Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Love Affair of H.G.Wells and Rebecca West

Michelle Dean discusses it on the Rumpus.

From the piece...

Wells and West fancied that their intellectual union benefitted their writing, and saw it as energizing. But from the start it was clear that the raising of Anthony would be another story altogether. Late in life, she’d write to her sister that she regretted not sending Anthony away for his first year so she could work. “As it was,” she wrote, “I had to work hard later on, so that I could not give Anthony all the time he needed when he was a little older.” Plus, as she complained to a friend who’d come to visit her at home with a tiny Anthony, “I hate domesticity. I can’t imagine any circumstances in which it would be amusing to order 2 ounces of Lady Betty wool for socks for Anthony.” This rather marked her out from her Edwardian counterparts, though it still is the kind of thing a mother can be pilloried for saying publicly.

A worse effect of the mores of the time was that they prevented West from public honesty about Anthony’s paternity, too, a fact which leaked into their private lives. He was encouraged to call her Auntie Panther, as a young child, before he learned she was actually his mother. There appears to have been no single revelatory moment. He was gradually let in on the secret of his parentage, with Wells beginning to sign letters as his father around the age of either. Wells, had also quietly put the child in his will, acknowledging him as a son and leaving him £2,000.

Their affair continued in the background, still rich and heavily-felt in letters to her. But Wells was, as could perhaps be expected, not wholly faithful to Rebecca.

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