Monday, June 20, 2011

H. G. Wells & David Lodge

On a recent bicycle trip, my husband and I were riding uphill and sweating.  Until we got our Gatorade, we needed a common subject, a distraction from the heat.  My husband just started reading H. G. Wells's comic novel about a bicycling holiday, The Wheels of Chance:  A Bicycling Idyll. And I am halfway through David Lodge's excellent historical novel about H. G., A Man of Parts.

The common component:  Wells and bicycling. 

I read many "Grade B" novels by the likes of Wells.  My husband scorns such writers unless he comes across a reference in somebody's book, or a comment on a blog.

Under somebody else's influence... 

I have not inspired him, though I've been maundering about Kipps and Tono-Bungay lately.  He found the reference to Wells's novel in Robert Penn's It's All about the BikeThe Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels.     

Wells's protagonist of The Wheels of Chance, Mr. Hoopdriver, a draper's assistant, can barely ride a bicycle.  Like Mr. Hoopdriver, H. G. Wells was a draper's assistant (for awhile) and a bicyclist. The hero of The History of Mr. Polly was also a draper's assistant and a bicyclist.   And in Kipps, the draper's assistant/protagonist's life changes when a playwright runs into him with a bicycle.

I'm sure there's bicycling in other novels, too.

About Lodge's A Man of Parts:  it's a staunch and solid book but really takes off in Part 3.  The episodes with the Fabian Society-- E. Nesbit, her husband Hubert Bland, George Bernard Shaw, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, etc.--are completely absorbing.  Then there are the women he has affairs with:  Violet Hunt, a feminist novelist, and Amber Reeves, a feminist who had a daughter by Wells and who was the inspiration for the heroine of Ann Veronica (a novel considered so shocking it was rejected by his publisher).

His poor wife, Jane, with whom he was very much in love when he married her, had to put up with so much.  A brilliant science student of H. G.'s in his teaching days, she had an affair with him while he was married to his first wife and then they married.   Ironically he had many affairs during their marriage and told her about them--he was promiscuous, so they had a "free" marriage--but he always came back to her.  She was the mother of of his children.

But then so were Amber Reeves and Rebecca West the mothers of his children.

I must read some more Wells soon to complement Lodge's book.


gina c in al said...

Violet Hunt also had a tempestuous relationship with Ford Madox Ford. There must have been something about her! I ordered the Lodge book from Book Depository, not that i couldnt wait til September, but the US version is going to have a lurid and unappealing dust jacket. The UK one which you have has a much better jacket. One can read it in public without anxiety.

Frisbee said...

Gina, I downloaded a couple of Violet Hunt's novels and perhaps I'll read one of them. Violet and H. G. sounded like a real pair, both of them practicing free love, though I gather that Violet suffered in a relationship to another married man--perhaps her first.

I didn't know that about Ford Madox Ford.

I'm really enjoying Lodge's book.

I must take a look at the U.S. book jacket!