Happy Birthday, HG Wells

Today, the 21st day of September, is the birthday of the famous British author, H.G. Wells.

You may know a little about him, you may know a lot. But, as a former Woking-based business ourselves, we wanted to find out about the great once-local man and these are just some choice selections from the very many facts that we learned about him:

    1. The HG in H.G. Wells stands for Herbert George.
    2. He was born in Bromley in Kent in 1866. 46 High Street, to be precise.
    3. Herbert George was the youngest of four – he had two brothers and a sister and he was affectionately known as “Bertie”.
    4. Wells was not born into academia; his father had been a gardener, was a professional cricketer and also a shopkeeper. His mother was a housekeeper.
    5. After an accident when he was just 7 or 8 years old, the young Bertie broke his leg and was bedridden. Stuck in bed for months, the boy Wells read prolifically with books his father brought home from the local library.
    6. Wells was very much into science from his early years, winning a scholarship to Imperial College, London, where he studied biology under Thomas Henry (TH) Huxley, an advocate of Charles Darwin, known as “Darwin’s Bulldog”, and grandfather to the writer Aldous Huxley.
    7. HG Wells’ first publications were actually science textbooks – Textbook of Biology and Honours Physiography, both published in 1893.
    8. His first novel was “The Time Machine” published in 1895.
    9. “The Time Machine” was interesting in that, as well as being a work of science fiction, it was a political and social commentary about how the human race might split into a decadent upper class and a subterranean proletariat.
    10. Wells wrote in the eminent scientific journal, Nature, for 50 years, contributing essays and correspondences. Apparently, he didn’t consider himself a scientist but more a journalist.
    11. HG Wells lived in Woking, Surrey, for only about 18 months. He was based at “Lynton”, now 141 Maybury Road, where he struck out to explore the town as the backdrop for The War of the Worlds.
    12. The first Martian cylinder landed in the sandpits on Horsell Common, just over a mile from Wells’ house.
    13. The idea for Martian invasion came whilst exploring Woking and Bertie’s brother posed the question of what it might be like if aliens were to descend on the town?
    14. HG Wells was probably at his most creative in Woking town, penning The War of the Worlds, The Wheels of Chance, The Invisible Man and The Island of Doctor Moreau.
    15. Wells had a vision of a “World Brain” or a “World Encyclopaedia” that would be a repository of common knowledge available to all. He also foresaw the use of tanks, aeroplanes and a devastating “atomic bomb”.
    16. In 1938 the American actor and filmmaker, Orson Welles, broadcast a radio drama of The War of the Worlds which was infamous for allegedly causing widespread public panic.
    17. By the time of his death, Wells had written over 100 books.
    18. The War of the Worlds has been made into two American films, the first in 1953 and a Steven Spielberg version starring Tom Cruise in 2005 (Neither was set in sunny Surrey, funnily enough)
    19. Our Digital Marketing Manager’s favourite Wells spin-off is Jeff Wayne’s musical version of The War of the Worlds, released on a double gatefold LP in 1978 and starring Richard Burton, David Essex and Phil Lynott.

One of the funniest things we came across in our research was when Wells wrote a letter to his friend, Elizabeth Healey, in 1895 describing the original, serialised version of War of the Worlds;

“I’m doing the dearest little serial for Pearson’s new magazine, in which I completely wreck and sack Woking, killing my neighbours in painful and eccentric ways, then proceed via Kingston and Richmond to London, which I sack, selecting South Kensington for feats of peculiar atrocity.”

So, Happy Birthday, HG Wells, the first English sci-fi writer, incredible mind, visionary, inspiration and former Woking resident.

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