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The History of Mr Polly. by Wells H.G
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The History of Mr Polly. (original 1910; edition 1910)

by Wells H.G

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5861424,072 (3.56)43
Member:GregsBookCell
Title:The History of Mr Polly.
Authors:Wells H.G
Info:Collins(1910), Unknown Binding
Collections:Your library
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Tags:Novel

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The History of Mr. Polly by H. G. Wells (1910)

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Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Mr Polly uses wonderful malapropisms and created words to describe things - a fun story. ( )
  lisahistory | Feb 22, 2018 |
Really charming, almost Dickensian novel about a disgruntled shopkeeper who figures out how to change his life. Very entertaining. ( )
1 vote laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
Quite different from Wells' science fiction classics. I found that I often saw the humor rather than felt it; certain aspects of Mr. Polly's character were clearly intended to be funny (such as his mistakes with words) but didn't really tickle my funny bone. The last 2 chapters were the best for me.

For the LibriVox recording I listened to I would award 3* - Adrian Praetzellis did a fine job but unfortunately, his voice and pacing weren't for me. I found it hard to focus on (especially in the car) and often ended up having to reread portions in the Kindle edition to find out what happened. ( )
  leslie.98 | Oct 28, 2016 |
Mr Polly had been drinking at the poisoned fountains of English literature, fountains so unsuited to the needs of a decent clerk or shopman, fountains charged with the dangerous suggestion that it becomes a man of gaiety and spirit to make love gallantly and rather carelessly. (75-6)

This late H. G. Wells novel, like all his literary fictions, bears traces of Wells's own life. Mr Polly, like a young Mr Wells, is a draper's assistant and poorly suited to it. Unlike Mr Wells, Mr Polly never moves beyond this profession to which he is unsuited, eventually marrying one of his cousins because of his tendency to be a little too liberal in his lovemaking (all three of his female cousins are convinced that he loves and is going to marry them), and setting up a shop of his own. The narrator tells us that all Mr Polly gets out of fifteen years' work at the shop is £60-70 of debt because he is entirely unsuited to being a shopkeeper, and indeed, there probably shouldn't be so many shopkeepers to begin with. Like many members of the lower middle class, they do nothing for the functioning of society.

Wells being Wells, the solution to this all is social planning. There's a brief aside where we get to hear the thoughts of "a certain high-browed gentleman living at Highbury, wearing a golden pince-nez" (121), whose views are based on H. G. Wells's. This gentleman argues that when a society advances rapidly without conscious design, it's like "a man who takes no thought of dietary or regimen [...]. It accumulates useless and aimless lives, as a man accumulates fat and morbid products in his blood" (122). But this is, thankfully, a very small component of the book, which is much more interested in the particular than the general. The solution to the general problem might be the World State, but the solution to the particular problem is that Mr Polly tries to take his own life and burn down his house so his wife will get the insurance money. But in the excitement of it all, he forgets to slit his throat, and, well, his life can only get better from there.

John Sutherland's introduction calls The History of Mr Polly "a superbly funny novel" (xxvii), and I wouldn't go that far, but it does have a decent number of comic situations, and it elicited the occasional laugh for sure. Along with the opening chapters of The War in the Air, this is one of Wells's more humorous works. It's not deep, and I don't think Wells holds up as well as a writer of this sort of thing as some of his contemporaries, but it's diverting enough.

There's apparently a couple screen versions; I'll have to seek them out, as I feel like there's some good potential for visual comedy here, especially in the last quarter or so of the book.
1 vote Stevil2001 | Sep 16, 2016 |
“Hole! said Mr Polly, and then for a change and with greater emphasis “Ole!” He paused, and then broke out with some of his private and peculiar idioms. “Oh! Beastly Silly Wheeze of a Hole!”. Our first encounter with Mr Polly who is nearly at the end of his tether. He is an unhappy shopkeeper facing bankruptcy and has taken himself off after lunch to launch a tirade on the miserable world around him, suffering as he does every afternoon with indigestion. He hates his wife, he hates his neighbours and above all he hates his shop.

Published in 1910 The History of Mr Polly became one of H G Wells best loved novels. Graham Greene was in the habit of labelling his books either as novels or entertainments, if H G Well had done something similar Mr Polly would have been an entertainment. After the darkness of Ann Veronica (his previous novel) Wells again has written another book of social commentary, but this one hides any seriousness in the glorious comic figure of Mr Polly.

After our initial meeting with our hero, Wells then embarks on the History. Mr Polly’s education was a mess, he was not particularly intelligent and failed to grasp much of what he was taught, he liked to read and lost himself in adventure stories. He got an apprenticeship as a drapers assistant and his life in the shop would have been unending drudgery, but for his meeting up with two likeminded youths with an interest in books and all things literary. Mr Polly hides his lack of education by a sort of deliberate mispronunciation of words, which can be funny, but often serves to puzzle those around him. Wells has much fun with Mr Polly’s own peculiar language for example: thrusting competitors for jobs became the “Shoveacious Cult”. Mr Polly is the opposite to being a thrusting competitor, he has difficulty in rousing himself to do much that he doesn’t like and he soon loses his job when his apprenticeship is finished. “You have merely anti-separated me by a hair” Mr Polly said politely when he was being fired.

Unemployed and at a loose end he is saved temporarily from the rat race by the death of his father who has left him a little money. At the funeral he meets his three female cousins the Larkin girls.”Hen-witted Gigglers” and it soon becomes obvious that he will marry one of them, however he needs to do something with his fathers money to secure his livelihood and so he does what so many lower middle class people aspired to do in Edwardian times: He buys a little shop. He holds out from doing this as long as he can because he has an inkling it will be a prison sentence and that is just what it turns out to be. He has no aptitude for selling, he has no enthusiasm for his shop, and he soon falls out with his neighbours and is at war with the wife he has never loved. The reader has now caught up with Mr Polly on that fateful day after lunch when he puts the finishing touched to his plan to burn down his shop, cut his throat with a razor and incinerate himself. Mr Polly’s plan usually go astray and while he is successful in burning down his shop and many of his neighbours shops, he forgets to cut his throat.

While it is clear that Mr Polly has not the character to be a successful business man, it is also clear that being a small shop owner at the turn of the century was the undoing of many people. The big commercial concerns were beginning to cut the ground away from the owner occupiers and all of Mr Polly’s neighbouring shop owners were facing ruin. Wells can't help himself in pointing his finger at disorganised capitalism and an unplanned economy, but limits himself to a rant of only a couple of pages.

There are some marvellously funny set pieces in this book. Mr Polly’s fathers funeral where he becomes an instant hit with the Larkin girls, his meetings with Christabel the girl on top of the wall that surrounds her school with whom Mr Polly falls desperately in love, his own more than successful arson attack and finally the showdown with the diabolic Uncle Jim. All the while Mr Polly dreams of something better and embarks whenever he can on his ‘Exploratious menanderings “

In many ways this is one of H G Wells’ most thought through novels. He had previously demonstrated his ability to make his readers laugh in Kipps and The Invisible Man, but here he has created a comic figure with which many people can identify. Mr Polly does not set out to be funny but he undeniably is and when at the end of the novel he has fought his battles and come out; if not winning at least more content then we applaud. Wells’ message might be that you can change your world. A wonderful entertainment and a five star read. ( )
9 vote baswood | Jan 13, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
H. G. Wellsprimary authorall editionscalculated
James, Simon J.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Praetzellis, AdrianNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sutherland, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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'Hole!' said Mr Polly, and then for a change, and with greatly increased emphasis: ''Ole!'
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0141441070, Paperback)

Fans of H.G. Wells's famous, genre-spawning science fiction novels may be startled to read his less-remembered but once bestselling The History of Mr. Polly. Its comically romping narrative voice is worlds away from the stern, melancholy tone of The Time Machine. Wells won fame for his apocalyptic, preachy books about the history of the future, but this history is strictly, as Mr. Polly would put it in his creatively cracked version of English, a series of "little accidentulous misadventures."

Mr. Alfred Polly is a dyspeptic, miserably married shopkeeper in what he terms that "Beastly Silly Wheeze of a hole!"--Fishbourne, England. He is inclined to spark arguments and slapstick calamity wherever he goes. Education was lost on him: when he left school at 14, "his mind was in much the same state that you would be in, dear reader, if you were operated upon for appendicitis by a well-meaning, boldly enterprising, but rather overworked and underpaid butcher boy, who was superseded towards the climax of the operation by a left-handed clerk of high principles but intemperate habits… the operators had left, so to speak, all their sponges and ligatures in the mangled confusion." Still, Polly's mind burns with eccentric genius, and his thwarted romantic heart beats him senseless. His despair results in the most amusing suicide attempt this side of Lisa Alther's novel Kinflicks. We won't spoil the surprise by saying precisely how his scheme misfires--and beware: the introduction gives it away. Note that you can't expect Polly to do anything right, and of course he'll become an inadvertent hero to the whole town. Then he promptly vanishes for further misadventure.

Many critics compare Mr. Polly's broad social satire to Dickens, but it smacks of Mark Twain and the dialect humor of Finley Peter Dunne's Mr. Dooley too. "I think it is one of my good books," Wells opined. What makes it so is Polly's heroic incompetence, his subversion of Edwardian propriety, and his bewildered unawareness that he is a revolutionary. --Tim Appelo

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:28 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

When Mr. Polly grows tired of his wife's nagging and his job as the owner of a regional gentleman's outfitters, he concludes that the only way to escape his sad existence is by burning his shop to the ground and killing himself.

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» see all 9 descriptions

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