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The Sleeper Awakes, a novel by H. G. Wells

Preface To The New Edition

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_ _When the Sleeper Wakes_, whose title I have now altered to _The Sleeper Awakes_, was first published as a book in 1899 after a serial appearance in the _Graphic_ and one or two American and colonial periodicals. It is one of the most ambitious and least satisfactory of my books, and I have taken the opportunity afforded by this reprinting to make a number of excisions and alterations. Like most of my earlier work, it was written under considerable pressure; there are marks of haste not only in the writing of the latter part, but in the very construction of the story. Except for certain streaks of a slovenliness which seems to be an almost unavoidable defect in me, there is little to be ashamed of in the writing of the opening portion; but it will be fairly manifest to the critic that instead of being put aside and thought over through a leisurely interlude, the ill-conceived latter part was pushed to its end. I was at that time overworked, and badly in need of a holiday. In addition to various necessary journalistic tasks, I had in hand another book, _Love and Mr. Lewisham_, which had taken a very much stronger hold upon my affections than this present story. My circumstances demanded that one or other should be finished before I took any rest, and so I wound up the Sleeper sufficiently to make it a marketable work, hoping to be able to revise it before the book printers at any rate got hold of it. But fortune was against me. I came back to England from Italy only to fall dangerously ill, and I still remember the impotent rage and strain of my attempt to put some sort of finish to my story of Mr. Lewisham, with my temperature at a hundred and two. I couldn't endure the thought of leaving that book a fragment. I did afterwards contrive to save it from the consequences of that febrile spurt--_Love and Mr. Lewisham_ is indeed one of my most carefully balanced books--but the Sleeper escaped me.

It is twelve years now since the Sleeper was written, and that young man of thirty-one is already too remote for me to attempt any very drastic reconstruction of his work. I have played now merely the part of an editorial elder brother: cut out relentlessly a number of long tiresome passages that showed all too plainly the fagged, toiling brain, the heavy sluggish _driven_ pen, and straightened out certain indecisions at the end. Except for that, I have done no more than hack here and there at clumsy phrases and repetitions. The worst thing in the earlier version, and the thing that rankled most in my mind, was the treatment of the relations of Helen Wotton and Graham. Haste in art is almost always vulgarisation, and I slipped into the obvious vulgarity of making what the newspaper syndicates call a "love interest" out of Helen. There was even a clumsy intimation that instead of going up in the flying-machine to fight, Graham might have given in to Ostrog, and married Helen. I have now removed the suggestion of these uncanny connubialities. Not the slightest intimation of any sexual interest could in truth have arisen between these two. They loved and kissed one another, but as a girl and her heroic grandfather might love, and in a crisis kiss. I have found it possible, without any very serious disarrangement, to clear all that objectionable stuff out of the story, and so a little ease my conscience on the score of this ungainly lapse. I have also, with a few strokes of the pen, eliminated certain dishonest and regrettable suggestions that the People beat Ostrog. My Graham dies, as all his kind must die, with no certainty of either victory or defeat.

Who will win--Ostrog or the People? A thousand years hence that will still be just the open question we leave to-day.


Read next: Chapter 1. Insomnia

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