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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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6131523,751 (3.53)44
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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» See also 44 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
The esteemed M.J. Nicholls dryly encircled the genius of this novel. It was fitting to conclude my week-long tour of Britons electing paired initials as Christian names - to rest easy under the warm praise of the Scotsman with his love of completeism and exhumation.

Alfred Polly is my hero. His neologisms are remarkable. I thought of citing a half dozen examples but feel that out of context, it would prove to be shit. His suspicions and pleasures appear to be my own. One can't just sit around forever. Such is my paraphrase of the novel's amazing conclusion. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
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 |
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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)

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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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