Today in Literary History – August 13, 1946 – H.G. Wells dies

The British writer H.G. Wells died on August 13, 1946, of undisclosed causes. Wells was 79 and had suffered from diabetes for years. He was co-founder of what is now the charity Diabetes UK.

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Wells is considered to be one of the “godfathers of science fiction” for his early works in the speculative genre such as The War of the Worlds (1898), The Invisible Man (1897), The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896), The Time Machine (1895), The First Men in the Moon (1901) and many others, which he described as “scientific romances”.

Wells was also passionately interested in progressive political movements and wrote books and essays championing them. He was an outspoken socialist and pacifist. He advocated for one world government and worked to promote the League of Nations. He opposed racism, class distinctions and militarism.

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Wells was born in Kent, where his father was an unsuccessful shopkeeper and more successful professional cricket player until a broken leg put an end to his career. The family was hard up and Wells was apprenticed to a draper when he was 14, working thirteen-hour days in almost Dickensian conditions.

Later, his mother got a maid’s job at a stately country house in Sussex and Wells was allowed to move in with her and became apprenticed to a chemist. At the country house Wells had free access to a well stocked library and read voraciously, educating himself in the classics. Eventually he won a scholarship to a Normal School and briefly found a job as a teacher.

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Without a real income Wells supported himself by writing short humorous magazine pieces and soon short stories and his early novels. He married his cousin, Jane, in 1895 and they had two sons, but the marriage was never happy.

Wells and Jane remained married but Wells, with his wife’s apparant approval, had numerous affairs with other women. These included the American contraception advocate Mary Sanger, novelist Elizabeth von Arnim, an adventure writer, a Russian spy and others. He had a daughter by one woman and a son with the author Dame Rebecca West — Anthony West, who became a writer himself.

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