HG Wells & his lovers Poets and the Storytellers - Part 1
13-07-2018    103 times
Herbert George Wells

Herbert George Wells and his lovers - Part 1

Born in 1866 to a lower-middle-class family, Herbert George Wells became famous during an extraordinary four-year golden patch, when his most famous novels were published, starting with The Time Machine in 1895 and ending with The War of the Worlds in 1898. Considered as one of the most successful and active writers and thinkers of the country, he was a man well ahead of his time in more ways than one. Living in an age of sexual propriety, he had a fondness for extramarital affairs, which he never tried to hide. He preached and tirelessly practiced free love that would not become acceptable for decades. He confessed that he was a very immoral person and he even preyed on people who loved him. He had dreamed since his adolescence, as he wrote later, of encounters with free, ambitious, self-reliant women who would mate with him and go their way. He was married twice to women he loved, but neither of them could satisfy him sexually and had several long-term relationships, as well as innumerable briefer affairs.

Herbert George Wells
Wells with his wife Jane in 1895

After a first marriage of sexual incompatibility, he set out to turn his dream into reality. Many of these relationships edged dangerously close to public scandal. In 1891 Wells married his cousin Isabel Mary Wells, but left her in 1894 for one of his students, Amy Catherine ‘Jane’ Robbins, whom he married in 1895. He had two sons with Amy: George Philip & Frank. During his marriage to Amy, Wells had liaisons with a number of women. Though Amy Catherine was quite aware of some of these affairs, she remained married to Wells until her death in 1927.

Dorothy Richardson
Dorothy Richardson

Dorothy Richardson was one of the school chums of Amy Catherine Jane. After her depressed mother committed suicide, Dorothy found work as a secretary in a dental office and began to hang out with writers and radicals. During that time, she met H.G. Wells, aka Bertie. By that time Wells had already married Jane and Dorothy was aware about it. However, despite her sincere effort to ignore him, a strong sexual attraction with Bertie resulted in their having an affair which ultimately led Dorothy to become pregnant and the pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage.

Rosamund Bland
Rosamund Bland

In 1908, Wells attempted to elope a voluptuous kitten, Rosamund Bland, who was 20 years his junior. Rosamund was the secretly adopted daughter of Edith and Hubert Bland, who was actually fathered by Hubert Bland. Her mother, Alice Hoatson was not married to Hubert, but lived in the same household with Bland. The episode began possibly at or near Dymchurch, where the Blands had a holiday house, near the Wells’ home in Sandgate. During that time, Rosamund was a tallish, dark haired, buxom and flirtatious young woman of 19. In his brief account Wells mentioned that he never found any great charm in that girl, but she talked of love and how her father's attentions to her were becoming unlike a father. As a result, Wells decided to protect her from incest by bewitching and sleeping with her. Strangely enough, his move in this regard was encouraged by the girl’s natural mother Alice, who had an unusual liking for him. Wells attempted to run away to Paris with Rosamund, but somehow Hubert got wind of the affair and the eloping couple was caught on a train at Paddington Station. The enraged father, an amateur boxer, reportedly punched Wells before dragging his errant daughter home.

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Apart from the novelists Violet Hunt, Elizabeth von Arnim and Rebecca West, Wells’ lovers also included American birth control activist Margaret Sanger, as well as a young Fabian, Amber Reeves.

Violet Hunt
Violet Hunt

Violet Hunt, well known as a prolific writer, was sexually and professionally emancipated long before the notion of the new woman became popular. Her many conquests included H.G. Wells, with whom she had a brief affair between1896-1897, when she was forty-four. Apart from Wells, her lovers included Somerset Maugham and Ford Madox Ford.

Elizabeth von Arnim
Elizabeth von Arnim

Elizabeth von Arnim, an Australian-born British novelist, met Wells in 1907 at the Lyceum Club in London, a couple of years before the publication of his ‘Ann Veronica’. At the time of their first meeting, Elizabeth’s looks belied her age. She and Wells were exact contemporaries, both forty-one years old. She was petite, cultured and intelligent, and despite being the mother of five children, was still youthful in appearance, attractive and vivacious. Wells enjoyed such energetic sex with the lady, that they broke her hotel bed twice. For the next few years Elizabeth was his mistress and after the end of their relationship, she married her second husband, John Russell, elder brother of Bertrand.

Margaret Sanger
Margaret Sanger

Margaret Sanger, an American birth control activist, met Wells for the first time in 1920. She was impressed by his affable manner, graciousness and his twinkling eyes, which were like those of a mischievous boy. The two began an affair in the same year that would rekindle each time they were alone, whether in London, the south of France, or New York. Since their first meeting in 1920 until his death, Margaret Sanger and H. G. Wells carried on an infrequent, but often fervent and passionate love affair, sustained a deep professional friendship that particularly aided Sanger in her birth control work, and maintained an overseas correspondence about love and war.

Rebecca West, who called Wells Jaguar
Rebecca West, who called Wells Jaguar

Born in 1892, Rebecca West became a lead writer for a socialist newspaper, the ‘Clarion’. Her real name was Cicely Isabel Fairfield, but she renamed herself after a rebellious young female character in a play by Henrik Ibsen, when she was studying to be an actress in London. Dropping out of school at fifteen to recuperate from tuberculosis and then unable to return because there was no money to do so, West began publishing as a writer early on, while also hitting the streets as a supporter of women's suffrage. She met H.G. Wells, the great love of her life, when she was just nineteen, after he invited her to dine with him to his Essex country house in 1912 to discuss her witty demolition of his novel ‘Marriage’ in the feminist journal, The Freewoman. In fact, the middle aged novelist had never received a critique like this, especially as he had become infamous as a supporter and practitioner of free love.

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Rebecca West accepted the invitation and despite her tender age, she could smell him coming, to put it bluntly. West found herself attracted to his hunger for ideas. They spoke for long hours, his wife withdrawing elsewhere to let them talk. The feeling was evidently mutual. From the start Wells seems to have meant to seduce Rebecca, who was still a virgin. At the age of 19, she embarked on a 10-year love affair with Wells, who was 46 and whom she had previously referred to as ‘the old maid among novelists’. The affair led to a stormy relationship and the birth of Anthony West on the first day of the First World War. To Rebecca, Wells was known as Jaguar and to him she was Panther.

Rebecca and Wells
Rebecca and Wells

However, at the behest of Elizabeth von Arnim, his mistress at that time, Wells changed his mind about Rebecca West and the relation ended after 10 years. When Wells left England for the continent, she became devastated. Later, after other love affairs, including one with Charlie Chaplin, she happily married a banker in 1930.

Amber Reeves met Wells through her parents when she was 17 or 18. She was the daughter of William Pember Reeves, High Commissioner for New Zealand, and his wife Maud. According to Wells, she had a sharp, bright face, a shock of very fine, abundant black hair, a slender, nimble body very much alive, and a quick, greedy mind. She was a brilliant student of Newnham College, Cambridge, fiercely intelligent, a tireless admirer of Wells, shared his opinions and enthusiastically read his books. Amber was Wells’ ideal come to life. Wells claimed that, his relationship with Amber Reeves developed step by step towards intimacy and ultimately he was swept away by Amber's youthful enthusiasm.

Amber Reeves
Amber Reeves

After completing her degree course, Amber moved back to her parents' home in Kensington. However, twice or thrice in a month, she would go to visit a room that Wells had rented in Warwick Street, behind Victoria Station, where they were known as ‘Mr and Mrs Graham Wells’. Using the room as their point of meeting, they would go for long walks, dine at restaurants or eat chicken salad in the room. Sometimes they roamed hither and thither, deep further afield, making wild love among bushes in a windy twilight and then again in the woods on the way home. During those wild days they relished the sense of sin and, looking back a quarter of a century later, Wells still felt unregretful exhilaration and happiness at what they got up to in the summer of 1908.

Wells claimed that Amber Reeves responded to his taste for adventurous eroticism, and the sexual imaginaries that his wife Jane could not cope with. Wells maintained that their relationship be kept silent, though Amber saw no reason to keep it a secret. Subsequently, as their relationship became open, numerous attempts were made to break it up. Particularly, attempts were made by Amber's mother and George Rivers Blanco White, a lawyer, who would later marry Amber Reeves.

At that point, Amber phoned her lover, arranged a final meeting at Warwick Street, where she demanded a child from him. Wells might have refused, since Amber’s pregnancy could destroy his careers and family peace. However, he complied with the proposal enthusiastically.

Amber Reeves was anxious not to break up Wells’ marriage, though she wanted to have his child. The news that she was pregnant in the spring of 1909 shocked the Reeves family and the couple fled to Le Touquet, where they attempted to start a domestic life together. However, neither of them was quite competent about domesticity. Soon, loneliness, the complexity of the situation and anxiety concerning her pregnancy, drove Amber to depression. After three months they decided to leave Le Touquet and Wells took her to Boulogne and put her on the ferry to England. While in England, Amber stayed in Sandgate, with Wells and his wife Jane.

But suddenly, on 7 May 1909, Amber Reeves was married to Rivers Blanco White. In her later life she wrote that she did not arrange the marriage with Rivers, Rivers arranged that with H.G, and she always thought it the best that could possibly have happened.

Despite of his overactive sex life, Wells fathered only two children out of wedlock. One of them was deliberate, with Amber Reeves, and the other one was accidental, with Rebecca West. On the later occasion, the presence of a housekeeper made it impossible for the lovers to get into the bedroom, where Wells kept his condoms. Though he considered himself a skilled exponent of coitus interruptions, on that particular occasion, sprawled on top of Rebecca, with one foot on the floor, he slipped on a rug and the abrupt change of position caused him to ejaculate suddenly, before he could withdraw.

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Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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