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Exhibition unlocks secret life of H.G. Wells

PUBLISHED: 10:52 25 November 2010 | UPDATED: 11:18 26 November 2010

H.G Wells

H.G Wells

Archant

An inscribed tooth belonging to famous author H. G. Wells is one of the highlights of a museum exhibition on his life and work.

The inscribed tooth

The item is one of a series of exhibits on display at Bromley Museum in The Priory, Church Hill, Orpington, charting the life of the Bromley-born author who grew up in the borough.

Other exhibits include first editions of his famous works, a portrait of him by the famous 20th century artist Feliks Topolski and letters written by him — including one refusing an offer of freedom of the borough of Bromley.

Often called “the father of science fiction” Wells is best known for writing books such as The Time Machine and War Of The Worlds.

The collection — which will be on display at the museum until January — has been compiled by Christine Alford, the collections assistant at the museum.

She said: “I’ve really enjoyed researching this exhibition. It has given me the opportunity to uncover the secrets of H. G. Wells, his life, his many women and his great work. I haven’t enjoyed trying to read his terrible handwriting though!

“I think people in Bromley are fascinated to find out about his life and his work. We have some great exhibits on display including numerous paintings and drawings dedicated to him and first editions of some of his works, including a copy of Love And Mr Lewisham, signed ‘Kindest Regards, H. G. Wells, Earth 1911’.”

The Wells family moved to Bromley in 1855. A shopkeepers son, Herbert George Wells grew up in a china and crockery shop called Atlas House at 47 High Street, Bromley — where Primark is today.

His father was also a professional cricketer for Kent from 1857 to 1869 and his mother Sarah was a former domestic servant.

In 1883 Wells became a teacher pupil at Midhurst Grammar School in West Sussex. He taught in private schools until in 1893, he became a full-time writer. After some years Wells left his wife Isabel for one of his brightest students, Amy Catherine, whom he married in 1895.

As a novelist, he made his debut with the Time Machine and followed with science fiction classics The Island Of Dr Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897) and The War Of The Worlds (1898). He went on to write 50 novels.

Mrs Alford added: “The most exciting thing in the exhibit is the tooth. It is very unusual. It was actually inscribed by his dentist, a fan of the author, who engraved his name on it with the dentist drill.

Other letters include one from Odetter Keun, a travel writer with whom Wells had an affair from 1924 until 1934. Wells is rumoured to have had lots of affairs with other women, including Rebecca West, a famous feminist writer and Moura Budberg, a Russian 
aristocrat.

Also included is a letter from Matilda Meyer, the governess of H. G. Wells’ children, who writes: “H. G. Wells was a warm hearted kindly man. It was the follies and blunderings of mankind that made him irritable at times.”

The exhibition is open from Monday to Saturday between 10am to 5pm until January 29 and has been produced in partnership with Sevenoaks Museum. It will be at Sevenoaks Museum from February to June 2011.

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