Wells, H. G.: Mr. Britling Sees It Through
(researched by Ryan Welch)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description

1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)

H.G. Wells, Mr. Britling Sees It Through, The Macmillan Company, September 1916.

Copyrights are held by H. G. Wells and P.F. Collier & Son Inc.

Parallel first editions published in 1916 by: Cassell and Company, M.A. Donohue & Co., and Morley-Baker.

2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?

First American edition was published in hardcover.

3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available

4 Pagination

233 leaves, pp. [10] [2] 3-443 [13]

The first ten pages include a title page, three pages about the publication and copyright of the book, five blank pages, an illustration, and a table of contents. At the end of the book, there is an unnumbered page stating that the subsequent pages contain advertisements. Six pages of advertisements then follow. Five of the advertisement pages include other works of the author and include the publisher’s name. While the sixth page advertises other works published by The Macmillan Company. Following the advertisements there are four blank pages.

5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?

This novel is neither edited nor introduced.

6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?

There is an illustration on the sixth unnumbered page at the beginning of the book. The illustration measures 103mm in height and 89mm in width. The illustration consists of a young woman sitting on a bench, beside a path, looking up at a young man. While an older woman, in the background, is looking in their direction. The young woman has on a blue dress and is reading. The young man is wearing a suit and holding his hat with his arms crossed. The older woman has on a blue dress as well. The colors appear to make the illustration look like a painting. Mr. Britling Sees It Through was illustrated by Lucius W. Hitchcock. 

7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available

8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)

The height of the page is 187mm, while the width is 130mm. As noted in section 10, not all of the pages are the same length and width. An example being page 139 of this copy has a height of 183mm and a width of about 127mm. The book is easily read, with the margins being rather large. The text width is 93mm, while being 149mm in height. With top margins on even page numbers have the book title and the top margins on odd page numbers having the chapter title. The spacing between lines is tight, but does not affect reading. The book is well printed, with only a few words having faded. The size of the font is 76R. The font is similar to EF Impressum Light.

9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available

10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)

The paper is white and smooth, and the paper has a straight edge. The paper has some discoloration, especially around the edges. Some pages were noticed to have a faded gray discoloration down the side of the margins. Not all of the paper is the same length or width, contributing to rough edges around the book. Overall, the paper has held up well over time, with only a few tears in the paper.

11 Description of binding(s)

The binding is trade cloth. The binding has a dark reddish hue and appears to be a dotted-line grain. The cover reads, MR. BRITLING SEES |  IT THROUGH | H.G. WELLS. The spine reads, MR.| BRITLING | SEES IT | THROUGH | WELLS. The spine is written horizontally.

12 Transcription of title page



13 JPEG image of title page, if available

14 Manuscript Holdings

Wells’ papers are located at the University of Illinois Library, Urbana-Champaign.

15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)

Call number for UVa’s Special Collections: PR5774 .M52 1916e

Inside of cover, signed in cursive, with pencil, by Professor Robert E. Webb.

This copy does not have a dust jacket.

Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History

1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A

As of 2018, the Macmillan Company published other editions in: 1969 and 1985.   

The 1969 edition has 544 pages with a 21cm illustration.  

The 1985 edition has 433 pages and an introduction by Christopher Priest.

2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available

3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available

4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?

There were 19 reprintings by Macmillan and Co. as of Feb. 1917.

5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A

As of 2018 these are the editions by other publishers:

L. Conrad (Paris)- 1917.

Scribner’s(New York)- 1926 Atlantic Edition.

T. Fisher Unwin(London)- 1926.

Hon-no-Tomosha(Tokyo)- 1997.

Casemate (England)- 2016.

Along with parallel first editions as mentioned in part one.

6 Last date in print?

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform has a 2018 edition available for print on demand.


As of 2018, the last printing of this novel, not print on demand, was in 2016, by Oxford.

Other books by H.G. Wells that are still in print: “The Time Machine”, “The Invisible Man”, “The Island of Doctor Moreau”, “The War of the Worlds” were printed in 2017 by HarperCollins Publishers (UK).


“The Island of Doctor Moreau and Other Stories”, “The Time Machine and Other Works”, “The Invisible Man and the Food of the Gods”, “The War of the Worlds and the War in the Air”, “The First Men in the Moon and A Modern Utopia”, “The Crystal Egg and Other Stories”, “Kipps and The History of Mr. Polly”, printed by Wordsworth Editions Ltd in 2017.


“The Time Machine” published in 2017 by Alma Classics.


“The War of the Worlds” published in 2017 by Value Classic Reprints.


“The Time Machine”, “The Invisible Man” published by Orion Publishing Co. (UK) in 2017.


“The Time Machine” published by Oxford University Press in 2017.

7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)

15 months after the release of this novel in September of 1916, 350,000 copies were sold (Alice Hackett). 

8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)

Judging by the book being sold at $1.50 as of September 8th, 1917, and by the total number of copies sold after 15 months of release, it can be speculated that the sales figures were roughly $525,000 (Alice Hackett and Publishers Weekly). 

9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)

Advertisement placed in Publishers Weekly (Sept. 2, 1916), pg. 671

H.G. Wells’ New Novel | MR. BRITLING | SEES IT THROUGH | (Ready September 20) | You know H.G. Wells. He’s the man who fore- | saw the Great War and wrote about its air battles | over seven years ago! Now Mr. Wells has written | a new novel- a very powerful novel- | MR. BRITLING SEES IT THROUGH |

10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available

11 Other promotion

A similar advertisement was found in the New York Times 1916 Book Review section on page 377 of September 1916. It provides a review of the novel and gives a short overview of the plot.  

12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A


13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A

Translated to German, French, Chinese, Swedish, Danish, and Hungarian.


[German] H.G. Wells. Mr. Britling's Weg zur Erkenntnis. Lausanne: Payot, 1917.


[French] H.G. Wells. M. Britling commence à voir clair. Paris: Payot, 1917.


[Chinese] H.G. Wells. Ming yan ren. Shang hai: Shang wu yin shu guan, 1924.


[Swedish] H.G. Wells. Mr Britling kommer till klarhet. Stockholm: Svenska Andelsförlaget 1917.


[Hungarian] H.G. Wells. Mr. Britling: regeny. Budapest: Pantheon, 1927.


[Danish] H.G. Wells. Hr. Britling og verdenskrigen. Kjøbenhavn: H. Aschehoug, 1916

14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A


15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A


Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author

1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)

          Herbert George Wells, commonly known by the name H.G. Wells, was born on    September 21st, 1866 in Bromley, England. H.G. Wells was one of three sons born to Sarah and Joseph Wells. Sarah was a housekeeper, and Joseph a shopkeeper, who according to Darren Harris-Fain, enjoyed playing cricket more than he enjoyed his work. H.G. Wells kindled his passion for reading when he broke his leg in 1874 (“H(erbert) G(eorge) Wells”). Wells’ formal education was limited, replaced with apprenticeships in different trades. Eventually, he was able attend school, and later attending on a scholarship. He subsequently began to write and edit for Science Schools Journal. In 1887, Wells and his cousin, Isabel Wells, fell in love. He left school in order to earn a living, and to marry Isabel. However, he became sick with Tuberculosis, later earning a Bachelor of Science degree in 1890. Eventually, Wells married Isabel in 1891 after recovering from his illness. He started teaching at the University Correspondence College in 1890, and left in 1891. This is where he met his second wife, Amy Robbins. According to Harris-Fain, Robbins, a friend of Isabel’s, started to draw Wells’ attention just a few weeks after the wedding in 1891. Wells moved in with Robbins, who was a student of Wells’ at the university, in 1893 (“H(erbert) G(eorge) Wells”). It took an additional two years for Wells to divorce Isabel in 1895, coincidentally he married Robbins later that year. Kevin Dettmar states that Wells was well know for his affairs during the course of his marriages, which came to fruition later in his life (“H(erbert) G(eorge) Wells”). Wells continued his writing for Journals, this time as his source of income, until he started writing books. In 1895, at the age of twenty-nine, Wells published his first four books: Select Conversations with an Uncle, Now Extinct, and Two Other Reminiscences, The Time Machine: An Invention, The Wonderful Visit, and The Stolen Bacillus, and Other Incidents. In 1901, Wells and his wife welcomed George Wells into the world, followed by Frank Wells in 1903. He also fathered a child with Rosamund Bland in 1909, named Anne. In 1927, Amy Robbins died, and Wells went on to roam as an academic. Overall, H.G. Wells went on to publish over 100 works in his lifetime, including The Island of Doctor Moreau, War of the Worlds, and The Time Machine. As mentioned by Harris- Fain, some of Wells novels are the best and most significant forms of the science fiction genre (“H(erbert) G(eorge) Wells”). After World War I ended, Wells actively supported the League of Nations. It is implied by Harris-Fain, that writing Mr. Britling Sees it Through, may have attributed to this support (“H(erbert) G(eorge) Wells”). In the 1920s Wells became active politically, cresting with a failed run for office in Parliament. Wells died August 13th, 1946, in London, England due to an illness. Wells’ papers are located at the University of Illinois Library, Urbana-Champaign.   


Works Cited

Dettmar, Kevin J. H. "H(erbert) G(eorge) Wells." British Short-Fiction Writers, 1880-1914: The Romantic Tradition,                edited by William F. Naufftus, Gale, 1995. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 156. Literature Resource                    Center, link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/H1200003829/LitRC?u=viva_uva&sid=LitRC&xid=007e7c0c.                            Accessed 13 Mar. 2018.

Harris-Fain, Darren. "H(erbert) G(eorge) Wells." British Fantasy and Science-Fiction Writers Before World War I,                  edited by Darren Harris-Fain, Gale, 1997. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 178. Literature Resource                    Center, link.galegroup.com.proxy01.its.virginia.edu/apps/doc/H1200007703/LitRC?                                                    u=viva_uva&sid=LitRC&xid=cbafc98b. Accessed 12 Mar. 2018.

Assignment 4: Reception History

1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

With Mr. Britling Sees it Through topping the fiction bestsellers list for two consecutive years, its initial release drew the attention of many reviewers and readers alike. While most reviewers were quick to praise Wells’ take on the Great War, some reviewers were just as quick to attack Wells’ latest novel. One such criticism of this novel came from Gordon Ray Young of The Los Angeles Times, in his article “Literature an Art: New Books Books New Ponderously Highbrow and Recklessly Melodramatic.” In this article, Young describes readers needing to “persevere through 210 pages” to be “rewarded” with the story plotline. Young then goes on to describe Mr. Britling as a lackluster and “dull” character. Young even goes as far to describe the novel as “a pyramid of sand, and the reader must watch every little grain hoisted into place” (“Literature an Art”). Young’s views were not the majority, as the positive reviews were much more numerous and descriptive of the themes the novel brings to light. The positive reviews rarely relied on the larger picture of the novel such as plot structure, characters, or the aforementioned themes. Instead, some of these reviews and advertisements pulled at the readers with emotion or philosophical statements. This emotion is contrasted to what would be expected, such as moments if heroics or grandeur in war.  One of these rather passionate advertisements, by the Macmillan Company, describes the novel as having “touched the heart and mind of America.” The advertisement then gives another quote, although more metaphysical in nature, “A great work- a searching analysis of humanity’s soul” (“The Latest Works…”). Other reviews looked at the difficultly involved in writing a novel that covers a large war as it is occurring as the book is written. This task requires the author to take a leap and predict the events of the war, and possibly a result of the war, all while giving an opinion on a contemporary issue. Written in the New York Times Book Review, the article, “A Novel of the War by Mr. Wells”, discusses how other authors have come up short while attempting the feat of writing a current war novel. This article draws many comparisons to the novel Aunt Sarah and the War, but says Mr. Britling Sees It Through surpasses that novel in many ways, including the way Wells looks at the entire war. The review continues the high praise by stating, “This is the most thoughtfully and carefully worked out book the Mr. Wells has given us for many a year” (“A Novel of the War by Mr. Wells”). This review also suggest that Wells had fallen in popularity and ability over the beginning of the twentieth century. However, Mr. Britling Sees it Through was able to bring Wells back into the mainstream media, as shown by the myriad reviews and his rise on the bestsellers list.


Works Cited:

“A Novel of the War by Mr. Wells.” New York Times, 24 Sept. 1916, p. BR373, search-proquest-com.proxy01.its.virginia.edu/news/docview/97848393/F915F23C8CB541BDPQ/75?accountid=14678. Accessed 27 March 2018.

Macmillan Company. “Mr. H.G. Wells’ New Book.” The New York Times Book Review, New York Times Co, 25 Mar. 1917, p. 102, hdl.handle.net.proxy01.its.virginia.edu/2027/osu.32435022190300. Accessed 27 March 2018.

Young, Gordon Ray. “Literature an Art: New Books Books New Ponderously Highbrow and Recklessly Melodramatic.” Los Angeles Times, 15 Oct. 1916, p. III23, search-proquest-com.proxy01.its.virginia.edu/news/docview/160347871/F915F23C8CB541BDPQ/66?accountid=14678. Accessed 27 March 2018.

2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

The subsequent history of Mr. Britling Sees it Through was much less numerous and profound. Mr. Britling Sees it Through became more of an afterthought for society once The Great War passed. One intriguing part of the subsequent reviews was how they fixate on the house Mr. Britling lived in. Surprisingly, one of these reviews came from Charlie Chaplin when he wrote, “My Trip Abroad.” Chaplin mentions his time with Wells during a trip across Europe, and goes on to describe Wells’ home as Mr. Brilting-like (“My Trip Abroad”). Kathleen Norris also pays special attention to the house of Mr. Britling, describing it as an “ old country places” (“Genuine Community Effort”). This fixation on the house adds seems odd, but it adds an autobiographical element of Wells’ to the novel’s reception history. This is striking, because five years after the novel’s release, one of the most remembered elements is a house and how it signified a certain class of Englishmen. Another interesting find was, despite the novel being rarely mentioned, it was used in a way to remind readers who H.G. Wells was. Remarkably, this mentioning of the novel shows the immense popularity of it, even with Wells being one of the most prominent writers in the late nineteenth century and into the early twentieth century. One such instance was in a piece published by the Philadelphia Inquirer, titled, “H.G. Wells.” In this short work, Wells is described as the “famous author of Mr. Britling Sees it Through…” (“H.G. Wells”). As the years after release progressed, Mr. Britling Sees it Through became more and more obscure. Eventually, the only discussion was on the translations of this novel. This is evident in a piece authored by Jacqueline Kempees titled “Translators” in a “Letter to the Editor” section. Kempees points out how the Dutch translator botched a few lines and that they are quite humorous (“Translators”). In another “Letter to the Editor”, Leonard Spray discusses a mistake in the German translation, but states the novel was great overall (“Translators”). It is fascinating how a best seller could rise the ranks and top the best seller’s list for two consecutive years, only to be written about years later in the form of translation mistakes. It is also quite paradoxical how the book was immensely popular, full of front page material, and was later translated into many different languages, having a profound affect on the world, only was mentioned in the back pages of a newspaper while they discuss the mistakes of the translated book.  

Works Cited:

Chaplin, Charlie. “My Trip Abroad.” The New York Times Book Review, New York Times Co, 30 Apr. 1922, p. 18, hdl.handle.net.proxy01.its.virginia.edu/2027/osu.32435022190235. Accessed 27 March 2018.


“H.G. Wells.” Philadelphia Inquirer, 18 Nov. 1921, p. 23, infoweb.newsbank.com.proxy01.its.virginia.edu/apps/readex/doc?p=ARDX&t=decade%3A1920%211920%2B-%2B1929&sort=_rank_%3AD&f=advanced&val-base-0=Mr. Britling Sees it Through&fld-base-0=ocrtext&val-database-0=EAIX%7CEANX%7CWHNPX&fld-database-0=database&. Accessed 27 March 2018.

Kempees, Jacqueline M. “Translators.” The Times Literary Supplement, 12 Oct. 1946, p. 493, find.galegroup.com/tlsh/newspaperRetrieve.do?sgHitCountType=None&sort=DateAscend&tabID=T003&prodId=TLSH&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&searchId=R1&searchType=BasicSearchForm&currentPosition=21&qrySerId=Locale%252528en%25252C%25252C%252529%25253AFQE%25253D%252528tx%252. Accessed 29 March 2018.

Norris, Kathleen. “Genuine Community Effort.” The Times-Picayune, 19 Aug. 1923, p. 44, infoweb.newsbank.com.proxy01.its.virginia.edu/apps/readex/doc?p=ARDX&t=decade%3A1920%211920%2B-%2B1929&sort=_rank_%3AD&f=advanced&val-base-0=Mr. Britling Sees it Through&fld-base-0=ocrtext&val-database-0=EAIX%7CEANX%7CWHNPX&fld-database-0=d. Accessed 28 March 2018.

Spray, Leonard. “Letters to the Editor.” The Times Literary Supplement, 14 Sept. 1946, p. 439, find.galegroup.com/tlsh/newspaperRetrieve.do?sgHitCountType=None&sort=DateAscend&tabID=T003&prodId=TLSH&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&searchId=R1&searchType=BasicSearchForm&currentPosition=18&qrySerId=Locale%252528en%25252C%25252C%252529%25253AFQE%25253D%252528tx%252. Accessed 27 March 2018.

Assignment 5: Critical Analysis

1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)

Writing a bestselling novel has long been a dream for many writers who are starting their careers. Bestselling novels provide a stable source of income for years to come, while giving the writer a far-reaching and national platform. Despite the masses following a bestselling author or book, most of these books are not highly regarded by scholars to have literary merit. One of the more perplexing authors of bestsellers was H.G. Wells. Wells, an important writer from the nineteenth century, was able jump into the mainstream with his twentieth-century bestselling novel, Mr. Britling Sees it Through. Interestingly, Mr. Britling Sees it Through shows that bestsellers can have various attributes such as social commentary on contemporary events, an autobiographical theme, and a comparative theme between England and America.


H.G. Wells was able to write a novel that was based on one of the most important historical events in modern times, World War One (WWI). By including WWI into his novel, Wells also set the novel up for a quick loss in popularity of the novel after WWI concluded and the event dropped from the news. Brian Hill and Dee Power, in their book, The Making of a Bestseller, list many attributes that make a bestseller a bestseller. One of the attributes listed is the “timeliness of topic”, which is how relevant the issue is to the time period. However, there is a varying opinion between editors and agents on how much weight this characteristic carries for bestselling novels. Agents tended to think that contemporary events affect bestsellers less than their editorial counterparts (25-26). This proves two points for bestsellers. One is that is it difficult to predict a bestseller, even with experienced authors, agents, and editors. It also shows one reason why Mr. Britling Sees it Through was a bestseller in 1916 and 1917, because editors and agents both agree that contemporary events are important, even though they disagree on the importance of contemporary events in bestsellers. With H.G. Wells including WWI and his perspective on WWI, he was able to prove how important contemporary events are for bestselling novels.


With Wells including his perspective on WWI, he was able to capture the emotions of the war, rather than merely restating the facts that were known up to the time the book was published. These emotions and thoughts attracted many readers to Wells’ novel as he observed the social interactions during WWI. One very important invention that facilitated many social interactions was the automobile. It plays an important role for Mr. Britling throughout Wells’ novel. Interestingly, Mr. Britling has only driven his car a few times when he picks up Mr. Direck from the train station. Mr. Britling then proceeds to drive off of the road and avoids a few accidents in a short trip to Mr Britling’s house (13-18). Later the automobile focuses more on the social interactions of Mr. Britling. These social interactions include the affair Mr. Britling has with Mrs. Harrowdean, who lived farther away than his previous affairs (110). The car ultimately symbolized freedom for Wells and his characters. The freedom the characters experienced was new for the early twentieth century.


Another interesting view that Wells’ was able to capture was the English perspective on WWI throughout the war. When the war first starts many people in the country treat it as a joke. Aunt Wilshire even jokes that “They’ll [Germany] declare war against the moon next” (207). Interestingly, there are many such jokes throughout the text and Wells even goes on to describe “the English attitude towards the war…as a monstrous joke” (208). These jokes show that the English people did not think the war was a serious matter to consider. Most of England probably did not fear for their lives when Germany began declaring war on the countries of Europe. Wells even states, “war had not been a reality of the daily life of England for more than a thousand years.” Wells later states that England had not been “wholly at war for three hundred years, and for over eight hundred years they had not fought for life against a foreign power” (212).


As speculation of England joined the war grew, Mr. Britling and the people of England began to wonder increasingly about the war and the future shape of Europe. This is evident when Hugh states, “I wonder what will happen to Albania” (201). It is understandable how a war that is close to home would be worrisome. The beginning of the novel is focused largely on the possibilities of global change. Impressively, the English people knew that WWI would be world-changing and include all of the world powers. However, once England joined the war, many people were worried about the food supply and the banks of England. The closing of banks initially threw the public into a frenzy, along with a scarcity of food (196). However, very quickly the banks reopened, and the public stopped worrying about food scarcity. Wells points out that “after the first impression that a universal catastrophe had happened there was an effect as if nothing had happened” (213).  Again, Wells is pointing out how the English public could not come to terms with an approaching war. There is a disconnect between what the English know is happening and what they are inferring will occur. This disconnect shows how shocked the English were.


Secondly, Mr. Britling Sees it Through has a distinct autobiographical theme. Since Wells was one of the most popular authors of his time, he was seen as a celebrity, and his life was extensively covered. Kenneth Young states that Wells’ “novels were about what happened to him personally and to people he knew” (235). One of the most notable parallels between Wells’ life and Mr. Britling is the affair in the novel with Mrs. Harrowdean. As mentioned in the novel, Mr. Britling had eight affairs, including Mrs. Harrowdean (109). Mr. Britling’s affair was mostly through letters, however the lovers did make time to see each other (113). Similarly, Kevin Dettmar states that Wells was notorious for his extramarital love affairs throughout his life (“H(erbert) G(eorge) Wells”). As mentioned in Assignment 3, Wells’ love life was riddled with fragmented marriages that ranged from Isabel Wells, to Amy Robbins. This list would grow to include women Wells fathered children with outside the realm of marriage such as Rosamund Bland and Rebecca West. Similarly, Mr. Britling had a child with another woman named Mary, however it is not clear whether Mr. Britling was married to Edith Britling (140-141). This parallel into Well’s own bestseller adds another layer to the story and Mr. Britling. By making Mr. Britling an autobiographical character, it adds to the assumption that this novel is Wells’ first-hand take on the war. Another reason Wells’ could have included this parallel was to make the novel heartfelt. In a way, Wells’ is confronting the affairs by writing about them. Including the affairs in the novel could be Wells’ way of reconciling his numerous affairs with himself and his romantic partners. Another parallel that can be drawn between Wells and Mr. Britling is how both viewed themselves as academics. Throughout the novel, Mr. Britling is seen as one of the most intelligent and well-informed individuals during his time. This is actually the reason Mr. Direck comes to visit Mr. Britling, because Mr. Britling was a highly regarded intellectual (7). Wells’ also viewed himself as a relatively scholarly individual. When Wells was younger he enjoyed subjects such as science and strived for an education. Even at a young age, Wells wrote in journals such as the Science Schools Journal. Including this second parallel between Wells and Mr. Britling shows a great deal about Wells. This novel could be Wells’ reminding his readers and the media who he was as an academic. After all, according to Darren Harris-Fain, some of Wells’ greatest writing and contributions to literature came in the form of Wells’ science fiction writing (“H(erbert) G(eorge) Wells”). Also, making Mr. Britling a burgeoning thinker adds credence to Mr. Britling as a protagonist. Using this gained credibility, Wells is able to paint Mr. Britling as an impartial character to tell the story of WWI.


Lastly, Mr. Britling Sees it Through draws many comparisons between America and England at the start of WWI. These comparisons come from a British author, which is surprising and noteworthy because most American bestselling novels were written by an American or from the American perspective of events. This comparison is the most notable subject throughout the beginning of the novel. Wells writes, “Mr. Direck was a type of man not uncommon in America” (4). This is beginning of Wells painting many Americans to be similar, despite America priding itself on diversity and standing out from other countries. Wells also describes Mr. Direck as “that agreeable person who smiles and says, … ‘Yes, it’s a Wilkins, and that’s the best,’ or ‘My shirtfront never rucks; it’s a Chesson’” (4).

Evidently, Wells is using these idioms as class markers of Americans and subtly he is contrasting the British from Americans. Later in the novel, Wells’ makes another subtle comparison of Americans and British. He does this when Mr. Direck states, “I tell you I never knew there was such a thing as war until this happened to me, In America we don’t know there is such a thing” (216). Mr. Direck later goes on to compare war to “something in the story books” (217). Through these quotations, a similarity can be drawn between the feelings of British and Americans towards war. As mentioned in the above paragraph, the British were also coming to terms with WWI starting, and involving themselves in the war.

Additionally, Wells connects all three of the aforementioned themes in the novel when he seems to critique the class system of America and England. Firstly, Wells was criticizing a current social construct of the time, which was done in a satirical manner. This satire is evident when “Britling” is used as an adjective, such as when the goal of the hockey games is described as the “Britling goal” (85). Using the family name as an adjective is satirical because Wells overstates the family name, and it is used to describe something as small as the objective of a hockey game. It is also related to Wells in an autobiographical sense because of Wells’ rise through social classes during his life. Wells notoriously rose from the lower classes to becoming a world-famous author. As stated by Contemporary Authors Online, a scholarship Wells earned to attend boarding school saved him from a life serving the gentry (“H(erbert G(eorge) Wells”). Without this scholarship, it is very possible that Wells would not have ascended classes and become a bestselling author.  Lastly, parts of the novel are a comparison between the England and America Wells knew. This is the most obvious of the points. It includes when Wells states that “if Matching’s Easy [where Mr. Britling lived] were in America, commuters would live there” (6). Here Wells is pointing out that Americans live outside of their means, while the British need fewer resources to live a comfortable life. Matching’s Easy is a large house, that in England is occupied by a rich British man. In America, normal, everyday people would want to live in such a large house, even if it was a great financial burden for them.    

Mr. Britling Sees it Through shows that many bestsellers are similar in numerous facets, but each includes slightly different themes and topics. A notable dissimilarity for this novel is that Wells was a British author, but became a bestselling author in the United States. In his novel, Wells’ included the social aspects of a current event, an autobiographical character in Mr. Britling, and comparisons between Americans and the British people. By including these themes, Wells was able to write a heartfelt novel and somewhat autobiographical novel. With this genuine message, Wells was able to write a memorable novel that was a bestseller in both 1916 and 1917.


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Hill, Brian, and Dee Power. Making of a Bestseller: Success Stories from Authors and the Editors, Agents, and Booksellers Behind Them, Dearborn Trade Publishing, 2005. ProQuest Ebook Central, ebookcentral-proquest-com.proxy01.its.virginia.edu/lib/uva/detail.action?docID=231435.

Wells, H.G. Mr. Britling Sees it Through. The Macmillian Company, 1917.

Young, Kenneth. "Wells, H. G. (1866-1946)." British Writers, edited by Ian Scott-Kilvert, vol. 6, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1979, pp. 225-246. GVRL.xlit.scribner, link.galegroup.com.proxy01.its.virginia.edu/apps/doc/CX1385200019/GVRL.xlit.scribner?u=viva_uva&sid=GVRL.xlit.scribner&xid=ec20a8c6. Accessed 15 Apr. 2018.

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