H. G. Wells

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The past is but the beginning of a beginning, and all that is or has been is but the twilight of the dawn.

Herbert George Wells (1866-09-211946-08-13) was a British writer best known for his science fiction novels such as The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man, and The Time Machine; also for Kipps, The History of Mr. Polly and other social satires.

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  • Strength is the outcome of need; security sets a premium on feebleness.
  • I grieved to think how brief the dream of the human intellect had been. It had committed suicide. It had set itself steadfastly towards comfort and ease, a balanced society with security and permanency as its watchword, it had attained its hopes—to come to this at last.
  • It is a law of Nature we overlook, that intellectual versatility is the compensation for change, danger, and trouble. An animal perfectly in harmony with its environment is a perfect mechanism. Nature never appeals to intelligence until habit and instinct are useless. There is no intelligence where there is no change and no need of change. Only those animals partake of intelligence that have to meet a huge variety of needs and dangers.
  • "There is, though I do not know how there is or why there is, a sense of infinite peace and protection in the glittering hosts of heaven. There it must be, I think, in the vast and eternal laws of matter, and not in the daily cares and sins and troubles of men, that whatever is more than animal within us must find its solace and its hope."
  • "We were making the future," he said, "and hardly any of us troubled to think what future we were making. And here it is!"
  • The past is but the beginning of a beginning, and all that is or has been is but the twilight of the dawn.
    • The Discovery of the Future (1901)
  • Kipps was unprepared for the unpleasant truth; that the path of social advancement is and must be strewn with broken friendships.
  • And in the air are no streets, no channels, no point where one can say of an antagonist, "If he wants to reach my capital he must come by here." In the air all directions lead everywhere.
  • The third peculiarity of aerial warfare was that it was at once enormously destructive and entirely indecisive.
    • The War in the Air
  • Nothing could have been more obvious to the people of the early twentieth century than the rapidity with which war was becoming impossible. And as certainly they did not see it. They did not see it until the atomic bombs burst in their fumbling hands.
  • The catastrophe of the atomic bombs which shook men out of cities and businesses and economic relations, shook them also out of their old-established habits of thought, and out of the lightly held beliefs and prejudices that came down to them from the past.
    • The World Set Free
  • Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo.
    • The Wife of Sir Isaac Harman (1914)
  • Cynicism is humour in ill health.
    • Boon, The Mind of the Race, The Wild Asses of the Devil, and The Last Trump (1915)
  • The uglier a man's legs are, the better he plays golf. It's almost a law.
    • Bealby: A Holiday (1915)
  • He was inordinately proud of England, and he abused her incessantly.
    • Mr. Britling Sees It Through, Bk. 1, ch. 2, sect. 2 (1916)
  • Since the passing of Victoria the Great there had been an accumulating uneasiness in the national life. It was as if some compact and dignified paper-weight had been lifted from people's ideas, and as if at once they had begun to blow about anyhow.
    • The Soul of a Bishop (1917)
  • Humanity either makes, or breeds, or tolerates all its afflictions, great or small.
    • Joan and Peter: The Story of an Education (1918)
  • A time will come when a politician who has willfully made war and promoted international dissension will be as sure of the dock and much surer of the noose than a private homicide. It is not reasonable that those who gamble with men's lives should not stake their own.
    • The Salvaging of Civilization (1921)
  • Adapt or perish, now as ever, is Nature's inexorable imperative.
    • A Short History of the World (1922)
  • An artist who theorizes about his work is no longer artist but critic.
    • The Temptaion of Harringay (1929)
  • In England we have come to rely upon a comfortable time lag of fifty years or a century intervening between the perception that something ought to be done and a serious attempt to do it.
    • The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind, Ch. 11 (1931)
  • How far can we anticipate the habitations and ways, the usages and adventures, the mighty employments, the ever increasing knowledge and power of the days to come? No more than a child with its scribbling paper and its box of bricks can picture or model the undertakings of its adult years. Our battle is with cruelties and frustrations, stupid, heavy and hateful things from which we shall escape at last, less like victors conquering a world than like sleepers awaking from a nightmare in the dawn.... A time will come when men will sit with history before them or with some old newspaper before them and ask incredulously,"Was there ever such a world?"
    • The Open Conspiracy (1933)
  • I was never a great amorist, though I have loved several people very deeply.
    • An Experiment in Autobiography (1934)
  • If you fell down yesterday, stand up today.
    • The Anatomy of Frustration (1936)
  • When the history of our civilization is written, it will be a biological history and Margaret Sanger will be its heroine.
    • 1935 speech at Barber's Hall, London, included in Round the World for Birth Control (1937) edited by the Birth Control International Information Centre
  • We are living in 1937, and our universities, I suggest, are not half-way out of the fifteenth century. We have made hardly any changes in our conception of university organization, education, graduation, for a century - for several centuries.
  • The New Deal is plainly an attempt to achieve a working socialism and avert a social collapse in America; it is extraordinarily parallel to the successive "policies" and "Plans" of the Russian experiment. Americans shirk the word "socialism", but what else can one call it?
  • Mankind which began in a cave and behind a windbreak will end in the disease-soaked ruins of a slum.
    • The Fate of Man, ch. 26 (1939)
  • The crisis of yesterday is the joke of to-morrow.
    • You Can't be Too Careful (1941)
  • Heresies are experiments in man's unsatisfied search for truth.
    • Crux Ansata: An Indictment of the Roman Catholic Church (1943)
  • There comes a moment in the day when you have written your pages in the morning, attended to your correspondence in the afternoon, and have nothing further to do. Then comes that hour when you are bored; that’s the time for sex.
    • Quoted in Charlie Chaplin, My Autobiography (1964)
  • And here one may note a curious comparison which can be made between this [ascidian] life-history and that of many a respectable pinnacle and gargoyle on the social fabric. Every respectable citizen of the professional classes passes through a period of activity and imagination, of "liveliness and eccentricity," of "Sturm und Drang." He shocks his aunts. Presently, however, he realizes the sober aspect of things. He becomes dull; he enters a profession; suckers appear on his head; and he studies. Finally, by virtue of these he settles down—he marries. All his wild ambitions and subtle æsthetic perceptions atrophy as needless in the presence of calm domesticity. He secretes a house, or "establishment," round himself, of inorganic and servile material. His Bohemian tail is discarded. Henceforth his life is a passive receptivity to what chance and the drift of his profession bring along; he lives an almost entirely vegetative excrescence on the side of a street, and in the tranquillity of his calling finds that colourless contentment that replaces happiness.

The War of the Worlds (1898)

  • No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same.
    • Ch. 1
  • Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.
    • Ch. 1
  • In another moment I had scrambled up the earthen rampart and stood upon its crest, and the interior of the redoubt was below me. A mighty space it was, with gigantic machines here and there within it, huge mounds of material and strange shelter places. And scattered about it, some in their overturned war-machines, some in the now rigid handling-machines, and a dozen of them stark and silent and laid in a row, were the Martians—dead!—slain by the putrefactive and disease bacteria against which their systems were unprepared; slain as the red weed was being slain; slain, after all man's devices had failed, by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this earth.
    • Ch. 25
  • For so it had come about, as indeed I and many men might have foreseen had not terror and disaster blinded our minds. These germs of disease have taken toll of humanity since the beginning of things--taken toll of our prehuman ancestors since life began here. But by virtue of this natural selection of our kind we have developed resisting power; to no germs do we succumb without a struggle, and to many--those that cause putrefaction in dead matter, for instance--our living frames are altogether immune. But there are no bacteria in Mars, and directly these invaders arrived, directly they drank and fed, our microscopic allies began to work their overthrow. Already when I watched them they were irrevocably doomed, dying and rotting even as they went to and fro. It was inevitable. By the toll of a billion deaths man has bought his birthright of the earth, and it is his against all comers; it would still be his were the Martians ten times as mighty as they are. For neither do men live nor die in vain.
    • Ch. 25

A Modern Utopia (1905)

  • Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia.
    • Ch. 2, sect. 3
  • Fools make researches and wise men exploit them—that is our earthly way of dealing with the question, and we thank Heaven for an assumed abundance of financially impotent and sufficiently ingenious fools.
    • Ch. 2, sect. 5
  • One of the darkest evils of our world is surely the unteachable wildness of the Good.
    • Ch. 2, sect. 6
  • The science hangs like a gathering fog in a valley, a fog which begins nowhere and goes nowhere, an incidental, unmeaning inconvenience to passers-by.
    • Ch. 3, sect. 3
  • Biologically the species is the accumulation of the experiments of all its successful individuals since the beginning.
    • Ch. 3, sect. 4
  • There is nothing in machinery, there is nothing in embankments and railways and iron bridges and engineering devices to oblige them to be ugly. Ugliness is the measure of imperfection.
    • Ch. 3, sect. 8
  • Crime and bad lives are the measure of a State's failure, all crime in the end is the crime of the community.
    • Ch. 5, sect. 2
  • But man is the unnatural animal, the rebel child of Nature, and more and more does he turn himself against the harsh and fitful hand that reared him.
    • Ch. 5, sect. 2
  • The true objection to slavery is not that it is unjust to the inferior but that it corrupts the superior. There is only one sane and logical thing to be done with a really inferior race, and that is to exterminate it. Now there are various ways of exterminating a race, and most of them are cruel. You may end it with fire and sword after the old Hebrew fashion; you may enslave it and work it to death, as the Spaniards did the Caribs; you may set it boundaries and then poison it slowly with deleterious commodities, as the Americans do with most of their Indians; you may incite it to wear clothing to which it is not accustomed and to live under new and strange conditions that will expose it to infectious diseases to which you yourselves are immune, as the missionaries do the Polynesians; you may resort to honest simple murder, as we English did with the Tasmanians; or you can maintain such conditions as conduce to “race suicide,” as the British administration does in Fiji.
  • For crude classifications and false generalisations are the curse of all organised human life.
  • The forceps of our minds are clumsy forceps, and crush the truth a little in taking hold of it.

The Outline of History (1920)

  • The doctrine of the Kingdom of Heaven, which was the main teaching of Jesus, is certainly one of the most revolutionary doctrines that ever stirred and changed human thought.
    • Ch. 28
  • The professional military mind is by necessity an inferior and unimaginative mind; no man of high intellectual quality would willingly imprison his gifts in such a calling.
    • Ch. 40
  • Human history is in essence a history of ideas.
    • Ch. 40
  • Every one of these hundreds of millions of human beings is in some form seeking happiness...Not one is altogether noble nor altogether trustworthy nor altogether consistent; and not one is altogether vile...Not a single one but has at some time wept.
    • Ch. 40
  • Our true nationality is mankind.
    • Ch. 41
  • Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe... Yet, clumsily or smoothly, the world, it seems, progresses and will progress.
    • Ch. 41
  • Life begins perpetually. Gathered together at last under the leadership of man, the student-teacher of the universe... unified, disciplined, armed with the secret powers of the atom, and with knowledge as yet beyond dreaming, Life, forever dying to be born afresh, forever young and eager, will presently stand upon this earth as upon a footstool, and stretch out its realm amidst the stars.
    • Ch. 41
  • The weaving of mankind into one community does not imply the creation of a homogeneous community, but rather the reverse; the welcome and adequate utilization of distinctive quality in an atmosphere of understanding... Communities all to one pattern, like boxes of toy soldiers, are things of the past, rather than of the future.
  • A time when all such good things will be for all men may be coming more nearly than we think. Each one who believes that brings the good time nearer; each heart that fails delays it.

Things to Come (1936)

  • Oswald Cabal: Dragging out life to the last possible second is not living to the best effect. The nearer the bone, the sweeter the meat. The best of life, Passworthy, lies nearest to the edge of death.
  • Rowena: I don’t suppose any man has ever understood any woman since the beginning of things. You don’t understand our imaginations, how wild our imaginations can be.
  • The Boss: You are not mechanics, you are warriors. You have been trained, not to think, but to do.
  • The Boss: The State’s your mother, your father, the totality of your interests. No discipline can be too severe for the man that denies that by word or deed.
  • Rowena: You’ve got the subtlety of a bullfrog.
  • Oswald Cabal: There’s nothing wrong in suffering, if you suffer for a purpose. Our revolution didn’t abolish danger or death. It simply made danger and death worthwhile.
  • 'Pippa' Passworthy: This little upset across the water doesn’t mean anything. Threatened men live long and threatened wars never occur.
  • John Cabal: If we don’t end war, war will end us.
  • Raymond Passworthy: Oh, God, is there ever to be any age of happiness? Is there never to be any rest?
  • Oswald Cabal: Rest enough for the individual man, too much and too soon, and we call it death. But for Man, no rest and no ending. He must go on, conquest beyond conquest. First, this little planet and its winds and ways. And then all the laws of mind and matter that restrain him. Then the planets about him, and, at last, out across immensity to the stars. And when he has conquered all the depths of space, and all the mysteries of time, still he will be beginning...
  • Raymond Passworthy: But... we're such little creatures. Poor humanity's so fragile, so weak. Little... little animals.
  • Oswald Cabal: Little animals. And if we’re no more than animals, we must snatch each little scrap of happiness, and live, and suffer, and pass, mattering no more than all the other animals do or have done. It is this, or that. All the universe or nothing. Which shall it be, Passworthy? Which shall it be?

World Brain (1938)

  • This World Encyclopaedia would be the mental background of every intelligent man in the world. It would be alive and growing and changing continually under revision, extension and replacement from the original thinkers in the world everywhere. Every university and research institution should be feeding it. Every fresh mind should be brought into contact with its standing editorial organization. And on the other hand, its contents would be the standard source of material for the instructional side of school and college work, for the verification of facts and the testing of statements -- everywhere in the world. Even journalists would deign to use it; even newspaper proprietors might be made to respect it. (p.14)
  • The modern World Encyclopaedia should consist of relations, extracts, quotations, very carefully assembled with the approval of outstanding authorities in each subject, carefully collated and edited and critically presented. It would not be a miscellany, but a concentration, a clarification and a synthesis. (p.20)
  • We have been gradually brought to the pitch of imagining and framing our preliminary ideas of a federal world control of such things as communications, health, money, economic adjustments, and the suppression of crime. In all these material things we have begun to foresee the possibility of a world-wide network being woven between all men about the earth. So much of the World Peace has been brought into the range of -- what shall I call it? -- the general imagination. But I do not think we have yet given sufficient attention to the prior necessity, of linking together its mental organizations into a much closer accord than obtains at the present time. All these ideas of unifying mankind's affairs depend ultimately for their realization on mankind having a unified mind for the job. The want of such effective mental unification is the key to most of our present frustrations. While men's minds are still confused, their social and political relations will remain in confusion, however great the forces that are grinding them against each other and however tragic and monstrous the consequences. (p.39-40)
  • A great new world is struggling into existence. But its struggle remains catastrophic until it can produce an adequate knowledge organisation ... An immense, an ever-increasing wealth of knowledge is scattered about the world today, a wealth of knowledge and suggestion that – systematically ordered and generally disseminated – would probably give this giant vision and direction and suffice to solve all the mighty difficulties of our age, but the knowledge is still dispersed, unorganised, impotent in the face of adventurous violence and mass excitement. (p.66-67)
  • We are living in 1937, and our universities, I suggest, are not half-way out of the fifteenth century. We have made hardly any changes in our conception of university organization, education, graduation, for a century - for several centuries.
  • The general public has still to realize how much has been done in this field and how many competent and disinterested men and women are giving themselves to this task. The time is close at hand when any student, in any part of the world, will be able to sit with his projector in his own study at his or her own convenience to examine any book, any document, in an exact replica.

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  • Beauty is in the heart of the beholder.
  • Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.
  • In politics, strangely enough, the best way to play your cards is to lay them face upwards on the table.
  • It's not true that the more sex that you have, the more it interferes with your work. I find that the more sex you have, the better work you do.
  • No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft.
  • Once the command of the air is obtained by one of the contending armies, the war becomes a conflict between a seeing host and one that is blind.
  • Sailors ought never to go to church. They ought to go to hell, where it is much more comfortable.
  • Some people bear three kinds of trouble - the ones they've had, the ones they have, and the ones they expect to have.
  • The only true measure of success is the ratio between what we might have done and what we might have been on the one hand, and the thing we have made and the things we have made of ourselves on the other.
  • The path of least resistance is the path of the loser.
  • We must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind us to the fact that each moment of life is a miracle and mystery.
  • While there is a chance of the world getting through its troubles, I hold that a reasonable man has to behave as though he were sure of it. If at the end your cheerfulness is not justified, at any rate you will have been cheerful.
  • There is nothing in machinery, there is nothing in embankments and railways and iron bridges and engineering devices to oblige them to be ugly. Ugliness is the measure of imperfection.

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