"JOSEPH WELLS. FROM HIS AFFECTIONATE SON": WHEN THE SLEEPER WAKES, 1899, FIRST EDITION INSCRIBED BY H.G. WELLS TO HIS FATHER
WELLS, H.G. When the Sleeper Wakes. London and New York: Harper & Brothers, 1899. Octavo, original red cloth gilt. Housed in a custom half leather clamshell box. $35,000.
First edition of Wells’ “robust futuristic romance” of revolution, inscribed on the half title by the author to his father, “Joseph Wells. From his affectionate son. H.G. Wells.”
In Wells' futuristic variation on the Rip Van Winkle theme, a sleeping man awakens after two centuries to play a messianic role in "a monster state, with one class of persons living a hedonistic life of pleasure, while others work on deep underground assembly lines… In the world of the woken viewer, many of the aspects of our modern urban life appear—moving sidewalks, aerial transport, a kinetoscope (modern cinema) and 'Babble Machines' to provide a sanitized and heavily edited version of the 'news'" (Smith, 79-80). Wells' own concerns for justice and utopian hopes permeate the book, a "robust futuristic romance of socialist revolution" (Clute & Nicholls, 1313). Illustrated with three black-and-white plates by H. Lanos. Currey's binding A (Currey, 426). First printed serially in The Graphic (1898-99). A revised edition entitled The Sleeper Awakes (which streamlined the plot and, according to Wells' preface, eliminated "sexual interest" between the characters Graham and Helen) saw print in 1910. Hammond B6. Wells Collection 15. Anatomy of Wonder II-1235. H.G. Wells' father Joseph Wells was a gardener and professional cricket player who used an inheritance to buy a china shop that did poorly for decades, barely supporting the family. H.G. Wells inherited his love of learning and his religious skepticism (both abundantly on display in When the Sleeper Wakes) from his father, whom he greatly admired. "From Joe Wells… came the individual ironic style, the imagination, the tendency to dream, that were to mark the son. It was Joe Wells who brought home books borrowed from the Literary Institute, and who talked to his son about the stars, and worlds that might lie beyond this one" (Dickinson, H.G. Wells: His Turbulent Life and Times, 8). By the time of this inscription, Joseph's business had finally failed, and H.G. was supporting his father and mother completely, renting a house for them in Liss, Hampshire.
Scattered light foxing to text, mostly to front quarter of text; cloth mildly soiled and toned, gilt bright. A wonderful presentation copy.