The Young H.G. Wells: Changing the World, a biography by Claire Tomalin 2021

Thanks to a tip off from Tony Kitchen at the always interesting Tin Soldiering On blog, I picked up a shiny hardback copy of this biography of the young H. G. Wells by Claire Tomalin, which focusses on the first four decades of his long life.

An attractive shiny steampunk and War of The Worlds cover

Over 19 chapters the book covers the first four highly productive decades of his life, followed by a final ten page ‘coda’ chapter documenting the last thirty odd years of his life, works and friendships.

The main part finishes round 1911 with the publication of The New Machiavelli (minus its toy soldier chapters).

Floor Games is barely mentioned, Little Wars not at all, the main books mentioned being those from 1895-1911.

Part of my interest was in looking out for toy soldier references.

As mentioned in a previous blog post, the struggling young working class schoolboy played wargames in his head:

This is the closest reference to Floor Games and Little Wars that you will get.

The poorly Wells as a child often went to live with his mother, who worked as a housekeeper at the country house of Uppark, where he had access to books and other stimulating things like a telescope to see the night sky and other planets. Obviously useful for a future writer of science fiction!

I like the mention of the young boy Wells and toy theatres, as these crop up again with Wells playing at satirical toy theatres with G K Chesterton in the 1930s at Easton, mentioned on another of my blog entries.

Wells was obviously a bright lad from a difficult poor working class background who one day would be on good terms with the ‘upstairs‘ of society of aristocrats, writers and intellectuals, the socialist reformers as well as his family background ‘downstairs‘.

This biography is also useful in filling in a little more detail on his circle, including players of The Floor Game or Little Wars (published 1913) such as the invalid writer and ‘dear friend who died’ in 1903 George Gissing,

Fabian / Socialist writer Graham Wallas (Mr. W)

Charles Masterman (Mr M.), writer, politician and brother of Captain M.

Interesting biography, well worth reading, if sadly lacking in toy soldiers.

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 4 December 2021

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