Monday, 21 September 2009

Happy Birthday Herbert!!

Yes, it's the 143rd birthday of famous Worcester Park resident H G Wells (Herbert George Wells)... at least it would be if he was still alive. He was born on the 21st September 1866 and lived at Heatherlea in The Avenue briefly and if you want to get a flavour of the man then this exchange of letters in 1896 with Mr Gissing might help.

Letter to George Gissing from Herbert George Wells (1866-1946), novelist. Wells writes: "If Mr. George Gissing can tear himself away from the pleasant Epsom house at any time he will find a fervent admirer in a charming house (a little defective as to the roof & water pipes) & picturesque (if insanitary) surroundings at Worcester Park... he [Gissing] will be fed & given drink, tea, lemonade, or alcoholic fluids as he may prefer, & he will be conversed with in a genial but respectful tone. But as Mr. H.G. Wells rarely washes and is commonly unshaven and dirty about the cuffs, it will be refined behaviour on the part of Mr. Geo. Gissing if he abstains from any aggressive neatness of costume. (There is some accommodation for bicycles)."

There is a signed note in Gissing's hand: "The first letter I received from H.G. Wells." Gissing notes the receipt of this letter in his diary on 26 November 1896 (Coustillas, 'Diary', p. 428): "An odd letter from H.G. Wells asking me to go and see him in Worcester Park. He seems the right kind of man. Replied that I would go presently." On the front of the letter is attached a fragment of a newspaper clipping to which some of Wells' comments appear to refer, includes a small pen sketch by Wells depicting gate posts and a pathway.
Dated at Heatherlea, Worcester Park, Surrey.

He did mention Worcester Park several times in the famous "Argonauts of the Air" (rather than the lesser known "War of the Worlds"), which was published in 1895, though I think he'd be hard-pressed to identify the Worcester Park he knew if he was to see it today.


john said...

i was interested by your piece on Wells.I've always wanted to know which house was his.If it is still standing.
As you must know,he wrote Ann Veronica ,a novel about a young radical woman set in Morningside Park which is supposed to be a fictionalised version of WP.
John Green

Anonymous said...

i love a bit of history brinkster.and as far sa i recall you print comments,as long as they are fair and relevant.the w pk blog is becoming so self indulgent and 1 sided its becoming criminal.

Anonymous said...

As John Green says, Wells wrote Anne Veronica, and the opening of the first chapter describes the town as it was.