IF Mr. Wells' latest novel were a bit greater, the word "Blup" would doubtless join the Sargasso Sea of English Slang, and if Mr. Wells were not quite so competent in his own regular way, "Blup" would no doubt never be heard of. The theme of the novel is based on the same stale social satire which has been poured by the hogs-heads from the dripping quills of surviving English radicals of the nineties and of American cynics of the twenties. The hero is a prig conceived to be representative of the insignificant conservative. The author explains, by the story, that the prig was so developed by being the son of an insignificant conservative prig, by being nurtured on insignificant priggish conservatism. The basic cause of the hero's state, and of that of his ancestors and descendants, is day-dreaming.
This is one of those novels of which Mr. Rupert Hughes would say, as he did in his introduction to "Babbitt," that the author has so portrayed his subject that the reader says: "There, but for the grace of God, go I." Of course this is utterly wrong, for no reader identifies himself with the hero-cad to that degree, nor is the hero, who is as mentally inert as either of these, ever mirrored from life; vile cads and pure heroes do not occur full-blown in life. The characterization strikes one as incomplete and unreal for that very reason. Since the hero, Theodore Bulpington, occupies the centre of the stage to the exclusion of other complete and living characters, the novel contains little that is less shadowy than the main caricature.
Mr. Wells' novels have the unsatisfactory quality of being on the very outer periphery of the near-great. They are never whole-hearted, but strike an irritating intellectual pose. They usually discuss ragged problems, with only that touch of originality which makes for interest. They are surprisingly readable, and they are read. Perhaps the artist has always overtaxed himself, and has thus fallen short of his capabilities: perhaps the tremendous gush with which he has flooded the presses is but the indication of the artisan, Wells.