Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Origins of the Ogre, Darwin and the Dark Imaginary

Neanderthal - H.G. Wells's Outline of History

H.G. Wells's The Outline of History (1921) includes this graphic description of the

We know nothing of the appearance of the Neanderthal man, but this absence of intermixture seems to suggest an extreme hairiness, an ugliness, or a repulsive strangeness in his appearance over and above his low forehead, his beetle brows, his ape neck, and his inferior stature. Or he"and she"may have been too fierce to tame. Says Sir Harry Johnston, in a survey of the rise of modern man in his Views and Reviews: The dim racial remembrance of such gorilla-like monsters, with cunning brains, shambling gait, hairy bodies, strong teeth, and possibly cannibalistic tendencies, may he the germ of the ogre in folklore...p.40

Bernard F. Dick, has pointed out that William Golding derived his inspiration for The Inheritors from this passage, as the novelist explained:

Wells' Outline of History played a great part in my life because my father was a rationalist, and the Outline was something he took neat. Well now, Wells' Outline of History is the rationalist's gospel in excelsis, I should think. I got this from my father, and by and by it seemed to me not to be large enough. It seemed to me to be too neat and slick. And when I re-read it as an adult I came across his picture of Neanderthal man, our immediate predecessors, as being the gross brutal creatures who were possibly the basis of the mythological bad man, whatever he may be, the ogre. I thought to myself that this is just absurd. What we're
doing is externalizing our inside. ["The Meaning of It All," 10.]

In his chapter on Golding, Dick concludes that

The Neanderthals are not the heroes, nor are the New People the villains of the novel. If the New People are the "true men," as Wells called moderns in the Outline, if they are supposed to tower over the rest of creation, they should be capable of using their intellect to quell their dark, demonic urges. Yet the opposite is true: the New People are less able to master them than the Neanderthals. Each rung on the evolutionary ladder brings additional knowledge, but always at a price.

Lisa Fluet further explores TS Eliot's participation - as a book reviewer - in the debate on Darwinism between Wells and Belloc.

Where do we put Eliot's Apeneck Sweeney in this discussion?

Any thoughts on Eliot's monstrous modernity?


"As for the men of my time who have been able to capture a large audience . . . they are all, by comparison with Mr. Wells, pygmies." --- T. S. Eliot, "Wells as Journalist"

Further Reading

Fluet, Lisa. "Modernism and Disciplinary History: On HG Wells and TS Eliot." Twentieth-Century Literature (2004): 283-316.

Dick, Bernard F. "Chapter 3: Our Ancestral Ogres." William Golding, Rev. ed. Bernard F. Dick. Boston: Twayne, 1987. Twayne's English Authors Series 57. The Twayne Authors Series. Web. 11 Dec. 2012.

Mark Kinkead-Weekes and Ian Gregor, William Golding: A Critical Study (New York, 1967) 

William Golding, "The Meaning of It All," Books and Bookmen 5 (October 1959): 9-10

Robert D. Evans, "The Inheritors: Some Inversions," in William Golding: Some Critical Considerations, ed. Jack I. Biles and Robert O. Evans (New York, 1970)

Costa, Richard Hauer. "Chapter 10: Wells and the Critics." H. G. Wells, Rev. ed. Richard Hauer Costa. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1985. Twayne's English Authors Series 43. The Twayne Authors Series. Web. 11 Dec. 2012. 

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