Oscar Wilde classified Herbert George Wells as “Jules Verne scientist”. For him, however, the colleague never belonged to the group of serious writers. His prejudices have proven to be extremely stubborn. When you hear Wells’ name, you inevitably think of science fiction novels like “The Time Machine” or “The First People on the Moon” …
Oscar Wilde classified Herbert George Wells as “Jules Verne scientist”. For him, however, the colleague never belonged to the group of serious writers. His prejudices proved to be extremely stubborn. When you hear Wells’ name, you inevitably first think of science fiction novels like “The Time Machine” or “The First People on the Moon”. But the English author by no means glorified technical progress unconditionally. Joseph Conrad saw in him a “realist of the fantastic”. With his daring ideas, Wells followed in the footsteps of the great English utopians Thomas More, Francis Bacon and Edward Bellamy.
The Italian philosopher Tommaso Campanella once wanted to please people with a “sun state” without private property. His descendant Wells went much further with the theory of the “world state”. When World War I broke out, he believed the time had finally come for his collectivist drawing board society. He trusted in an “explosion of common sense” and the transformation of “the entire planet into a confederate system of socialist republics”. Although conservative politicians ridiculed him, he strongly advocated the transformation of the earth.
For a while, many leftists saw him as some kind of savior. Of course, he found himself on several occasions in need of explanations as to the implementation of his bold plans. He classified nationalistic selfishness and a falsification of history as the cause of their failure. He said that “for a true world civilization” a “new education is necessary”. That’s why he wrote a book called “The Basics of World History” in a very effective style. The book has become a bestseller. Wells emerged as a popular artist, and it was precisely because of this talent that he was hailed as a “daring visionary” according to TS Eliot.
Inspired by his success, he debated his illusory ideas with Lenin, Stalin and Franklin D. Roosevelt. This is why there were sometimes virulent attacks in the press against his “fantasies”. To celebrate his 70th birthday, hundreds of fans gathered again in 1936. Bernard Shaw gave a brilliant speech. But Wells’ star was already sinking. It didn’t help that Karel Capek publicly praised his “unusual universality” and Jorge Luis Borges praised him as a “great narrator” in the same breath as Poe and Swift. When Hitler treacherously attacked Poland in 1939, Wells could no longer hide his disappointment. The courageous optimist threatened to despair and believed “the spirit at the end of its possibilities”. In his old age he fought bitterly for admission to the Royal Society, which refused him membership. In order to polish his tarnished image, he submitted theses for a doctoral thesis at the University of London in old age. Shortly after, on August 13, 1946, he died.
Only a few friends attended the funeral. John Boynton Priestley delivered the eulogy and spoke of the fascinating adventure of Wells’ intellectual cosmos. But the prophet was no longer valid in his own country. Nothing has changed to this day. Most of his words have been forgotten.