by   H.G. Wells   h/b 1937; paperback 1939

Medium-length novel by Wells, if that—many of his novels were very long indeed. My edition is an unprepossessing paperback, probably the result of Wells offering his script to several publishers, as described by C P Snow. Assuming it was written in 1938 or 1939—I haven't attempted to check—and not exhumed from an oddments drawer, the most remarkable thing about it is the absence of anything that might be expected, from today's viewpoint, of the date, 1939.

The novel has two subplots: Rowland Palace (a novelist, somewhat like Wells), becoming aware of publicity stunts, publishers interest in their lists rather than writers, and generally what might be described as 'Public Relations', and was so described in the USA. Wells used a newspaper ad and a British Monomarks box number—this outfit still exists—to meet a youthful type, in a scene which reminded me of one from P. G. Wodehouse.
    And Rowly's wife, Brynhild, who gets slightly entangled with an up-and-coming writer from nowhere, who turns out to have a past, and is permitted by Wells to impregnate Brynhild, who thereby enters the real world of falsehoods. We are told in the Envoy that her family expanded to five children, something she'd not intended in earlier life. Two of these were described as 'debonair', the PR man's choice of mot juste for his employer. I think Wells was assuming about half his children would inherit that characteristic; I doubt he meant she'd go for three extra-marital dads.

The dates are left uncertain—they both sound 1900-ish, her name being, perhaps, Wagneresque.

The modern world of anonymous writers—by now, including of course TV and a vast range of quasi-writers—was never really understood by Wells, who felt a class interest in brilliance, and disliked writing to order. He probably genuinely believed that journalists expressed at least a part of their own thoughts. Wells' writings, at about the same time, on Nesta Webster ('a perfectly sane and capable person with insane ideas'), and later in 1945—Mind at the End of its Tether, his muted scream of incomprehension of the world, show he had little grasp of the real forces in the world for centuries.

I'd guess this novel—not even a mention of the 'National Government'—disappointed loyal Wells readers, as with his other later books. And I'd guess that is an experience felt by many in the more fortunate parts of the world, in conversation with, perhaps, churchmen, or historians, or other people supposed to be wise.

HTML, reading, etc Rae West 7 June 2017