DID WELLS HAVE SOME PREJUDICES? A recent biography by Michael Coren, the author states that Wells had some bigotries of his own. Lest we hastily set up any shrines to Wells as someone who saw through ALL the idiocies and hypocrisies of his day, we should note some instances of Wells' own narrowness. On the Jews: Wells was no respecter of any kind of nationalism. He opposed the fascist nationalists in 1930s Europe, but was less-than-kind to anyone who placed hope in nationalism. This included the Jewish people who espoused a national homeland called Israel for their people. Israel Zangwill, a noted Jewish playwright, was Wells' friend for years but they split over Wells intransigent belief that all would be better for the Jews and all other groups if they gave up such special pleadings for one group, such as Zionism. The author Michael Coren points out a conversation that Wells had with a Jewish man (one he often told of) in the late 1930s, The man asked what he (Wells) thought would happen to the Jews of Europe. Wells told the man that he would rather be asked "What is going to happen to mankind?" "But my people. . . ." "That," he interrupted, "is exactly what's the matter with them." (Coren p. 217) Israel Zangwill became frustrated with this attitude of Wells' and accused him of a "conscious prejudice against Jews and an unconscious prejudice in favor of Christianity." That latter part of this accusation has little evidence for justification, because Wells saw how systems of religion appeared to be falling into line with nationalisms and fascist parties all over Europe. He was highly critical of religion in and before World War II. The Catholic Church and other religions in Europe have yet to give a full accounting of the level of involvement of clergy in fascist governments in the 1930s, so it is difficult to say whether Wells' criticisms were exaggerated. As long as such data remain suppressed, there is no way to know. What appears from these quotations and the surmises of the author Michael Coren is that here is a man who saw dangers in structures and systems, he saw people unable to think for themselves because of the ways in which traditional values were being manipulated by rightist politicians and clergy. He lashed out too often and too conclusively against all the adherents of traditional values (nationalisms, religions). The context of the times must be thoroughly studied to understand why Wells said what he did. But in any assessment of a writer who takes on social themes and issues, one should always be wary of a "one correct point of view" position. At times, Wells, in his reforming zeal, showed evidence of allowing for no shades of gray, allowing for no cases where the facts called for some other way than his program. To read the full account of where Wells may have erred in allowing his system analysis to blind him to notable exceptions that should have been considered, see _THE INVISIBLE MAN: The Life and Liberties of H. G. Wells_. by Michael Coren. London: Bloomsbury Press, 1993. In the meanwhile, this second book has appeared to answer Mr. Coren's biography. _HG: THE HISTORY OF MR. WELLS_ by Michael Foot. ISBN 1-887178-04-X New York: Counterpoint, 1995. IN _HG_, the author states that it is only through OMISSION of important citations that Mr. Coren is able to construct such a negative profile of Wells. Here's one example of Foot's refutations of the charges that HG Wells was anti-Semitic. He asks if an anti-Semite would ever write: "I really do not understand the exceptional attitude that people take against the Jews. The Jew is mentally and physically precocious and he ages and dies sooner than the average European; but in that and in a certain disingenuousness he is simply on all fours with the short, dark Welsh. He foregathers with those of his own nation and favors them against the stranger, but so do the Scotch. I see nothing in this curious, dispersed nationality to dread or dislike. He is a remnant and legacy of Medievalism, a sentimentalist, perhaps, but no furtive plotter against progress of things. He was the Medieval Liberal; his persistent existence gave lie to the Catholic pretensions all through the days of their ascendendency, and today he gives lie to all our 'yapping nationalisms', and sketches in his dispersed sympathies the coming of the world state. Much of his moral tradition will, I hope, never die." (from _Anticipations_, 1901, the book that Coren quotes to "prove" that Wells was an anti-semite.) On Eugenics, p. 61, footnote. "When he saw that some critics were interpreting what he had written in _Anticipations_ in what might be called 'racist' terms despite his disavowel -- he took precautions in _A Modern Utopia_ to guard against such a misplaced and even malicious interpretation. . ." On the British hatred of education and suppression of colonial peoples, p. 48 He describes the rebuffs felt by educated Indians when they try to add their voices to British literature. "The Hindoo who is at pains to learn and use English encounters something like hatred disguised in a facetious form. He will certainly read little about himself that is not grossly contemptuous to reward him for his labor." On his differences from centralizing tendencies of many socialists. p. 88 "The secular development of administrative socialism gives the world over to a bureaucratic mandarinate, self-satisfied, interfering and unteachable, with whom wisdom would die. And yet we Socialists can produce in our plans no absolute bar to these possibilities." (He goes on to suggest some alternatives and general ideas to avoid such centralizing tendencies...) This raises some general questions in my mind and, I hope, in yours. * How can we as readers tell when a biographer is using selective quoting to make an author look one way or another? * Can any one source be said to provide the "truth" about its subject? * How can we allow for the human failings of the subject of biography without allowing for any kind of one-sided presentation. What can we do in our own essays to present the subject as best we can?