HG Wells & his lovers – Poets and the Storytellers - Part 2
13-07-2018    226 times
Herbert George Wells

Herbert George Wells and his lovers - Part 2

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It is said that, Wells had a sexual relationship with Martha Gellhorn, the glamorous war correspondent and ex-wife of Ernest Hemingway. The 27 year old Martha and the 68 year old Wells met over a dinner at the residence of President Roosevelt in 1935, which ignited a passionate affair between the two that could have ended in marriage. However, throughout her life, Martha Gellhorn steadfastly denied about any sexual relationship between them.

Martha Gellhorn, 1946
Martha Gellhorn, 1946

Herbert George Wells had affairs with a number of women, with the consent of his wife Jane, which included adventurer and writer Odette Keun and the enigmatic Moura Budberg.

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Odette, the daughter of a Dutch diplomat and of French birth, was a socialist travel writer, a writer of vision and commitment. She was an avid fan of Wells and their relationship began when, hearing Wells was in Geneva, Odette moved into a hotel. From the hotel suit, she invited him over the telephone. As he arrived, Wells was shown up to a dimly lit room, where a dark slender young woman in a flimsy wrap and an aroma of jasmine flung herself upon him. It was no doubt, a surprising welcome for an advocate of free love.

Odette Keun 1888
Odette Keun 1888

Wells found Odette to be eccentric and entertaining and soon they were living in their French farmhouse, which became Wells' winter residence. Wells was infatuated for some time and dedicated his longest book 'The World of William Clissold' to her. However, Wells was often shocked by her strange behavior, which included her describing and recounting the intimate details of their sex life to visitors and that too using the f-word in polite company and then put the blame on him for teaching her the bad word. Time and again, she also threatened to blackmail him if he ever left her. On one occasion, she turned up with a revolver and a plan to murder a common enemy. Wells was shocked, though that was probably a theatrical gesture intended to give him a nasty blow. Once she warned Wells and said that, if he did not agree to her terms, she would write a book exposing his private life, including the hundreds of letters he had sent her, many of them in indecent language. Though inwardly disturbed, Wells shrugged off the threats and decided that, in case of publication any such book, he would immediately file a suit and in case of publication of his personal letters, he would rather enjoy his reputation as a ladies' man.

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Nevertheless, between 1924 and 1933, Odette Keun was the partner of Wells, with whom she lived in Lou Pidou, a house they built together in Grasse, France, but they parted acrimoniously.

Moura and Maxim Gorky
Moura and Maxim Gorky

Known as Moura, Baroness Maria Budberg, the apple-cheeked femme fatale, was a glamorous globetrotter. Probably she was a double agent and was sometimes called the ‘Russian Mata Hari’. A lover of Maxim Gorky, H.G. Wells and British spy Robert Bruce Lockhart, she very nearly toppled the Bolshevik regime by plotting to kill Lenin. Eventually she became Gorky’s secretary and they lived together in St. Petersburg (Petrograd) between 1920 and 1933. When Wells visited Russia in 1920, Gorky invited Wells to stay with him and Wells ended up in bed together with Moura. During the said visit, Moura also acted as the interpreter for Wells, even at a meeting of the Petrograd Soviet, where Wells was invited. It is plausible that she was reporting on her literary lover to the Russian authorities, who were fascinated by his socialist leanings, but she always ascribed Wells' attraction to the fact that his body smelt of honey.

Wells with Maxim Gorky and Moura
Wells with Maxim Gorky and Moura

When her relationship with Gorky dissolved in 1933, Moura immigrated to London and her relationship with Wells was renewed. Moura was the great love of his later life and his acknowledged mistress, but she refused to marry or cohabit with him. All through his life, Wells played the role of the seducer, with the possible one exception of the always inscrutable Moura, where Wells was initially the pursued rather than the pursuer.

It is said that, Wells must have had well over a hundred women in his lifetime. But, many of the brief episodes of his casual sex went largely undocumented. The most notable exception, however, is his involvement with an Austrian journalist in her late 20s called Hedwig Gatternigg. Hedwig took the initiative to contact him on the plea of discussing developments in her native country, visited Wells and his wife Jane and volunteered to translate some of his works into German. Wells found Hedwig to be an extremely appetising young woman, but he was worried that her obsession with him was out of control and by his own account he could not resist her advances. Finally, one evening she turned up at his house wearing nothing but an overcoat, which she flung open to reveal herself naked except for stockings and shoes. Brandishing a razor, she demanded sex then and there or she would kill herself. For once Wells did not rise to the occasion, as he was about to go for dinner with the secretary of state for India. He shouted for the maid to get the hall porter. With the help of the porter, Wells overpowered her and turned her over to the police, before she could slash her arms superficially. Fortunately for Wells, his friendship with England’s leading press barons allowed him to keep the whole story out of the papers.

Wells’ extraordinary literary output was matched by his overactive libido. He was short, tubby and had a high-pitched voice. But, despite his unimpressive appearance, he was an unrivalled champion of illicit affairs. However, he was never embarrassed or ashamed by the stories that swirled around his private life, contending that sex is as necessary as fresh air.

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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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