A futurist writer from modern England

HG Wells: a futurist writer from modern England


September marks the birth of a great figure in English literature, HG Wells. Herbert George Wells was a prolific English writer, novelist, journalist, sociologist and historian. Born September 21st, 1866 in Bromley, Kent, England, he has a number of fictional and non-fictional works to his name. He died on the 13the August 1946 in London at the age of 79 leaving behind him a multitude of works of fiction including more than fifty novels and dozens of short stories. His nonfiction texts include works of social commentary, popular science, history, politics, satire, biography, and autobiography. He is best remembered for his famous science fiction novels and also for his bizarre predictions about the future. He pioneered the science fiction genre and wrote over 100 books during his 60+ year career. His legacy as a writer and activist is celebrated by remembering his works and honoring his achievements in the field of literature and analyzing how his theories affected the socio-political culture of the modern literary scene. A study of his youth facilitates a thorough understanding of the nature of his works and how they affected his literature. A closer study of his works facilitates an easy understanding of his motive and intention behind producing such works which are futuristic, reformative and revolutionary in nature.

Early life

Wells came from a very humble and poor family. His origins were from the petty bourgeoisie. He had three older siblings. Her father, Joseph Wells, was a semi-professional cricketer and her mother, Sarah Neil, was an intermittent housekeeper. They worked as servants but later resorted to trading by buying a hardware store for their small inheritance as they were under the constant threat of poverty. After being in an accident at the age of 7, Wells became bedridden and developed a fondness for reading. He became a voracious reader and read everything from Charles Dickens to Washington Irving. His literary horizons widened when his mother started working as a cleaner in a larger field, and it was there that he read authors like Voltaire.

Wells eventually studied at Thomas Morley’s academy in Bromley, but was forced to drop out aged 14 due to his father’s injury which left him unable to play and pay for school. Wells therefore began working as a draper where he gained experience and also inspiration which is reflected in his works like Kipps (1905) and A Bicycling Idyll (1896). In 1883, he rebelled against his fate and began teaching in a private school.

In 1884 he won a scholarship to the Normal School of Science in South Kensington where he developed a massive interest in science. Here he studied biology and Darwinism under expert Thomas Henry Huxley. However, he could not complete his studies and lost his scholarship in 1887, thus resuming his teaching profession in private schools. He finally obtained a science degree from the University of London in 1890. He married in 1891 his cousin Isabel, the daughter of his uncle and aunt with whom he lived and taught in their school. Wells then left his wife of four years for one of his students, Amy Catherine Robbins, and had two sons with her. Wells also had other women in his life and he had children of them too. Some of these women also became inspirations for his characters.

Wells as a writer

Wells had been writing for a long time but he published several of his stories in 1895. After 3 years of writing on educational subjects, he published his first novel The Time Machine. This is when his writing career really took off and began to flourish. He gave up teaching and a series of scientific fantasies followed. Wells’ involvement in socialism and radicalism had already begun in 1884 and it continued with him for the rest of his life.

A testament to the fact that he had a massive impact on his contemporaries and future generations is that he is considered “the father of science fiction”, a title he shared with the French science-fiction writer fiction. Jules Verne. Establishing himself as an essential figure of modernism, he is one of the most influential intellectuals of the literary scene of the 20th century and his work advocates his modern temperament which influenced the masses and gave birth to a social revolution.

Considered the main literary spokesman for the liberal optimism that prevailed before the First World War, Wells excelled in capturing the rebellious and adventurous spirit of his period, which led the man to the brink of a complete break with thought. and Victorian culture. Wells worked with a fearless and uncompromising approach in his efforts to bring about social revolution and bring good to mankind.

He believed that man could only progress through adaptation, education and knowledge. His works testify to his socialist temperament and are the main source of his conception of social evolution. They call for a revolt against the traditional and conventional norms of society and make it clear that he is a defender of absolute freedom. In fact, Wells was so committed and dedicated to his reformist activism that he did not hesitate to completely change the theme and content of his novels in order to present a harsh critique of Western society and its values. Wells’ evolution as an author is crystal clear in his works, and a comparison of his early and later works sheds immense light on the factors that acted as catalysts for this evolution.

Wells started his writing career with fantasy novels such as The Time Machine (1895), The Wonderful Visit (1895), The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The War of the Worlds (1898) etc. and established himself as a master of science fiction. It even gained prophetic status due to the foresight of certain mechanical and military developments which subsequently manifested in the scientific fields of knowledge. In his novel The Sleeper Awakes (1899), his restless commentary on a progressive future is truly thought-provoking. He states, “We were doing the future, and hardly any of us cared to think about what future we were doing.” The genius of his imagination molded with his passionate concern for man and society is what gave birth to such fantasy in his science fiction.

As Wells’ social reformer grew up, he focused on exploring lower-middle-class life and presenting people with their issues, problems, and concerns. Anticipations (1901), Mankind in the Making (1903) and A Modern Utopia (1905) are some of his works that shaped his image, in the British mind, of a fervent preacher of social progress. Here, Wells discusses the lost aspirations and unfulfilled dreams of the common man and shows them great sympathy under the guise of satire and humor. In The Open Conspiracy: what should we do with our lives? (1928) he defines man with typical dark images laying bare his faults and shortcomings. “Man is an imperfect animal and never quite trustworthy in the dark”.

In his later works, Wells transformed the idea of ​​a novelist into his psyche and instead of seeing him as a fictional creation, he began to view him as a tool for social and political reform. He even claimed “I’d rather be called a journalist than an artist”, emphasizing his motive behind the documentation. “In Mr. Britling sees it through” (1916), he paints a faithful portrait of the British during the First World War.

After World War I, we witness Wells’ complete metamorphosis as he propagated coping techniques and skills through popular educational works such as The Outline of History (1920), The Science of Life ( 1931), The Work, Wealth, and Happiness of Mankind (1932) etc. In The Outline of History (1928), Wells seems very picky about his notion of human history. He says it has become “more and more a race between education and disaster”.

With the outbreak of World War II, Wells first displayed pessimism in his work “Mind at The End of its Tether” (1945) by depicting a bleak and hopeless vision of a world where nature had given up. humanity and annihilates it. Only here do we see a glimpse of the negativity in the positive, optimistic, humorous and reformist psyche of HG Wells. He describes his perception of war as a source of pure destruction and annihilation in “Things to Come” (1936). He remarks, “If we don’t end the war, the war will end us.”


Wells revolutionized literary culture by introducing the genre of science fiction and infusing it with realistic settings creating a form of literature that invoked real emotions with fantastical elements. He also brought a huge transformation in the socio-political structure of his time due to his unabashed approach and visionary temperament. He is still considered an advocate of liberalism, social reform and women’s rights at a time when these ideas were being scrutinized. His texts are never out of print and this surely testifies to the timeless charm they have for his reader. His works are a legacy of his caliber and are a fortune for any avid reader of quality literature who intends to please his intellect with realistic issues or treat his heart with science fiction fantasy.

Sarmad Shakeel
Sarmad graduated from English Lit. from Aligarh Muslim University. He is fluent in English, Hindi, Urdu and Arabic. He has previously worked as a teacher and is currently eager to explore his writing potential in the best possible way.