A CORRESPONDENCE WITH MR. II. G. WELLS.
Me. II. G. Weiss has suggested to us that we should publish the whole of is correspondence which has taken place between him and the temporarily Acting Editor of the-Spectator. We readily act on the suggestion. It may be remembered that at the beginning of last month lAugust 4th) Mr. Wells complained that one of our reviewers had done him an injustice. We reproduce his letter of that date and the note we appended to it:— [To TM, biome or sus "Smicsiroa."1 Sta,—Your reviewer of Mr. Archer's God and Mr. Wells repeats the tiresome lie that I am a " deserter " from the " ranks " of the " atheists." Your reviewer has no doubt some sort of ideal of me in his mind when lie flings this out, but it has no connexion with reality. He cannot produce one scrap of evidence to support his fancy. It is in the nature of a deliberate misapprehension.—I am, Sir hie., H. G. WELLS. National Liberal Club, Victoria Street, sir. 1.
• I_We have not yet had time to communicate with our reviewer. Meanwhile we assume Mr. Wells to mean that he never was an atheist. The other possible readies of Iris first sentence (that he is still in the ranks of the atheists) seems to be quite precluded by his recent writings. On this assumption we must express our regret that we should have attributed atheism at any time to Mr. Wells. —En. Spectator.]
That is to say, not wishing to delay, we offered an immediate
expression of regret, indicating, however—we think this is plain— that we might possibly have to reconsider it if our reviewer should justify u-hut be had said. Shortly afterwards our reviewer wrote to us, in a letter not written with a view to publication, that he fully concurred in the apology we had offered. We therefore said no more on the subject.
On August 21st the following letter was received from Mr. Wells 1—
52 St. James's Court, -Buckingham Gate, S.W. SIR,—A month ago you printed certain statements about me that were untrue. I wrote to complain. You printed my letter, with a note to say that you were unable to communicate with your correspondent in time for an immediate reply to my complaint. Thereafter silence. I think I am entitled to either an apology from your reviewer or an apology from you for such a reviewer.—
Very sincerely yours, H. G. Weiss.
We had not published a separate apology from our reviewer because it is the universal custom of editors to accept responsi- bility for their anonymous reviewers' mistakes. Certainly it emus to IA. and we have always acted on this principle, more desirable that an editor (like the Head of a Government Depart- ment) should hear the burden of mistakes made by his staff than that the author of the mistake should be held individually answer- able, though an opportunity is of course often given to a reviewer to defend himself in print if he is able to do so. The Acting Editor therefore wrote to Mr. Wells as follows:—
" Spectator " Office,
Tuesday, August 21si, 1917. 810,-1 have to acknowledge a letter from you which is enlisted but which I found at this office to-day.
The editorial note printed at the end of your letter offered you an apology which seemed to me, and was certainly intended to be, civil. A few days afterwards the reviewer of the hook smote to me that he fully con- curred in that expression of. regret. He said that as various men of science were referred to in your book as atheists he had not understood that it would he right to dissociate you from them at every period of your career. He seemed, however, not to think it worth while to offer this as an extenuation and was therefore prepared to fall in with the apology we had already offered.
I may point out that it is usual for a paper, to accept responsibility for its reviewers' opinions—indeed, in tho eyes of the law I suppose it cannot take up any other position—and I should have thought that therefore an editorial expression of regret was the equivalent of an apology from the reviewer, and possibly preferable.
I am not sure whether your last letter was intended for publication and hesitate to print it in this uncertainty.— To that Mr. Wells replied r- Prirate. 52 St. Jamm's Court.
Buckingham Gate, S.W.
Ent,—I do net see why in a letter marked ".Private" you should put up en absurd claim that the Spectator treats me with either civility or honesty. You publish a lie and then you quibble about it in a footnote which you now pretend was an apology. It won't do. I want your admis- sion that your lie was a lie. It's my point and I mean to score it against you. You can always console yourself later by some dirty misrepresentation that isn't quite actionable about nay other work. So please publish the letter I sent
you.—Very sincerely yours, II. G. Wits.a.s.
To which the Acting Editor replied
" Spectator " Office, Thursday, August 23rd, 1017. SIR,—I bare to acknowledge a letter which I received from you to-clay.
I did not notice that my letter of the 21st inst. was marked " Private." I have no wish that it should ho regarded as private. You are at liberty to make what use you like of it.
I received your permission to publish the letter, which I received at this office lust Tuesday, too late for it to be published this week. The Spectator goes to press on Thursday. I will publish the letter next week with any remarks I may think fit to make.—Yours faithfully, J. B. Aram, Acting Editor. H. G. Thus, Esq.
The last letter from Mr. Wells was as follows .—
52 St. James's Court, Buckingham Gate, S.W. Sin —I shall be delighted if the Spectator sees fit to print our entire correspondence, adding any of its customary impertinences as you may think becoming.—Yours sin-