Edwardian Awakenings: H. G. Wells’s Apocalyptic Romances (1898–1915)

  • Patrick Parrinder

Abstract

The early, fin-de-siècle Wells needs no introduction as an apocalyptic writer. In The Time Machine (1895) the Time Traveller’s journey into the future reaches its terminus on a cold and dying Earth darkened by a solar eclipse. The extinction of humankind and the eventual waning of the sun’s heat are scientific prophecies made vividly real by the device of time travelling. Wells returned to the theme of a cosmic apocalypse in his short story ‘The Star’ (1897) and in The War of the Worlds (1898). Exemplifying Oscar Wilde’s pairing of fin de siècle and fin du globe, the Martian invasion in the latter book is specifically associated with the turn of the century. The exact year is not given, but the last sentence of the opening paragraph suggests a probable date of 1901: ‘And early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment.’1 The year of the Eloi and Morlocks in The Time Machine AD 802, 701, is also the first year of a new century.2 The title of W. T. Stead’s 1898 review-article on Wells’s writings, ‘The Latest Apocalypse of the End of the World’, suggests how readily Wells’s early work was associated with millennial anticipations.3

Keywords

Entropy Europe Radium Expense Defend 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    H. G. Wells, The War of the Worlds (London: Heinemann 1898), p. 2.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    W. T. Stead, ‘The Latest Apocalypse of the End of the World’, Review of Reviews, 17 (1898), pp. 389–96.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    H. G. Wells, The Complete Short Stories (London: Benn, 1927), p. 114.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    H. G. Wells, The Discovery of the Future with The Common-Sense of World Peace and The Human Adventure (London: PNL Press, 1989), p. 34.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    F. Soddy, The Interpretation of Radium (3rd edn. London: Murray, 1912), p. 248.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    H. G. Wells, The World Set Free: a Story of Mankind (London: Macmillan, 1914), pp. 1–29. The book is dedicated to Soddy’s Interpretation of Radium.Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    H. G. Wells, The Time Machine: An Invention (London: Heinemann, 1895), title of Chapter 6.Google Scholar
  8. 11.
    H. G. Wells, In the Days of the Comet (London: Macmillan, 1906).Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    H. G. Wells, A Modern Utopia (London: Chapman & Hall, 1905), p. 369.Google Scholar
  10. 15.
    J. R. Hammond, H. G. Wells and the Short Story (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1992), p. 144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 17.
    H. G. Wells ‘42 to 44’: A Contemporary Memoir (London: Secker & Warburg, 1944), pp. 27–30.Google Scholar
  12. 18.
    H. G. Wells, ‘Preface to The Scientific Romances’, in R. Parrinder and R. M. Philmus (eds.), H. G. Wells’s Literary Criticism (Brighton: Harvester, 1980), p. 243.Google Scholar
  13. 21.
    W. Warren Wagar, Terminal Visions: The Literature of Last Things (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982), p. 122.Google Scholar
  14. 22.
    H. G. Wells, ‘Things to Come’ in Two Film Stories (London: Cresset, 1940), p. 141.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Patrick Parrinder 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick Parrinder

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