Last modified on 19 April 2015, at 20:05

H. G. Wells

The past is but the beginning of a beginning, and all that is or has been is but the twilight of the dawn.

Herbert George Wells (September 21 1866August 13 1946) was a British writer best known for his science fiction novels such as The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man and The Time Machine; also for Kipps, The History of Mr. Polly and other social satires.

See also:
The Time Machine (1895)
The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth (1904)
In the Days of the Comet (1906)
The Outline of History (1920)
World Brain (1938)

QuotesEdit

We were making the future … and hardly any of us troubled to think what future we were making. And here it is!
Money and credit are as much human contrivances as bicycles, and as liable to expansion and modification as any other sort of prevalent but imperfect machine.
Great and little cannot understand one another. But in every child born of man, Father Redwood, lurks some seed of greatness — waiting for the Food.
Phase by phase these ill-adapted governments are becoming uncontrolled absolutisms; they are killing that free play of the individual mind which is the preservative of human efficiency and happiness.
  • How small the vastest of human catastrophes may seem at a distance of a few million miles.
  • "We were making the future," he said, "and hardly any of us troubled to think what future we were making. And here it is!"
  • "Now I am prepared to maintain," said Chaffery, proceeding with his proposition, "that Honesty is essentially an anarchistic and disintegrating force in society, that communities are held together and the progress of civilisation made possible only by vigorous and sometimes even violent Lying; that the Social Contract is nothing more or less than a vast conspiracy of human beings to lie to and humbug themselves and one another for the general Good. Lies are the mortar that bind the savage individual man into the social masonry … Were I not of a profoundly indolent, restless, adventurous nature, and horribly averse to writing, I would make a great book of this and live honored by every profound duffer in the world."
  • The past is but the beginning of a beginning, and all that is or has been is but the twilight of the dawn.
    • The Discovery of the Future (1901)
  • Money and credit are as much human contrivances as bicycles, and as liable to expansion and modification as any other sort of prevalent but imperfect machine.
    And how will the new republic treat the inferior races? How will it deal with the black? how will it deal with the yellow man? how will it tackle that alleged termite in the civilized woodwork, the Jew? Certainly not as races at all. It will aim to establish, and it will at last, though probably only after a second century has passed, establish a world state with a common language and a common rule. All over the world its roads, its standards, its laws, and its apparatus of control will run. It will, I have said, make the multiplication of those who fall behind a certain standard of social efficiency unpleasant and difficult… The Jew will probably lose much of his particularism, intermarry with Gentiles, and cease to be a physically distinct element in human affairs in a century or so. But much of his moral tradition will, I hope, never die. … And for the rest, those swarms of black, and brown, and dirty-white, and yellow people, who do not come into the new needs of efficiency?
    Well, the world is a world, not a charitable institution, and I take it they will have to go.The whole tenor and meaning of the world, as I see it, is that they have to go. So far as they fail to develop sane, vigorous, and distinctive personalities for the great world of the future, it is their portion to die out and disappear.
    The world has a greater purpose than happiness; our lives are to serve God's purpose, and that purpose aims not at man as an end, but works through him to greater issues.
  • They may fight against greatness in us who are the children of men, but can they conquer? Even if they should destroy us every one, what then? Would it save them? No! For greatness is abroad, not only in us, not only in the Food, but in the purpose of all things! It is in the nature of all things, it is part of space and time. To grow and still to grow, from first to last that is Being, that is the law of life. What other law can there be?
    • The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth (1904)
  • Whatever America has to show in heroic living to-day, I doubt if she can show any thing finer than the quality of the resolve, the steadfast effort hundreds of black and coloured men are making to-day to live blamelessly, honourably, and patiently, getting for themselves what scraps of refinement, learning, and beauty they may, keeping their hold on a civilization they are grudged and denied.
  • And in the air are no streets, no channels, no point where one can say of an antagonist, "If he wants to reach my capital he must come by here." In the air all directions lead everywhere.
  • The third peculiarity of aerial warfare was that it was at once enourmously destructive and entirely indecisive.
  • Nothing could have been more obvious to the people of the early twentieth century than the rapidity with which war was becoming impossible. And as certainly they did not see it. They did not see it until the atomic bombs burst in their fumbling hands.
  • The catastrophe of the atomic bombs which shook men out of cities and businesses and economic relations, shook them also out of their old-established habits of thought, and out of the lightly held beliefs and prejudices that came down to them from the past.
    • The World Set Free
  • Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo. It is the peculiar snare of the perplexed orthodox, and soon Mr. Brumley was in a state of nearly unendurable moral indignation with Sir Isaac for a hundred exaggerations of what he was and of what conceivably he might have done to his silent yet manifestly unsuitably married wife.
    • The Wife of Sir Isaac Harman (1914), p. 299
  • The uglier a man's legs are, the better he plays golf. It's almost a law.
    • Bealby: A Holiday (1915)
  • I hate and despise a shrewish suspicion of foreigners and foreign ways; a man who can look me in the face, laugh with me, speak truth and deal fairly, is my brother, though his skin is as black as ink or as yellow as an evening primrose.
    • What is Coming? (1916)
  • He was inordinately proud of England, and he abused her incessantly.
    • Mr. Britling Sees It Through, Bk. 1, ch. 2, sect. 2 (1916)
  • Since the passing of Victoria the Great there had been an accumulating uneasiness in the national life. It was as if some compact and dignified paper-weight had been lifted from people's ideas, and as if at once they had begun to blow about anyhow.
    • The Soul of a Bishop (1917)
  • Humanity either makes, or breeds, or tolerates all its afflictions, great or small.
    • Joan and Peter: The Story of an Education (1918)
  • A time will come when a politician who has willfully made war and promoted international dissension will be as sure of the dock and much surer of the noose than a private homicide. It is not reasonable that those who gamble with men's lives should not stake their own.
    • The Salvaging of Civilization (1921)
  • On the supposition that the world is to go on divided among aggressive sovereign states, with phases of war preparation known as peace and acute phases of more and more destructive war, it is quite a good move in the game. On the supposition that the world is growing up to an age of reason, and that a world of civilisation is attainable, it is a monstrous crime.
    • On the British government's decision to build the Singapore Naval Base, in an article for the Westminster Gazette (13 October 1923)
  • An artist who theorizes about his work is no longer artist but critic.
    • The Temptaion of Harringay (1929)
  • In England we have come to rely upon a comfortable time lag of fifty years or a century intervening between the perception that something ought to be done and a serious attempt to do it.
    • The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind, Ch. 11 (1931)
  • How far can we anticipate the habitations and ways, the usages and adventures, the mighty employments, the ever increasing knowledge and power of the days to come? No more than a child with its scribbling paper and its box of bricks can picture or model the undertakings of its adult years. Our battle is with cruelties and frustrations, stupid, heavy and hateful things from which we shall escape at last, less like victors conquering a world than like sleepers awaking from a nightmare in the dawn.... A time will come when men will sit with history before them or with some old newspaper before them and ask incredulously,"Was there ever such a world?"
    • The Open Conspiracy (1933)
  • I was never a great amorist, though I have loved several people very deeply.
    • An Experiment in Autobiography (1934)
  • If you fell down yesterday, stand up today.
    • The Anatomy of Frustration (1936)
  • When the history of our civilization is written, it will be a biological history and Margaret Sanger will be its heroine.
    • 1935 speech at Barber's Hall, London, included in Round the World for Birth Control (1937) edited by the Birth Control International Information Centre
  • We are living in 1937, and our universities, I suggest, are not half-way out of the fifteenth century. We have made hardly any changes in our conception of university organization, education, graduation, for a century - for several centuries. The three or four years' course of lectures, the bachelor who knows some, the master who knows most, the doctor who knows all, are ideas that have come down unimpaired from the Middle Ages. Nowadays no one should end his learning while he lives and these university degrees are preposterous. It is true that we have multiplied universities greatly in the past hundred years, but we seem to have multiplied them altogether too much upon the old pattern. . [A] new university is just another imitation of all the old universities that have ever been. Educationally we are still for all practical purposes in the coach and horse and galley stage.
  • The New Deal is plainly an attempt to achieve a working socialism and avert a social collapse in America; it is extraordinarily parallel to the successive "policies" and "Plans" of the Russian experiment. Americans shirk the word "socialism", but what else can one call it?
  • Mankind which began in a cave and behind a windbreak will end in the disease-soaked ruins of a slum.
    • The Fate of Man, ch. 26 (1939)
  • Throughout the whole world we see variations of this same subordination of the individual to the organisation of power. Phase by phase these ill-adapted governments are becoming uncontrolled absolutisms; they are killing that free play of the individual mind which is the preservative of human efficiency and happiness. The populations under their sway, after a phase of servile discipline, are plainly doomed to relapse into disorder and violence. Everywhere war and monstrous economic exploitation break out, so that those very same increments of power and opportunity which have brought mankind within sight of an age of limitless plenty, seem likely to be lost again, it may be lost forever, in an ultimate social collapse.
    • The Rights of Man, or what are we fighting for?, (1940)
  • … no man shall be subjected to any sort of mutilation or sterilisation except with his own deliberate consent, freely given.
    • The Rights of Man, or what are we fighting for?, (1940)
  • The crisis of yesterday is the joke of to-morrow.
    • You Can't be Too Careful (1941)
  • These are the rights of all human beings. They are yours wherever you are. Demand that your rulers and politicians sign and observe this declaration. If they refuse, if they quibble, they can have no place in the new free world that dawns upon mankind.
    • The Rights of the World Citizen (1942); a revised edition of The Rights of Man
  • I have remarked, in the course of such air travel as I have done, that the airmen of all nations have a common resemblance to each other and that the patriotic virus in their blood is largely corrected by a wider professionalism.
    • The Outlook for Homo Sapiens (1942)
  • Heresies are experiments in man's unsatisfied search for truth.
    • Crux Ansata: An Indictment of the Roman Catholic Church (1943)
  • If his thinking has been sound, then this world is at the end of its tether. The end of everything we call life is close at hand and cannot be evaded.
    • The Mind at the End of its Tether (1945), p. 1
  • Adapt or perish, now as ever, is Nature's inexorable imperative.
    • The Mind at the End of its Tether (1945), p. 19
  • There comes a moment in the day when you have written your pages in the morning, attended to your correspondence in the afternoon, and have nothing further to do. Then comes that hour when you are bored; that’s the time for sex.
    • Quoted in Charlie Chaplin, My Autobiography (1964)
  • And here one may note a curious comparison which can be made between this [ascidian] life-history and that of many a respectable pinnacle and gargoyle on the social fabric. Every respectable citizen of the professional classes passes through a period of activity and imagination, of "liveliness and eccentricity," of "Sturm und Drang." He shocks his aunts. Presently, however, he realizes the sober aspect of things. He becomes dull; he enters a profession; suckers appear on his head; and he studies. Finally, by virtue of these he settles down—he marries. All his wild ambitions and subtle æsthetic perceptions atrophy as needless in the presence of calm domesticity. He secretes a house, or "establishment," round himself, of inorganic and servile material. His Bohemian tail is discarded. Henceforth his life is a passive receptivity to what chance and the drift of his profession bring along; he lives an almost entirely vegetative excrescence on the side of a street, and in the tranquillity of his calling finds that colourless contentment that replaces happiness.

The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896)Edit

Online text
  • That is the only way I ever heard of true research going. I asked a question, devised some method of obtaining an answer, and got — a fresh question. Was this possible or that possible? You cannot imagine what this means to an investigator, what an intellectual passion grows upon him! You cannot imagine the strange, colourless delight of these intellectual desires!
    • Ch. 14: Doctor Moreau Explains
  • To this day I have never troubled about the ethics of the matter. The study of Nature makes a man at last as remorseless as Nature.
    • Ch. 14: Doctor Moreau Explains
  • Each time I dip a living creature into the bath of burning pain, I say: 'This time I will burn out all the animal; this time I will make a rational creature of my own!' After all, what is ten years? Men have been a hundred thousand in the making.
    • Ch. 14: Doctor Moreau Explains
  • Most striking, perhaps, in their general appearance was the disproportion between the legs of these creatures and the length of their bodies; and yet — so relative is our idea of grace — my eye became habituated to their forms, and at last I even fell in with their persuasion that my own long thighs were ungainly.
    • Ch. 15: Concerning the Beast Folk
  • A strange persuasion came upon me that, save for the grossness of the line, the grotesqueness of the forms, I had here before me the whole balance of human life in miniature, the whole interplay of instinct, reason, and fate in its simplest form.
    • Ch. 16: How the Beast Folk Tasted Blood
  • An animal may be ferocious and cunning enough, but it takes a real man to tell a lie.
    • Ch. 21: The Reversion of the Beast Folk
  • He had developed in the most wonderful way the distinctive silliness of man without losing one jot of the natural folly of a monkey.
    • Ch. 21: The Reversion of the Beast Folk
  • There is, though I do not know how there is or why there is, a sense of infinite peace and protection in the glittering hosts of heaven. There it must be, I think, in the vast and eternal laws of matter, and not in the daily cares and sins and troubles of men, that whatever is more than animal within us must find its solace and its hope.
    • Ch. 22: The Man Alone

The Invisible Man (1897)Edit

  • The Anglo-Saxon genius for parliamentary government asserted itself; there was a great deal of talk and no decisive action.
    • Chapter 6: The Furniture that Went Mad
  • "You don't understand," he said, "who I am or what I am. I'll show you. By Heaven! I'll show you." Then he put his open palm over his face and withdrew it. The centre of his face became a black cavity. "Here," he said. He stepped forward and handed Mrs. Hall something which she, staring at his metamorphosed face, accepted automatically. Then, when she saw what it was, she screamed loudly, dropped it, and staggered back. The nose—it was the stranger's nose! pink and shining—rolled on the floor.

    Then he removed his spectacles, and everyone in the bar gasped. He took off his hat, and with a violent gesture tore at his whiskers and bandages. For a moment they resisted him. A flash of horrible anticipation passed through the bar. "Oh, my Gard!" said some one. Then off they came.

    It was worse than anything. Mrs. Hall, standing open-mouthed and horror-struck, shrieked at what she saw, and made for the door of the house. Everyone began to move. They were prepared for scars, disfigurements, tangible horrors, but nothing! The bandages and false hair flew across the passage into the bar, making a hobbledehoy jump to avoid them. Everyone tumbled on everyone else down the steps. For the man who stood there shouting some incoherent explanation, was a solid gesticulating figure up to the coat-collar of him, and then—nothingness, no visible thing at all!

    • Chapter 7: The Unveiling of the Stranger
  • "Why!" said Huxter, suddenly, "that's not a man at all. It's just empty clothes. Look! You can see down his collar and the linings of his clothes. I could put my arm—"

    He extended his hand; it seemed to meet something in mid-air, and he drew it back with a sharp exclamation. "I wish you'd keep your fingers out of my eye," said the aerial voice, in a tone of savage expostulation. "The fact is, I'm all here: head, hands, legs, and all the rest of it, but it happens I'm invisible. It's a confounded nuisance, but I am. That's no reason why I should be poked to pieces by every stupid bumpkin in Iping, is it?"

    • Chapter 7: The Unveiling of the Stranger
  • "Pull yourself together," said the Voice, "for you have to do the job I've chosen for you."

    Mr. Marvel blew out his cheeks, and his eyes were round.

    "I've chosen you," said the Voice. "You are the only man except some of those fools down there, who knows there is such a thing as an invisible man. You have to be my helper. Help me—and I will do great things for you. An invisible man is a man of power."

    • Chapter 9: Mr. Thomas Marvel
  • Great and strange ideas transcending experience often have less effect upon men and women than smaller, more tangible considerations.
    • Chapter 10: Mr. Marvel's Visit To Iping
  • I remember that night. It was late at night—in the daytime one was bothered with the gaping, silly students—and I worked then sometimes till dawn. It came suddenly, splendid and complete in my mind. I was alone; the laboratory was still, with the tall lights burning brightly and silently. In all my great moments I have been alone. 'One could make an animal—a tissue—transparent! One could make it invisible! All except the pigments—I could be invisible!' I said, suddenly realising what it meant to be an albino with such knowledge. It was overwhelming. I left the filtering I was doing, and went and stared out of the great window at the stars. 'I could be invisible!' I repeated.

    To do such a thing would be to transcend magic. And I beheld, unclouded by doubt, a magnificent vision of all that invisibility might mean to a man—the mystery, the power, the freedom. Drawbacks I saw none.

    • Chapter 19: Certain First Principles
  • I was invisible, and I was only just beginning to realise the extraordinary advantage my invisibility gave me. My head was already teeming with plans of all the wild and wonderful things I had now impunity to do.
    • Chapter 20: At the House In Great Portland Street
  • My mood, I say, was one of exaltation. I felt as a seeing man might do, with padded feet and noiseless clothes, in a city of the blind. I experienced a wild impulse to jest, to startle people, to clap men on the back, fling people's hats astray, and generally revel in my extraordinary advantage.
    • Chapter 21: In Oxford Street
  • So last January, with the beginning of a snowstorm in the air about me—and if it settled on me it would betray me!—weary, cold, painful, inexpressibly wretched, and still but half convinced of my invisible quality, I began this new life to which I am committed. I had no refuge, no appliances, no human being in the world in whom I could confide. To have told my secret would have given me away—made a mere show and rarity of me. Nevertheless, I was half-minded to accost some passer-by and throw myself upon his mercy. But I knew too clearly the terror and brutal cruelty my advances would evoke. I made no plans in the street. My sole object was to get shelter from the snow, to get myself covered and warm; then I might hope to plan. But even to me, an Invisible Man, the rows of London houses stood latched, barred, and bolted impregnably.
    • Chapter 22: In The Emporium
  • Practically I thought I had impunity to do whatever I chose, everything—save to give away my secret. So I thought. Whatever I did, whatever the consequences might be, was nothing to me. I had merely to fling aside my garments and vanish. No person could hold me. I could take my money where I found it.
    • Chapter 23: In Drury Lane
  • The more I thought it over, Kemp, the more I realised what a helpless absurdity an Invisible Man was—in a cold and dirty climate and a crowded civilised city. Before I made this mad experiment I had dreamt of a thousand advantages. That afternoon it seemed all disappointment. I went over the heads of the things a man reckons desirable. No doubt invisibility made it possible to get them, but it made it impossible to enjoy them when they are got. Ambition—what is the good of pride of place when you cannot appear there? What is the good of the love of woman when her name must needs be Delilah? I have no taste for politics, for the blackguardisms of fame, for philanthropy, for sport. What was I to do? And for this I had become a wrapped-up mystery, a swathed and bandaged caricature of a man!
    • Chapter 23: In Drury Lane
  • "By Heaven, Kemp, you don't know what rage is! To have worked for years, to have planned and plotted, and then to get some fumbling purblind idiot messing across your course! Every conceivable sort of silly creature that has ever been created has been sent to cross me.

    "If I have much more of it, I shall go wild—I shall start mowing 'em.

    "As it is, they’ve made things a thousand times more difficult."

    "No doubt it’s exasperating," said Kemp, dryly.

    • Chapter 23: In Drury Lane
  • "The man's become inhuman, I tell you," said Kemp. "I am as sure he will establish a reign of terror—so soon as he has got over the emotions of this escape—as I am sure I am talking to you. Our only chance is to be ahead. He has cut himself off from his kind. His blood be upon his own head."
    • Chapter 25: The Hunting of the Invisible Man
  • "You have been amazingly energetic and clever," this letter ran, "though what you stand to gain by it I cannot imagine. You are against me. For a whole day you have chased me; you have tried to rob me of a night's rest. But I have had food in spite of you, I have slept in spite of you, and the game is only beginning. The game is only beginning. There is nothing for it, but to start the Terror. This announces the first day of the Terror. Port Burdock is no longer under the Queen, tell your Colonel of Police, and the rest of them; it is under me—the Terror! This is day one of year one of the new epoch—the Epoch of the Invisible Man. I am Invisible Man the First. To begin with the rule will be easy. The first day there will be one execution for the sake of example—a man named Kemp. Death starts for him to-day. He may lock himself away, hide himself away, get guards about him, put on armour if he likes—Death, the unseen Death, is coming. Let him take precautions; it will impress my people. Death starts from the pillar box by midday. The letter will fall in as the postman comes along, then off! The game begins. Death starts. Help him not, my people, lest Death fall upon you also. Today Kemp is to die."
    • Chapter 27: The Seige of Kemp's House

The War of the Worlds (1898)Edit

No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own…
At times I suffer from the strangest sense of detachment from myself and the world about me; I seem to watch it all from the outside, from somewhere inconceivably remote, out of time, out of space, out of the stress and tragedy of it all.
For adaptations based on the novel see The War of the Worlds (disambiguation).
  • No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same ... Yet, across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.
    • Book I, Ch. 1: The Eve of the War
  • And before we judge of them too harshly we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals, such as the vanished bison and the dodo, but upon its inferior races. The Tasmanians, in spite of their human likeness, were entirely swept out of existence in a war of extermination waged by European immigrants, in the space of fifty years. Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit?
    • Book I, Ch. 1: The Eve of the War
  • I remember I felt an extraordinary persuasion that I was being played with, that presently, when I was upon the very verge of safety, this mysterious death--as swift as the passage of light--would leap after me from the pit about the cylinder and strike me down.
    • Book I, Ch. 5: The Heat-Ray
  • At times I suffer from the strangest sense of detachment from myself and the world about me; I seem to watch it all from the outside, from somewhere inconceivably remote, out of time, out of space, out of the stress and tragedy of it all.
    • Book I, Ch. 7: How I Reached Home
  • And this Thing I saw! How can I describe it? A monstrous tripod, higher than many houses, striding over the young pine trees, and smashing them aside in its career; a walking engine of glittering metal, striding now across the heather; articulate ropes of steel dangling from it, and the clattering tumult of its passage mingling with the riot of the thunder.
    • Book I, Ch. 10: In the Storm
  • To me it is quite credible that the Martians may be descended from beings not unlike ourselves, by a gradual development of brain and hands (the latter giving rise to the two bunches of delicate tentacles at last) at the expense of the rest of the body. Without the body the brain would, of course, become a mere selfish intelligence, without any of the emotional substratum of the human being.
    • Book II, Ch. 2 (Ch. 19 in editions without Book division): What We Saw from the Ruined House
  • Night, the mother of fear and mystery, was coming upon me.
    • Book II, Ch. 8 (Ch. 25 in editions without Book divisions): Dead London
  • In another moment I had scrambled up the earthen rampart and stood upon its crest, and the interior of the redoubt was below me. A mighty space it was, with gigantic machines here and there within it, huge mounds of material and strange shelter places. And scattered about it, some in their overturned war-machines, some in the now rigid handling-machines, and a dozen of them stark and silent and laid in a row, were the Martians—dead!—slain by the putrefactive and disease bacteria against which their systems were unprepared; slain as the red weed was being slain; slain, after all man's devices had failed, by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this earth.
    • Book II, Ch. 8 (Ch. 25 in editions without Book divisions): Dead London
  • For so it had come about, as indeed I and many men might have foreseen had not terror and disaster blinded our minds. These germs of disease have taken toll of humanity since the beginning of things — taken toll of our prehuman ancestors since life began here. But by virtue of this natural selection of our kind we have developed resisting power; to no germs do we succumb without a struggle, and to many — those that cause putrefaction in dead matter, for instance — our living frames are altogether immune. But there are no bacteria in Mars, and directly these invaders arrived, directly they drank and fed, our microscopic allies began to work their overthrow. Already when I watched them they were irrevocably doomed, dying and rotting even as they went to and fro. It was inevitable. By the toll of a billion deaths man has bought his birthright of the earth, and it is his against all comers; it would still be his were the Martians ten times as mighty as they are. For neither do men live nor die in vain.
    • Book II, Ch. 8 (Ch. 25 in editions without Book divisions): Dead London
  • At any rate, whether we expect another invasion or not, our views of the human future must be greatly modified by these events. We have learned now that we cannot regard this planet as being fenced in and a secure abiding place for Man; we can never anticipate the unseen good or evil that may come upon us suddenly out of space. It may be that in the larger design of the universe this invasion from Mars is not without its ultimate benefit for men; it has robbed us of that serene confidence in the future which is the most fruitful source of decadence, the gifts to human science it has brought are enormous, and it has done much to promote the conception of the commonweal of mankind. It may be that across the immensity of space the Martians have watched the fate of these pioneers of theirs and learned their lesson, and that on the planet Venus they have found a securer settlement. Be that as it may, for many years yet there will certainly be no relaxation of the eager scrutiny of the Martian disk, and those fiery darts of the sky, the shooting stars, will bring with them as they fall an unavoidable apprehension to all the sons of men.
    • Book II, Ch. 10 (Ch. 27 in editions without Book divisions): The Epilogue

The First Men in the Moon (1901)Edit

Full text online at Wikisource
  • "It's this accursed science," I cried. "It's the very Devil. The medieval priests and persecutors were right and the Moderns are all wrong. You tamper with it—and it offers you gifts. And directly you take them it knocks you to pieces in some unexpected way. Old passions and new weapons—now it upsets your religion, now it upsets your social ideas, now it whirls you off to desolation and misery!"
  • Ch. 13: Mr. Cavor Makes Some Suggestions
  • Over me, around me, closing in on me, embracing me ever nearer, was the Eternal; that which was before the beginning, and that which triumphs over the end; that enormous void in which all light and life and being is but the thin and vanishing splendour of a falling star, the cold, the stillness, the silence—the infinite and final Night of space.
    • Ch. 19: Mr. Bedford Alone
  • Every citizen knows his place. He is born to that place, and the elaborate discipline of training and education and surgery he undergoes fits him at last so completely to it that he has neither ideas nor organs for any purpose beyond it.
    • Ch. 24: The Natural History of the Selenites

A Modern Utopia (1905)Edit

  • Nothing endures, nothing is precise and certain (except the mind of a pedant), perfection is the mere repudiation of that ineluctable marginal inexactitude which is the mysterious inmost quality of Being. Being, indeed! – there is no being, but a universal becoming of individualities, and Plato turned his back os truth when he turned towards his museum of specific ideals.
    • Ch. 1, sect. 5
  • Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia.
    • Ch. 2, sect. 3
  • Fools make researches and wise men exploit them—that is our earthly way of dealing with the question, and we thank Heaven for an assumed abundance of financially impotent and sufficiently ingenious fools.
    • Ch. 2, sect. 5
  • One of the darkest evils of our world is surely the unteachable wildness of the Good.
    • Ch. 2, sect. 6
  • The science hangs like a gathering fog in a valley, a fog which begins nowhere and goes nowhere, an incidental, unmeaning inconvenience to passers-by.
    • Ch. 3, sect. 3
  • Biologically the species is the accumulation of the experiments of all its successful individuals since the beginning.
    • Ch. 3, sect. 4
  • There is nothing in machinery, there is nothing in embankments and railways and iron bridges and engineering devices to oblige them to be ugly. Ugliness is the measure of imperfection.
    • Ch. 3, sect. 8
  • Crime and bad lives are the measure of a State's failure, all crime in the end is the crime of the community.
    • Ch. 5, sect. 2
  • But man is the unnatural animal, the rebel child of Nature, and more and more does he turn himself against the harsh and fitful hand that reared him.
    • Ch. 5, sect. 2
  • In all the round world of Utopia there is no meat. There used to be. But now we cannot stand the thought of slaughter-houses. And, in a population that is all educated, and at about the same level of physical refinement, it is practically impossible to find anyone who will hew a dead ox or pig. We never settled the hygienic question of meat-eating at all. This other aspect decided us. I can still remember, as a boy, the rejoicings over the closing of the last slaughter-house.
    • Ch. 9, sect. 5
  • For crude classifications and false generalisations are the curse of all organised human life.
    • Ch. 10, sect. 1
  • Suppose, now, there is such a thing as an all-round inferior race. Is that any reason why we should propose to preserve it for ever...? Whether there is a race so inferior I do not know, but certainly there is no race so superior as to be trusted with human charges. The true answer to Aristotle’s plea for slavery, that there are “natural slaves,” lies in the fact that there are no “natural” masters... The true objection to slavery is not that it is unjust to the inferior but that it corrupts the superior. There is only one sane and logical thing to be done with a really inferior race, and that is to exterminate it. Now there are various ways of exterminating a race, and most of them are cruel. You may end it with fire and sword after the old Hebrew fashion; you may enslave it and work it to death, as the Spaniards did the Caribs; you may set it boundaries and then poison it slowly with deleterious commodities, as the Americans do with most of their Indians; you may incite it to wear clothing to which it is not accustomed and to live under new and strange conditions that will expose it to infectious diseases to which you yourselves are immune, as the missionaries do the Polynesians; you may resort to honest simple murder, as we English did with the Tasmanians; or you can maintain such conditions as conduce to “race suicide,” as the British administration does in Fiji. Suppose, then, for a moment, that there is an all-round inferior race... If any of the race did, after all, prove to be fit to survive, they would survive—they would be picked out with a sure and automatic justice from the over-ready condemnation of all their kind. Is there, however, an all-round inferior race in the world? Even the Australian black-fellow is, perhaps, not quite so entirely eligible for extinction as a good, wholesome, horse-racing, sheep-farming Australian white may think. These queer little races, the black-fellows, the Pigmies, the Bushmen, may have their little gifts, a greater keenness, a greater fineness of this sense or that, a quaintness of the imagination or what not, that may serve as their little unique addition to the totality of our Utopian civilisation. We are supposing that every individual alive on earth is alive in Utopia, and so all the surviving “black-fellows” are there. Every one of them in Utopia has had what none have had on earth, a fair education and fair treatment, justice, and opportunity...Some may be even prosperous and admired, may have married women of their own or some other race, and so may be transmitting that distinctive thin thread of excellence, to take its due place in the great synthesis of the future.
    • Ch. 10, sect. 3
  • The forceps of our minds are clumsy forceps, and crush the truth a little in taking hold of it.
    • Appendix, Scepticism of the Instrument

First and Last Things: A Confession of Faith and Rule of Life (1908)Edit

  • Our minds fall very readily under the spell of such unmitigated words as Purity and Chastity. Only death beyond decay, absolute non-existence, can be Pure and Chaste. Life is impurity, fact is impure. Everything has traces of alien matter; our very health is dependent on parasitic bacteria; the purest blood in the world has a tainted ancestor, and not a saint but has evil thoughts.... This stupidity, this unreasonable idealism of the common mind, fills life to-day with cruelties and exclusions, with partial suicides and secret shames. But we are born impure, we die impure; it is a fable that spotless white lilies sprang from any saint's decay, and the chastity of a monk or nun is but introverted impurity. We have to take life valiantly on these conditions and make such honour and beauty and sympathy out of our confusions, gather such constructive experience, as we may.... Life is that, and abstinence is for the most part a mere evasion of life.
    • Ch.3, section 20, Of Abstinences and Disciplines
  • Thought has made me shameless. It does not matter at last at all if one is a little harsh or indelicate or ridiculous if that also is in the mystery of things.
    Behind everything I perceive the smile that makes all effort and discipline temporary, all the stress and pain of life endurable. In the last resort I do not care whether I am seated on a throne or drunk or dying in a gutter. I follow my leading. In the ultimate I know, though I cannot prove my knowledge in any way whatever, that everything is right and all things mine.
    • Ch. 4, sect. 6, The Last Confession

The Outline of History (1920)Edit

  • The Buddha Is Nearer to Us You see clearly a man, simple, devout, lonely, battling for light, a vivid human personality, not a myth. Beneath a mass of miraculous fable I feel that there also was a man. He too, gave a message to mankind universal in its character. Many of our best modern ideas are in closest harmony with it. All the miseries and discontents of life are due, he taught, to selfishness. Selfishness takes three forms — one, the desire to satisfy the senses; second, the craving for immortality; and the third the desire for prosperity and worldliness. Before a man can become serene he must cease to live for his senses or himself. Then he merges into a greater being. Buddha in a different language called men to self-forgetfulness five hundred years before Christ. In some ways he was near to us and our needs. Buddha was more lucid upon our individual importance in service than Christ, and less ambiguous upon the question of personal immortality.
    • Ch. 25
  • Ashoka (264 to 227 B.C.), one of the great monarchs of history, whose dominions extended from Afghanistan to Madras... is the only military monarch on record who abandoned [[warfare] after victory. He had invaded Kalinga (255 B.C.), a country along the east coast of Madras, perhaps with some intention of completing the conquest of the tip of the Indian peninsula. The expedition was successful, but he was disgusted by what be saw of the cruelties and horrors of war. He declared, in certain inscriptions that still exist, that he would no longer seek conquest by war, but by religion, and the rest of his life was devoted to the spreading of Buddhism throughout the world.He seems to have ruled his vast empire in peace and with great ability. He was no mere religious fanatic. For eight and twenty years Asoka worked sanely for the real needs of men. Amidst the tens of thousands of names of monarchs that crowd the columns of history, their majesties and graciousnesses and serenities and royal highnesses and the like, the name of Asoka shines, and shines, almost alone, a star. From the Volga to Japan his name is still honoured. China, Tibet, and even India, though it has left his doctrine, preserve the tradition of his greatness. More living men cherish his memory to-day than have ever heard the names of Constantine or Charlemagne.
  • From 1789 to late in 1791 the French Revolution was an orderly process, and from the summer of 1794 the Republic was an orderly and victorious state. The Terror was not the work of the whole country, but of the town mob which owed its existence and its savagery to the misrule, and social injustice of the ancient regime...More lives were wasted by the British generals alone on the opening day of what is known as the Somme offensive of July, 1916 than in the whole French Revolution from start to finish.
    • Ch. 36
  • The professional military mind is by necessity an inferior and unimaginative mind; no man of high intellectual quality would willingly imprison his gifts in such a calling.
    • Ch. 40
  • Human history is in essence a history of ideas.
    • Ch. 40
  • Every one of these hundreds of millions of human beings is in some form seeking happiness...Not one is altogether noble nor altogether trustworthy nor altogether consistent; and not one is altogether vile...Not a single one but has at some time wept.
    • Ch. 40
  • Our true nationality is mankind.
    • Ch. 41
  • Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe... Yet, clumsily or smoothly, the world, it seems, progresses and will progress.
    • Ch. 41
  • Life begins perpetually. Gathered together at last under the leadership of man, the student-teacher of the universe... unified, disciplined, armed with the secret powers of the atom, and with knowledge as yet beyond dreaming, Life, forever dying to be born afresh, forever young and eager, will presently stand upon this earth as upon a footstool, and stretch out its realm amidst the stars.
    • Ch. 41
  • The weaving of mankind into one community does not imply the creation of a homogeneous community, but rather the reverse; the welcome and adequate utilization of distinctive quality in an atmosphere of understanding... Communities all to one pattern, like boxes of toy soldiers, are things of the past, rather than of the future.
  • A time when all such good things will be for all men may be coming more nearly than we think. Each one who believes that brings the good time nearer; each heart that fails delays it.

The Open Conspiracy (aka What Are We To Do With Our Lives?) (1928)Edit

  • Man is an imperfect animal and never quite trustworthy in the dark.
  • It seemed to me that all over the world intelligent people were waking up to the indignity and absurdity of being endangered, restrained, and impoverished, by a mere uncritical adhesion to traditional governments, traditional ideas of economic life, and traditional forms of behaviour, and that these awaking intelligent people must constitute first a protest and then a creative resistance to the inertia that was stifling and threatening us. These people I imagined would say first, "We are drifting; we are doing nothing worth while with our lives. Our lives are dull and stupid and not good enough."
Then they would say, "What are we to do with our lives?"
And then, "Let us get together with other people of our sort and make over the world into a great world-civilization that will enable us to realize the promises and avoid the dangers of this new time."
It seemed to me that as, one after another, we woke up, that is what we should be saying. It amounted to a protest, first mental and then practical, it amounted to a sort of unpremeditated and unorganized conspiracy, against the fragmentary and insufficient governments and the wide-spread greed, appropriation, clumsiness, and waste that are now going on. But unlike conspiracies in general this widening protest and conspiracy against established things would, by its very nature, go on in the daylight, and it would be willing to accept participation and help from every quarter. It would, in fact, become an "Open Conspiracy," a necessary, naturally evolved conspiracy, to adjust our dislocated world.

Things to Come (1936)Edit

If we don’t end war, war will end us.
  • Oswald Cabal: Dragging out life to the last possible second is not living to the best effect. The nearer the bone, the sweeter the meat. The best of life, Passworthy, lies nearest to the edge of death.
  • Rowena: I don’t suppose any man has ever understood any woman since the beginning of things. You don’t understand our imaginations, how wild our imaginations can be.
  • The Boss: You are not mechanics, you are warriors. You have been trained, not to think, but to do.
  • The Boss: The State’s your mother, your father, the totality of your interests. No discipline can be too severe for the man that denies that by word or deed.
  • Rowena: You’ve got the subtlety of a bullfrog.
  • Oswald Cabal: There’s nothing wrong in suffering, if you suffer for a purpose. Our revolution didn’t abolish danger or death. It simply made danger and death worthwhile.
  • 'Pippa' Passworthy: This little upset across the water doesn’t mean anything. Threatened men live long and threatened wars never occur.
  • John Cabal: If we don’t end war, war will end us.
  • Raymond Passworthy: Oh, God, is there ever to be any age of happiness? Is there never to be any rest?
  • Oswald Cabal: Rest enough for the individual man, too much and too soon, and we call it death. But for Man, no rest and no ending. He must go on, conquest beyond conquest. First, this little planet and its winds and ways. And then all the laws of mind and matter that restrain him. Then the planets about him, and, at last, out across immensity to the stars. And when he has conquered all the depths of space, and all the mysteries of time, still he will be beginning...
  • Raymond Passworthy: But... we're such little creatures. Poor humanity's so fragile, so weak. Little... little animals.
  • Oswald Cabal: Little animals. And if we’re no more than animals, we must snatch each little scrap of happiness, and live, and suffer, and pass, mattering no more than all the other animals do or have done. It is this, or that. All the universe or nothing. Which shall it be, Passworthy? Which shall it be?

World Brain (1938)Edit

Main article: World Brain
  • There has been … an enormous waste of human mental and physical resources in premature revolutionary thrusts, ill-planned, dogmatic, essentially unscientific reconstructions and restorations of the social order, during the past hundred years. This was the inevitable first result of the discrediting of those old and superseded mental adaptations which were embodied in the institutions and education of the past. They discredited themselves and left the world full of problems.
    • Preface, p. xiii
  • We do not want dictators, we do not want oligarchic parties or class rule, we want a widespread world intelligence conscious of itself. To work out a way to that world brain organization is therefore our primary need in this age of imperative construction.
    • Preface, p. xvi


MisattributedEdit

  • In politics, strangely enough, the best way to play your cards is to lay them face upwards on the table.
    • Attributed to Wells's book New Worlds for Old (1908) by Ferdinand Lundberg in Scoundrels All (1968), p. 126. The quote is widely repeated on the internet, but does not appear in the cited work.

Quotes about WellsEdit

  • Wells is the Prospero of all the brave new worlds of the mind, and the Shakespeare of science fiction.
    • Brian Aldiss, Billion Year Spree, Doubleday 1973,, (p. 132).
  • Wells occupies an honoured place in science fiction. Without him, indeed, I can't see how any of it could have happened.
  • H.G. Wells' The Island of Dr. Moreau is one of those books that, once read, is rarely forgotten.
    • Margaret Atwood, "Introduction" to the Penguin Classics Editon of The Island of Dr. Moreau (2005)
  • To say that The Invisible Man is a young writer's novel is not to belittle it. It has much of the attractiveness of youth.
    • Christopher Priest, "Introduction" to the Penguin Classics Editon of The Invisible Man (2005)
  • In 1933, Einstein's works were among those burned in the book bonfires organized by the Nazis throughout Germany, together with those of such different anti-fascist writers as Thomas and Heinrich Mann, Freud, Proust, Hemingway, H. G. Wells, Gide, Upton Sinclair, etc.
    • Marco Mamone Capria, in Physics Before and After Einstein (2005), IOS Press, p .6
  • The influence of H. G. Wells on other science fiction writers is immeasurable. His work is widely known far beyond the boundaries of the genre, and to a great extent the creators of all novels and films of alien invasions, time travel, or invisibility are at least partly in his debt.
    • Don D'Ammassa, in Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Writers (2005), Infobase Publishing, p. 410
  • Since the beginning of this war two men, whom we had thought of as slowly and unwillingly retiring from public life, have emerged into a glare of prominence. I mean Mr. Churchill and Mr. Wells. They must be nearly contemporary; they were both men of celebrity, I remember, when I was a freshman.
  • T. S. Eliot, New English Weekly, 8 February 1940.
  • Both have spoken and written a great deal in the last thirty-odd years; neither possesses what one could call a style, though each has a distinct idiom: that of Mr Wells being more like a durable boiler suit, and that of Mr. Churchill more like a court dress of rather tarnished grandeur from a theatrical costumier's.
  • T. S. Eliot, New English Weekly, 8 February 1940.
  • Wells' faith in knowledge and reason, in brief, excluded too large, too central a portion of

human experience. He was for all that a very great figure of his epoch, a formative influence upon the minds and imagination of countless men and women, of society itself, and our debt to him cannot but be sincerely and gratefully acknowledged at this fateful moment of history in which we live and in some measure he foresaw.

  • What a debt every intelligent being owes to Bernard Shaw! What a debt also to H. G. Wells, whose mind seems to have grown up alongside his readers’, so that, in successive phases, be has delighted us and guided our imaginations from boyhood to maturity.
    • John Maynard Keynes, "One of Wells' Worlds" (Review of the World of William Clissold") in The New Republic (1 February 1927)
  • "Progress" is for the convinced ochlocrats a consoling Utopia of madly increased comfort and technicism. This charming but dull vision was always the pseudoreligious consolation of millions of ecstatic believers in ochlocracy and in the relative perfection and wisdom of Mr. and Mrs. Averageman. Utopias in general are surrogates for heaven; they give a meager solace to the individual that his sufferings and endeavors may enable future generations to enter the chiliastic paradise. Communism works in a similar way. Its millennium is almost the same as that of ochlocracy. The Millennium of Lenin, the Millennium of Bellamy, the Millennium as represented in H. G. Wells's, "Of Things to Come," the Millennium of Adolf Hitler and Henry Ford — they are all basically the same; they often differ in their means to attain it but they all agree in the point of technical perfection and the classless or at least totally homogeneous society without grudge or envy.
    • Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, writing under the pen name Francis Stewart Campbell (1943), Menace of the Herd, or, Procrustes at Large, Milwaukee, WI: The Bruce Publishing Company, pp. 35-36
  • I have no hestitation whatever in saying that Wells, as he is, entertains me far more agreeably than than Dickens. I know very well that the author of David Copperfield was a greater artist than the author of Mr. Polly, just as I know that the Archbishop of Canterbury is a more virtuous man than my good friend, Fred the Bartender, ; but all the same, I prefer Wells and Fred to Dickens and the Archbishop.
  • In spite of an awareness of possible world catastrophe that underlay much of his earlier work and flared up again in old age, Wells in his lifetime was regarded as the chief literary spokesman of the liberal optimism that preceded World War I. No other writer has caught so vividly the energy of this period, its adventurousness, its feeling of release from the conventions of Victorian thought and propriety. Wells’s influence was enormous, both on his own generation and on that which immediately followed it. None of his contemporaries did more to encourage revolt against Christian tenets and accepted codes of behaviour, especially as regards sex, in which, both in his books and in his personal life, he was a persistent advocate of an almost complete freedom. Though in many ways hasty, ill-tempered, and contradictory, Wells was undeviating and fearless in his efforts for social equality, world peace, and what he considered to be the future good of humanity.
  • The only political organisation Wells seems to have worked with successfully was PEN, for which he was International President between 1933 and 1936, and even then he was responsible for overseeing the expulsion of the German and Italian branches of the organisation due to their lack of respect for the free speech of non-fascist writers.
    • John S. Partington, Building Cosmopolis: The Political Thought of H.G. Wells (2003), Ashgate, p. 17

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