6

Wikipedia claims that the character of Horace Jules in C. S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength - ostensibly the Director and boss of the N.I.C.E. organisation, in reality a figurehead manipulated by those truly in the know - was

in part a caricature of H. G. Wells

However, the reference for this claim is a link which supposedly gives a "very detailed analysis" but which leads me only to a login page.

What is the evidence for this claim? I'm interested to know if Lewis was really lampooning a fellow writer, and if so why. Does the character of Jules bear any resemblance to Wells or Lewis's idea of him?

  • +1, I was wondering the same thing. – EJoshuaS Jul 3 at 17:48
  • To describe H. G. Wells as a sci-fi writer is to vastly under-estimate his influence in the first half of the twentieth century. – mikado Jul 8 at 21:54
  • @Randal'Thor my point is that his other writing was, at the time, much more influential than his sci-fi – mikado Jul 9 at 20:04
  • @mikado shrug OK, edited. – Rand al'Thor Jul 10 at 13:37
  • From some superficial googling it seems like Wells was a follower of scientism, or at least was considered part of their group by followers of scientism. Lewis was not a fan, as I mentioned on the question about Eustace's family in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. So that at least provides a motive, though nothing like proof. – Torisuda Jul 10 at 20:49
2

In answering this question, I cannot do better than to quote the analysis of David Lake:

I will now prove that ‘Jules’ must be taken as Wells, and no-one else. There are at least nine points of contact, including a genuine semi-quotation from a book by Wells placed in Jules’s mouth. I will first demonstrate the similarities, and only later point out how unfair many of these points are.

  1. The name ‘Horace Jules’. ‘Horace’ echoes Wells’s first name ‘Herbert’; and it was a stock journalistic comparison (complained of by Wells, more than once), to call Wells ‘the English Jules Verne’.

  2. Education. Jules had been to the ‘University of London over fifty years ago’, and ‘any science he knew was that taught him’ there (419). Wells’s first degree (B.Sc.) was from the Normal School of Science, Kensington, which later became part of London University, in 1890 — 53 years before That Hideous Strength was written, 55 before it was published.

  3. Philosophy. ‘Any philosophy he knew had been acquired from writers like Haeckel, Joseph McCabe and Winwood Reade’ (419). All these writers were agnostics or atheists, and none rates as a formal philosopher. McCabe (1867–1955) was a contemporary ex-Catholic priest and militant rationalist. Haeckel (1834–1919) was a brash Darwinian biologist, and Reade (1838–75) mainly a historian: both might in 1945 be considered ‘out of date’. Wells certainly knew the works of all three, and was strongly influenced by Reade’s The Martyrdom of Man (1872), as is clear from traces in Wells’s Outline of History (First Edition, 1919–20) and A Short History of the World (First Edition 1923). Indeed, Wells acknowledges this in the Introduction to the Outline: ‘One book that has influenced the writer very strongly is Winwood Reade’s Martrydom of Man. This dates … but it is still an extraordinarily inspiring presentation of human history as one consistent process’ (Outline vii). Haeckel, Reade and McCabe were all clearly important men of Wells’s ‘party’ in biology and (ir)religion. What Lewis found most objectionable about them is that they substitute for the worship of God a worship of future, perfectible Man. Reade even expected that out of man’s present and past ‘martyrdom’ — his necessary suffering — he would achieve physical immortality. Wells never goes quite that far, but after about 1900 his general vision and hope for the human future is usually similar to Reade’s.

  4. Residence and class status. ‘Jules was a cockney’ (419). Wells was born and brought up in Bromley, on the southern edge of London, and in his early writing career lived at various London addresses. His family background was lower-middle class (another connotation of ‘cockney’).

  5. Personal appearance. ‘He was a very little man, whose legs were so short that he had unkindly been compared with a duck’ (419). Wells was indeed below average height, and was sensitive about that. His biographer David Smith, from the evidence of a home movie, calls him a ‘small, round, tiny-footed man’ (Smith 481).

  6. ‘His novels had first raised him to fame and affluence’ (419). Certainly true of Wells in 1895–1901; after which, beginning with Anticipations in late 1901, he became even more famous as a futurologist and social reformer.

  7. ‘… Later, as editor of the weekly We Want to Know, he had become … a power in the country’ (419–20). Wells did not edit a weekly, but he produced two famous non-fiction works, both of which appeared in fortnightly parts, and filled important gaps in the average person’s education. These were The Outline of History (1919–20), the first really adequate non-nationalistic and Darwinian world history ever published; and The Science of Life (1930), written under his direction mainly by his son G. P. Wells and Julian Huxley. These were clear and popular in style, world-wide best sellers which told people what they wanted to know about humanity’s place in time and in nature. A child who bought Part Three of The Science of Life for 1/3d (about 12¢) could learn the basic facts about human sex.

  8. Jules, like Wells, has been battling all his life for sexual openness and permissiveness (421).

  9. Jules quotes his own previous remark to an Archbishop, ‘you may not know, my lord … that modern research shows the temple at Jerusalem to have been about the size of an English village church’ (420). In the first edition of The Outline, a photograph of a modern reconstruction of Solomon’s Temple is criticised as ‘exaggerated’, and later, Wells compares the temple to ‘a small villa residence’ (290). In the Short History, we read: ‘Solomon’s temple, if one works out the measurements, would go inside a small suburban church’ (116). I think this final coincidence clinches the identification: Jules is meant to be recognised as Wells.

David Lake (1992). ‘Wells, The First Men in the Moon, and Lewis’s Ransom Trilogy’. In Kath Filmer, ed. Twentieth-Century Fantasists. St Martin’s Press. I revised the linked page numbers to correspond to those in the linked editions.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.