Our H.G. Wells Collection relaunched!

Yesterday evening the Library hosted an event in association with the Friends of Senate House Library and the H.G. Wells Society to relaunch its H.G. Wells Collection, which in 2012 was boosted by the donation of 160 volumes from the Society’s own library. Our H.G. Wells Collection was started in 1962 as a collaborative venture between the Society and Senate House Library and we are delighted that 50 years later both partners were once again able to work together to boost our Wells holdings for the benefit of Wells scholarship present and future. The collection now contains 334 printed items comprising first and subsequent editions of Wells’s works in English and foreign language translations, together with critical and biographical studies. Some of these items were on display last night, including one of our copies of the 1924 first edition of The Dream: a Novel, published by Jonathan Cape, which includes a statement at the end of a list of Wells’s publications reading:  ‘All these are in print and on sale, whatever a lazy bookseller may say to the contrary’! This statement was subsequently removed and does not appear in our second copy …

Spot the lazy bookseller

Spot the lazy bookseller

The highlight of the evening was an excellent talk by Professor Patrick Parrinder on ‘H.G. Wells and the University of London’. Wells had a long-running and fascinating relationship with the University, which had a considerable influence on his career and writings. Wells joined the Normal School (later Royal College) of Science at South Kensington in 1884 on a government scholarship to study biology under T.H. Huxley, but increasingly discontented and rebellious left the University in 1887 without a degree. In 1890, however, he completed his London BSc as a private student, securing first class honours in zoology, and joined the teaching staff of the University Correspondence College. An advocate of reform, he described the University in 1903, rather unflatteringly, as ‘an acephalous invertebrate in the political world’. In 1922 he stood unsuccessfully, as a Labour candidate, for election as MP for the University, and our Wells Collection includes his circular letter soliciting support for his candidacy, University of London Election, which he was forced to withdraw as it contained an advertisement for one of his own works! Awarded an honorary doctorate of literature by the University in 1936, Wells submitted a thesis in 1943, when in his late seventies, for the degree of DSc. The examiners’ report, which survives in the University Archives, described the submission, which was entitled A thesis on the quality of illusion in the continuity of the individual life in the higher metazoa, with particular reference to the species Homo Sapiens, as ‘a slighter work’ in comparison to his earlier output, but the degree was awarded in recognition of Wells’s ‘magnificent contributions … to the cause of social science and education throughout the world’.

We are extremely grateful to the Wells Society, and to Professor Parrinder, for their generosity and assistance in revitalising our Wells Collection.


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