Wells, Herbert George
- Patrick Parrinder
Herbert George Wells (1866–1946)
Wells, Herbert George (1866–1946), novelist and social commentator, was born on 21 September 1866 at Atlas House, 47 High Street, Bromley, Kent, the youngest of the four children of Joseph (Joe) Wells (1827/8–1910), a shopkeeper and professional cricketer, and his wife, Sarah (1822–1905), daughter of George Neal, an innkeeper at Midhurst in Sussex. Joseph's father was head gardener at Penshurst Place, and Joseph found employment as a gardener at Uppark, the country house of the Fetherstonhaughs on the South Downs near Midhurst, where Sarah was a lady's maid. Wells's parents were married in 1853. Two years later Joseph bought Atlas House, with its unsuccessful china business. Wells's earliest memories were of the dark subterranean kitchen, the bug-infested bedrooms, and the dingy parlour behind the shop. As a child he witnessed the growing discord between his parents as the family declined into insolvency.
Education and apprenticeships
Joseph Wells, a legendary fast bowler, was happiest on the cricket field. On 26 June 1862 he took four wickets in four balls for Kent against Sussex at Brighton. He sold cricket goods from his shop, and coached schoolboys every summer until 1877, when he broke his thigh by falling from a ladder in his backyard on a Sunday morning while the rest of the family were at church. Officially he had been pruning a vine, but local gossip alleged that the church service ended earlier than usual and that he was caught helping a lady friend to escape over the back wall. Joe Wells was irresponsible, irresolute, and happy-go-lucky; Sarah was anxious, devout, long-suffering, and scrupulous in recording her complaints against Joe in the diary that she kept. Between them, Wells's parents did much to shape the contradictions of their son's character and outlook. As a writer and political thinker Wells was by turns optimist and pessimist, libertarian and authoritarian, hedonist and puritan. Born 'blasphemous and protesting', he reacted against his mother's fervent Anglicanism by becoming a 'prodigy of Early Impiety' (Wells, Experiment in Autobiography, vol. 1). Later his arguments for scientific materialism would often fall back on the prophetic urgings and symbolism of the low-church sermons of his childhood.
Bertie, as he was known to his family, was taught to read and write by his mother, and then attended Mrs Knott's dame-school at 8 South Street, Bromley. At the age of seven he was laid up with a broken leg and his father brought home library books, including Wood's illustrated Natural History and the bound volumes of Punch. He was a pupil for some years at the Bromley Academy, a private school for tradesmen's sons run by Thomas Morley, where bookkeeping, arithmetic, and copperplate handwriting were the principal subjects of study. At the age of twelve or thirteen he produced The Desert Daisy (1957), a humorous comic-strip narrative attributed to 'the immortal Buss' (his family nickname, but doubtless a reference to the 'inimitable Boz') and 'Edited by H. G. Wells'. By this time he was Morley's star pupil, being placed first in all England in the College of Preceptors examination in bookkeeping. But his school fees were increasingly in arrears, and in 1880 he was sent out into the world, like his two elder brothers, to become a draper.
Wells's first, probationary apprenticeship was brief. Messrs Rodgers and Denyer of Windsor judged that their thirteen-year-old shop assistant was too unrefined for the task. Instead, what seemed a far better opportunity presented itself. A remote relative, Alfred Williams, had become master of a national school at Wookey in Somerset, and he offered Wells the place of pupil teacher. Unfortunately Williams had misrepresented his teaching qualifications and was found to have obtained the post on false pretences. By now, Wells's mother had left the family home at Bromley to become resident housekeeper at Uppark, where Miss Fetherstonhaugh, pitying the Wells family's misfortunes, had charitably taken her on. Her youngest son stayed in the servants' quarters at Uppark while waiting to begin his next start in life, a post in a chemist's shop at Church Hill, Midhurst. In those days a pharmaceutical assistant was required to know Latin, so Wells took lessons with Horace Byatt, the headmaster of Midhurst grammar school. Byatt liked his pupil, found him an avid learner, and sought to take advantage of the system of payment by results which was then being used to encourage technical and further education. He steered Wells away from Latin to study for the state examinations in elementary science, and every time his pupil gained a certificate, Byatt earned a grant.
Wells found the chemist's shop much more congenial than the draper's, but he soon realized that his family could not afford for him to be trained as a pharmacist. So he left after a few weeks and, for two years from the spring of 1881, he was apprenticed at Hyde's Drapery Emporium, Southsea, working a thirteen-hour day and sleeping in a dormitory with the other assistants. He was resentful and rebellious, and was ceaselessly (and, he later thought, deservedly) bullied by the shop manager. Somehow he kept alive the hope of escape, pursuing a course of rigorous self-discipline and devoting whatever time he could spare to self-education. He made it a rule never to read a work of fiction or play a game. Eventually he wrote to Byatt, begging for a place as a pupil teacher, and Byatt made an offer which he could only accept if his mother would pay to cancel his indentures. At first she refused, but Wells forced the issue by leaving the shop one Sunday morning to walk the 17 miles to Uppark and waylay her as she was returning from church in the servants' procession. Sarah backed down and purchased his freedom with her life savings. In September 1883 Wells was back as a pupil teacher at Midhurst grammar school, and a year later he entered T. H. Huxley's biology class at the Normal School (later Royal College) of Science, South Kensington, London, on a government scholarship for trainee teachers. Like his hero Mr Polly, he had thrown off the servitude of the draper's life and discovered that 'If the world does not please you, you can change it' (H. G. Wells, The History of Mr Polly, 1910, chap. 9).
Science student and teacher, 1884–1893
Thomas Huxley, then at the height of his fame, was dean of the Normal School, a title which reassured Sarah Wells, who had heard of him as a notorious freethinker. He was Wells's greatest teacher, and the influence of his course in elementary biology and zoology can be felt in almost everything that Wells subsequently wrote. As Wells noted, 'It was a grammar of form and a criticism of fact' (Experiment in Autobiography, vol. 1). But Huxley soon fell ill, and the other professors were more humdrum. Wells ended the year with a first in biology, and had his scholarship renewed. As he went on to take a year's physics course and then a year of geology, his appetite for the hard grind of examination successes suddenly left him. He plunged into student life, branched out into literature and politics, and rebelled against the technical and utilitarian bias of the college curriculum. His irreverence and wit brought him a circle of admiring companions, some of whom, such as Richard Gregory, became lifelong friends. He preached socialism at the student debating society and, on another occasion, brought the house down with a demonstration of a perpetual motion machine. He wore a red tie as a sign of his political convictions, and he attended William Morris's meetings at Hammersmith. He founded and edited the Science Schools Journal, in which he published both his first efforts at scientific romance and an attack on the Normal School ethos thinly disguised as an essay on Socrates. Meanwhile, he neglected his studies and abandoned any dreams he may have had of becoming an experimental scientist. In 1887, partly for disciplinary reasons, he failed his final examination in geology.
During his student years Wells was undernourished, shabbily dressed, and usually half-starved on the days before his weekly maintenance of 1 guinea was paid out. He spent much of his time reading in the South Kensington libraries when he should have been in the laboratory. Romantic poetry, Enlightenment satire, and classical utopian thought, together with evolutionary science, were his intellectual passions. His study of Plato and Swift had begun at Uppark, where he had been given the run of the library collected earlier in the century by the freethinker Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh. In an attic there were forgotten books of engravings of Renaissance art, as well as the pieces of a telescope which he laboriously fitted together. The great house embodying the ideals of the whig aristocracy furnished him with an abiding image of the liberal education which, after Huxley's retirement, the Normal School failed to provide.
In the summer of 1887 Wells left South Kensington without a degree and took a teaching post at Holt Academy, north Wales, an impoverished boarding-school. Within a few weeks he was badly fouled by one of his pupils during a game of football, resulting in a crushed kidney and a series of lung haemorrrhages. Tuberculosis was diagnosed (though the diagnosis was never confirmed), and he was forced to resign from Holt and to spend several months convalescing at Uppark. He was to suffer further lung haemorrhages in 1891, 1893, and 1898. The experience of illness and the prognosis of an early death quickened his imagination, as is clear from the apocalyptic and visionary starkness of his early scientific romances, beginning with The Time Machine (1895). During his first convalescence he wrote copiously and dreamed of achieving fame as a social prophet, though as yet he was 'the Prophet of the Undelivered Spell' (Correspondence, 1.102–3).
Wells returned to London in the autumn of 1888 and became a teacher at Henley House School, Kilburn, where A. A. Milne was one of his pupils. In 1890 he took his London University BSc, with a first class in zoology and a second in geology, and then joined William Briggs's University Correspondence College, preparing students for matriculation in biology at the Tutorial College in Red Lion Square. He had fallen in love with Isabel Mary Wells (c.1866–1930), his pretty but conventional cousin at whose home he had lodged during his student years. They married on 30 October 1891 and set up house at 28 Haldon Road, Wandsworth. Soon Wells was supplementing his income by writing for the educational press, editing Briggs's University Correspondent, contributing to the Educational Times, and writing his Textbook of Biology (1893) which, much revised by other hands, remained in print for thirty years. In 1893 his health again collapsed and he had to give up class teaching for the insecurity of freelance journalism.
Fiction and prophecy, 1893–1914
'The Chronic Argonauts', the early version of The Time Machine published in the Science Schools Journal (April–June 1888), was a stilted performance in the manner of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe. In 1891 Wells had been summoned by Frank Harris, the editor of the Fortnightly Review, only to have one of his most carefully written scientific articles brutally rejected. Now he determined to achieve literary recognition, and suddenly hit on the formula for success with short stories and light-hearted essays. He wrote fiction and drama reviews for the Saturday Review and Pall Mall Gazette, and, encouraged by W. E. Henley, recast his time-travelling tale first as a series of newspaper prophecies and then as the haunting adventure story which appeared in book form in 1895. 'It's my trump card', he wrote to his friend Elizabeth Healey, '& if it does not come off very much I shall know my place for the rest of my career' (Correspondence, 1.226). The Time Machine won instant acclaim, and he produced in quick succession The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), The War of the Worlds (1898), The First Men in the Moon (1901), and several volumes of short stories.
Boldly melodramatic and intellectually provocative, Wells's early scientific romances (as they came to be called) remain unsurpassed for their imagination and visionary power. They reveal his profound grasp of the changes—perhaps the diminution—in the meaning and sense of purpose of human life brought about by Darwinian evolutionary theory. Their pessimism is at one with the fin de siècle mood, but the passing of time has not dimmed their assault on human complacency. Where Wells's contemporaries saw him as adding what Tyndall had called the 'scientific imagination' to nineteenth-century romance, the twentieth century regarded him as the greatest of the forerunners of modern science fiction. His tales of future evolution, alien intelligence, interplanetary warfare, and technological dystopia anticipated most of the genre's thematic repertory. He stands midway between the older traditions of the learned satire, the utopia, and the marvellous voyage, and the twentieth-century growth of mass-entertainment technological fantasy.
But Wells had little wish to be remembered as the founder of science fiction or as a rival of Jules Verne and Edgar Allan Poe. He had larger ambitions, craving recognition both as a serious novelist and as a public intellectual urging his readers towards a new world. At the turn of the century he produced Love and Mr Lewisham (1900), the first of a long series of semi-autobiographical novels, and Anticipations (1901), a book of social and technological forecasts arguing for a rationally planned ‘New Republic’ to supersede existing monarchies and nation states. Queen Victoria's long reign came to an end in 1901, and Wells's emergence as a futurological essayist in Anticipations and in his Royal Institution lecture The Discovery of the Future (1902) matched the public mood. He became a member of the Fabian Society and of the Coefficients, a political dining club which included R. B. S. Haldane, Bertrand Russell, and Sidney Webb among its members. His most considerable contribution to political thought was A Modern Utopia (1905), a ‘shot-silk’ narrative combining the traditional traveller's report from Utopia with a critical commentary and a synthesis of earlier utopian ideas. His ‘good place’ is an evolving socialist world state, not a picture of settled perfection, and it is ruled by a voluntary élite (an updated version of Plato's Guardians), the Samurai.
Wells continued to write scientific romances, but these were now semi-realistic 'fantasies of possibility' closely linked to his futurological writings. They included The Sleeper Awakes (1899; rev. 1910), The Food of the Gods (1904), In the Days of the Comet (1906), The War in the Air (1908), and The World Set Free (1914). All but The Food of the Gods contain a vision of future world war, and in The World Set Free, inspired by Frederick Soddy's work on radium, he prophesied the atomic bomb. 'The Land Ironclads' (1903), the short story acknowledged by Winston Churchill as originating the idea of the tank, also belongs to this period. Wells portrayed mass destruction as the apocalyptic prelude to a new, more rational world order. It is hard to say whether these forebodings were taken very seriously. A novel such as The War in the Air is enlivened by his gifts for picaresque narrative, humour, and farce; in The World Set Free and his later novel The Shape of Things to Come (1933) he adopts the sibylline pose of a future historian.
In nearly all the scientific romances, the unknown is let loose upon the placid communities of south-east England. Wells's realistic comedies written in the Edwardian period portray the same landscape, seen from the perspective of the frustrated and rebellious ‘little man’ who is a draper's apprentice or shopkeeper. Kipps (1905) and The History of Mr Polly (1910) show their heroes escaping from drudgery, while Tono-Bungay (1909), a much more ambitious novel, traces the rise and fall of a chemist's apprentice whose uncle becomes a patent-medicine tycoon. Tono-Bungay, with its sharp social satire and panoramic sweep, revives and reinvents the ‘Condition-of-England’ novel of Dickens and his contemporaries; but its successors, such as The New Machiavelli (1911)—a novel of high politics—became increasingly didactic and discursive. Moreover, after Tono-Bungay Wells had largely exhausted the vein of autobiographical fiction which drew heavily on his painful experiences in adolescence and young manhood. He now began to draw the material of his fiction from his life as a successful and prosperous writer.
'A Don Juan among the intelligentsia'
Wells's marriage to Isabel lasted barely two years. In January 1894 he set up house with (Amy) Catherine Robbins (1871/2–1927), who had been his student at the Tutorial College in Holborn. After becoming divorced from Isabel in January 1895, he married Catherine on 27 October of that year; the couple had two sons, George Philip (Gip), who became a zoologist, and Frank Richard, who worked in films. H. G. and Jane, as Wells and his second wife were usually known, lived at first in lodgings at Camden Town and Sevenoaks, and later at Woking and Worcester Park in Surrey. Their Worcester Park household was portrayed by Dorothy Miller Richardson, a schoolfriend of Catherine Wells, in her novel Pilgrimage (1915). After a renewed episode of ill health in 1898, Wells was advised to leave the London area and prepare for a life of possible invalidism. He moved to Sandgate in Kent, and to Spade House, a house on the cliffs designed by C. F. A. Voysey for wheelchair use. Here he became intimate with such literary neighbours as Joseph Conrad, Ford Madox Ford, and Henry James, and was visited by Arnold Bennett, George Gissing, and Bernard Shaw. As his health quickly improved, he resorted to the bicycle rather than the wheelchair, and entered a restless and turbulent phase. He and Catherine moved back to London, where they lived at 17 Church Row, Hampstead, from 1909 to 1913, and in 1912 they acquired Easton Glebe at Little Easton, Essex. The Wellses' hospitality at Easton Glebe was renowned, as were the violent games of hockey played to a set of rules which only Wells seemed to understand. In his fifties he suffered from bronchitis and began to winter abroad, but his physical vigour remained undiminished until the onset of diabetes and heart disease in old age.
'The literary life', Wells wrote in 1911, 'is one of the modern forms of adventure'; his fame as a writer had brought him 'the utmost freedom of movement and intercourse' (My Lucky Moment). He ridiculed the English class system in Kipps and Tono-Bungay and neither forgot nor forgave the stringencies of his youth. Now that he was successful he all but abandoned the self-denial and self-discipline which he believed to be necessary for the building of a new socialist world. A fascinating talker with arresting blue eyes, he was deeply attractive to women, and his numerous love affairs (and Catherine's apparent complaisance in them) became the talk of literary London. His utopian ideal of free love, as expressed in In the Days of the Comet, made him a prime target in the ‘war against socialism’ waged by the tory press in 1906–7. Before 1914 his lovers included the novelists Dorothy Miller Richardson (1873–1957) and Elizabeth von Arnim (1866–1941), as well as a young Fabian just down from Cambridge, Amber Reeves. Wells had recently failed in a political battle within the Fabian Society to overturn the old guard of Shaw and the Webbs, and Amber's pregnancy and hurried marriage to Rivers Blanco-White caused great offence within the society. Anna-Jane Blanco-White, born in 1909, was acknowledged twenty years later by Wells as his daughter. A further scandal resulted from his liaison with a young feminist journalist, Rebecca West [see Andrews, Dame Cicily Isabel (1892-1983)], who gave birth to his third son, Anthony West, on the day after war was declared in 1914. Wells and West remained lovers for some years, but Anthony was told that he was their nephew. Anthony grew up to revere his father and to blame much of his unhappiness on his mother. His autobiographical novel Heritage (1955) portrays the relative ease with which his prosperous and usually absent father was able to put the sufferings of his second family on one side.
Although the details of his love affairs were kept out of print until nearly all the participants were dead, Wells was committed to greater openness about sexual behaviour. He spoke of his reputation as a 'Don Juan among the intelligentsia' (Wells, Experiment in Autobiography, vol. 2), and he wrote a third volume of autobiography which was posthumously published as H. G. Wells in Love (1984). Ann Veronica (1909), whose heroine was a feminist, was the first of a series of novels aimed at the taboos surrounding sexual desire in Edwardian England. His commitment to the ‘discussion novel’, dealing provocatively with social themes and sexual relationships, brought him into conflict with Henry James, whom he satirized in Boon (1915). James wrung from Wells the admission that 'I had rather be called a journalist than an artist, that is the essence of it' (Edel and Ray, 264). To Wells's disadvantage, their quarrel in 1915 would come to symbolize the conflict between artistic autonomy and political engagement in twentieth-century literature.
War, education, and human rights, 1914–1946
Wells was unwise to renounce any claims on the word ‘art’, but he was an increasingly passionate and influential journalist, especially during the war years. The War that will End War (1914) set out his case for supporting the allies. His novel Mr Britling Sees it Through (1916) is a vivid evocation of the war as seen from the home front. In 1918 he was recruited by Lord Northcliffe's ministry of propaganda at Crewe House, where his task was to work on a statement of war aims, chief among which was the setting up of the League of Nations. The league fell far short of his hopes, however, and he soon became one of its most vociferous critics.
Wells viewed the First World War as the inevitable outcome of the rivalries between modern nation states. Popular nationalism and imperialism reflected the prejudices and misunderstandings sowed by the teaching of national history in each country. He envisaged a new kind of history textbook and, at the end of the war, assembled a team of specialist advisers and wrote his 'Plain History of Life and Mankind', The Outline of History (1920). Against all expectations, the Outline was both a critical success and an international best-seller. He wrote three more encyclopaedic works—A Short History of the World (1922), The Science of Life (with Julian Huxley and G. P. Wells, 1930), and The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind (1931)—and these inspired the work of other popular educationists such as Lancelot Hogben.
The Outline of History brought Wells new fame, though his activities as a propagandist and commentator on world affairs rapidly undermined his standing as a novelist. From time to time he used his position to secure interviews with the world's political leaders, interpreting their ideas for an international readership and urging them to find common ground in the quest for world order. On his first visit to the United States in 1906 he had met President Theodore Roosevelt; in 1920 he had the meeting with Lenin described in his book Russia in the Shadows (1921); and in 1934 he spoke with Franklin Roosevelt in the White House and with Stalin in the Kremlin. Although never a party man, he stood as a Labour candidate for the London University seat in 1922. His favoured project was an 'Open Conspiracy' to work towards world peace and global reorganization. George Orwell and others would later accuse him of political naïvety between the wars, though he was an early and persistent critic of both fascism and communism. In fact, his outlook had become more liberal and less authoritarian than it had been when he wrote Anticipations and A Modern Utopia. He became president of PEN, the international writers' organization founded by John Galsworthy, and was a founder member of the National Council for Civil Liberties. As the Second World War approached he formed a new committee to draft a fundamental statement of human rights. Throughout the war he showed almost fanatical persistence in getting agreement on an international charter of rights, which led directly to the universal declaration of human rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948. He refused to take personal credit for what now seems his most significant political achievement.
In The Outline of History Wells had summed up modern life as a 'race between education and catastrophe'. As he entered old age his attempts to educate took the form of an endless, repetitive stream of books and articles. His epic Experiment in Autobiography (1934) began with a vivid account of his early struggles and ended with his crusades for 'world education' and 'world revolution'. His later novels were far less triumphal than this. Two of the best of them, Mr Blettsworthy on Rampole Island (1928) and The Croquet Player (1936), are haunting fables of the psychic forces which threaten to bring humanity to collective suicide. His film Things to Come (produced by Alexander Korda in 1936) begins with a spectacular bombing raid and shows world war and pestilence as the prelude to utopian reconstruction by airborne revolutionaries. Dismissed by the literary avant-garde, he succeeded in exploiting the new medium of cinema as a forum for his ideas.
The end of Wells's relationship with Rebecca West in 1923, and Catherine Wells's death from cancer in 1927, brought about great changes in his personal life. During the late twenties he spent half the year with Odette Keun in Lou Pidou, the house they had built at St Mathieu, near Grasse in the Alpes-Maritimes in France. He and Odette parted acrimoniously, and Baroness Moura Budberg, whom he had met at Maksim Gorky's house in Moscow in 1920, became his most constant companion. After Easton Glebe was sold he moved permanently to central London, living first in a flat at 47 Chiltern Court, Clarence Gate, off Baker Street, and then at 13 Hanover Terrace, Regent's Park. It was at Hanover Terrace that he lived throughout the Second World War, though his windows were shattered by the flying-bomb attacks.
As a young man Wells was slim and pinched, with fiery eyes and a wispy moustache. Later his moustache was well trimmed, his face filled out, and he tended, as he put it, to embonpoint. His short, unimpressive figure and high, piping voice made him a disastrous platform speaker, though he was more effective in his numerous broadcasts for BBC radio. His best writing in the ‘prophetic’ style has a simple grandeur and austerity of phrase, and most of it was produced early. Then there came the warm, wistful, anarchic mood of the comic romances such as Mr Polly. Once again this phase was short-lived, and in some of his later fiction and non-fiction he tried, and usually failed, to recapture his earlier magic. But much of his output was deliberately ephemeral. He never tired of controversy and was a lifelong scourge of those aspects of capitalism, communism, nationalism, imperialism, Zionism, and Roman Catholicism which could not be reconciled with his vision of a scientific world order. His last writings are among his most vehement; Wells in old age did not mellow. He was notoriously irascible, and his impatience and emotionalism ruined some of his political interventions, though his capacity for penetrating self-criticism saved him from the worst of his follies. His ebullience, generosity, and kindness to the young won him many friends, and his candour and warmth shine through his voluminous correspondence. He wanted to guide humanity to a better world, but it is as a novelist, and especially as the founder of modern science fiction, that he is best remembered. His short last prophetic book, Mind at the End of its Tether (1945), was dismayingly pessimistic, but its predecessor was The Happy Turning, published in the same year, and he angrily denied a newspaper report that he was plunged into the depths of despair. He died in his sleep at his home at Hanover Terrace, in Regent's Park, London on 13 August 1946, a month short of his eightieth birthday, and was cremated at Golders Green three days later.
- H. G. Wells, Experiment in autobiography, 2 vols. (1934)
- N. Mackenzie and J. Mackenzie, The time traveller: the life of H. G. Wells, rev. 2nd edn (1987)
- G. West, H. G. Wells: a sketch for a portrait (1930)
- D. C. Smith, H. G. Wells: desperately mortal (1986)
- The correspondence of H. G. Wells, ed. D. C. Smith, 4 vols. (1998)
- H. G. Wells in love, ed. G. P. Wells (1984)
- The H. G. Wells Society, H. G. Wells: a comprehensive bibliography, rev. 4th edn (1986)
- A. H. Watkins, The catalogue of the H. G. Wells Collection in the Bromley Public Libraries (1974)
- L. Edel and G. N. Ray, eds., Henry James and H. G. Wells: a record of their friendship, their debate on the art of fiction, and their quarrel (1958)
- M. Mullin, ed., H. G. Wells: reality and beyond (1986)
- B. Loing, H. G. Wells à l'oeuvre: les débuts d'un écrivain (1984)
- C. Rollyson, Rebecca West: a saga of the century (1995)
- Bromley Public Libraries, H. G. Wells MSS
- P. Parrinder, ed., H. G. Wells: the critical heritage (1972)
- A. West, Heritage, 2nd edn (1984)
- J. R. Hammond, An H. G. Wells chronology (1999)
- b. cert.
- m. cert. [H. G. Wells and Amy Catherine Robbins]
- d. cert. [Joseph Wells]
- Boston University, literary papers
- Bromley Central Library, London, corresp. and papers
- McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, literary papers
- Milwaukee Public Library, corresp. and literary papers
- NRA, corresp. and literary papers
- Sheff. Arch., notes and sketches
- University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, corresp., literary MSS, and papers
- University of Virginia, Charlottesville, corresp. relating to his publications
- Yale U., Beinecke L., papers
- BBC WAC, corresp. with BBC staff
- BL, letters to Lady Aberconway, Add. MSS 52551–52553
- BL, corresp. with G. K. Chesterton and others, Add. MS 73199 fols. 17–44
- BL, letters to Holbrook Jackson, Add. MS 62992
- BL, letters to S. S. Koteliansky, Add. MSS 48973–48974
- BL, corresp. with Macmillans, Add. MSS 54943–54945
- BL, corresp. with Lord Northcliffe, Add. MS 62161
- BL, corresp. with George Bernard Shaw and Charlotte Shaw, Add. MS 50552
- BL, corresp. with Society of Authors, Add. MS 56843–56844, 63342–63345
- BL, corresp. with Marie Stopes, Add. MS 58496
- BL, corresp. with Geoffrey West, Add. MS 60571
- BLPES, letters to Fabian Society
- BLPES, letters to Graham Wallas
- BLPES, letters to Sidney Webb and Beatrice Webb
- Bodl. Oxf., corresp. with Sibyl Colefax
- Bodl. Oxf., corresp. with H. A. Gwynne
- Bodl. Oxf., letters to Francis Marvin
- Bodl. Oxf., corresp. with Gilbert Murray
- Harvard U., Houghton L., letters to Herbert Greenhough Smith
- Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis, Amsterdam, corresp. with Dora Russell
- Keele University Library, LePlay Collection, corresp. and minute book entries as member of Sociological Society committees
- Man. CL, corresp. with J. L. Hodson
- McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, corresp. with Siegfried Sassoon
- Parl. Arch., corresp. with Lord Beaverbrook
- Ransom HRC, corresp. with John Lane
- Rice University, Houston, Texas, Woodson Research Center, corresp. with Sir Julian Huxley
- Richmond Local Studies Library, London, corresp. with Douglas Sladen
- U. Edin., corresp. with Charles Sarolea
- U. Leeds, Brotherton L., letters to Edmund Gosse
- U. Newcastle, Robinson L., corresp. with Frederic Whyte
- U. Sussex, corresp. with Leonard Woolf
- W. Rothenstein, lithograph, 1896, Bradford City Art Gallery
- Elliot & Fry, sepia half-tone reproduction of photograph, 1901, NPG
- M. Beerbohm, caricature, 1903, Yale U.
- W. Rothenstein, lithograph, 1904, NPG
- A. L. Coburn, photogravure, 1905, NPG
- W. Rothenstein, pencil drawing, 1912, NPG
- oils, 1915, U. Texas
- E. Kapp, 1921, Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham
- T. Spicer-Simson, plasticine medallion, 1922, NPG
- W. Stoneman, two photographs, 1925–35, NPG
- D. Low, two pencil caricatures, 1926, NPG
- R. S. Sherriffs, group portrait, ink and crayon caricature, 1928–31, NPG
- R. S. Sherriffs, pen-and-ink caricature, 1928–1936, NPG
- E. Kapp, portrait, 1930, Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham
- M. Beerbohm, caricature, 1931, The Spectator offices, London
- H. Coster, film negatives, 1934, NPG
- R. S. Sherriffs, pencil and ink caricature, 1934, NPG
- S. Mrozewski, wood-engraving, 1935, NPG
- D. Low, cartoon, 1936, Boston University Library
- Bassano, half-plate film negatives, 1939, NPG
- Bassano, vintage prints, 1939, NPG
- G. Freund, colour print, 1939, NPG
- H. Gotlib, pencil sketches, 1939–1945, NPG
- Y. Karsh, bromide print, 1943, NPG
- F. Topolski, oils, 1943, NPG
- J. Davidson, bust, repro. in F. Swinnerton, The Georgian literary scene (1935)
- Elliott & Fry, half-plate negative, NPG
- C. L. Fraser, charcoal and wash caricature, NPG
- B. Thomas, ink caricature, NPG
- gravure (after D. Low), NPG
- gravures (after D. Low), NPG; repro. in The New Statesman (16 Jan 1926)
- photograph (as a student), ICL
- two prints (as a young man), NPG
Wealth at Death
£59,811 9s.: probate, 19 Nov 1946, CGPLA Eng. & Wales
- Richardson [married name Odle], Dorothy Miller (1873–1957), novelist and journalist
- Arnim, Mary Annette [May] von [née Mary Annette Beauchamp; known as Elizabeth von Arnim; other married name Mary Annette Russell, Countess Russell] (1866–1941), novelist
- Andrews [née Fairfield], Dame Cicily Isabel [pseud. Rebecca West] (1892–1983), writer, critic, and journalist