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The History of Mr. Polly [Paperback]

H.G. Wells , Simon J. James , John Sutherland
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
Price: 6.29 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

31 Mar 2005 Penguin Classics
Mr Polly is an ordinary middle-aged man who is tired of his wife's nagging and his dreary job as the owner of a regional gentleman's outfitters. Faced with the threat of bankruptcy, he concludes that the only way to escape his frustrating existence is by burning his shop to the ground, and killing himself. Unexpected events, however, conspire at the last moment to lead the bewildered Mr Polly to a bright new future - after he saves a life, fakes his death, and escapes to a life of heroism, hope and ultimate happiness.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (31 Mar 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141441070
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141441078
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 146,759 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Authors

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Product Description

About the Author

H.G. Wells was a professional writer and journalist, who published more than a hundred books, including novels, histories, essays and programmes for world regeneration. Wells's prophetic imagination was first displayed in pioneering works of science fiction, but later he became an apostle of socialism, science and progress. His controversial views on sexual equality and the shape of a truly developed nation remain directly relevant to our world today. He was, in Bertrand Russell's words, 'an important liberator of thought and action'.

John Sutherland is the Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at University College London and a visiting professor of Literature at the California Institute of Technology. He is the author of many books.

Simon J. James is Lecturer in Victorian Literature at the University of Durham. He has written on, and edited volumes of, George Gissing, H.G. Wells and Charles Dickens.


Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
'Hole!' said Mr Polly, and then for a change, and with greatly increased emphasis: ''Ole!' He paused, and then broke out with one of his private and peculiar idioms. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Escape from the Edwardian Rat Race 27 Aug 2003
Format:Paperback
For those who, like me, were always put off HG Wells through a mistaken belief that he was a science fiction writer, The History of Mr Polly may well come as a pleasant surprise.
The book is the reassuring tale of one mans eventful stumble toward utopia, which should offer hope to fretful drifters the world over.
Three quarters of the book chronicles the painfully comic descent of Mr Polly from youthful apprentice in a leading department store to the middle aged, unhappily married and bankrupt-in-all-but-name owner of a regional gentlemans outfitters. Mr Polly manages to gain weight, while his hair recedes and number of friends dwindle. Polly retreats behind the pages of his beloved books, until he finally decides to put an end to his increasingly miserable existence. This is the turning point of Mr Polly's life. He comes out of the botched attempt a hero, yet rejects his previous life and goes off in search of a new one. This Mr Polly finds.
Although the tone of the novel is definitely black this book should definitely leave you feeling good about yourself. It offers hope that a happy life is out there for everyone and that it is never too late to go out and find it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the story of one man's mid life crisis 25 Jun 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Wells' anatomy of Mr Polly reflects what many people experience in their lives, hopes dashed, frustration and the stupidity and petty inequalities of life but leavened with an underlying hope in a better future and a categorical rejection of the sort of mainstream values that might best be termed "keeping up with the Jones'". Beautifully written reflecting the values of English society at that time but also a manifesto for personal change.

It remains vital and relevant today because the underlying themes Wells identifies such as feeling trapped in an unhappy marriage, dislike of your job, and constrained by circumstance remain common today, what is so liberating about Mr Polly is his clumsy, but ultimately successful attempts to change his life
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A 20th Century libertine breaks free 24 Oct 2011
Format:Paperback
Anyone who is familiar with Philip Larkin's poem "Self's the Man" will know what to expect here. A man trapped in a marriage to a woman he barely cared for in the first place, a failing business, and no friends or neighbours to speak of. This is the first non-sci fi novel by HG Wells I have read and it is a treat. Essential reading for any married man who now considers a weekend trip to IKEA as "a day out".
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A surprisingly contemporary novel 5 May 2006
Format:Paperback
Not being a fan of science fiction, I had never troubled to read anything by Wells before. However I picked this book up and found myself unable to put it down. The core themes (mid-life crisis and career break, bridging the gap between romantic ideals and the humdrum nature of marriage) seemed to me even more relevant to 21st century living than to when Wells was writing. The characters were well drawn, the style fluent and poetic and Polly's (Wells'?) sense of humour suited me down to the ground! Definitely a book to return to.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a cycling holiday 9 Aug 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This great novel gives a fantastic account of rural Enland in the early 19th century, the list given of his jobs and chores at a countryside inn is spellbinding. I imagine Wells wanted it to be long and comprehensive to show what a busy chap Mr Polly would be, today it reads like an evocation of lost arts and crafts. i wonder if anyone still does any of the repair jobs on machinery and buildings. Plus, they look very tiring, or extremeliciously fatigatious as Mr Polly might have said, his use of language an neologisms being a glorious additition to the book and dialogue.
He is not an all round good egg by any means, but you can't help but like him. His joy at finding people who listen to him and enjoy his books is infectious through the pages and reminds me of the end of Patrick Hamilton's Hangover Square when the principal character is appreciated for once due to his good nature and conversation. While he has his darker side he is one of the great fictional creations.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wells at his best 4 Jun 2010
By Mr. Ross Maynard VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
"The History of Mr Polly" is probably Well's best romance (i.e. not science fiction). It is gentle, whimsical and charming throughout. The early part of the book has many similarities with "Kipps" (published five years earlier) but soon diverges in its approach. The book is written with a very light touch and Wells doesn't try to push his social and political views as he does in later books. That said, part of the purpose of the book seems to be to make it acceptable that a man should leave his wife if the marriage is unhappy. This is something Wells himself did in 1894. In the book Wells makes this abandonment easy - the marriage is clearly a disaster; there are no children; and Wells makes it clear that Polly's wife is thriving without him at the end. The book does lack plot, being more of a series of humorous events, and some of these are very funny - for example, how Mr Polly talks himself into a marriage proposal; his wedding itself is hilarious; and his fall-outs with fellow shopkeepers are also fun. Overall it is a charming and fun book. A light read and an opportunity to read HG Wells on his finest form.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tubby shop-keeper or Terrorist? 12 May 2009
By Alun Williams VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
This odd but interesting novel,first published in 1910, is a humorous (im)morality tale. Mr Polly is a man who has let life happen to him. Now middle-aged, he feels trapped by his wife's poor housekeeping and his own failing business. The first two thirds of the book detail how he gets to that state. In the last part of the book he breaks free of convention (burning down half the town yet becoming a hero in the process) and finds a new idyllic way of life, though one which he cannot keep unless he wins a testing battle against a dangerous new enemy.

This new Penguin Classic has an introduction with many biographical details, and notes at the end. The latter are mostly useful, though perhaps not always authoritative and sometimes fairly obvious: Mr Polly regularly mangles the English language, and uses many idioms that were current at the time but have fallen into disuse.

Although I quite liked the book I found the humour and Mr Polly's malapropisms a little feeble at times. But the central messages of the book - that you shouldn't drift through life, and that you can change things if you are sufficiently determined are both worth remembering.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Just ok
It was ok
Published 18 days ago by Yvonne & Phillip
4.0 out of 5 stars Edwardian Reggie Perrin
This is the story of what Wells' life might have been like had he not achieved fame as a writer and thinker. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Bruce Saxby
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Well worth the money.
Published 2 months ago by W. Morris
5.0 out of 5 stars A great classic
HG Wells at his utmost best. It has been fourty four years since I first discovered this book and like another classic of his I was transported back in time.
Published 5 months ago by ok
2.0 out of 5 stars Oh dear!
A book club choice and one I didn't finish, finding it condescending and old fashioned. Sorry H G but you're going in the bin!
Published 5 months ago by Meritreya
2.0 out of 5 stars Ok
Ok book. Quite amusing.interesting on that period. Had to read it for book club. Quite enjoyed this book, but won't read agaon
Published 6 months ago by Pat foster
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best HG Wells novels.
Although know for his Sci-Fi novels, Wells' Mr Polly is a magnificent book full of a wonderful selection of characters set in a great era. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Daniel Sharkey
5.0 out of 5 stars EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY LITERATURE
Having read recently a book by David Lodge about H G Wells I was keen to embark on his books,and I chose The History of Mr Polly randomly. Read more
Published 16 months ago by bibliophile
3.0 out of 5 stars Stunted life
HG Wells has always struck me as more of a polemicist than a novelist, though he did write some masterpieces and this one was hugely popular in its day. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Sally
4.0 out of 5 stars Very pleased to have this.
I am very pleased to have this although it is a bit too delicate to read.

Ho hum. I'll have to buy another reading copy.

Many Thanks
Published 18 months ago by Ohsoso
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