Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Bladesover House

Bladesover House. Fictional seventeenth century estate nine miles southeast of London. It is modeled on Up Park, a great house near Peterfield, Kent, where H. G. Wells’s mother was chief housekeeper, that still stands as a government-owned historic landmark. Bladesover House signifies for George, looking back, the “Gentry, the Quality, by and through whom the rest of the world, the farming folk and the laboring folk, the tradespeople, and the upper servants and the servants of the estate, breathed and lived and were permitted.”

Teatime in his mother’s room is the below-stairs setting for class-conscious George’s earliest fears and hatreds. There he hears the gossipy small talk of pensioned former servants who visit daily. The great house theoretically commands a view of the English Channel southward and the River Thames northeastward, but in the hero’s retrospective lens, Bladesover House is London in microcosm.

The estate contains numerous walled gardens, one of which is the setting for young George’s first breakthrough of the Victorian class structure. He encounters Beatrice Normandy, a niece of the lady of the house, and his adolescent “crush” leads to several scenes in which Wells uses place to symbolize the hero’s place in society. Invariably Beatrice sits prettily astride an arbored wall above George, lest he “profane” her. Behind the puppy lovers, “dim and stately, the cornice of the great facade of Bladesover [rose] against the dappled sky.”


Chatham. Municipal borough southeast of London. This “squalid” village, seen by George as in complete contrast to Bladesover, is the first of his several stops before he is “rescued” to London. Whereas what he calls the gentrified “Bladesover effect”—that of being England in miniature—strikes him as fatally outmoded, that of Chatham is of a “wilderness of crowded dinginess,” a well-packed dustbin.


Wimblehurst. Town in Sussex that is George’s second stop. A cut above Chatham, Wimblehurst is significant as the place where he meets a bubbling sprite of an uncle, Teddy Ponderevo and his wife, George’s unforgettable Aunt Susan. Uncle Teddy is a pill dispenser in still another dead country town. In Wimblehurst George is introduced to Teddy’s do-all pill,...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Costa, Richard Hauer. H. G. Wells. New York: Twayne, 1967. Includes a critical summary of the novel, seen as “heralding . . . the new [twentieth] century amidst the debris of the old.” Says that Tono-Bungay shows H. G. Wells as both “mystic visionary” and “storyteller.”

Hammond, J. R. An H. G. Wells Companion. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1979. Describes the work as “a picture of a radically unstable society and an indictment of irresponsible capitalism.” Hammond’s critical examination of the novel calls it Wells’s “finest single achievement.”

Huntington, John, ed. Critical Essays on H. G. Wells. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1991. Huntington’s collection updates critical work on Wells, including the novel Tono-Bungay, and provides a useful index and a recent bibliography.

Mackenzie, Norman, and Jeanne Mackenzie. H. G. Wells. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1973. Discusses the autobiographical aspects of the narrator of Tono-Bungay, George Ponderevo, the circumstances of the writing of the novel, and its critical reception. Argues that “with Tono-Bungay Wells reached the peak of his career as a novelist.”

West, Geoffrey. H. G. Wells: A Sketch for a Portrait. New York: Norton, 1930. Partly because West (pseudonym of Geoffrey H. Wells) knew Wells well, this biography is considered by some critics to be the definitive one, despite its age. West calls Tono-Bungay a “thought-adventure” and discusses autobiographical elements of the novel.