Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Author's Note to the Reader

This book is in all probability the last of a series of writings,
of which--disregarding certain earlier disconnected essays--my
Anticipations was the beginning. Originally I intended Anticipations
to be my sole digression from my art or trade (or what you will)
of an imaginative writer. I wrote that book in order to clear up
the muddle in my own mind about innumerable social and political
questions, questions I could not keep out of my work, which it
distressed me to touch upon in a stupid haphazard way, and which
no one, so far as I knew, had handled in a manner to satisfy my
needs. But Anticipations did not achieve its end. I have a slow
constructive hesitating sort of mind, and when I emerged from that
undertaking I found I had still most of my questions to state and
solve. In Mankind in the Making, therefore, I tried to review
the social organisation in a different way, to consider it as an
educational process instead of dealing with it as a thing with
a future history, and if I made this second book even less
satisfactory from a literary standpoint than the former (and this is
my opinion), I blundered, I think, more edifyingly--at least from
the point of view of my own instruction. I ventured upon several
themes with a greater frankness than I had used in Anticipations,
and came out of that second effort guilty of much rash writing, but
with a considerable development of formed opinion. In many matters I
had shaped out at last a certain personal certitude, upon which I
feel I shall go for the rest of my days. In this present book I have
tried to settle accounts with a number of issues left over or opened
up by its two predecessors, to correct them in some particulars, and
to give the general picture of a Utopia that has grown up in my mind
during the course of these speculations as a state of affairs at
once possible and more desirable than the world in which I live. But
this book has brought me back to imaginative writing again. In its
two predecessors the treatment of social organisation had been
purely objective; here my intention has been a little wider and
deeper, in that I have tried to present not simply an ideal, but an
ideal in reaction with two personalities. Moreover, since this may
be the last book of the kind I shall ever publish, I have written
into it as well as I can the heretical metaphysical scepticism upon
which all my thinking rests, and I have inserted certain sections
reflecting upon the established methods of sociological and economic
science....

The last four words will not attract the butterfly reader, I know.
I have done my best to make the whole of this book as lucid and
entertaining as its matter permits, because I want it read by as
many people as possible, but I do not promise anything but rage and
confusion to him who proposes to glance through my pages just to see
if I agree with him, or to begin in the middle, or to read without
a constantly alert attention. If you are not already a little
interested and open-minded with regard to social and political
questions, and a little exercised in self-examination, you will find
neither interest nor pleasure here. If your mind is "made up" upon
such issues your time will be wasted on these pages. And even if you
are a willing reader you may require a little patience for the
peculiar method I have this time adopted.

That method assumes an air of haphazard, but it is not so careless
as it seems. I believe it to be--even now that I am through with the
book--the best way to a sort of lucid vagueness which has always
been my intention in this matter. I tried over several beginnings of
a Utopian book before I adopted this. I rejected from the outset the
form of the argumentative essay, the form which appeals most readily
to what is called the "serious" reader, the reader who is often no
more than the solemnly impatient parasite of great questions. He
likes everything in hard, heavy lines, black and white, yes and no,
because he does not understand how much there is that cannot be
presented at all in that way; wherever there is any effect of
obliquity, of incommensurables, wherever there is any levity
or humour or difficulty of multiplex presentation, he refuses
attention. Mentally he seems to be built up upon an invincible
assumption that the Spirit of Creation cannot count beyond two, he
deals only in alternatives. Such readers I have resolved not to
attempt to please here. Even if I presented all my tri-clinic
crystals as systems of cubes----! Indeed I felt it would not be
worth doing. But having rejected the "serious" essay as a form, I
was still greatly exercised, I spent some vacillating months, over
the scheme of this book. I tried first a recognised method of
viewing questions from divergent points that has always attracted me
and which I have never succeeded in using, the discussion novel,
after the fashion of Peacock's (and Mr. Mallock's) development of
the ancient dialogue; but this encumbered me with unnecessary
characters and the inevitable complication of intrigue among them,
and I abandoned it. After that I tried to cast the thing into a
shape resembling a little the double personality of Boswell's
Johnson, a sort of interplay between monologue and commentator; but
that too, although it got nearer to the quality I sought, finally
failed. Then I hesitated over what one might call "hard narrative."
It will be evident to the experienced reader that by omitting
certain speculative and metaphysical elements and by elaborating
incident, this book might have been reduced to a straightforward
story. But I did not want to omit as much on this occasion. I do not
see why I should always pander to the vulgar appetite for stark
stories. And in short, I made it this. I explain all this in order
to make it clear to the reader that, however queer this book
appears at the first examination, it is the outcome of trial and
deliberation, it is intended to be as it is. I am aiming throughout
at a sort of shot-silk texture between philosophical discussion on
the one hand and imaginative narrative on the other.

H. G. WELLS.

--

THE OWNER OF THE VOICE

There are works, and this is one of them, that are best begun with a
portrait of the author. And here, indeed, because of a very natural
misunderstanding this is the only course to take. Throughout these
papers sounds a note, a distinctive and personal note, a note that
tends at times towards stridency; and all that is not, as these
words are, in Italics, is in one Voice. Now, this Voice, and this is
the peculiarity of the matter, is not to be taken as the Voice of
the ostensible author who fathers these pages. You have to clear
your mind of any preconceptions in that respect. The Owner of the
Voice you must figure to yourself as a whitish plump man, a little
under the middle size and age, with such blue eyes as many Irishmen
have, and agile in his movements and with a slight tonsorial
baldness--a penny might cover it--of the crown. His front is convex.
He droops at times like most of us, but for the greater part he
bears himself as valiantly as a sparrow. Occasionally his hand flies
out with a fluttering gesture of illustration. And his Voice (which
is our medium henceforth) is an unattractive tenor that becomes at
times aggressive. Him you must imagine as sitting at a table reading
a manuscript about Utopias, a manuscript he holds in two hands that
are just a little fat at the wrist. The curtain rises upon him so.
But afterwards, if the devices of this declining art of literature
prevail, you will go with him through curious and interesting
experiences. Yet, ever and again, you will find him back at that
little table, the manuscript in his hand, and the expansion of
his ratiocinations about Utopia conscientiously resumed. The
entertainment before you is neither the set drama of the work of
fiction you are accustomed to read, nor the set lecturing of the
essay you are accustomed to evade, but a hybrid of these two. If you
figure this owner of the Voice as sitting, a little nervously, a
little modestly, on a stage, with table, glass of water and all
complete, and myself as the intrusive chairman insisting with a
bland ruthlessness upon his "few words" of introduction before he
recedes into the wings, and if furthermore you figure a sheet behind
our friend on which moving pictures intermittently appear, and if
finally you suppose his subject to be the story of the adventure of
his soul among Utopian inquiries, you will be prepared for some at
least of the difficulties of this unworthy but unusual work.

But over against this writer here presented, there is also another
earthly person in the book, who gathers himself together into a
distinct personality only after a preliminary complication with the
reader. This person is spoken of as the botanist, and he is a
leaner, rather taller, graver and much less garrulous man. His face
is weakly handsome and done in tones of grey, he is fairish
and grey-eyed, and you would suspect him of dyspepsia. It is a
justifiable suspicion. Men of this type, the chairman remarks with
a sudden intrusion of exposition, are romantic with a shadow of
meanness, they seek at once to conceal and shape their sensuous
cravings beneath egregious sentimentalities, they get into mighty
tangles and troubles with women, and he has had his troubles. You
will hear of them, for that is the quality of his type. He gets no
personal expression in this book, the Voice is always that other's,
but you gather much of the matter and something of the manner of his
interpolations from the asides and the tenour of the Voice.

So much by way of portraiture is necessary to present the explorers
of the Modern Utopia, which will unfold itself as a background
to these two enquiring figures. The image of a cinematograph
entertainment is the one to grasp. There will be an effect of these
two people going to and fro in front of the circle of a rather
defective lantern, which sometimes jams and sometimes gets out of
focus, but which does occasionally succeed in displaying on a screen
a momentary moving picture of Utopian conditions. Occasionally the
picture goes out altogether, the Voice argues and argues, and the
footlights return, and then you find yourself listening again to the
rather too plump little man at his table laboriously enunciating
propositions, upon whom the curtain rises now.

H.G. Wells

Sorry, no summary available yet.