
  • "All Aboard for Ararat" (1940)
  • "You Can't Be Too Careful" (1941)

Non-Fiction

  • "Text-Book of Biology" (1893)
  • "Honours Physiography" (1893)
  • "Certain Personal Matters" (1897)
  • "Anticipations of the Reactions of Mechanical and Scientific Progress upon Human Life and Thought" (1901)
  • "Mankind in the Making" (1903)
  • "The Future in America" (1906)
  • "This Misery of Boots" (1907)
  • "Will Socialism Destroy the Home? " (1907)
  • "New Worlds for Old" (1908)
  • "First and Last Things" (1908)
  • "Floor Games" (1911)
  • "The Great State" (1912)
  • "Great Thoughts From H. G. Wells" (1912)
  • "Thoughts From H. G. Wells" (1912)
  • "Little Wars" (1913)
  • "The War That Will End War" (1914)
  • "An Englishman Looks at the World" (1914)
  • "The War and Socialism" (1915)
  • "The Peace of the World" (1915)
  • "What is Coming?" (1916)
  • "The Elements of Reconstruction" (1916)
  • "God the Invisible King" (1917)
  • "War and the Future" (1917)
  • "Introduction to Nocturne" (1917)
  • "In the Fourth Year" (1918)
  • "The Idea of a League of Nations" (1919)
  • "The Way to the League of Nations" (1919)
  • "The Outline of History" (1920)
  • "Russia in the Shadows" (1920)
  • "Frank Swinnerton" (1920)
  • "The Salvaging of Civilization" (1921)
  • "A Short History of the World" (1922)
  • "Washington and the Hope of Peace" (1922)
  • "Socialism and the Scientific Motive" (1923)
  • "The Story of a Great Schoolmaster: Being a Plain Account of the Life and Ideas of "Sanderson of Oundle" (1924)
  • "A Year of Prophesying" (1925)
  • "A Short History of Mankind" (1925)
  • "Mr. Belloc Objects to The Outline of History" (1926)
  • "Wells' Social Anticipations" (1927)
  • "The Way the World is Going" (1928)
  • "The Book of Catherine Wells" (1928)
  • "The Open Conspiracy" (1928)
  • "The Science of Life" (1930)
  • "Divorce as I See It" (1930)
  • "Points of View" (1930)
  • "The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind" (1931)
  • "The New Russia" (1931)
  • "Selections From the Early Prose Works of H. G. Wells" (1931)
  • "What Should be Done—Now: A Memorandum on the World Situation, John Day" (1932)
  • "After Democracy" (1932)
  • "Marxism vs. Liberalism" (1934)
  • "Experiment in Autobiography" (1934)
  • "The New America: The New World" (1935)
  • "The Anatomy of Frustration" (1936)
  • "World Brain" (1938)
  • "The Fate of Homo Sapiens" (1939)
  • "The New World Order" (1939)
  • "Travels of a Republican Radical in Search of Hot Water" (1939)
  • "The Common Sense of War and Peace" (1940)
  • "The Rights of Man" (1940)
  • "The Pocket History of the World" (1941)
  • "Guide to the New World" (1941)
  • "The Outlook for Homo Sapiens" (1942)
  • "The Conquest of Time" (1942)
  • "Modern Russian and English Revolutionaries" (1942)
  • "Phoenix: A Summary of the Inescapable Conditions of World Reorganization" (1942)
  • "Crux Ansata: An Indictment of the Roman Catholic Church" (1943)
  • "'42 to '44: A Contemporary Memoir" (1944)
  • "Reshaping Man's Heritage" (1944)
  • "The Happy Turning" (1945)
  • "Mind at the End of Its Tether" (1945)
  • "H.G. Wells: Early Writings in Science and Science Fiction" (1975)

Short Stories

  • "A Tale of the Twentieth Century" Science Schools Journal (no. 6, May 1887)
  • "A Talk with Gryllotalpa" Science Schools Journal (no. 3, February 1887)
  • "A Vision of the Past" Science Schools Journal (no. 7, June 1887)
  • "The Chronic Argonauts" Science Schools Journal (nos. 17–19, April–June 1888)
  • "The Devotee of Art" Science Schools Journal (nos. 24–25, Nov.–Dec. 1888)
  • "Walcote" Science Schools Journal (nos. 25–26, Dec. 1888 – Jan. 1889)
  • "Æpyornis Island" Pall Mall Budget (13 December 1894)
  • "A Deal in Ostriches" Pall Mall Gazette (20 December 1894)
  • "The Diamond Maker" Pall Mall Budget(16 August 1894)
  • "A Family Elopement" The St. James's Gazette (3 March 1894)
  • "The Flowering of the Strange Orchid" Pall Mall Budget (2 August 1894)
  • "The Hammerpond Park Burglary" Pall Mall Budget (5 July 1894)
  • "How Gabriel Became Thompson" Truth (26 July 1894)
  • "In the Avu Observatory" Pall Mall Budget (9 August 1894)
  • "In the Modern Vein: An Unsympathetic Love Story" Truth (8 March 1894)
  • "The Jilting of Jane" Pall Mall Budget (12 July 1894)
  • "The Lord of the Dynamos" Pall Mall Budget (6 September 1894)
  • "The Man With a Nose" Pall Mall Gazette (6 Feb. 1894)
  • "A Misunderstood Artist" Pall Mall Gazette (29 October 1894)
  • "The Stolen Bacillus" Pall Mall Budget (21 June 1894)
  • "The Thing in No. 7" Pall Mall Budget (25 October 1894)
  • "Through a Window" Black and White (25 August 1894)
  • "The Thumbmark" Pall Mall Budget (28 June 1894)
  • "The Treasure in the Forest" Pall Mall Budget (23 August 1894)
  • "The Triumphs of a Taxidermist" Pall Mall Gazette (3–15 March 1894)
  • "The Argonauts of the Air" The Phil May's Annual (December 1895)
  • "A Catastrophe" New Budget (4 April 1895)
  • "The Cone" Unicorn (18 September 1895)
  • "The Flying Man" Pall Mall Gazette (4 January 1895)
  • "How Pingwill Was Routed" New Budget (27 June 1895)
  • "Le Mari Terrible" New Budget (23 May 1895)
  • "The Moth" Pall Mall Gazette (28 March 1895)
  • "Our Little Neighbour" New Budget (4 April 1895)
  • "Pollock and the Porroh Man" New Budget (23 May 1895)
  • "The Reconciliation" The Weekly Sun Literary Supplement (1 December 1895)
  • "The Remarkable Case of Davidson's Eyes" Pall Mall Budget (28 March 1895)
  • "The Sad Story of a Dramatic Critic" Budget (15 August 1895)
  • "The Temptation of Harringay" The St. James's Gazette (9 February 1895)
  • "Wayde's Essence" New Budget (18 April 1895)
  • "The Apple" The Idler (October 1896)
  • "In the Abyss" Pearson's Magazine (1 August 1896)
  • "The Plattner Story" The New Review (April 1896)
  • "The Purple Pileus" Black and White (December 1896)
  • "The Rajah's Treasure" Pearson's Magazine (July 1896)
  • "The Red Room" The Idler (March 1896)
  • "The Sea Raiders" The Weekly Sun Literary Supplement (6 December 1896)
  • "A Slip Under the Microscope" The Yellow Book (January 1896)
  • "The Story of the Late Mr. Elvesham" The Idler (May 1896)
  • "Under the Knife" (a.k.a. "Slip Under the Knife") The New Review (January 1896)
  • "The Crystal Egg" The New Review (May 1897)
  • "The Lost Inheritance" The Plattner Story and Others. (May 1897)
  • "Mr Marshall's Doppelganger" Gentlewoman (18 September 1897)
  • "A Perfect Gentleman on Wheels" Woman at Home (April 1897)
  • "The Presence by the Fire" Penny Illustrated Paper (14 August 1897)
  • "The Star" The Graphic (December 1897)
  • "A Story of the Stone Age" The Idler (May–September 1897)
  • "Jimmy Goggles the God" The Graphic (December 1898)
  • "The Man Who Could Work Miracles" Illustrated London News (July 1898)
  • "Miss Winchelsea's Heart" The Queen (October 1898)
  • "Mr. Ledbetter's Vacation" The Strand Magazine (October 1898)
  • "The Stolen Body" The Strand Magazine (November 1898)
  • "Mr. Brisher's Treasure" The Strand Magazine (April 1899)
  • "A Story of the Days to Come" Pall Mall Magazine (June–October 1899)
  • "A Vision of Judgment" The Butterfly (September 1899)
  • "A Dream of Armageddon" Black and White Budget (25 May 1901)
  • "Filmer" The Graphic (December 1901)
  • "The New Accelerator" The Strand Magazine (December 1901)
  • "The Inexperienced Ghost" The Strand Magazine (March 1902)
  • "The Loyalty of Esau Common" The Contemporary Review (February 1902)
  • "The Land Ironclads" The Strand Magazine (December 1903)
  • "The Magic Shop" The Strand Magazine (June 1903)
  • "Mr. Skelmersdale in Fairyland" London Magazine (February 1903)
  • "The Truth About Pyecraft" The Strand Magazine (April 1903)
  • "The Valley of Spiders" The Strand Magazine (March 1903)
  • "The Country of the Blind" The Strand Magazine (April 1904)
  • "The Empire of the Ants" The Strand Magazine (December 1905)
  • "The Beautiful Suit" (a.k.a. "A Moonlight Fable") Collier's Weekly (April 1909)
  • "Little Mother Up the Morderberg" The Strand Magazine (April 1910)
  • "My First Aeroplane" The Strand Magazine (January 1910)
  • "The Story of the Last Trump" Boon (1915)
  • "The Wild Asses of the Devil" Boon (1915)
  • "Peter Learns Arithmetic" (1918)
  • "The Grisly Folk" Storyteller Magazine (April 1921)
  • "The Pearl of Love" The Strand Magazine (January 1925)
  • "The Queer Story of Brownlow's Newspaper" The Strand Magazine (February 1932)
  • "Answer to Prayer" The New Statesman (10 April 1937)

Short Story Collections

  • "Select Conversations with an Uncle (Now Extinct) and Two Other Reminiscences" (1895)
  • "The Stolen Bacillus and Other Incidents" (1895)
  • "Thirty Strange Stories" (1897)
  • "The Plattner Story and Others" (1897)
  • "Tales of Space and Time" (1899)
  • "A Cure For Love" (1899)
  • "Twelve Stories and a Dream" (1903)
  • "The Country of the Blind and Other Stories" (1911)
  • "The Door in the Wall and Other Stories" (1911)
  • "The Star" (1913)
  • "Boon, The Mind of the Race, The Wild Asses of the Devil, and The Last Trump" (1915) "Tales of the Unexpected" (1922)
  • "Tales of Wonder" (1923)
  • "Tales of Life and Adventure" (1923)
  • "The Empire of the Ants and Other Stories" (1925)
  • "The Short Stories of H. G. Wells" (1927)
  • "Selected Short Stories" (1927)
  • "The Adventures of Tommy" (1929)
  • "The Valley of Spiders" (1930)
  • "The Stolen Body and Other Tales of the Unexpected" (1931)
  • "The Famous Short Stories of H. G. Wells" (1937)
  • "Short Stories by H. G. Wells" (1940)
  • "The Inexperienced Ghost" (1943)
  • "The Land Ironclads" (1943)
  • "The New Accelerator" (1943)
  • "The Truth About Pyecraft and Other Short Stories" (1943)
  • "Twenty-Eight Science Fiction Stories" (1952)
  • "Seven Stories" (1953)
  • "Three Prophetic Science Fiction Novels of H. G. Wells" (1960)
  • "The Cone" (1965)
  • "Best Science Fiction Stories of H. G. Wells" (1966)
  • "The Complete Short Stories of H. G. Wells" (1966)
  • "H.G. Wells: Early Writings in Science and Science Fiction" (1975)
  • "The Man with the Nose and Other Uncollected Stories of H. G. Wells" (1984)
  • "The Red Room and Other Stories" (1998)
  • "Selected Stories of H. G. Wells" (2004)

Death

H.G. Wells died on August 13, 1946. He was 79 years old. The exact cause of death is unknown, though some claim that he had a heart attack. His ashes were scattered at sea in Southern England near a series of three chalk formations known as Old Harry Rocks.

Impact and Legacy

H.G. Wells liked to say that he wrote "scientific romances." Today, we refer to this style of writing as science fiction. Wells' influence on this genre is so significant that he is known as "the father of science fiction" (alongside Jules Verne).

Wells was among the first to write about things like time machines and alien invasions. His most famous works have never been out of print, and their influence is still seen in modern books, films and television shows.

H.G. Wells also made a number of social and scientific predictions in his writing. He wrote about things like airplanes, space travel, the atomic bomb and even the automatic door before they existed in the real world. These prophetic imaginings are part of Wells' legacy and one of the things he is most famous for.

Famous Quotes

H.G. Wells was no stranger to social commentary. He often commented on art, people, government, and social issues. Some of his more famous quotes include the following.

  • "I found that, taking almost anything as a starting point and letting my thoughts play about with it, there would presently come out of the darkness, in a manner quite inexplicable, some absurd or vivid little nucleus. Little men in canoes upon sunlit oceans would come floating out of nothingness, incubating the eggs of prehistoric monsters unawares; violent conflicts would break out amidst the flower-beds of suburban gardens; I would discover I was peering into remote and mysterious worlds ruled by an order logical indeed but other than our common sanity.  "The Country of the Blind and Other Stories" (1904)
  • Humanity either makes, or breeds, or tolerates all its afflictions, great or small. —"Joan and Peter: The Story of an Education" (1918)
  • A time will come when a politician who has willfully made war and promoted international dissension will be as sure of the dock and much surer of the noose than a private homicide. It is not reasonable that those who gamble with men's lives should not stake their own. —"The Salvaging of Civilization" (1921)
  • An artist who theorizes about his work is no longer artist but critic. —"The Temptaion of Harringay" (1929)
  • If you fell down yesterday, stand up today. —"The Anatomy of Frustration" (1936)

Bibliography

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Schweitzer, Karen. "HG Wells: His Life and Work." ThoughtCo, Feb. 1, 2018, thoughtco.com/hg-wells-biography-4158307. Schweitzer, Karen. (2018, February 1). HG Wells: His Life and Work. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/hg-wells-biography-4158307 Schweitzer, Karen. "HG Wells: His Life and Work." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/hg-wells-biography-4158307 (accessed April 23, 2018).