In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle analyses the lasting appeal of H. G. Wells’s first great ‘scientific romance’
In some ways, H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine (1895) is a ‘timeless’ text: it continues to enjoy huge popularity (as witnessed by big film adaptations in 1960 and 2002, as well as the fact that the novel itself has never been out of print and is available in a range of editions), it continues to exert a considerable influence on the literature and cinema produced since, and its very narrative structure – with much of the action of the novel taking place in a time that hasn’t happened yet, the year 802,701 – in a sense absenting it from its own context. But an analysis of Wells’s novella that sees it floating completely free of its 1890s context, much as the Time Traveller himself succeeds in leaving his late Victorian world behind, risks overlooking the extent to which The Time Machine is a novella deeply rooted in late nineteenth-century concerns. These concerns are neatly covered in Roger Luckhurst’s introduction to the recent Oxford edition of the novella, The Time Machine (Oxford World’s Classics).
In an interview published in 1899, Wells outlined his reasons for being so concerned with the future of mankind:
Why should four-fifths of the fiction of today be concerned with times that can never come again, while the future is scarcely speculated upon? At present we are almost helpless in the grip of circumstances, and I think we ought to strive to shape our destinies. Changes that directly affect the human race are taking place every day, but they are passed over unobserved. Read the rest of this entry
Are these the greatest football poems?
Literature and football may not seen like natural bedfellows, although it’s worth remembering that Albert Camus, the philosopher and author, was a goalkeeper, and that the American football team the Baltimore Ravens are named in honour of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic poem ‘The Raven’. Robert Frost once said, ‘Poetry is play. I’d even rather have you think of it as a sport. For instance, like football.’ And poets down the ages have put into words the magic and wonder of football. Here are five classic poems about football by Victorian, twentieth-century, and contemporary poets.
A. E. Housman, ‘Twice a week the winter thorough’. ‘Twice a week the winter thorough / Here stood I to keep the goal: / Football then was fighting sorrow / For the young man’s soul.’ So begins this poem from Housman’s A Shropshire Lad, which goes on to mention cricket, so we get two sports for the price of one in this classic poem. The power of sport in such situations is the ‘mirth’ it provides the speaker: he can keep his mind from gloomier thoughts by joining his fellow man for a football or cricket match. The power of football as a way of ‘fighting sorrow’ also chimes with the message we find elsewhere in A Shropshire Lad: that male bonding, friendship, and neighbourly solidarity are all features of rural village life. Read the rest of this entry
Henry David Thoreau (1817-62) is not primarily remembered now as a poet, but as the author of Walden (1854), about his time living a few miles from his home in the woods of Massachusetts. But in his poem ‘Friendship’, Thoreau offers a powerful perspective on the relationship between love and friendship.
I think awhile of Love, and while I think,
Love is to me a world,
Sole meat and sweetest drink,
And close connecting link
‘Tween heaven and earth.
I only know it is, not how or why,
My greatest happiness;
However hard I try,
Not if I were to die,
Can I explain.
I fain would ask my friend how it can be,
But when the time arrives, Read the rest of this entry