Literary Criticism

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The Wheels of Chance by H.G. Wells

With a student guide to the historical and social context of the novel

Jeremy Withers is an assistant professor in the Department of English at Iowa State University. His previous publications include Culture on Two Wheels: The Bicycle in Literature and Film (edited with Daniel P. Shea, University of Nebraska Press) and The War of the Wheels: H. G. Wells and the Bicycle (Syracuse University Press).

Mr. Hoopdriver is an overworked Londoner who spends most every day servilely waiting on customers at his job as a draper’s assistant. When it comes time for his annual holiday, he decides to put his newfound skills on a bicycle to the test by going on a ten-day cycling trip to the southern coast of England. A routine trip is turned upside down, however, when Hoopdriver crosses paths with Jessie, a young lady fleeing the constraints of conventional Victorian womanhood. The two cyclists eventually join up and try to help each other find a brighter future.

Written at the height of the late-19th century “bicycle craze” and rich in geographical detail of southern England, The Wheels of Chance is a captivating portrayal of two people attempting to break free of the dreary life society has carved out for them. The novel is also among Wells’s funniest works, rivaling his other comedic masterpieces such as Kipps and The History of Mr. Polly. Using a copy text of the 1925 Atlantic edition of the novel, this edition includes a full introduction providing historical context on the novel and biographical information on Wells, a further reading list, detailed notes, a map of Hoopdriver’s journey, a selection of contemporary reviews, and excerpts of letters by Wells relevant to the novel. The work has been specially prepared for student engagement and classroom use.

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-889-3
Paperback Price: £14.95 / $22.95
Release Date: January 2018
Page Extent / Format: 240 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No


Map of Hoopdriver’s Journey

Notes to Introduction
Select Bibliography

The Wheels of Chance
Editorial Notes to The Wheels of Chance

Discussion Questions
Suggested Paper Topics

The Wheels of Chance is both an early cycling classic and a picture of an era. In this long-overdue scholarly edition, Jeremy Withers provides an illuminating introduction to Wells's lively comedy.
Professor Patrick Parrinder, President, H. G. Wells Society

Wells’s engaging comic novel becomes even more enjoyable in this welcome new edition of The Wheels of Chance. Jeremy Withers’ scholarly introduction and notes set the novel thoughtfully into the context of the author’s life and times, with particular reference to the ‘bicycle boom’ of the 1890s, presenting readers with a host of insights that are bound to enhance appreciation of the book.
Michael Sherborne, author of the biography H. G. Wells: Another Kind of Life

In this innovative scholarly edition of H. G. Wells’s 1896 novel, Jeremy Withers provides a valuable resource for understanding and engaging with The Wheels of Chance and its context. The editor’s inclusion of an introduction, a map of the protagonist Hoopdriver’s cycle journey, notes on the text and discussion and essay questions all contribute to produce a didactic tool that will be appreciated by both teachers and students of Wells. This volume updates Wells’s classic cycling tale for a new audience, while actively encouraging critical engagement with the text. The introduction, bibliography, map and notes bring Wells’s story to life for new audiences and facilitate the work of those approaching the novel as an object of study.
The Wellsian: The Journal of the H. G. Wells Society

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