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

  • Patrick Parrinder


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


Time Machine Solar Eclipse Short Story Large Design Human Destiny 
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    H. G. Wells, The War of the Worlds (London: Heinemann 1898), p. 2.Google Scholar
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© Patrick Parrinder 2000

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  • Patrick Parrinder

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