Reading Mathilde Meyer’s memoir H.G. Wells and his Family (1955), about her time as Governess to Well’s two sons Frank and Gip, she makes occasional references to the ‘Floor Game’, which I take to mean Little Wars (1913).
Mathilde Meyer mentions the names of three visitors to Wells country home at Easton Glebe, Dunmow, Essex who took part in the “Floor Game”:
“On wet days, however, The Floor Game, was till the most popular amusement of all. Not only Gip and Frank, but also such friends of their father as the Politician the Rt Hon C.F.G. Masterman, Mr Harold Hobson and Mr. E.S.P. Haynes could be seen stretched out upon the schoolroom floor at weekends.”
Who are these people?
1. Politician, the Rt Hon C.F.G. Masterman
1. Charles Frederick Gurney Masterman MP, Privy Council, (1873 – 1927) was a British radical Liberal Party politician, intellectual and man of letters. He worked closely with such Liberal leaders as Lloyd George and Churchill in designing social welfare projects, including the National Insurance Act 1911. Masterman wrote ‘State of The Nation’ books such as “The Condition of England” 1909
From The Oxford Companion to English Literature, ed. Margaret Drabble (2000)
His postwar political career as a Liberal was a difficult and disappointing one and he died relatively young at 54 years old. In a similar way, the former Liberal Churchill had a long period in the political wilderness in the 1920s and 30s.
Wells, Masterman and Wartime Propaganda Bureau WW1
In Masterman we have another link between early Wargamers H.G. Wells and Winston Churchill.
“During the First World War Masterman played a central role in the main British government propaganda agency, designed to counter the German Propaganda Agency and promote British interests in neutral countries like America. Masterman served as head of the British War Propaganda Bureau (WPB), known as “Wellington House.” (Wikipedia entry WPB)
Masterman’s War Propaganda Bureau enlisted eminent writers such as John Buchan, H.G. Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle as well as painters such as Francis Dodd and Paul Nash.
Until its abolition in 1917 to become the Ministry of Information headed by John Buchan, the WPB department published 300 books and pamphlets in 21 languages. It distributed over 4,000 propaganda photographs every week and circulated maps, cartoons and lantern slides to the media.
Masterman also commissioned films about the war such as The Battle of the Somme, which appeared in August 1916. (Adapted from Wikipedia source: Charles Masterman)
Wellington House was home of the War Propaganda Bureau on Buckingham Gate (the building has now been demolished).
The War Propaganda Bureau began its secret propaganda campaign on 2 September 1914 when Masterman invited 25 leading British authors to Wellington House to discuss ways of best promoting Britain’s interests during the war.
Those who attended included (then) well known authors such as William Archer, Hall Caine, Arthur Conan Doyle, Arnold Bennett, John Masefield, G.K. Chesterton, Henry Newbolt, John Galsworthy, Thomas Hardy … G.M. Trevelyan, H.G. Wells [and in the subsequent ‘Author’s Declaration’ several popular women authors].
Rudyard Kipling had been invited to the meeting but was unable to attend.
In view of its propaganda role, all the writers who attended on 2 September 1914 agreed to maintain the utmost secrecy. It was not until 1935 that the activities of the War Propaganda Bureau became public knowledge.
Some of these writers and their author friends agreed to write pamphlets and books that would promote the government’s point of view.
The War Propaganda Bureau went on to publish over 1,160 such pamphlets during the war. (Wikipedia entry WPB)
In 1917 the Department of Information partly took over this role under John Buchan before Lord Beaverbrook took charge of propaganda in 1918.
For a good book on British Naval intelligence and propaganda at home, America and in the more forgotten theatres of WW1 – see Codebreakers by James Willie and Michael McKinley (Ebury, 2015). Author A.E.W. Mason from the Authors Declaration (below) crops up in the book as an ‘interesting’ figure:
Two of those involved in the development of Little Wars signed the ‘Author’s Declaration of Support’ for Britain’s entry into the Great War – G.K. Chesterton and Jerome K. Jerome. It makes the final ‘pacific’ chapter ‘warning’ by Wells in Little Wars about the danger or blunder of Great Wars all the more poignant.
The Slate.com blog post authors state that “H.G. Wells satirized his own wartime career in Mr. Britling Sees It Through (1916), and by 1918 had withdrawn from propaganda work altogether.”
Another one for the Wells book list for this year … available in Project Gutenberg or Librivox.
This New York Times image came from the blog post about the WW1 Authors Declaration at Slate.com https://slate.com/human-interest/2014/10/british-authors-and-wwi-propaganda-manifesto-signed-by-h-g-wells-arthur-conan-doyle-rudyard-kipling.html
Another unusual and even more direct or active link to the development of Little Wars occurred to me this week – read about this in my next blog post.
2. Mr Harold Hobson
At first a mystery – this is not the theatre critic Sir Harold Hobson (1904 – 1992).
Harold Hobson (1891–1974), David ‘Bunny’ Garnett’s friend, and a temporary lover of D.H. Lawrence ‘s wife Frieda, lived at 3 Gayton Crescent, at the end of Gayton Road [in what literary tour guide Catherine Brown calls Hampstead the “Montmartre” of London, where many famous artists and writers including H.G. Wells lived in Edwardian times https://catherinebrown.org/lawrences-hampstead-a-walking-tour/
Before WW1, “Bunny roamed the countryside with his ‘Neo-Pagan’ friends: Rupert Brooke, the Olivier sisters, Harold Hobson, Godwin Baynes and Dudley Ward, all of them swimming naked in lakes and rivers, worshipping nature and sleeping out under the stars.” (Source: Amazon review of Garnett biography).
Harold Hobson later married Coralie Jeyes von Werner or “Coralie von Werner Hobson” (1891 – 1946). Largely forgotten today, Coralie wrote novels, short stories and plays; from 1928 she published under the pseudonym “Sarah Salt”. She wrote her first novel ‘The Revolt of Youth’ in 1909.
They had two children: Sarah Elizabeth Hobson and Timothy John Hobson (Source: “Who’s who in Commerce and Industry”, Volume 6, 1948, p.705).
Harold Hobson was the son of New York-born writer Florence Edgar Hobson and noted journalist and social economist John Atkinson Hobson; Harold, an engineering graduate from King’s College, was tall, male, articulate, extroverted.
As a youth he belonged to a group that advocated freedom and spontaneity, was anti-intellectual and was called the Neo-Pagans by Virginia Woolf; the often changing members included Godwin Baynes, Rupert Brooke, Ka Cox, Gwen Darwin (later Raverat), Frances Darwin (later Cornford), David ‘Bunny’ Garnett, the Olivier sisters Margery, Bryn, Daphne and Noel, Jacques Raverat and Gerald Shove.
Hobson and David Garnett, his best friend went on a hike in the Alps in August 1912 with D. H. Lawrence and his companion Frieda Richthofen.
According to Helga Kaschl “Lawrence valued him – at least initially – for his uncompromising honesty; however, they soon parted ways after Harold and Frieda indulged in their passion in a haystack.”
D. H. Lawrence processed this “episode” in “Mr. Noon” and described Stanley (= Harold) as handsome, with big, dark eyes, an attractive, gaunt face, of casual elegance, who looked at Johanna (= Frieda) languidly. (Mr. Noon, p. 376)
Harold Hobson became a Consulting engineer at Merz & McLellan from 1919 to 1925, was involved in setting up the electricity grid in Great Britain and was then successfully employed in leading positions within the electricity industry.
Harold Hobson, Supply Engineer; Commercial Manager 1932–35; General Manager from 1935; Central Electricity Board Chairman 1944–46..
Harold Hobson’s father John Atkinson Hobson was close to the Fabians and influenced Margaret Cole with his ideas. Hobson senior was one of the liberal intellectuals who switched to the Labour Party after the First World War. Hobson senior worked for The Nation newspaper and became a friend of Leonard Woolf, who also started working for the newspaper in 1922. Hobson’ father published the essay “Notes on Law and Order” in 1926 and “From Capitalism to Socialism” in 1932 in the Hogarth Press. Leonard Woolf valued him as Britain’s leading theoretician of anti-colonialism.
Edward Taylor Scott, married to Harold Hobson’s sister Mabel, was the editor of the Manchester Guardian.
(Source: rough translation from Helga Kaschl’s German article https://www.schreibfrauen.at/coralie-hobson/
Here we have clear links to The Fabian Society, Liberal thinkers – all overlap with H.G. Wells, who knew D.H. Lawrence, putting Wells on the edge of the Bloomsbury Group of writers and artists, who later settled at Charleston House. Frank Palmer the publisher of Wells Little Wars and Floor Games also had his office in ‘Bloomsbury’.
Mr. E.S.P. Haynes (Wikipedia image source)
3. Edmund Sidney Pollock Haynes (26 September 1877 – 5 January 1949), best known as Mr. E. S. P. Haynes was a British lawyer and writer, mostly on legal subjects. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._S._P._Haynes
So there you have it – three more players of The Floor Game or Little Wars and proof of the well connected man that H.G. Wells was.
More to come about Charles Masterman, H.G. Wells and Little Wars in our next post.
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 4 February 2021