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Authors: David Lodge

A Man of Parts

BOOK: A Man of Parts
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About the Book

‘The mind is a time machine that travels backwards in memory and forwards in prophecy, but he has done with prophecy now …’

Sequestered in his blitz-battered Regent’s Park house in 1944, the ailing Herbert George Wells, ‘H.G.’ to his family and friends, looks back on a life crowded with incident, books, and women. Has it been a success or a failure? Once he was the most famous writer in the world, ‘the man who invented tomorrow’; now he feels like yesterday’s man, deserted by readers and depressed by the collapse of his utopian dreams.

He recalls his unpromising start, and early struggles to acquire an education and make a living as a teacher; his rapid rise to fame as a writer with a prophetic imagination and a comic common touch which brought him into contact with most of the important literary, intellectual, and political figures of his time; his plunge into socialist politics; his belief in free love, and energetic practice of it. Arguing with himself about his conduct, he relives his relationships with two wives and many mistresses, especially the brilliant student Amber Reeves and the gifted writer Rebecca West, both of whom bore him children, with dramatic and long-lasting consequences.

Unfolding this astonishing story, David Lodge depicts a man as contradictory as he was talented: a socialist who enjoyed his affluence, an acclaimed novelist who turned against the literary novel; a feminist womaniser, sensual yet incurably romantic, irresistible and exasperating by turns, but always vitally human.

About the Author

David Lodge’s novels include
Changing Places
Small World, Nice Work
Author, Author
and, most recently,
Deaf Sentence
. He has also written stage plays and screenplays, and several books of literary criticism, including
The Art of Fiction
Consciousness and the Novel
The Year of Henry James


A Novel





About the Book

Title Page



Also By David Lodge

Part One

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Part Two

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Part Three

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Part Four

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Part Five


This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

Version 1.0
Epub ISBN 9781446467367
Published by Harvill Secker 2011
2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1
Copyright © David Lodge 2011
David Lodge has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser
First published in Great Britain in 2011 by
Random House
20 Vauxhall Bridge Road
London SW1V 2SA
Addresses for companies within The Random House Group Limited can be found at:
The Random House Group Limited Reg. No. 954009
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
ISBN 9781846554964 (hardback)
ISBN 9781846554971 (trade paperback)
To Jim Crace
who guessed the subject of this book
before I had written a word of it.
Also by David Lodge
The Picturegoers
Ginger, You’re Barmy
The British Museum is Falling Down
Out of the Shelter
Changing Places
How Far Can You Go?
Small World
Nice Work
Paradise News
Home Truths
Thinks …
Author, Author
Deaf Sentence
Language of Fiction
The Novelist at the Crossroads
The Modes of Modern Writing
Working with Structuralism
After Bakhtin
Write On
The Art of Fiction
The Practice of Writing
Consciousness and the Novel
The Year of Henry James
The Writing Game
Home Truths
1. Personal abilities or talents:
a man of many parts
. 2. short for
private parts
Collins English Dictionary

He could imagine as existing, as waiting for him, he knew not where, a completeness of understanding, a perfection of response, that would reach all the gamut of his feelings and sensations from the most poetical to the most entirely physical, a beauty of relationship so transfiguring that not only would she – it went without saying that this completion was a woman – be perfectly beautiful in its light but, what was manifestly more incredible, that he too would be perfectly beautiful and quite at his ease … In her presence there could be no self-reproaches, no lapses, no limitations, nothing but happiness and the happiest activities … To such a persuasion half the imaginative people in the world succumb as readily as ducklings take to water. They do not doubt its truth any more than a thirsty camel doubts that presently it will come to a spring.

This persuasion is as foolish as though a camel hoped that some day it would drink from such a spring that it would never thirst again.

H.G. W
Mr Britling Sees It Through

A young mind is like a green field and full of possibilities, but an old mind becomes more and more like a cemetery crowded up with memories.

H.G. W
, Looseleaf Diary, April 28, 1942

Nearly everything that happens in this narrative is based on factual sources – ‘based on’ in the elastic sense that includes ‘inferable from’ and ‘consistent with’. All the characters are portrayals of real people, and the relationships between them were as described in these pages. Quotations from their books and other publications, speeches, and (with very few exceptions) letters, are their own words. But I have used a novelist’s licence in representing what they thought, felt and said to each other, and I have imagined many circumstantial details which history omitted to record.



of 1944 Hanover Terrace, a handsome row of Nash town houses on the western perimeter of Regent’s Park, is looking distinctly war-worn. Its cream stucco façade, untended since 1939, is soiled, cracked and peeling; many windows, shattered by bomb blast or shock waves from the anti-aircraft guns on Primrose Hill, are boarded up; a house towards the end of the terrace, hit by an incendiary bomb, is a gutted shell, stained with smoke. The elegant arcade running the length of the building, which serves as a communal porch for the front doors of the houses, is chipped and flaking, as are the massive Doric columns supporting the building’s central feature – a pediment framing statuary of classical figures engaged in various useful and artistic pursuits, two of whom have lost their heads and one an arm. The goddess who formerly stood on the apex of the pediment, clasping an orb, has been removed as a potential danger to people below if she should be suddenly toppled by an explosion; and the cast-iron railings that, smartly painted in black and gold, used to divide the service road and its shrubbery from the park’s Outer Circle, were long ago cut down and taken away to make munitions.

Only one house, number 13, has been permanently occupied throughout the war by its owner, Mr H.G. Wells. During the London Blitz of 1940–41 he was frequently teased with the suggestion that this might prove an unlucky number, to which he responded, consistent with a lifetime’s contempt for superstition, by having a bigger ‘13’ painted on the wall beside his front door. He stubbornly refused to move to the country, saying ‘Hitler (or in male company, “that shit Hitler”) is not going to get
on the run’, and stayed put in Hanover Terrace as, one by one, his neighbours slunk off to safe rural havens and their houses were occupied by sub-tenants or left empty.

BOOK: A Man of Parts
13.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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