Reviews by Bert

The New Machiavelli

by H.G. Wells

The New Machiavelli is Wells autobiography. It was written when he was forty-four, and had just been run out of British politics for fooling around on his wife. He compares himself to the more famous political analyst as having been run out of power then tortured by the new powers that be. The bad press about fooling around on his wife counts as the torture.

General opinion was that he was the smartest man alive. Before Eisenstein people would say, “as smart as H.G. Wells”. This was an opinion with which Wells entirely agreed. This is his manifesto.

Wells is politically important as the founder of elite café Socialism. Under various names you can still find this political flavor alive and well in the Upper West-Side of New York, and on the editorial page of the NYT. The basic gist of Wellsian (G. B. Shaw’s term) Socialism is that H.G. is so smart that our political system should give him control of everything and let him bring “order from chaos” and “plenty from privation”. If not H.G. personally, then people like him, people like us.

Wells, orphaned in his early teens, subsisted in genteel poverty through mediocre boarding schools to an easy first at Cambridge. As above noted, the man was smart and wrote like a dream.

Bankrolling this poverty is H.G.’s rich uncle who built, owns and runs his own toilet factory. Whether Wells hates his uncle more for the cheap boarding schools, or for the lead in the glaze on the toilets, is hard to measure.

The takeaway here is that Wells started his career as a twenty-two year old virgin (neither girls nor jobs - neither one) who had turned down his Uncle’s offer of a partnership making lead-glazed toilet bowls. (Ever wonder why the time machine looks so much like a commode?) Talk about turning points in Literary History.

Now that you know who he is, you understand his politics. Darn fine writer, but a little broad in his political assumptions about the “bringing order out of chaos” thing. He was a genius in many ways and a child in others (women and economics for example).

Reviewed on 2011.01.19

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