by H. G. Wells


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One of the greatest of all satires of the power of advertising and the modern press

Presented as a miraculous cure-all, Tono-Bungay is in fact nothing other than a pleasant-tasting liquid with no positive effects. Nonetheless, when the young George Ponderevo is employed by his Uncle Edward to help market this ineffective medicine, he finds his life overwhelmed by its sudden success. Soon, the worthless substance is turned into a formidable fortune, as society becomes convinced of the merits of Tono-Bungay through a combination of skilled advertising and public credulity. As the newly rich George discovers, however, there is far more to class in England than merely the possession of wealth.

This edition includes a newly established text, a full biographical essay on Wells, a list of further reading, and detailed notes. Edward Mendelson’s introduction explores the many ways in which Tono-Bungay satirizes the fictions and delusions that shape modern life.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781722414283
Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date: 07/07/2018
Pages: 828
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.64(d)

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'.

Edward Mendelson is a writer and critic with a particular interest in W.H. Auden.

Patrick Parrinder has written on H.G. Wells, science fiction, James Joyce and the history of the English novel. Since 1986 he has been Professor of English at the University of Reading.

Date of Birth:

September 21, 1866

Date of Death:

August 13, 1946

Place of Birth:

Bromley, Kent, England

Place of Death:

London, England


Normal School of Science, London, England

Read an Excerpt

chapter the first
Of Bladesover House, and My Mother; and the Constitution of Society

I Most people in this world seem to live “in character”; they have a beginning, a middle and an end, and the three are congruous one with another and true to the rules of their type. You can speak of them as being of this sort of people or that. They are, as theatrical people say, no more (and no less) than “character actors.” They have a class, they have a place, they know what is becoming in them and what is due to them, and their proper size of tombstone tells at last how properly they have played the part. But there is also another kind of life that is not so much living as a miscellaneous tasting of life. One gets hit by some unusual transverse force, one is jerked out of one’s stratum and lives crosswise for the rest of the time, and, as it were, in a succession of samples. That has been my lot, and that is what has set me at last writing something in the nature of a novel. I have got an unusual series of impressions that I want very urgently to tell. I have seen life at very different levels, and at all these levels I have seen it with a sort of intimacy and in good faith. I have been a native in many social countries. I have been the unwelcome guest of a working baker, my cousin, who has since died in the Chatham infirmary; I have eaten illegal snacks—the unjustifiable gifts of footmen—in pantries, and been despised for my want of style (and subsequently married and divorced) by the daughter of a gasworks clerk; and—to go to my other extreme—I was once—oh, glittering days!—an item in the house-party of a countess. She was, I admit, a countess with a financial aspect, but still, you know, a countess. I’ve seen these people at various angles. At the dinner-table I’ve met not simply the titled but the great. On one occasion—it is my brightest memory—I upset my champagne over the trousers of the greatest statesman in the empire—Heaven forbid I should be so invidious as to name him!—in the warmth of our mutual admiration.

And once (though it is the most incidental thing in my life) I murdered a man. . . .

Yes, I’ve seen a curious variety of people and ways of living altogether. Odd people they all are, great and small, very much alike at bottom and curiously different on their surfaces. I wish I had ranged just a little further both up and down, seeing I have ranged so far. Royalty must be worth knowing and very great fun. But my contacts with princes have been limited to quite public occasions, nor at the other end of the scale have I had what I should call an inside acquaintance with that dusty but attractive class of people who go about on the high-roads drunk but en famille (so redeeming the minor lapse), in the summertime, with a perambulator, lavender to sell, sun-brown children, a smell, and ambiguous bundles that fire the imagination. Navvies, farm-labourers, sailormen and stokers, all such as sit in 1834 beer-houses, are beyond me also, and I suppose must remain so now for ever. My intercourse with the ducal rank too has been negligible; I once went shooting with a duke, and in an outburst of what was no doubt snobbishness, did my best to get him in the legs. But that failed.

I’m sorry I haven’t done the whole lot though. . . .

You will ask by what merit I achieved this remarkable social range, this extensive cross-section of the British social organism. It was the Accident of Birth. It always is in England. Indeed, if I may make the remark so cosmic, everything is. But that is by the way. I was my uncle’s nephew, and my uncle was no less a person than Edward Ponderevo, whose comet-like transit of the financial heavens happened—it is now ten years ago! Do you remember the days of Ponderevo, the great days, I mean, of Ponderevo? Perhaps you had a trifle in some world-shaking enterprise! Then you know him only too well. Astraddle on Tono-Bungay, he flashed athwart the empty heavens—like a comet—rather, like a stupendous rocket!—and overawed investors spoke of his star. At his zenith he burst into a cloud of the most magnificent promotions. What a time that was! The Napoleon of domestic conveniences! . . .

I was his nephew, his peculiar and intimate nephew. I was hanging on to his coat-tails all the way through. I made pills with him in the chemist’s shop at Wimblehurst before he began. I was, you might say, the stick on his rocket; and after our tremendous soar, after he had played with millions, a golden rain in the sky, after my bird’s-eye view of the modern world, I fell again, a little scarred and blistered perhaps, two and twenty years older, with my youth gone, my manhood eaten in upon, but greatly edified, into this Thames-side yard, into these white heats and hammerings, amidst the fine realities of steel—to think it all over in my leisure and jot down the notes and inconsecutive observations that make this book. It was more, you know, than a figurative soar. The zenith of that career was surely our flight across the channel in the Lord Roberts b. . . .

I warn you this book is going to be something of an agglomeration. I want to trace my social trajectory (and my uncle’s) as the main line of my story, but as this is my first novel and almost certainly my last, I want to get in, too, all sorts of things that struck me, things that amused me and impressions I got—even although they don’t minister directly to my narrative at all. I want to set out my own queer love experiences too, such as they are, for they troubled and distressed and swayed me hugely, and they still seem to me to contain all sorts of irrational and debatable elements that I shall be the clearer-headed for getting on paper. And possibly I may even flow into descriptions of people who are really no more than people seen in transit, just because it amuses me to recall what they said and did to us, and more particularly how they behaved in the brief but splendid glare of Tono-Bungay and its still more glaring offspring. It lit some of them up, I can assure you! Indeed, I want to get in all sorts of things. My ideas of a novel all through are comprehensive rather than austere. . . .

Tono-Bungay still figures on the hoardings, it stands in rows in every chemist’s storeroom, it still assuages the coughs of age and brightens the elderly eye and loosens the elderly tongue; but its social glory, its financial illumination, have faded from the world for ever. And I, sole scorched survivor from the blaze, sit writing of it here in an air that is never still for the clang and thunder of machines, on a table littered with working drawings, and amid fragments of models and notes about velocities and air and water pressures and trajectories—of an altogether different sort from that of Tono-Bungay.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements vi(1)
Biographical Preface vii(6)
Introduction xiii(29)
Note on the Text xlii(3)
Select Bibliography xlv(2)
A Chronology of H. G. Wells xlvii
Explanatory Notes 422

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Tono-Bungay 2.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
jwhenderson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is Wells as Dickens in a mode of novel-writing that aims at the nineteenth century version of social justice (even though it was published at the end of the first decade of the twentieth century). It is narrated by a young man, George Ponderevo, who, while not as appealing as the best of Dickens' heroes, has a certain charm. His rise along with that of his Uncle Teddy is chronicled with wit and an ear for the details of turn of the century commerce that make the book rewarding to the interested reader. Wells was able to write deeper and had a greater pallette than those who may have only read his early science-romances might imagine.
Ganeshaka on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Tono-Bungay. WTF? I mean, like, if you were browsing through Barnes and Noble, would you pick up a novel with a title that sounds like the Cherokee tribal name for Richard Simmons? And a novel by H.G. Wells? Didn't he write science fiction a long LONG time ago. He was steampunk before anyone knew what steampunk was? Well there you go, that explains why this masterpiece of a novel sleeps in oblivion. But do put aside your preconceptions, and do pick it up. Tono is, in many ways, very relevent, and satirizes societal and economic flaws that remain problematic. At its best moments, Tono-Bungay is another The Great Gatsby - a different author, a slightly different perspective, and a slightly earlier era -but every bit as poignant and lyrical a summation of the broken promises of "progress" and "success".The title, though it has a Malaysian flavor, and a whiff of H. Rider Haggard, actually refers to a bottled elixir much like Coca-Cola. The central story concerns a flim-flam, super hyped empire founded on that elixir, and the subsequent skyrocketing and plummeting fortunes of the chemist, Edward Ponderevo, who invents it. The epic is narrated by his nephew and assistant, George, who is the real protagonist of the novel. In parts, the novel contains semi-autobigraphical sketches by Wells, who, by the way, was much much more than just a science fiction writer (curiously, many of the best observers of the late Victorian and Edwardian eras are remembered only for their lighter work. Jack London, for White Fang, R.L.Stevenson for Treasure Island, H.G.Wells for the Time Machine, etc.)The novel is a melange of styles, starting out a bit like David Copperfield, containing a Conradian episode toward the end, and finishing with a flourish like F.Scott Fitzgerald. But the writing is clear throughout, and the narrative never waivers. Wells alternates between exploring the complexities of romance - as they are experienced by the nephew - and dissecting the absurdities of the business world - as it is exploited by his uncle. Along the way, we get a backwards look at the crumbling class structure of Victorian England - fading, for better or for worse. Ultimately, the sentiment conveyed by the nephew, lingers like complex perfume. Pessimism, romance, science, humor, nostalgia combine into a scent that evokes the glory, tragedy, and absurdity of human enterprise. A scent that lingers unto this century - as we, no wiser, use technological marvels like iPads to watch undersea robots struggle to plug a monstrous hole, a mile beneath a once blue, and fertile, sea.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had this book returned because there are so many typos that I couldn't get through the first 12 pages
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not possible to read. I will have to go to a non free copy.
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