Second paragraph of third chapter:
“Have to do my fourteen miles before lunch,” he said. “You haven’t seen Manning about, have you?”
I had no expectations whatsoever of this novel, originally published in 1916, one of the last of the novels in my big H.G. Wells collection. I found it a really impressive work, one of the best non-sf novels by Wells that I have read. Mr Britling is a self-parody of the author, a complacent intellectual writer with a nice place in the country, extended family around him and a lover in London. In 1914 he thinks that war is impossible, and if it comes it will be brief because sensible people of all countries will reject it. It turns out that he is wrong, and his world diminishes through loss and tragedy. I like Wells all the more for putting such a flawed version of himself front and centre; Britling is a very imperfect human being, but his tragedy is discovering that the imperfections of the world he lives in are much worse than he had imagined. There are some nice and respectful bits with Belgian refugees as well. You can get it here.
Next up in this sequence: The World Set Free.