A MODERN UTOPIA (Illustrated)by H. G. Wells, Edmund J. Sullivan
H. G. Wells's "Utopia" is aptly and accurately characterized in his title. It is distinctively modern. Previous utopia stories have been in considerable measure, variants of the Apocalypse. Each has been its author's idea of what the New Jerusalem should be. Wells's book is rather a study in sociology, and sociology, at the time this book was written, was hardly to… See more details below
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H. G. Wells's "Utopia" is aptly and accurately characterized in his title. It is distinctively modern. Previous utopia stories have been in considerable measure, variants of the Apocalypse. Each has been its author's idea of what the New Jerusalem should be. Wells's book is rather a study in sociology, and sociology, at the time this book was written, was hardly to be called a science at all.
"A Modern Utopia" quite postdates the classic Utopia in all events. It is a sociological study in that it is a criticism of current social conditions under the guise of the description of an imaginary commonwealth, and in that this commonwealth is not purely an ideal one, fixed, absolute, and fanciful, but one which illustrated the current world in a further stage of development. It is in the directions given to this development that Wells's utopianism consists. The book is not his prophesy of the future, but more of an estimation of what the present was finally to become. His future, in fact, is itself a phase, an evolutionary stage, and he suggests rather than excludes the notion of still greater perfection in the more distant future that will stretch indefinitely before it. The book is full of ideas, even conceits. Naturally, no book by H. G. Wells can be without them. His readers do not need to be assured that here as in his other works his imagination and ingenuity are given full play. But what distinguishes this work, both from others by the same author and from preceding Utopias, is that his imagination and ingenuity are employed very strictly in the service of science.
At least, it is thoroughly philosophic, if not scientific in the exactest sense. As the "Note to the Reader" says, it is intended to be "a sort of shot-silk texture between philosophical discussion on the one hand and imaginary narrative on the other."
To give a complete or even a clear idea of what Mr. Wells himself calls "a sort of lucid vagueness" is quite impossible within comparative limits. How could one epitomize "Sartor Resartus"—a work to which "A Modern Utopia" has been in some respects compared. Wells is not Carlyle, but he is like Carlyle in being tremendously idiosyncratic and personal, and in a certain fondness for a vague interpretation of the future instead of a definitive statement. The book is cast in narrative form, or more precisely, a narrative framework, and as the author once more says: "I do not see why I should always pander to the vulgar appetite for stark stories."
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