Passionate concern for society led Wells to join in 1903 the socialist Fabian Society in London. It advocated a fairer society by planning for a gradual system of reforms. However, he soon quarreled with the society's leaders, among them George Bernard Shaw. This experience was basis for his novel THE NEW MACHIAVELLI (1911), which portrayed the noted Fabians. At the outbreak of war in 1914, Wells was involved in a love affair with a young journalist, Rebecca West, 26 years his junior. West and Wells called themselves "panther" and "jaguar". Their son Anthony West later wrote about their difficult relationship in Aspects of a Life (1984).
Inhis novels Wells used his two wives, Amber Reeves, Rebecca West, Odette Keun and all the passing mistresses as models for his characters. ''I was never a great amorist,'' Wells wrote in EXPERIMENT IN AUTOBIOGRAPHY (1934) ''though I have loved several people very deeply.'' Rebecca West became a famous author and married a wealthy banker, Henry Andrews, who had business interests in Germany. Elizabeth von Arnim dismissed Wells, and Moura Budberg, Maxim Gorky's former mistress, refused to marry him or even be faithful.
"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." (from The World Set Free, 1914)
After WW I Wells published several non-fiction works, among them THE OUTLINE OF HISTORY (1920), THE SCIENCE OF LIFE (1929-39), written in collaboration with Sir Julian Huxley and George Philip Wells, and EXPERIMENT IN AUTOBIOGRAPHY (1934). At this time Wells had gained the status as a popular celebrity, and he continued to write prolifically. In 1917 he was a member of Research Committee for the League of Nations and published several books about the world organization. Although Wells had many reservations about the Soviet system, he understood the broad aims of the Russian Revolution, and had in 1920 a fairly amiable meeting with Lenin. In the early 1920s Wells was a labour candidate for Parliament. Between the years 1924 and 1933 Wells lived mainly in France. From 1934 to 1946 he was the International president of PEN. In 1934 he had discussions with both Stalin, who left him disillusioned, and Roosevelt, trying to recruit them without success to his world-saving schemes. Wells was convinced that Western socialists cannot compromise with Communism, and that the best hope for the future lay in Washington. Also one of his mistresses, Moura Budberg, turned out to be a Soviet agent for years. In THE HOLY TERROR (1939) Wells studied the psychological development of a modern dictator exemplified in the careers of Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler.
"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 calling." (from The Outline of History, 1920)
Orson Welles' Mercury Theater radio broadcast, based on The War of the Worlds, caused a panic in the Eastern United States on October 30, 1938. In Newark, New Jersey, all the occupants of a block of flats left their homes with wet towels round their heads and in Harlem a congregation fell to its knees. Welles, who first considered the show silly, was shaken by the panic he had unleashed and promised that he would never do anything like it again. Later Welles attempted to claim authorship for the script, but it was written by Howard Koch, whose inside story of the whole episode, The panic broadcast; portrait of an event, appeared in 1970. Wells himself was not amused with the radio play. He met the young director in 1940 at a San Antonio radio station, but was at that time mellowed and advertised Welles next film, Citizen Kane.
"Those who have not read The War of the Worlds may be surprised to find that, like much of Wells's writing, it is full of poetry and contains passages that catch the throat. Wells tried to pretend that he was not an artist and stated that "there will come a time for every work of art when it will have served its purpose and be bereft of its last rag of significance." This has not yet happened for the best of Wells's science fiction, though it has done so for all but a few of his realistic and political novels." (Arthur C. Clarke in Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds!, 1999)
Wells lived through World War II in his house on Regent's Park, refusing to let the blitz drive him out of London. His last book, MIND AT THE END OF ITS TETHER (1945), expressed pessimism about mankind's future prospects. Wells died in London on August 13. 1946. "Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe." (from The Outline of History, 1920)
For further reading: The Invisible Man: The Life and Liberties of H.G. Wells by Michael Coren (1993); A Critical Edition of The War of the Worlds, ed. by David Y. Hughes and Harry M. Geduld (1993); H.G. Wells: Six Scientific Romances Adapted for Film by Thomas C. Renzi (1992); H.G. Wells by Brian Murray (1990); H.G. Wells under Revision, ed. by Patrick Parrinder and Christopher Rolfe (1990); H.G. Wells by Brian Murray (1990); H.G. Wells: A Comprehensive Bibliography, published by the H.G. Wells Society (1986); The Time Traveller: Life of H.G. Wells by Norman and Jean Mackenzie (1973); H.G. Wells: The Critical Heritage, ed. by P. Parrinder (1972); H.G. Wells by L. Dickson (1969); The Early H.G. Wells by Bernard Bergonzi (1961); A Companion to Mr. Wells's "Outline of History," by Hilaire Belloc (1926); The World of H.G. Wells by Van Wyck Brooks (1915)