The History of Mr. Polly

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Overview

Alfred Polly, bankrupt gentleman's outfitter, hates the whole scheme of things. Head full of half-digested chivalry, body wracked by dyspepsia, he recalls both the boisterous dramas of youth and the dreadful restrictions of a dull marriage-and so resolves to kill himself. Unexpected events bring him instead to a new heroic life and, at last, a chance of happiness.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Though Wells's name conjures images of time travelers and Martian invaders, he wrote numerous other novels that were well received but since forgotten. This trio-two comedies and a drama-serve as perfect examples. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780141441078
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 12/27/2005
  • Edition description: New
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 629,451
  • Product dimensions: 5.13 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.66 (d)

Meet the Author

H. G. Wells

Herbert George Wells was born in Bromley, Kent, England, on September 21, 1866. His father was a professional cricketer and sometime shopkeeper, his mother a former lady’s maid. Although "Bertie" left school at fourteen to become a draper’s apprentice (a life he detested), he later won a scholarship to the Normal School of Science in London, where he studied with the famous Thomas Henry Huxley. He began to sell articles and short stories regularly in 1893. In 1895, his immediately successful novel rescued him from a life of penury on a schoolteacher’s salary. His other "scientific romances"—The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), The War of the Worlds (1898), The First Men in the Moon (1901), and The War in the Air (1908)—won him distinction as the father of science fiction.

Henry James saw in Wells the most gifted writer of the age, but Wells, having coined the phrase "the war that will end war" to describe World War I, became increasingly disillusioned and focused his attention on educating mankind with his bestselling Outline of History (1920) and his later utopian works. Living until 1946, Wells witnessed a world more terrible than any of his imaginative visions, and he bitterly observed: "Reality has taken a leaf from my book and set itself to supercede me."

John Sutherland is Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at University College London and wrote the introduction to Chekhov’s The Shooting Party for Penguin Classics.

John Sutherland is Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at University College London and wrote the introduction to Chekhov’s The Shooting Party for Penguin Classics.

Biography

Social philosopher, utopian, novelist, and "father" of science fiction and science fantasy, Herbert George Wells was born on September 21, 1866, in Bromley, Kent. His father was a poor businessman, and young Bertie's mother had to work as a lady's maid. Living "below stairs" with his mother at an estate called Uppark, Bertie would sneak into the grand library to read Plato, Swift, and Voltaire, authors who deeply influenced his later works. He shoed literary and artistic talent in his early stories and paintings, but the family had limited means, and when he was fourteen years old, Bertie was sent as an apprentice to a dealer in cloth and dry goods, work he disliked.

He held jobs in other trades before winning a scholarship to study biology at the Normal School of Science in London. The eminent biologist T. H. Huxley, a friend and proponent of Darwin, was his teacher; about him Wells later said, "I believed then he was the greatest man I was ever likely to meet." Under Huxley's influence, Wells learned the science that would inspire many of his creative works and cultivated the skepticism about the likelihood of human progress that would infuse his writing.

Teaching, textbook writing, and journalism occupied Wells until 1895, when he made his literary debut with the now-legendary novel The Time Machine, which was followed before the end of the century by The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Invisible Man, and The War of the Worlds, books that established him as a major writer. Fiercely critical of Victorian mores, he published voluminously, in fiction and nonfiction, on the subject of politics and social philosophy. Biological evolution does not ensure moral progress, as Wells would repeat throughout his life, during which he witnessed two world wars and the debasement of science for military and political ends.

In addition to social commentary presented in the guise of science fiction, Wells authored comic novels like Love and Mrs. Lewisham, Kipps, and The History of Mister Polly that are Dickensian in their scope and feeling, and a feminist novel, Ann Veronica. He wrote specific social commentary in The New Machiavelli, an attack on the socialist Fabian Society, which he had joined and then rejected, and literary parody (of Henry James) in Boon. He wrote textbooks of biology, and his massive The Outline of History was a major international bestseller.

By the time Wells reached middle age, he was admired around the world, and he used his fame to promote his utopian vision, warning that the future promised "Knowledge or extinction." He met with such preeminent political figures as Lenin, Roosevelt, and Stalin, and continued to publish, travel, and educate during his final years. Herbert George Wells died in London on August 13, 1946.

Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of The War of the Worlds.

Good To Know

In 1891, Wells married his cousin Isabel. However, he eventually left her for one of his brightest students, Amy Catherine, whom he married in 1895.

Wells was once interviewed on the radio by an extremely nervous Orson Welles. The two are unrelated, of course.

Many of Wells's novels became film adaptations, including The Island of Dr. Moreau, filmed in 1996 by Richard Stanley and John Frankenheimer, and The Time Machine, filmed in 2002 by Wells's great-grandson, Simon Wells.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Herbert George Wells (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 21, 1866
    2. Place of Birth:
      Bromley, Kent, England
    1. Date of Death:
      August 13, 1946
    2. Place of Death:
      London, England

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2002

    Living Story

    I first read this book at school in 1961 and I have read it maybe twenty times in the following forty years. I am currently reading it again. This story 'lives'. The scenes and the characters are there in front of you. You can see the people, hear their voices. You laugh out loud at their humorous antics and have real tears for the pathos. This is an intensely personal book for me. I think it appealed to me as a schoolboy because I saw so much of myself in the hero, Alfred Polly. As the years have passed my life has loosely followed the same pattern of the tale. Fortunately I have not considered suicide, as the hero did, and I have not yet found my 'Potwell Inn'. The feelings I get when reading this book are uncanny and, even after an intense schoolboy study of the book and twenty other readings over many years, I still find it hard to put it down.

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