The Wonderful Visit

The Wonderful Visit is an 1895 novel by H. G. Wells.[1] With an angel—a creature of fantasy unlike a religious angel—as protagonist and taking place in contemporary England, the book could be classified as contemporary fantasy, although the genre was not recognised in Wells's time. The Wonderful Visit also has strong satirical themes, gently mocking customs and institutions of Victorian England as well as idealistic rebellion itself.[2]

The Wonderful Visit
First edition cover
AuthorH. G. Wells
Cover artistRobert Anning Bell
CountryUnited States/England
PublisherMacMillan and Co.
Publication date
Media typePrint
Preceded byThe Time Machine 
Followed byThe Island of Doctor Moreau 

Plot summary

The Wonderful Visit tells how an angel spends a little more than a week in southern England. He is at first mistaken for a bird because of his dazzling polychromatic plumage, for he is "neither the Angel of religious feeling nor the Angel of popular belief," but rather "the Angel of Italian art."[3] As a result, he is hunted and shot in the wing by an amateur ornithologist, the Rev. K. Hilyer, the vicar of Siddermoton, and then taken in and cared for at the vicarage. The creature comes from "the Land of Dreams" (also the angel's term for our world), and while "charmingly affable," is "quite ignorant of the most elementary facts of civilisation."[4] During his brief visit he grows increasingly dismayed by what he learns about the world in general and about life in Victorian England in particular. As he grows increasingly critical of local mores, he is eventually denounced as "a Socialist."[5]

The vicar, his host, meanwhile comes under attack by fellow clerics, neighbours, and even servants for harbouring a disreputable character (no one but the vicar believes he comes from another world, and people take to calling him "Mr. Angel"). The angel's one talent is his divine violin-playing, but he is discredited at a reception that Lady Hammergallow agrees to host when it is discovered that he cannot read music and confides to a sympathetic listener that he has taken an interest in the vicar's serving girl, Delia. Instead of healing, his wings begin to atrophy. The local physician, Dr. Crump, threatens to have him put in a prison or a madhouse. After the angel destroys some barbed wire on a local baronet's property, Sir John Gotch gives the vicar one week to send him away before he begins proceedings against him.

The Rev. Mr. Hilyer is regretfully planning how he will take the angel to London and try to establish him there when two catastrophes abort the plan. First, the angel, who "had been breathing the poisonous air of this Struggle for Existence of ours for more than a week," beats Sir John Gotch with Gotch's own whip in a fury after the local landowner insolently orders him off his land.[6] Distraught to think (mistakenly) that he has killed a man, he returns to the village to find the vicar's house in flames. Delia, the serving girl, has entered the burning building in an attempt to rescue the angel's violin: this extraordinary act comes as a revelation to the angel. "Then in a flash he saw it all, saw this grim little world of battle and cruelty, transfigured in a splendour that outshone the Angelic Land, suffused suddenly and insupportably glorious with the wonderful light of Love and Self-Sacrifice."[7] The angel attempts to rescue Delia, someone seems to see "two figures with wings" flash up and vanish among the flames, and a strange music that "began and ended like the opening and shutting of a door" suggests that the angel has gone back to where he came from, accompanied by Delia.[8] An epilogue reveals that "there is nothing beneath" the two white crosses in Siddermorton cemetery that bear the names of Thomas Angel and Delia Hardy, and that the vicar, who never recovered his aplomb after the angel's departure, died within a year of the fire.


The Wonderful Visit was inspired by John Ruskin's remark that an angel appearing on earth in Victorian England would be shot on sight.[9]

The novel's publication date of September 1895 means that it must have been read by the public as a commentary on the notorious trial of Oscar Wilde, whose persecution had begun in February 1895 and who was imprisoned on 25th May 1895.

Wells dedicated the book to his friend Walter Low, who died of pneumonia in 1895. Low had helped Wells get a foothold in the world of journalism in 1891 when both were working at the University Correspondence College.[10]

The Wonderful Visit was published in the same year (1895) as Select Conversations with an Uncle, The Time Machine, and The Stolen Bacillus and Other Incidents; at this time Wells's published output was about 7,000 words a day.[11]

In 1907 George Bernard Shaw discouraged Wells from thoughts he had long harboured of turning the book into a play; at least four attempts to dramatise the work—some of them realised, some not—seem to have been made, in 1896, 1900, 1921, and 1934.[12] The novel was adapted as an opera, La visita meravigliosa, by Nino Rota; it was completed in 1969.


Reviews were favourable, with one contemporary reviewer calling The Wonderful Visit "a striking fantasia wrought with tact, charm and wit."[13]

Joseph Conrad, whom Wells met when he reviewed his early work favourably, admired The Wonderful Visit and wrote to him to praise his "imagination so unbounded and so brilliant."[14]

For biographer Michael Sherbourne, The Wonderful Visit "presages the humour of Kurt Vonnegut."[15]

Film adaptation

The novel has been adapted in film by Marcel Carné in 1973: La Merveilleuse visite.


  1. ^ Facsimile of the original 1st edition
  2. ^ Sherbourne, Michael (2010). H.G. Wells: Another Kind of Life. Peter Owen. p. 108.
  3. ^ H.G. Wells, The Wonderful Visit, ch. 9.
  4. ^ H.G. Wells, The Wonderful Visit, ch. 12.
  5. ^ H.G. Wells, The Wonderful Visit, ch. 42.
  6. ^ H.G. Wells, The Wonderful Visit, ch. 48.
  7. ^ H.G. Wells, The Wonderful Visit, ch. 50.
  8. ^ H.G. Wells, The Wonderful Visit, ch. 50.
  9. ^ Norman and Jeanne McKenzie, H.G. Wells: A Biography (Simon and Schuster, 1973), p. 107; William Greensdale and Terence Rodgers, Grant Allen: Literature and Cultural Politics at the Fin de Siècle (Ashgate, 2005), p. 117.
  10. ^ Michael Sherbourne, H.G. Wells: Another Kind of Life (Peter Owen, 2010), pp. 76–77, 101.
  11. ^ Michael Sherborne, H.G. Wells: Another Kind of Life (Peter Owen, 2010), p. 118.
  12. ^ David C. Johnson, H.G. Wells: Desperately Mortal: A Biography (Yale University Press, 1986), pp. 143, 540-51n.41; Michael Sherborne, H.G. Wells: Another Kind of Life (Peter Owen, 2010), p. 245.
  13. ^ David C. Johnson, H.G. Wells: Desperately Mortal: A Biography (Yale University Press, 1986), p. 205.
  14. ^ David C. Johnson, H.G. Wells: Desperately Mortal: A Biography (Yale University Press, 1986), p. 162.
  15. ^ Michael Sherbourne, H.G. Wells: Another Kind of Life (Peter Owen, 2010), p. 108.

External links

Anthony West (author)

Anthony West (4 August 1914 – 27 December 1987) was a British author and literary critic.

Clive Carey

Francis Clive Savill Carey CBE (30 May 1883 – 30 April 1968), known as Clive Carey, was an English baritone, singing teacher, composer, opera producer and folk song collector.

Contemporary fantasy

Contemporary fantasy, also known as modern fantasy or indigenous fantasy, is a subgenre of fantasy, set in the present day or, more accurately, the time period of the maker. It is perhaps most popular for its subgenre, urban fantasy.

Strictly, supernatural fiction can be said to be part of contemporary fantasy - since it has fantasy elements and is set in a contemporary setting. In practice, however, supernatural fiction is a well-established genre in its own right, with its own distinctive conventions.


Fantasy is a genre of speculative fiction set in a fictional universe, often without any locations, events, or people referencing the real world. Its roots are in oral traditions, which then became literature and drama. From the twentieth century it has expanded further into various media, including film, television, graphic novels and video games.

Fantasy is distinguished from the genres of science fiction and horror by the absence of scientific or macabre themes respectively, though these genres overlap. In popular culture, the fantasy genre is predominantly of the medievalist form. In its broadest sense, however, fantasy consists of works by many writers, artists, filmmakers, and musicians from ancient myths and legends to many recent and popular works.

G. P. Wells

George Philip Wells FRS (17 July 1901 – 27 September 1985), son of the British science fiction author H. G. Wells, was a zoologist and author. He co-authored, with his father and Julian Huxley, The Science of Life. A pupil at Oundle School, he was in the first class to learn Russian as a modern language in a British school. He accompanied his father to Soviet Russia in 1920, acting as his Russian translator and exchanging ideas with Russian zoology students. He won an entrance Exhibition to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he became Senior Scholar in his first year of residence.Wells, a comparative physiologist, worked on invertebrates of several phyla. He determined their tolerance for changes in the salinity and the ionic balance of the surrounding water, and analysed the water relations of land gastropods.

For the latter part of his career he was a member of staff in the Zoology Department of University College London, eventually as professor. His range of zoological knowledge was notably wide, and his main research was on the behaviour of the lugworm Arenicola. He determined its habits by elegant experiments, and showed that the rhythm which controls many of its activities arises in the oesophagus. Such spontaneous rhythmic activity was shown to occur in many polychaetes.

He was known to all by his nickname, Gip, and appears by this name in his father's fictional story "The Magic Shop". He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1955.Wells also published the 1971 (and last) edition of his father's The Outline of History in the wake of Raymond Postgate's death in March of that year. Postgate had revised four previous editions following H. G. Wells' death in 1946, published in 1949, 1956, 1961 and 1969. He also edited and published H. G. Wells in Love, his father's account of his main extramarital love affairs.

H. G. Wells

Herbert George Wells (21 September 1866 – 13 August 1946) was an English writer. He was prolific in many genres, writing dozens of novels, short stories, and works of social commentary, satire, biography, and autobiography, and even including two books on recreational war games. He is now best remembered for his science fiction novels and is often called a "father of science fiction", along with Jules Verne and Hugo Gernsback.During his own lifetime, however, he was most prominent as a forward-looking, even prophetic social critic who devoted his literary talents to the development of a progressive vision on a global scale. A futurist, he wrote a number of utopian works and foresaw the advent of aircraft, tanks, space travel, nuclear weapons, satellite television and something resembling the World Wide Web. His science fiction imagined time travel, alien invasion, invisibility, and biological engineering. Brian Aldiss referred to Wells as the "Shakespeare of science fiction". His most notable science fiction works include The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), The War of the Worlds (1898) and the military science fiction The War in the Air (1907). Wells was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature four times.Wells's earliest specialised training was in biology, and his thinking on ethical matters took place in a specifically and fundamentally Darwinian context. He was also from an early date an outspoken socialist, often (but not always, as at the beginning of the First World War) sympathising with pacifist views. His later works became increasingly political and didactic, and he wrote little science fiction, while he sometimes indicated on official documents that his profession was that of journalist. Novels such as Kipps and The History of Mr Polly, which describe lower-middle-class life, led to the suggestion that he was a worthy successor to Charles Dickens, but Wells described a range of social strata and even attempted, in Tono-Bungay (1909), a diagnosis of English society as a whole. A diabetic, Wells co-founded the charity The Diabetic Association (known today as Diabetes UK) in 1934.

H. G. Wells (crater)

H. G. Wells is a lunar impact crater that is located on the far side of the Moon, behind the northeastern limb. It lies to the south of the crater Millikan, and to the northeast of Cantor. Just to the southeast is the smaller Tesla.

This large formation is most notable for the extremely battered state of its outer rim. Little or nothing remains of the original rim, so completely has it been eroded and incised by smaller craters. As a result, the crater floor is now surrounded by a ring of irregular peaks and worn crater valleys. This rugged surroundings intrudes only part way into the interior, while the remaining floor is relatively level and in some places gently rolling. The interior is marked only by a multitude of tiny craterlets.

The writer H. G. Wells earned the right to have a Moon crater named after him by his well-known science fiction, including the novel The First Men in the Moon.

In the Abyss

"In the Abyss" is a short story by English writer H. G. Wells, first published in 1896 in Pearson's Magazine. It was included in The Plattner Story and Others, a collection of short stories by Wells first published in 1897. The story describes a journey to the ocean bed in a specially-designed metal sphere; the explorer within discovers a civilization of human-like creatures.

Joseph Wells (cricketer)

Joseph Wells (14 July 1828 – 14 October 1910) was an English cricketer and father of the noted author H. G. Wells.

Mauro Gioia

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Parallel universes in fiction

A parallel universe is a hypothetical self-contained reality co-existing with one's own. A specific group of parallel universes are called a "multiverse", although this term can also be used to describe the possible parallel universes that constitute reality. While the terms "parallel universe" and "alternative reality" are generally synonymous and can be used interchangeably in most cases, there is sometimes an additional connotation implied with the term "alternative reality" that implies that the reality is a variant of our own. The term "parallel universe" is more general, without implying a relationship, or lack of relationship, with our own universe. A universe where the very laws of nature are different – for example, one in which there are no Laws of Motion – would in general count as a parallel universe but not an alternative reality and a concept between both fantasy world and earth.

The actual quantum-mechanical hypothesis of parallel universes is "universes that are separated from each other by a single quantum event."

The Argonauts of the Air

"The Argonauts of the Air" is a short story by H. G. Wells, first published in 1895 in Phil May's Annual. It was included in the collection of Wells short stories The Plattner Story and Others, published by Methuen & Co. in 1897.Written several years before the first flight of the Wright brothers, it describes the painstaking development of a flying machine, in the face of public amusement, and its unsuccessful trial flight over London.

Wells lived at one time in Worcester Park, where the machine is launched; he studied at the Royal College of Science, where it crashes.

The Cone

"The Cone" is a short story by H. G. Wells, first published in 1895 in Unicorn. It was intended to be "the opening chapter of a sensational novel set in the Five Towns", later abandoned.The story is set at an ironworks in Stoke-on-Trent, in Staffordshire. An artist is there to depict the industrial landscape; the manager of the ironworks discovers his affair with his wife, and takes him on a tour of the factory, where there are dangerous features.

The Diamond Maker

"The Diamond Maker" is a short story by H. G. Wells, first published in 1894 in the Pall Mall Budget. It was included in The Stolen Bacillus and Other Incidents, the first collection of short stories by Wells, first published in 1895.

In the story, a businessman hears an account from a man who has devoted years attempting to make artificial diamonds, only to end as a desperate outcast.

The Plattner Story

"The Plattner Story" is a short story by English writer H. G. Wells, first published in 1896 in The New Review. It was included in The Plattner Story and Others, a collection of short stories by Wells first published in 1897, and in The Country of the Blind and Other Stories, a collection of his short stories first published in 1911. In the story, a man recounts his experiences in a parallel world.

The Sea Raiders

"The Sea Raiders" is a short story by H. G. Wells, first published in 1896 in The Weekly Sun Literary Supplement. It was included in The Plattner Story and Others, a collection of short stories by Wells published by Methuen & Co. in 1897. It was included in The Country of the Blind and Other Stories, a collection of short stories by Wells published by Thomas Nelson & Sons in 1911.The story describes a brief period when a previously unknown sort of giant squid, which attacks humans, is encountered on the coast of Devon, England.

Tom Fadden

Tom Fadden (January 6, 1895 – April 14, 1980) was an American actor. He performed on the legitimate stage, vaudeville, in films and on television during his long career.

Warren William

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Æpyornis Island

"Æpyornis Island", or "Aepyornis Island", is a short story by H. G. Wells, first published in 1894 in the Pall Mall Budget. It was included in The Stolen Bacillus and Other Incidents, the first collection of short stories by Wells, first published in 1895.

In the story, a man looking for eggs of Aepyornis, an extinct flightless bird, passes two years alone on a small island with an Aepyornis that has hatched.

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