In his monumental Experiment in Autobiography (1934), the English novelist and public intellectual Herbert George Wells (1866 – 1946) claims to understand the German dictator Adolf Hitler intuitively. The discussion will shortly come to that – but first some background.
Writing of his “mid schoolboy stage” at Thomas Morley’s school in 1878 and 79, and trying to reconstruct his thirteen-year-old worldview, Wells recalls, along with much else, his adolescent fondness for indulging in compensatory military fantasies rooted in a rebellious but invariably thwarted libido dominandi. “The flavor of J. R. Green’s recently published (1874) History of the English people had drifted to me either directly or at second hand,” as the autobiographer writes, “and my mind had leapt all too readily to the idea that I was a blond and blue-eyed Nordic, quite the best make of human being known.” Wells remarks that, “England was consciously Teutonic in those days, [and] the monarchy and Thomas Carlyle were strong influences in that direction.” Discussion of Britain as a romantic “Keltic Fringe” hung in the air, as Wells writes; “and the defeat of France in 1870-71 seemed to be the final defeat of the decadent Latin peoples.” The convictions that, “We English, by sheer native superiority, practically without trying, had possessed ourselves of an Empire on which the sun never set” and that, “the errors and infirmities of other races” were compelling Britain towards “world dominion” fastened themselves unquestionably in young Georgie’s mind. The adult Wells would put it this way: “All that was settled in my head,” such that the array of associated notions informed the lad’s “active imagination.”