“We all have our time machines, don't we. Those that take us back are memories... And those that carry us forward, are dreams.”“Our true nationality is mankind.”“Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.”“We must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind us to the fact that each moment of life is a miracle and mystery.”
Life English novelist, journalist, sociologist, and historian best known for such science fiction novels as The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds and such comic novels as Tono-Bungay and The History of Mr. Polly. Wells was the son of domestic servants turned small shopkeepers. He grew up under the continual threat of poverty, and at age 14, after a very inadequate education supplemented by his love of reading, he was apprenticed to a draper in Windsor. His employer soon dismissed him; and he became assistant to a chemist, then to another draper, and finally, in 1883, an usher at Midhurst Grammar School.
At 18 Wells won a scholarship to study biology at the Normal School (later the Royal College) of Science, in South Kensington, London. He graduated from London University in 1888, becoming a science teacher and undergoing a period of ill health and financial worries, the latter worsened by his marriage, in 1891, to his cousin, Isabel Mary Wells. The marriage was not a success, and in 1894 Wells ran off with Amy Catherine Robbins (died 1927), a former pupil, who in 1895 became his second wife.
Early works Wells's first published book was a Textbook of Biology (1893). With his first novel, The Time Machine(1895), which was immediately successful, he began a series of science fiction novels that revealed him as a writer of marked originality and an immense fecundity of ideas: The Wonderful Visit (1895), The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), The War of the Worlds (1898), The First Men in the Moon (1901), and The Food of the Gods (1904). He also wrote many short stories, which were collected in The Stolen Bacillus (1895), The Plattner Story (1897), and Tales of Space and Time (1899).
For a time he acquired a reputation as a prophet of the future, and indeed, in The War in the Air (1908), he foresaw certain developments in the military use of aircraft. But his imagination flourished at its best not in the manner of the comparatively mechanical anticipations of Jules Verne but in the astronomical fantasies of The First Men in the Moon and The War of the Worlds, from the latter of which the image of the Martian has passed into popular mythology.
Behind his inventiveness lay a passionate concern for man and society, which increasingly broke into the fantasy of his science fiction, often diverting it into satire and sometimes, as in The Food of the Gods, destroying its credibility. Eventually, Wells decided to abandon science fiction for comic novels of lower middle-class life, most notably in Love and Mr. Lewisham (1900), Kipps: The Story of a Simple Soul (1905), and The History of Mr. Polly (1910). In these novels, and in Tono-Bungay (1909), he drew on memories of his own earlier life, and, through the thoughts of inarticulate yet often ambitious heroes, revealed the hopes and frustrations of clerks, shop assistants, and underpaid teachers, who had rarely before been treated in fiction with such sympathetic understanding. In these novels, too, he made his liveliest, most persuasive comment on the problems of Western society that were soon to become his main preoccupation.
Middle and late works Well’s later novels are mainly discussions of social or political themes that show little concern for the novel as a literary form. His novel, Mr. Britling Sees It Through (1916), though touched by the prejudice and shortsightedness of wartime, gives a brilliant picture of the English people in World War I. World War I shook Wells’s faith in even short-term human progress, and in subsequent works he modified his conception of social evolution, putting forward the view that man could only progress if he would adapt himself to changing circumstances through knowledge and education.
Later Wells began a work of popular education, of which the main products were The Outline of History (1920; revised 1931), The Science of Life (1931), and The Work, Wealth, and Happiness of Mankind (1932). At the same time he continued to publish works of fiction, in which his gifts of narrative and dialogue give way almost entirely to polemics. In 1933 Wells published a novelized version of a film script, The Shape of Things to Come. Fear of a tragic wrong turning in the development of the human race, to which he had early given imaginative expression in the grotesque animal mutations of The Island of Doctor Moreau, dominates the short novels and fables he wrote in the later 1930s. Wells was now ill and aging. With the outbreak of World War II, he lost all confidence in the future, and in Mind at the End of Its Tether (1945) he depicts a bleak vision of a world in which nature has rejected, and is destroying, humankind.