Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Reshaping Man's Heritage (1944)

A collection of pieces by various individuals, all originally delivered as BBC radio talks. Authors include Julian Huxley, H. G. Wells, J. B. S Haldane, J. C. Drummond and L. J. Witts, among others.

Huxley had collaborated closely with Wells on The Science of Life, and had remained friends with him in the early 1930s; but the two had a falling-out in 1941. ‘I was chairing a meeting of the British Association,’ Huxley recalled in his autobiography; ‘and had been instructed to allow only twenty minutes to each speaker, so providing time for general discussion at the end.’ H.G. submitted a paper that would take forty minutes to read, and when Huxley told him this wasn't fair to the other speakers ‘an angry correspondence and protest followed.’ ‘When the time came, I had to ask him to cut short his discourse. He never forgave me’ [Julian Huxley, Memories (Penguin 1972), 165]. Huxley didn't see Wells again after this, but when the BBC asked him to convene a series of radio broadcasts on the theme of ‘Reshaping Man's Heritage’ he suggested they contact him, which resulted in this letter from H.G.

An interesting glimpse into Wells's working habits, I'd say; and a summary of his contribution to this volume.

One more quotation from Huxley's memoirs. Though he never healed his estrangement with Wells, his wife Juliette remained friends with H.G.:
I never saw him again—but during the last years of his life, when he became too ill to do more than sit in his armchair, Juliette often dropped in to visit. He looked shrunk, she said, his face curiously altered, concentrated around an elongated and pensive nose. Visitors were no encouraged, as they tired him out, and he seemed very lonely. His tea was carefully measured and a piece of cake weighed, to balance his diabetes. A tall Buddha, extending his blessing, stood on the mantlepiece. ‘He know a thing or two,’ murmured H.G. [Huxley, Memories, 166]
The improbably deep-thinking nose aside, this is a mournfully affecting little pen-portrait.

You can hear Wells's talk, if you're interested, over on the BBC Archive.

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