You Can’t Be Too Careful: the Novel as Parody

  • J. R. Hammond


Wells’s last novel You Can’t Be Too Careful, published in 1941, is today almost completely forgotten. Appearing at a time of wartime paper shortage, it was overwhelmed by the Second World War and has been largely bypassed by modern literary criticism. By 1941 his reputation as a novelist was at its lowest ebb. A new generation of younger writers — D. H. Lawrence, J. B. Priestley, Graham Greene, Aldous Huxley, Evelyn Waugh — had ousted him from the commanding position he had once shared with Bennett and Galsworthy (the death of James Joyce and Virginia Woolf in the same year may well have led him to speculate afresh on the nature of the novel), and in a cynical moment he confessed that none of his later novels ‘did more than make his decline and fall unmistakeable’.85 But You Can’t Be Too Careful does not merit its current critical neglect. In the postscript to his autobiography he claims that he had tried to make it ‘my best and most comprehensive novel’,86 and there are many indications that he intended it to be a summation of all that he felt and believed about the novel as a didactic instrument.


Time Machine Realist Text Young Writer Narrative Voice Authorial Intervention 
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© J. R. Hammond 1988

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  • J. R. Hammond

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