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Archiv der Kategorie: Wells, H.G.
Wells, H. G. We are in the beginning of the greatest change that humanity has ever undergone. There is no shock, no epoch-making incident—but then there is no shock at a cloudy daybreak. At no point can we say, „Here it commences, now; last minute was night and this is morning.“ But insensibly we are in the day. If we care to look, we can foresee growing knowledge, growing order and presently a deliberate improvement of the blood and character of the race. And what we can see and imagine gives us a measure and gives us faith for what surpasses the imagination. It is possible to believe that all the past is but the beginning of a beginning, and that all that is and has been is but the twilight of the dawn. It is possible to believe that all that the human mind has ever accomplished is but the dream before the awakening. We cannot see for there is no need for us to see, what this world will be like when the day has fully come. We are creatures of the twilight. But it is out of our race and lineage that minds will spring that will reach back to us in our littleness to know us better than we know ourselves, and that will reach forward fearlessly to comprehend this future that defeats our eyes. All this world is heavy with the promise of greater things, and a day will come, one day in the unending succession of days, when beings, beings who are now latent in our thoughts and hidden in our loins, shall stand upon this earth as one stands upon a footstool, and shall laugh and reach out their hands amid the stars.—The Discovery of the Future.
IS Wells also among the prophets ? Surely, and none with better right, even though we use the word „prophet“ in its narrowest and most ordinary sense as one who foretells the future. He has foretold many futures for us, some utterly abhorrent, others more or less attractive. If we shudder at the thought of humanity on a freezing world fighting a losing battle with gigantic crustaceans as in The Time Machine, or being suffocated on a blazing world as in The Star, or being crushed under the tyranny of an omnipotent trust as in When the Sleeper Wakes—if none of these please us, then we have the option of a businesslike and efficient organization of society under the domination of the engineer as in Anticipations, or a socialistic state under the beneficent sway of the Samurai as in A Modern Utopia, or an instantaneous amelioration of human nature as In me Bays of the Comet. In thus presenting various solutions to the world problem Wells is not inconsistent. Every complicated equation has several roots, some of them imaginary. In solving a physical problem the scientist begins by disentangling the forces involved and then taking them one at a time, calculates what would be the effect if the other forces did not act.
So Wells is applying the scientific method to sociology when he attempts to isolate social forces and deal with them singly. If nothing intervenes to divert it, says the hydraulic engineer, the water of this mountain stream will develop such a momentum on reaching the valley. If no limitations are placed upon the consolidation of capital, says Mr. Wells, we may have a handful of directors ruling the world, as depicted in When the Sleeper Wakes. In its power to forecast the future science finds both its validation and justification. By this alone it tests its conclusions and demonstrates its usefulness. In fact, the sole object of science is prophecy, as Ostwald and Poincare make plain. The mind of the scientific man is directed forward and he has no use for history except as it gives him data by which to draw a curve that he may project into the future. It is, therefore, not a chance direction of his fancy that so many of Wells’s books, both romances and studies, deal with the future. It is the natural result of his scientific training, which not only led him to a rich unworked field of fictional motives, but made him consider the problems of life from a novel and very illuminative point of view. He gave definite expression to this philosophy in a remarkable address on „The Discovery of the Future,“ delivered at the Royal Institution of London, January 24, 1902. Here he shows that there is a growing tendency in modern times to shift the center of gravity from the past to the future and to determine the moral value of an act by its consequences rather than by its relation to some precedent. The justification of a war, for instance, may either be by reference to the past or to the future; that is, it may be based either upon some supposititious claim and violated treaty, or upon the assumed advantage to one or both parties. This idea, that in the moral evaluation of an act its results should be taken into consideration, has been popularly ascribed to the Jesuits, but since they have repeatedly and indignantly denied that it ever formed part of their teaching, it is questionable whether they could claim it now when it is becoming fashionable.
At any rate, it is interesting to note that Wells gave very clear expression to this pragmatic principle five years before the publication of Pragmatism, by James. Wells defines two divergent types of mind by the relative importance they attach to things past or things to come. The former type he calls the legal or submissive mind, „because the business, the practice and the training of a lawyer dispose him toward it; he of all men must most constantly refer to the law made, the right established, the precedent set, and most consistently ignore or condemn the thing that is only seeking to establish itself.“ In opposition to this is „the legislative, creative, organizing, masterful type,“ which is perpetually attacking and altering the established order of things; it is constructive and „interprets the present and gives value to this or that entirely in relation to things designed or foreseen.“ The use of the term „legislative“ for this latter type is confusing, at least to an American, because unfortunately most of our legislators are lawyers and have minds of the legal or conventional type. „Scientific“ would be a better term than ‚legislative,“ because most of our real revolutions in thought and industry originate in the laboratory.
In his Modern Utopia Wells introduces a more complete classification of mankind into (1) the Poetic, that is, the creative and original genius, often erratic or abnormal; (2) the Kinetic, that is, the efficient, energetic, „business man“ type; (3) the Dull, „the people who never seem to learn thoroughly or hear distinctly or think clearly,“ and (4) the Base, those deficient in moral sense. The first two categories of Wells, the Poetic and Kinetic, correspond roughly to Ostwald’s Romanticist and Classicist types of scientific men. I have laid stress upon Wells’s point of view and classification of temperaments because it seems to me that it gives the clue to his literary work. This is voluminous and remarkably varied, yet thru all its forms can be traced certain simple leading motives. Indeed I am unable to resist the temptation to formulate his favorite theme as: The reaction of society against a disturbing force.
This certainly is the basic idea of much of his work and most of the best of it. He hit upon it early and he has repeated it in endless variations since. The disturbing force may be an individual of the creative or poetic type, an overpowering passion, a new idea, a social organization or a material change in the conditions of life. Whatever it may be, the natural inertia of society causes it to resist the foreign influence, to enforce compliance upon the aberrant individual, or to meet the new conditions by as little readjustment as possible. Usually the social organism is successful in overpowering the intruder or rebel, and on the whole we must admit that this is necessary, even though it sometimes does involve the sacrifice of genius and the retardation of progress. Certainly no one is good enough or wise enough to be trusted with irresponsible power. This is the lesson of The Invisible Man. We all have been struck, probably, by a thought of the advantages which personal invisibility would confer. It is one of the most valued of fairy gifts. But perhaps only Wells has thought of the disadvantages of invisibility, how demoralizing such a condition would be to the individual, and yet how powerless he would be against the mass of ordinary people. Assuming that a man had discovered a way to become invisible by altering the refractive power of his body, as broken glass becomes invisible in water, in what situation would he be? He would be naked, of course, and he could not carry anything in his hands or eat in public. If it were winter he would leave tracks and would catch cold and sneeze. So the invisible man who starts to rob and murder at his own sweet will is soon run down by boys, dogs and villagers as ignominiously as any common thief.
A more artistic expression to the same theme is given in The Country of the Blind. A young man tumbled into an isolated valley of the Andes where lived a community which had thru some hereditary disease lost many generations ago the power of sight. The stranger first thought of the proverb, „In the country of the blind the one-eyed man is king,“ but when he tried to demonstrate his superiority he found it impossible. His talk about „seeing“ the natives held to be the ravings of a madman and his clumsiness in their dark houses as proof of defective senses. He was as much at a disadvantage in a community where everything is adapted to the sightless as a blind man is in ours. He falls in love with a girl, but before he is allowed to marry her he must be cured of his hallucinations; a simple surgical operation, the removal of the two irritable bodies protuberant from his brain, will restore him to normality, say the blind surgeons, and make a sane and useful citizen of him. The entreaties of his lady love are added to the coercion of public opinion to induce him to consent. The exceptional man is beaten, he must either conform to the community or leave it. No matter how the story ends. The true novelist and dramatist, like the true mathematician, finds his satisfaction in correctly stating a problem, not in working it out.
The theme of these parables, the comparative powerlessness of the individual, however exceptionally endowed, against the coercive force of environment, Wells has developed at length in his novels; The New Machiavelli, for instance, where a statesman at the height of his public usefulness is overthrown and banished because he had succumbed to selfish passion and violated the moral code. Parnell is popularly supposed to be the model for this character rather more than the original Machiavelli, but it is, unfortunately, a type not rare either in history or fiction. Indeed this may be called the common plot of tragedy from the time when it began to be written, the vulnerable heel of Achilles, the little defect of character or ability that precipitates the catastrophe. In Wells’s hands this motif takes most fantastic forms. There was, for example, The Man Who Could Work Miracles; „his name was George McWhirter Fotheringay—not the sort of name by any means to lead to any expectation of miracles—and he was clerk at Gomshott’s“; „he was a little man and had eyes of a hot brown, very erect red hair, a mustache with ends he twisted up and freckles.“ This unpromising looking individual, and he was a blatant skeptic, too, becomes suddenly possessed of the power to make anything happen that he willed, but he finds the use of this mysterious gift by no means to his advantage. It brings him and others into all sorts of trouble, and only his renunciation of it saves the world from destruction. Mr. Fotheringay lived in Church Row, and since Mr. Wells lives in the same street he perhaps knew him personally. In The War of Worlds the earth is invaded by Martians, who are not in the least like those of Du Maurier or Professor Flournoy, but octopus like creatures as far above mankind in intellect and command of machinery as we are above the animals, supermen surpassing the imagination of Nietzsche. They stride over the earth in machines of impregnable armor and devastate town and country with searchlights projecting rays more destructive than those of radium and much like Bulwer-Lytton’s „vril.“ They feed on human blood and, if humanity is not to perish or become as sheep to these invaders, men and women must take to sewers and such like hiding places and wage incessant warfare against overwhelming odds.
In a passage that is to me the most gripping of anything Wells has written a few unconquerable spirits plan the life that mankind must lead under these terrible conditions, but they are relieved from the necessity of putting it into execution by the interposition of an unexpected ally in the form of the most minute of creatures, the microbe. The men from Mars not being immune to terrestrial diseases were annihilated by one of them. The formula remains the same although conditions are reversed in The First Men in the Moon, for men being naturally larger than the lunar people might be supposed to dominate them, but, on the contrary, the ant-like inhabitants of the moon conquer the earthly invaders.
In The Wonderful Visit a curate goes out hunting for rare birds and shoots an angel on the wing. But the heavenly visitant does not play the role of the angel in Jerome’s The Passing of the Third Floor Back and transform the character of all he meets. Wells’s angel does not fit into the parish life and everybody is relieved when he disappears. The same idea, the reaction of conventional society toward the unusual, is illustrated by The Sea-Lady, where, instead of an angel from the sky, we have a mermaid from the ocean brought into the circle of a summer resort. Mr. Wells has said that by the sea-lady he meant to symbolize „love as a disturbing passion,“ the same theme as The New Machiavelli. It may be taken to mean that, of course, or half a dozen other things as well. We are at liberty to disregard Mr. Wells’s interpretation if we like. It is not an author’s business to explain what his works mean. In fact it seems a bit officious and impertinent for him to attempt it. How little would there be left of the great literature of the world if it were reduced to what the author literally and consciously had in mind when he wrote. The value of any work of art depends upon what may be got out of it, not what was put into it.
The Food of the Gods is a case in point. These children who are fed on „boom-food“ (presumably an extract from the pituitary body of the brain) and grow to gianthood may be taken to represent any new transforming force. If the story was conceived in Wells’s earlier days he may have meant by it the power of science. If in the days of Anticipations he more likely had in mind efficiency or „scientific management.“ If when he was a member of the Fabian Society it doubtless stood for socialism. Such questions may well be left to the future biographer who will take an interest in tracing out the genesis of his thought. Really it makes no difference to the reader, for the essential thing is to note that the reaction of society toward any unprecedented factor is the same. That in various parts of the country a new and gigantic race was growing up aroused at first a certain sensational interest, but this soon died down. People became accustomed to seeing the giant boys and girls and even set them at work. Later as it was realized that the giants could not be adapted to the existing social structure, but meant its overthrow, the government attempted to segregate and limit them, and at length, finding no compromise possible, determined to exterminate them. This brings about a duel to the death between the little race and the big and there could be no doubt as to the issue.
Chesterton says: The Food of the Gods is the tale of „Jack the Giant-Killer“ told from the point of view of the giant. This has not, I think, been done before in literature; but I have little doubt that the psychological substance of it existed in fact. I have little doubt that the giant whom Jack killed did regard himself as the Superman. It is likely enough that he considered Jack a narrow and parochial person who wished to frustrate a great forward movement of the life-force.
Nothing could better illustrate the difference in standpoint between Chesterton and Wells than this. The sympathies of Wells are undoubtedly with the giants, with the new forces that aim to transform the world, though he is not always confident of their ultimate triumph. Being a man of scientific training, he is a determinist but not a fatalist. All his prophecies are conditional. If the gulf between industrial and parasitic classes keeps on widening there will eventually be two races and the former will be master; this is the lesson of The Time Machine. If the engineer and business manager get control we shall have the well ordered prosperity of Anticipations. If Socialism prevails we shall have the Great State. His stories of the future are about equally divided between optimistic and pessimistic prophecy, between allurements and warnings. There are many different Wellses. Probably nobody likes all of them. He does not like all of himselves. In writing a preface or otherwise referring to an earlier work he is, after the manner of Maeterlinck, almost apologetic and looks back upon the author with a curious wonder as to how he came to hold such opinions and express them in such a way. Those of us who have grown up with him, so to speak, and followed his mind thru all its metamorphoses in their natural order can understand him better, I believe, than those of the younger generation who begin with the current serial and read his works backward. Mr. Wells is just about my age. We were in the laboratory together and breathed the same atmosphere, although five thousand miles apart. When he began to write I was ready to read and to admire the skill with which he utilized for literary purposes the wealth of material to be found in the laboratory. Jules Verne had worked the same rich vein, clumsily but with great success. Poe had done marvels in the short story with such scanty science as he had at his command. But Wells, trained under Huxley in biology at the University of London, had all this new knowledge to draw. upon. He could handle technicalities with a far defter touch than Verne and almost rivaled Poe in the evocation of emotions of horror and mystery. Besides this he possessed what both these authors lacked, a sense of humor, a keen appreciation of the whimsicalities of human nature. So he was enabled to throw off in the early nineties a swift succession of short stories astonishingly varied in style and theme. As he became more experienced in the art of writing, or rather of marketing manuscripts, he seems to have regretted this youthful prodigality of bright ideas. Many of them he later worked over on a more extensive scale as the metallurgist goes back to a mine and with an improved process extracts more gold from the tailings and dump than the miner got out of the ore originally.
The Star was the first of these I came across, clipping it for my scrap book from Harper’s Weekly, I believe. First loves in literature make an indelible impression, so I will always hold that nothing Wells has done since can equal it. Certainly it was not improved by expanding it to In the Days of the Comet. The germ of that creepy tale of advanced vivisection The Island of Dr. Moreau appeared first in the Saturday Review, January, 1895, as a brief sketch, „Doctor Moreau Explains.“ The Dream of Armageddon, vivid and swift as a landscape under a flash of lightning, served in large part for two later volumes, When the Sleeper Wakes and The New Machiavelli. It was, as I have said, The Star that first attracted me to Wells. It was The Sea-Lady who introduced me to him personally. It was in the back room of a little Italian restaurant in New York, one of those 60 cent table d’hôtes where rich soup and huge haystacks of spaghetti serve to conceal the meagerness of the other five courses. Here foregathered for years a group of Socialists, near-Socialists and others of less definable types, alike in holding the belief that the world could be moved and ought to be, but disagreeing agreeably as to where the fulcrum could be placed and what power should move the lever. We called ourselves the „X Club,“ partly because the outcome of such a combination of diverse factors was highly problematical, partly perhaps in emulation o£ the celebrated London X. One evening some eight years ago, as I came late to the dinner, I noticed that the members were not all talking at once, as usual, but concentrated their attention upon a guest, a quiet, unassuming individual, rather short, with a sun browned face, tired eyes and a pessimistic mustache—a Londoner, I judged from his accent. Then I was introduced to him as „The man who. knows all your works by heart, Mr. Wells.“ This disconcerting introduction was their revenge for my too. frequent quotation in debate. The reason, I suppose, for the old saying, „Beware the man of one book,“ is because he is such a bore. Mr. Wells appeared to take the introduction literally and began to. examine me on the subject. „Did you ever read The Sea-Lady?“ I happily was able to say I had, and was let off from any further questions, for he said that he had never met but two persons before who admitted having read the book. I am glad he did not ask me what it meant, for while I had an opinion on the subject, it might not have agreed with his.
Then we turned the tables on Mr. Wells and for the rest of the evening asked him questions and criticized his views; all of which he took very good-naturedly and was apparently not displeased thereby, since in the book about his trip, The Future in America, he expressed disappointment at not finding in Washington any „such mentally vigorous discussion centers as the New York X Club.“
Five years later I had another glimpse of Mr. Wells, this time a jolly evening at his home, where he kept his guests, a dozen young men and women, entertained, first by playing on the pianola, which he bought at the suggestion of Mr. Shaw; afterward by improvising a drama for the occasion, the star role being taken by his wife, whom I had seen a few days before marching in the great London suffrage procession. Mr. Wells’s home differs from most London houses in having a view and a park. The back windows look over all the sea of houses, the shipping in the Thames, and, smoke permitting, the Surrey hills beyond. On the other side of the house five minutes‘ walk uphill brings one to Hampstead Heath, the largest of London’s public places, which serves Mr. Wells for his long walks. Mr. Wells perhaps got his love of outdoor life from his father, Joseph Wells, who was a professional cricketer and the son of the head gardener of Lord de Lisle at Penhurst Castle, in Kent. His mother was the daughter of. an innkeeper at Midhurst. Herbert George Wells was born in Bromley, Kent, September 21, 1866, and his childhood impressions of his mother’s kitchen and his father’s garden and shop he has described in First and Last Things and in Tono-Bungay. In this novel, the first, perhaps, to be devoted to that conspicuous feature of modern life, the patent medicine, he has utilized his brief experience as a chemist’s apprentice, or, as we would say, a drug clerk. Next an unsuccessful attempt was made to train him as a draper’s assistant—a dry goods clerk, in our language, though we have fortunately nothing that exactly corresponds. The hardships and humiliations of this experience seem to have cut deep into his soul, for he recurs to it again and again, always with bitterness, as in Mr. Polly, Kipps and The Wheels of Chance, for example. But to untangle the autobiographical threads from the purely fictional in Wells’s novels would be to cheat some future candidate for a Ph. D. in English literature of his thesis.
The interesting point to observe is that temperament and training have combined to give him on the one hand a hatred of this muddled, blind and inefficient state of society in which we live, and on the other a distrust of the orderly, logical and perfected civilization usually suggested as a possible substitute. He detests chaos, but is skeptical of cosmos. Set between these antipathetic poles, he vibrates continually like an electrified pith ball. He has a horror of waste, war, dirt, cruelty, cowardice, incompetency, vagueness of mind, dissipation of energy, inconvenience of households, and all friction, mental or physical. But yet his ineradicable realization of the concrete will not allow him to escape from these disagreeables by taking refuge in such artificial paradises as Fourier’s phalanx or Morris‘ idyllic anarchism. Wells is a Socialist, yet he finds not merely the Marxians, but even the Fabians, too dogmatic and straitlaced for him. His Modem Utopia is, I think, the first to mar the perfection of its picture by admitting a rebel, a permanently irreconcilable, antagonistic individuality, a spirit that continually denies. Yet we know that if a Utopia is to come on earth it must have room for such. Wells would never make a leader in any popular movement. He has the zeal of the reformer, but he has his doubts, and, what’s worse, he admits them. In the midst of his most eloquent passages he stops, shakes his head, runs in a row of dots, and adds a few words, hinting at another point of view. He has what James defined as the scientific temperament, an intense desire to prove himself right coupled with an equally intense fear lest he may be wrong.
Your true party man must be quite color blind. He must see the world in black and white; must ignore tints and intermediate shades. Wells as Socialist could not help seeing—and saying—that there were many likable things about the Liberals. As a Liberal he must admit that the Tories have the advantage in several respects. He professes to view religion rationistically, yet there are outbursts of true mysticism to be found in his books, passages which prove that he has experienced the emotion of personal religion more clearly than many a church member. He has the courage of his convictions, but it does not extend much beyond putting them into print. I doubt whether, if he were given autocratic power, he would inaugurate his Modern Utopia or any other of his visions. At least he has hitherto resisted all efforts to induce him to carry them into effect. For instance, one of the most original and interesting features of his Modern Utopia was the Samurai, the ruling caste, an order of voluntary noblemen; submitting to a peculiar discipline; wearing a distinctive dress; having a bible of their own selected from the inspiring literature of all ages; spending at least a week of every year in absolute solitude in the wilderness as a sort of spiritual retreat and restorative of self-reliance. A curious conception it was, a combination of Puritanism and Bushido, of Fourier and St. Francis, of Bacon’s Salomon’s House, Plato’s philosophers ruling the republic, and Cecil Rhodes’s secret order of millionaires ruling the world. One day a group of ardent young men and women, inspired by this ideal, came to Wells and announced that they had established the order, they had become Samurai, and expected him to become their leader, or at least to give them his blessing; instead of which Wells gave them a lecture on the sin of priggishness and sent them about their business. I have no doubt he was right about it, nor does his disapproval of this premature attempt to incorporate the Samurai in London prove that there was not something worth while in the idea. But it shows that Wells knew what his work was in the world and proposed to stick to it, differing therein from other Utopians; Edward Bellamy, who because his fantastic romance, Looking Backward, happened to strike fire, spent the rest of his life in trying to bring about the cooperative commonwealth by means of clubs, papers and parties; Dr. Hertzka, who wasted his substance in efforts to found a real Freeland on the steppes of Kilimanjaro.
His early training in dynamical physics and evolutionary biology furnished him with the modern scientific point of view when he entered upon the old battlegrounds of sociology and metaphysics. He therefore never could believe in a static state, socialistic or other, and he saw clearly that much of what passes for sound philosophical reasoning is fallacious because the world cannot be divided up into distinct things of convenient size for handling, each done up in a neat package and plainly labeled as formal logic requires. Here he is extremely radical, going quite as far as Bergson in his anti-intellectualism though attacking the subject in a very different way. He denies the categories, the possibility of number, definition and classification. He brings two charges against our Instrument of Knowledge: first, that it can work only by disregarding individuality and treating uniques as identically similar objects in this respect or that; and, second, that it can only deal freely with negative terms by treating them as though they were positive; and, third, that the sort of reasoning which is valid for one level of human thought may not work at another. No two things are exactly alike and when we try to define a class of varied objects we get a term which represents none of them exactly and may therefore lead to an erroneous conclusion when brought back again to a concrete case. Or, as Wells puts it in his laboratory language: „The forceps of our minds are clumsy forceps and crush „the truth a little in taking hold of it.“ „Of everything we need to say this is true, but it is not quite true.“ What the artist long ago taught us, that there are no lines in nature, the scientist has come to believe and perhaps in time the logicians will come to see it too. At present, however, they are, as Wells says, in that stage of infantile intelligence that cannot count above two. This is amusingly illustrated in a defense of logic by Mr. Jourdain in which he says:
To these strictures of Mr. Wells on logic we may reply, it seems to me, that either they are psychological—in which case they are irrelevant to logic—or they are false. Thus the principle that „no truth is quite true,“ implying as it does that itself is quite true, implies its own falsehood, and is therefore false.
This sort of thing might have past as a good joke in the days of Epimenides, the Cretan, when logic was a novelty and people amused themselves, like boys learning to lasso, in tripping each other up with it. But it is funny to see this ancient weapon of scholasticism brought out to ward off the attacks of modernism, such attacks from without the ramparts as Wells’s essay and from within as F. C. S. Schiller’s big volume, Formal Logic. Wells has not only the sense of continuity in space, but, what is rarer, the sense of continuity in time. „The race flows thru us, the race is the drama and we are the incidents. This is not any sort of poetical statement: it is a statement of fact.“ „We are episodes in an experience, greater than ourselves.“
Wells made his first hit with The Time Machine, written under high pressure of the idea within a fortnight by keeping at his desk almost continuously from nine in the morning to eleven at night. It is based upon the theory that time is a fourth dimensions of space, and by a suitable invention one may travel back and forth along that line. Having once got his seat in his time machine Wells has never abandoned it. He uses it still in his novels, in Tono-Bungay, The New Machiavelli and the latest, The Passionate Friends, telling the story partly in retrospect, partly in prospect, flying back and forth in the most mystifying manner, producing thereby a remarkable effect of the perpetual contemporaneity of existence though some readers are dizzied by it.
There is a desperate sincerity about the man that I like. He seems always to be struggling to express himself with more exactness than language allows, to say neither more nor less than he really believes at the time. I do not think that he takes delight in shocking the bourgeoisie as Shaw does. Wells would rather, I believe, agree with other people than disagree. He is not a congenital and inveterate nonconformist. But he insists always on „painting the thing as he sees it.“ His later novels have come under the ban of the British public libraries because, conceiving sex as a disturbing element in life, he put it into his novels as a disturbing element, thus offending both sides, those of puritanical temperament who wanted it left out altogether and those of profligate temperament who wanted to read of amorous adventure with no unpleasant facts obtruded. His sociological works, in which, while insisting on permanent monogamy as the ideal, he prophesied that the future would show greater toleration toward other forms of marital relationship, aroused less criticism than the frank portrayal of existing conditions in his novels. Wells is a futurist in the true sense of the word, appraising all things by what shall come out of them. This led him to a realization ‚ of the importance of eugenics long before the fad came in. In Mankind in the Making he formulated his test of civilization in these words:
Any collective human enterprise, institution, party or state, is to be judged as a whole and completely, as it conduces more or less to wholesome and hopeful births and according to the qualitative and quantitative advance due to its influence toward a higher and ampler standard of life.
But when it comes to practical measures for securing these advantages Wells shows a characteristic timidity. He condemns certain obvious dysgenic measures, such as the action of school boards in imposing celibacy upon women teachers, but in several respects legislation in America has already gone beyond what he ten years ago considered possible. So, too, in his Anticipations he suggested as future possibilities inventions and practices that were then familiar to us in this country. It is hard for a man nowadays to be a prophet. If he doesn’t look sharp he will find himself an historian instead. Wells’s catholicity of sympathy recognizes no limitations of race. He has an abhorrence for race prejudice of every kind. The greatest blot he found upon American civilization was our ill treatment of the negro. The abolition of hatred between castes and classes and countries, the growth of toleration and extension of cooperation, the improvement of education and the advancement of science, are what will lead toward his ideal. And his ideal is that of an evolutionist, the opportunity for continuous growth. He has expressed it best, perhaps, in The Food of the Gods in the speech of one of the new race of giants, of supermen, to his fellows as they are“ about to give battle to the community of ordinary people determined to destroy them:
It is not that we would oust the little people from the world in order that we, who are no more than one step upward from their littleness, may hold their world forever. It is the step we fight for and not ourselves. . . . We are here, Brothers, to what end? To serve the spirit and the purpose that has been breathed into our lives. We fight not for ourselves—for we are but the momentary hands and eyes of the Life of the World. Thru us and thru the little folk the Spirit looks and learns. From us by word and birth and act it must pass —to still greater lives. This earth is no resting place; this earth is no playing place, else indeed we might put our throats to the little people’s knife, having no greater right to live than they. And they in their turn might yield to the ants and vermin. We fight not for ourselves but for growth, growth that goes on forever. Tomorrow, whether we live or die. growth will conquer thru us. That is the law of the spirit forever more. To grow according to the will of God! To grow out of these cracks and crannies, out of these shadows and darknesses, into greatness and the light! Greater, he said, speaking with slow deliberation, greater, my Brothers! And then—still greater. To grow and again—to grow. To grow at last into the fellowship and understanding of God.—The Food of the Gods.
The War of the Worlds – H. G. Wells Mr. H. G. Wells wears his skeleton of scientific knowledge so palpably on the outside that the most erratic flights of his imagination are received with a docile hushfulness accorded to … Weiterlesen →
The Invisible Man – H. G. Wells Such a kind of literature as that of which The Invisible Man is a specimen is inevitable. We are living in an age of inventions. The conditions of life are being more or … Weiterlesen →
The First Men in the Moon – H. G. Wells There is probably no other living writer than the author of „The War of the Worlds“ whose brain possesses that abnormal twist requisite to the production of such a story … Weiterlesen →
Outline of History – H. G. Wells No book is provoking a more animated discussion among students of the social sciences at the present time than H. G. Wells‘ Outline of History. The author’s task, as he himself sets it, … Weiterlesen →
The Island of Doctor Moreau – H. G. Wells It is a shipwrecked student, whom chance carries to „The island of Dr. Moreau,“ who tells the story. It is a daring and gruesome tale, replete with horrors. Dr. Moreau is … Weiterlesen →
The World Set Free – H. G. Wells The successor in our day to both Jules Verne and Edward Bellamy is H. G. Wells, and his book, „The World Set Free,“ embodies more of his creed than anything heretofore published. … Weiterlesen →