The World and Mr. Wells
The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind. By H. G.
ANY reviewer attempting to give a coherent impression of this book must feel as though he were n mannequin told to show off the giant's robe. How is he to give any idea of the hang of it, let alone the sweep of it ? Here is a book of 825 pages of close Print dealing with so much that even NI% Wells' genius for phrase and precis could not give it a more handy title. The reader feels, can anything worth while be said about the subject in anything less than 825 pages ? Has not the author shown what is the limit of condensation, and where the master reducer has to take such space must not any poor reviewer, allowed only as many words as Mr. Wells has allowed himself pages, be silent ? So all that can be done is to give a personal reaction to this achievement. First there is the sheer, almost frightening vitality. Here is a man who tells us he 'is sixty-five and yet as you read, say, his catalogue -Of Metals—or for that matter, of currencies, communications or cosmetics—you feel that Only an inspired boy could so glory in mere facts. Do you know, he cries, there is actually now a steel which has no iron in it ! And so it goes on. For every find that,thrills the specialist Wefts the supreme generalist feels the speeialisesthrilh It overwhelms. Interest is in danger of being fought to a standstill, as wonder after wonder is punched home on our less robustly reacting curiosities. I am sure some people will feel almost stupefied. Crushed under the bombardment they will become like the poor savage asked to marvel at Niagara. They will only be able to murmur, " Well, why shouldn't it ? " But that is only the beginning. Having rehearsed with all the passion of a superb panegyrist all the mighty acts of man Mr. Wells has but begun. All that is simply a prelude. It is then, like a prophet, that he takes up his tale with even greater force. He has ranged the whole achievement of mankind before him and then before that fabulous array he steps out, rearranges the blind order, marshalls the nations, classes cultures and industries and points out to the vast concourse of all of us 1,900,000,000 souls, what we have been up to, whence we came and whither we are going. If the mere cataloguing of these forces is an eXhibition of vitality that either kills or cures the common reader—either clean blows out his spark of interest in mankind as a whole or sweeps it into a flame—the launching of this gigantic marshalling into an attack, the plan hoW all this that is can, be manoeuvred into what should lie Mid might be, is even more:breath-taking. One simply cannat review this book 'because it' is not a book. Forty years ago Mi. WellS decided he wont& not be a writer of literature ; he Would be a reactor to life. So his novels swelled and swelled until with The World of William Clissold> the attempt to make his message take novel form was over and the phase, begun with human history made a single chart for millioias, continued with the same inexhaustible, sweep of line thrown round Life, culminates in this amazing volume. He wants to describe everything. But that is not enough. Having grasped what to him is anything but a sorry scheme of things entire; he will go on and mould it nearer to his heart's desire. In the face of such a force it is almost irrelevant to ask whether we should like the world into which he would carry us, or whether the way he would carry us seems feasible As little can the craft carried, by a Cyclone ask whether it wants to go to the shore it is being swept upon. I do not. think anyone can read this book without feeling that it might prove to be as influential, say, as Marx's Kapital. -So its accuracy becomes irrelevant. Such books make facts because they make men have creative faith. Of course the doubt remains what happens to the mountain that has been plucked up by this power, if there is no handy sea for it to be east into. As Mr. Wells himself says, Marxism destroyed private property but it did not provide an efficient "receiver" for the huge mass it had detached from private holding. The task is to get "receivers"—men who are fit to work the new world which Mr. Wells is conjuring up. He thinks we shall get them by' education. Perhaps so, but they are not here to-day. So what we must ask is, that Mr. Wells go on. - He understands the danger of a closed system, like Marxism. But it SCCIlls he underrates his own creative power. He thinks he is describing and suggesting when he is probably creating for better or for worse. Such is his force that out of his books, especially out of this one, lesser men of action Might quite easily make the world of the near future. One does not ask that he sit down and write another such work ; it would be impossible. This is pretty certainly the last time one book will be able -to cover the field. Henceforward things will move so fast that sin+ a book will never be able to be com- pleted. What one does ask—and it seems that every one should ask—is that Mr. Wells, say once a quarter, say on the wireless, sweep the vast front and point it its way. I doubt if anyone, even himself, realizes his creative force at this hour and how important therefore it is that his Canon should not be closed, that we should be forced to realize, as other- wise we may not, that he is an inspired stimulator and not a law giver. Because he seems so reasonable and yet his force is so titanic we must take care lest after the next revolution we may find that we are permitted no literary work save The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind.