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The new Machiavelli

Wells, H. G. (1911) The new Machiavelli. John Lane, London.

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Abstract

The novel, a literary scandal of its day, is written in a retrospective, first-person vein. The central character, 'Richard Remington', compares himself with Machiavelli after finding himself ‘exiled’ in Italy after a political failure caused by a sex scandal. He feels empathy with Machiavelli, who had a keen intellect but also earthy passions. There are clear parallels with H.G. Wells' affair with Amber Reeves, on which Beatrice Webb commented several times in her diaries [1]. There are further autobiographical links, in that Wells was for five years a member of the Fabian Society, meeting regularly with the Webbs, who feature clearly in the novel as the politically manipulative socialists 'Oscar and Altiora Bailey'. In her diary [2], Beatrice Webb records “We have read the caricatures of ourselves, the Trevelyan brothers and other old acquaintances of H.G.'s with much interest and amusement. The portraits are very clever in a malicious way. What interests us most, however, is the extraordinary revelation of H.G.'s life and character - idealised of course, but written with a certain powerful sincerity. Some of the descriptions of Society and of the political world - some of the criticisms of the existing order are extraordinarily vivid - and the book, as a whole, to a large extent compels agreement with its descriptive side. But it lays bare the tragedy of H.G.'s life - his aptitude for "fine thinking" and even "good feeling", and yet his total incapacity for decent conduct. He says in so many words that directly you leave your study you inevitably become a cad and are indeed mean and dishonourable and probably cruel. As an attempt at representing a political philosophy the book utterly fails - swaying between a dreamy and inconsistent Utopianism and a complete and dreary cynicism as to the possibility of any other motive but self interest tempered by class bias. ... ". Beatrice Webb, typescript diary, 2 January 1901-10 February 1911, pp. 623-625.[2]. For Refs [1] & [2] follow 1st and 2nd digital.library.lse.ac.uk links.

Item Type: Book
Additional Information: The full text of the novel is available at the online-literature and gutenberg.org links above.
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CT Biography
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Date Deposited: 19 Apr 2013 10:08
Last Modified: 14 Jan 2016 11:21
URI: http://webbs.library.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/592

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