• Author H.G. Wells Comments At Length On Criticisms Of The Outline of History

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    HERBERT GEORGE WELLS (September 21, 1866 – August 13, 1946) was an English writer, prolific in many genres, including novels, short stories, works of social commentary, satire, biography and autobiography.   He is now best remembered for his science fiction novels and is often called a “father of science fiction.”


    A futurist, he wrote a number of utopian works and foresaw the advent of aircraft, tanks, space travel, nuclear weapons, satellite television and something resembling the world wide web.  His science fiction imagined time travel, alien invasion, invisibility and biological engineering.  His most notable science fiction includes The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds and The War in the Air. He sometimes indicated on official documents that his profession was that of journalist. Novels such as Kipps and The History of Mr. Polly, which describe lower middle-class life, led to the suggestion that he was a worthy successor to Charles Dickens.  Our two-part offering concerns The Outline of History, one of his works dealing with world history progress and a four-page typewritten letter to The New York World, dated November 21, 1921, regarding a critique about The Outline of History and two typewritten pages of notes with edits.


    While the one-page, ALS, approximately 7 ¾ x 8 ¾, on his 120 Whitehall Court, Victoria, stationary, is to an unnamed recipient and undated, regarding The Outline of History, the recipient may very well be the writer from The New York World.  “I want to thank you for sending these most helpful letters…about The Outline of History.  Very probably you are right or mostly right. I’ll go into your points thoroughly when I have time. It is too late for…edits but others will follow I hope. 


    “Very truly yours,


    “H.G. Wells”


    In the typewritten letter, unsigned, which appears to be a copy of Wells’ original letter and provides a detailed explanation of Wells’ thinking about The Outline.  Wells writes, “In your article in The English Review—I think that was the magazine—wherein you answered some of the criticisms of The Outline, you spoke of the new editions you planned and the changes you meant and the changes you meant to make in response to just criticism. May I take the liberty of calling your attention to what seems to be an error?  In your chapter dealing with the Mongols [a chapter in the Outline], you say…


    “When civilization seems to be choking amidst it weeds of wealth and debt and servitude, when its faiths seem rotting into cynicism and its powers of further growth are hopelessly entangled in effete formulae, the nomad drives in like a plough to break up the festering stagnation and release the world to new beginnings…”  Much more on this.


    Wells then expresses his criticisms.  Two additional pages of notes on The Mongols were sent to Wells.


    Excellent to have such an inside view to an author’s thinking.


    The letter written and signed by Wells has paperclip marks to the top, folds, toning.  The 6 pp copy is very easy to read, with expected toning and wear.


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