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H.G. Wells

The author who people most often mention in relation to J.W. Dunne is H.G. Wells, who has a reputation for predicting technological innovations and their social and political applications. How far was Dunne inspired by Wells in his theory of time? And how far was Wells inspired by Dunne in his aeronautical visions?

Dunne’s references to Wells

In chapters 18 and 19 of An Experiment with Time (1927), Dunne discusses the Time Traveller’s theory of time in The Time Machine (1895), citing the idea of time as a fourth dimension as an advance on Hinton’s spatial fourth dimension. Dunne praises the exposition given by Wells’s character as having ‘a clearness and conciseness which has rarely, if ever, been surpassed’, while criticising both Wells and Hinton for failing ‘to mention that anything which moves in Time must take Time over its movement.’

Wells’ references to Dunne

The War in the Air (1908) is said to be inspired by Wells’ contact with Dunne’s aeronautical work. Dunne is said to have arranged flights for Wells in 1912/13.

The character Captain Douglas in Bealby: A Holiday (1915) is said to be based on J.W. Dunne

‘The Queer Story of Brownlow’s Newspaper’ (1931), refers to Dunne at the beginning and the end

The Shape of Things to Come (1933) refers to Dunne in the framing narrative (‘The Dream Book of Dr Philip Raven’)

Wells’s comments about An Experiment with Time in the Sunday Express:

I find it a fantastically interesting book. It has stirred my imagination vividly, and I think most imaginative people will be stirred by the queer things he has advanced in it. I do not think it has been given nearly enough attention.

Contrasting negative comments appeared in Wells’s review of The New Immortality in 1939.

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