Installment 8 Annotations Transcript

The War of the Worlds: Pearson’s Magazine Installment 8 Annotations

by Madeline B. Gangnes

This installment comprises the text that is roughly comparable to Book II (“London Under the Martians”), Chapter II through Chapter VI of the 1898 collected edition and subsequent version.

The majority of the annotations on this page draw from the following critical editions of The War of the Worlds, which will be cited and tagged according to the last name(s) of the editor(s) of that edition:

DANAHAY: Martin A. Danahay. The War of the Worlds. Broadview Press, 2003.

HUGHES AND GEDULD: David Y. Hughes and Harry M. Geduld, eds. A Critical Edition of The War of the Worlds: H. G. Wells’s Scientific Romance, with Introduction and Notes by David Y. Hughes and Harry M. Geduld. Indiana UP, 1993.

MCCONNELL: Frank McConnell, ed. The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds: A Critical Edition. Oxford UP, 1977.

STOVER: Leon Stover. The War of the Worlds: A Critical Text of the 1898 London First Edition, with an Introduction, Illustrations and Appendices. McFarland and Company, Inc, 2001.

Madeline Gangnes has added additional annotations and resources, especially those that address materials related to Pearson’s Magazine and adaptations of the text. They are cited with their source(s) (where applicable) and referenced as GANGNES.

Annotation: So it came about that I and the curate were imprisoned out of the sight of, and yet within sound of, the Martians, and by creeping up to the triangular hole in the broken wall, we could even lie (and to that our courage attained on the second day) peeping through a narrow crack between two masses of plaster at them.

GANGNES: The first six paragraphs of Chapter XIX were cut from the text when it was collected as a volume, and replaced with a similar amount of text at the beginning of what became Book II, Chapter II of the 1898 volume. See text comparison page.

The replacement of this section relates to Wells’s reorganization of the narrative toward the end of the novel. Certain devices, such as the foreshadowing of sentences like “The dreadful thing that happened at last between myself and the curate, and how in the end I escaped from that house, I will defer from telling in this chapter,” are not as necessary in a volume; in fact, they can disrupt narrative flow. Foreshadowing helps keep a serial reader interested in an installment of a story and interested in buying the next one when it comes out.

Annotation: these wretched creatures

GANGNES: Which is to say, the human being captured by the Martians.

Annotation: tympanic surface

From MCCONNELL 244: “Like the tympanum, the vibrating membrane of the middle ear.”

From DANAHAY 143: “A tympan is a drum, so the Martian skin here is like a drum.”

Annotation: The greater part of the structure is the brain, sending enormous nerves to the eyes, ear and tentacles.

From DANAHAY 144: “The Martians are all brain, in keeping with Wells’s theory that the bodies of ‘advanced’ creatures would atrophy through disuse.”

Annotation: pipette

From DANAHAY 144: “a small glass tube used by chemists to move liquid from one area to another”

Annotation: The bare idea of this is no doubt horribly repulsive to us, but at the same time I think that we should remember how repulsive our carnivorous habits would seem to an intelligent rabbit.

GANGNES: The text beginning with “I know it is…” and ending with “But I wander from my subject” several paragraphs later was cut from the 1898 volume. See text comparison page.

STOVER argues, “The reason Wells cut this passage from the book version is probably aesthetic. He did not wish to give away to much, if he were to keep with the novel’s deepest artistic ambiguity” (188). However, this assessment risks oversimplifying an extensive edit. Apart from “giving away too much”–offering a lot of information that the narrator would not find out until much later and therefore informing the reader of details about the Martians relatively early–this passage can come off as “preachy” or overly philosophical in a way Wells may have later decided he disliked.

This omitted section tells us a great deal not only about the Martians’ grisly study of a live human subject, but also about the narrator’s ideologies. Looking back on his first glimpses of the Martians from a later time of safety, the narrator offers a kind of persuasive philosophical essay (he is, by trade, a professional writer of similar essays) on the ethical and moral lessons to be gleaned, from the Martians’ behavior, about humans’ treatment of other animals.

While the passage may “wander from [the narrator’s] subject,” it offers an intriguing dissonance between the narrator’s terror of being killed by the Martians–to the point where he sacrifices others’ lives–and his cool, high-minded defense of their consumption of human beings.

In the end, Wells retains only the first sentence of this passage in the volume to speak very briefly to the narrator’s philosophical thoughts on the matter. What we gain in narrative flow and “artistic ambiguity,” we may lose in characterization.

Annotation: I think that we should remember how repulsive our carnivorous habits would seem to an intelligent rabbit.

GANGNES: Passages such as these garnered praise for the novel in late-Victorian vegetarian publications such as The Herald of the Golden Age (1896-1918) and The Vegetarian Magazine (1890-1909).

More information:

Annotation: tenth Cylinder

From STOVER 188: re cutting this section, “Wells may have considered the fact that the narrator’s reference to a ‘tenth cylinder’ is three too many. On the other hand, his miscounting of the seven actual landings would be consistent with his unreliability on so many other points.”

Annotation: vivisects

GANGNES: Vivisection is “the action of cutting or dissecting some part of a living organism; spec. the action or practice of performing dissection, or other painful experiment, upon living animals as a method of physiological or pathological study” (Oxford English Dictionary).

Since Wells cut this section from the volume, no explicit reference to vivisection remains in a collected edition of the novel. However, the practice is central to Wells’s 1896 novel The Island of Doctor Moreau.

More information:

Annotation: tear out the hair of the living women they captured, in order to deck themselves with the spoils; nor did they, in my judgment, carry the sporting instinct quite so far as men

GANGNES: These are references to how human beings treat “lower animals”; for example, hunting them for fun, skinning them or cutting their horns for clothing and jewelry, and so forth. The comparison would be especially appropriate during a time when “big game”/trophy/sport hunting in colonial locales (especially Africa) was popular among British men. A particularly tragic example is the ivory trade, which forms the backdrop of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899).

More information:

Annotation: birds used in pigeon shooting, theirs was indisputably a fortunate one. And the aimless collecting spirit which encourages the systematic impalement of insects by children

GANGNES: Live pigeon shooting was at peak popularity in late-1800s Britain. It involved rounding up live pigeons and releasing them in such a way that participants could shoot them with rifles mid-flight. Clay pigeon shooting was introduced in 1880 as a more controlled, convenient, and humane sport.

The “systematic impalement of insects” refers to butterfly collecting and other sorts of insect collecting–a fad that was extremely popular during the Victorian period (it features in George Eliot’s novel Middlemarch (1871-2)). Insects were displayed to their best advantage by driving a pin through their bodies to stick them into display boxes.

More information:

Annotation: healthy or unhealthy livers

From DANAHAY 145: “Wells himself suffered from liver problems.”

Annotation: silicious

From MCCONNELL 245: “growing in silica-rich soil, crystalline”

From DANAHAY 145: “crystalline, made of silica or sand”

Annotation: would have crushed them

GANGNES: The following sentence is added here to the 1898 volume: “And while I am engaged in this description, I may add in this place certain further details which, although they were not all evident to us at the time, will enable the reader who is unacquainted with them to form a clearer picture of these offensive creatures.” Wells makes a clearer distinction in the collected volume between his narrator’s thoughts and feelings during the time of the narrative, and those during the writing of the narrative. See text comparison page.

Annotation: In three other points the Martian physiology differs from ours.

GANGNES: There are many small changes made to the descriptions of the Martians for the collected volume (see text comparison page). A seemingly nitpicky one is that every instance of a present-tense state of being (e.g., “differs,” “do,” “have,” etc.) is past-tense in the volume. This is perhaps not a material difference, but it does affect the reader’s understanding of whether the Martians might still be around at the end of the narrative, and/or if human beings can no longer consider Martians to be a thing of the past even if they defeat them; the Martians still exist on other planets.

Annotation: the case with the ants

GANGNES: Ants do sleep, though not in the same way humans or many other animals do.

More information:

Annotation: wonderful

GANGNES: In this case, strange and unbelievable (not inherently a good thing).

Annotation: sex

GANGNES: In this case, the word refers to an organism’s sex based on chromosomes (which most Victorians would conflate with gender). The “budding off” makes it clear that Martians do not have sexual intercourse, so any differences in chromosomes (if any) are inconsequential. The Martians have achieved a kind of asexual utopia, where their energies and emotions are not “wasted” on finding a mate. Human beings with our base instincts and inefficient digestive systems don’t stand a chance against advanced beings who quickly process sustenance, never sleep, and don’t have to bother with courtship and breeding.

Annotation: budded off just as young lily bulbs

From DANAHAY 145: “the bulbs of a lily that reproduce by budding off from each other through the process of fission, a form of asexual reproduction”

Annotation: fresh water polyp

From MCCONNELL 246: “a sedentary marine animal with a fixed base like a plant, and sensitive tendrils (palp) around its mouth with which it snares its prey”

From DANAHAY 145: “a sedentary type of animal form characterized by a more or less fixed base, columnar body, and free end with mouth and tentacles”

Annotation: Tunicates

From MCCONNELL 246: “marine animals with saclike bodies and two protruding openings for the ingestion and expulsion of water (their means of locomotion)”

From STOVER 190: “The Tunicates … are Sea Squirts, belonging to the Urchordata, a subphylum of chordata or ‘vertebrated animals [to which they are] first cousins.’”

From DANAHAY 146: “a subspecies of sea animals that have saclike bodies and minimal digestive systems”

Annotation: the case

GANGNES: The 1898 version of the novel adds two paragraphs here about the thoughts of “a certain speculative writer of quasi-scientific repute” on Martian technology and anatomy. This is commonly thought to be a cheeky reference to Wells himself. See text comparison page.

Annotation: But of that I will write more at length later.

GANGNES: This line is replaced in the 1898 volume with “A hundred diseases, all the fevers and contagions of human life, consumption, cancers, tumours and such morbidities, never enter the scheme of their life.” This constitutes a subtle foreshadowing about the ultimate fate of the Martians and is perhaps a bit more elegantly constructed than the serial’s sentence.

Annotation: its cactus-like branches

GANGNES: Illustrations of the Red Weed vary significantly across illustrations and adaptations of The War of the Worlds. In many cases, the weed resembles a creeping vine or red kelp. Only one of the novel’s major illustrators, Johan Briede, took the “cactus-like” quality of the plants to heart. Briede’s illustrations were published in The Strand Magazine in 1920 with an introduction from Wells himself.

More information:

Annotation: carmine

From DANAHAY 147: bright red

Annotation: I found it broadcast

GANGNES: The narrator heard about the Red Weed spreading across England through its waterways.

Annotation: a stream of water.

GANGNES: A new paragraph is added here for the 1898 volume. See text comparison page. This paragraph constitutes one of the most significant revisions to the novel in terms of the text’s relationship with Pearson’s and illustration. The new paragraph covertly criticizes Warwick Goble’s illustrations of the novel:

“I recall particularly the illustration of one of the first pamphlets to give a consecutive account of the war. The artist had evidently made a hasty study of one of the Fighting Machines, and there his knowledge ended. He presented them as tilted, stiff tripods, without either flexibility or subtlety, and with an altogether misleading monotony of effect. The pamphlet containing these renderings had a considerable vogue, and I mention them here simply to warn the reader against the impression they may have created. They were no more like the Martians I saw in action than a Dutch doll is like a human being. To my mind, the pamphlet would have been much better without them.”

Wells’s friend English writer Arnold Bennett noticed the new passage and wrote to Wells: “I gathered … that you were not exactly enchanted with Warwick Goble’s efforts.” Wells admitted the intentional critique: Goble “made people think my tale was a wearisome repetition of kettles on camera stands. I really don’t think he put a fair quantity of brain into that enterprise or I wouldn’t have slanged him in the book.”


Annotation: other artificial additions to their bodily resources

GANGNES: The Fighting Machines, Handling Machines, Heat Ray, and other Martian technologies that are useful rather than for ornamentation or protection from the elements.

Annotation: Lilienthal soaring machines

From MCCONNELL 249: “Otto Lilienthal (1848-1896), German engineer, was the chief developer of glider flight.”

From HUGHES AND GEDULD 219: “German engineer Otto Lilienthal (1848-1896) was one of the pioneers of man-bearing gliders.”

From DANAHAY 148: “gliders invented by Otto Lilienthal (1849-1896), a German engineer”

Annotation: sticks

From HUGHES AND GEDULD 219: “‘Sticks’ was a common abbreviation for ‘shooting-sticks’; pistols.”

Annotation: evolution

GANGNES: In this case, not just the “natural” process that we commonly associate with Charles Darwin’s capital-E Evolution, but rather, a biological evolution progressing alongside technological innovation. Martians’ technologies are far more evolved than humans’, but their tools and technologies are as well.

Annotation: wearing different bodies according to their need

GANGNES: The Fighting Machines, Handling Machines, and so forth, serve as body augmentations for the Martians, in a way. Their physiology as mostly brains with dexterous tentacles for digits makes them ideally suited to operate in this way.

Annotation: There was the gigantic marching, fighting body of metal, carrying the generator of the Heat Ray, which I have already described.

GANGNES: The text from this point through the end of the chapter was cut from the 1898 volume and replaced by a more objective rumination on the differences between human and Martian technology–including the absence of the wheel in Martian machines–and more observations about the specifics of Martian anatomy and abilities. Instead of ending on the Martians’ killing of a young boy for food, the chapter concludes with the curate drawing the narrator’s attention back to him. See text comparison page.

Annotation: Handling Machine

From STOVER 199: “The ‘Handling Machines’ are robots, which here make them their first appearance in science fiction.”

GANGNES: Illustrations of the Martians’ technology have strongly favored the iconic tripod fighting machines, with almost no depictions of the handling machines. A notable exception is the below image by Brazilian artist Henrique Alvim Correa, who created it as part of a series of illustrations for a limited-edition Belgian volume (1906).

Annotation: . . . . .

GANGNES: Here, Wells leaves us to imagine what death-by-Martian would look like. All we know is that the narrator does not seem to think that Martians are cruel, and that they inject themselves with blood from living victims in order to survive.


GANGNES: The 1898 volume is revised and reorganized here in such a way that there is another chapter–”The Days of Imprisonment”–before “The Death of the Curate.” Between the first two paragraphs of this chapter in the serial and the third one (“After the eighth day…”), there is a massive amount of text added and shifted around to restructure the narrator’s account of the time he and the curate spent in the ruined house before the curate died. These changes alter the pacing significantly. See text comparison page.

Annotation: the swift tragedy that had burst upon the world had deranged his mind

GANGNES: The narrator believes the curate to be suffering from what we would now call Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Victorians might have referred to this condition as “male hysteria” in the curate’s case; soon it would be called “Shell Shock” due to the PTSD experienced by soldiers during the First World War.

Annotation: The brotherhood of man! To make the best of every child that comes into the world! . . How we have wasted our brothers! . . . . . Oppressors of the poor and needy. . . . The Wine Press of God!

From MCCONNELL 257: “A jumble of Biblical allusions, probably the most important of which is to Isaiah 63:3, an image of apocalypse or the vengeance of God.”

From DANAHAY 155 (re just “The Wine Press of God”): See Isaiah 63:3.

Annotation: copper

From MCCONNELL 258: “a very large kettle, usually made of iron; a common feature of kitchens at the turn of the century”

From DANAHAY 155: a large kettle

Annotation: I have been still too long

From STOVER 209: “A dim echo of Isaiah 42:14, ‘I have been still, and refrained myself.’ The rest of the curate’s rantings descend into more biblical-sounding rhetoric. He is now so self-indulgent in his righteousness that he loses control of scripture, once the very basis of his sense of failing. It is a nice comment on the weakness of theological doctrine to cope with truly catastrophic, even apocalyptic events like the Lisbon earthquake.”

Annotation: Woe unto this unfaithful city. Woe, woe! Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabitants of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet

From MCCONNELL 258: “another jumble of Biblical allusions, mainly to the Book of Amos in the Old Testament and to Revelation in the New.”

From HUGHES AND GEDULD 219: “Most of the passage is merely biblical-sounding rhetoric. ‘I have been still too long’ apparently echoes [Isaiah] 42:14: ‘I have been still, and refrained myself.’”

Annotation: stun

GANGNES: In this case, a tool or object the narrator can use to knock the curate unconscious or make him quiet some other way.

Annotation: butt

GANGNES: the end of the handle of the meat cleaver

Annotation: Then I rushed to the door in the scullery.

GANGNES: The Martian tentacle’s search for the narrator was revised and expanded somewhat for the 1898 volume. The changes slow the pacing down and increase tension. See text comparison page.

Annotation: split ring

From MCCONNELL 259: “a large key-ring, for keeping all the keys of a household”

Annotation: Briareus

From MCCONNELL 259: “in Greek myth, a pre-Olympian giant with fifty heads and a hundred hands.”

From HUGHES AND GEDULD 220: “In Greek mythology Briareus was a giant with fifty heads and a hundred hands.”

From STOVER 210: “Briareus, in Greek mythology, is a giant with fifty heads and a hundred hands. The Martians’ robotic Handling Machines are the multiplex hands of their guiding heads–one giant in their common purpose.”

From DANAHAY 156: “in mythology, a monster with a hundred hands”

More information:

Annotation: I thought at once that it would tell of my presence from the mark of the blow I had given him.

GANGNES: The narrator thinks that the Martians are smart enough to tell by looking at the curate’s head injury that there must be some other human inside the house who had attacked the curate.

Annotation: worried

GANGNES: In this case, according to the Oxford English Dictionary: “to pull or tear at (an object).”

Annotation: catch

GANGNES: In this case, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, “a device for fastening or checking the motion of something, esp. a latch or other mechanism for fastening a door, window, etc.”

Annotation: touching and examining

GANGNES: The tactile nature of the Martians’ hunt for the narrator is a scene of intense tension in adaptations and illustrations of the novel. Byron Haskin’s 1953 film increases the danger posed by the machine’s searching tentacle by adding a mechanical “eye” to its end, so that the characters must stay out of sight as well as still.

More information:

Annotation: Apparently the Martian had taken it all on the previous day.

GANGNES: This is a truly terrifying moment if we remember that the Martians do not digest food. They did not take the supplies in the pantry because they wanted them; they took the supplies because they suspected that a human being was in the house, and by taking the provisions they can starve him out.

Annotation: My mind ran on eating.

GANGNES: Which is to say, all the narrator can think about is eating food.

Annotation: On the thirteenth day

GANGNES: This paragraph was revised and expanded somewhat to include evidence of remorse from the narrator over his role in the curate’s death (see text comparison page):

“During these days, in a rambling, inconclusive way, I thought much of the curate and of the manner of his death.

On the thirteenth day I drank some more water, and dozed and thought disjointedly of eating and of vague impossible plans of escape. Whenever I dozed I dreamt of horrible phantasms, of the death of the curate, or of sumptuous dinners; but, asleep or awake, I felt a keen pain that urged me to drink again and again. The light that came into the scullery was no longer grey, but red. To my disordered imagination it seemed the colour of blood.”

We get no such indication that the narrator regrets sacrificing the curate’s life to save his own in the serial.

Annotation: ruddy

GANGNES: red or red-brown

Annotation: sand. I

GANGNES: The 1898 version adds the following small paragraph between these two sentences (see text comparison page):

“Slowly I thrust myself out through the red weed, and stood upon the mound of rubble. I could see in any direction save behind me, to the north, and neither Martians nor sign of Martians were to be seen. The pit dropped sheerly from my feet, but a little way along the rubbish afforded a practicable slope to the summit of the ruins. My chance of escape had come. I began to tremble.”


GANGNES: There is no paragraph here in the 1898 volume; it was moved to after “…gently swaying” (with a new sentence to end it: “And oh! the sweetness of the air!”) and renamed, “The Work of Fifteen Days.” See text comparison page.

Annotation: without a solitary terrestrial growth to dispute their footing

GANGNES: There are no Earth plants around to compete with the Red Weed for space; the red Martian plants are taking over Earth’s green vegetation.

Annotation: For a time I stood marvelling at the change that had come over the world.

GANGNES: This paragraph is revised and expanded into a lengthy passage wherein the narrator grapples with the changes in the countryside around him after finally escaping from the ruined house. He is reckless and dazed for a few moments before he gets a hold of himself again and begins to search for food. See text comparison page.

Annotation: insecurity

GANGNES: In this case, vulnerability or lack of safety.

Annotation: gladiolus

GANGNES: Gladiolus are flowering plants, not vegetables. The flowers and greens are edible to humans, but eating the bulbs is not advised.

More information:

Annotation: fecundity

From DANAHAY 161: fertility

Annotation: cankering

From MCCONNELL 265: “Rotting from within. This is an instance of ‘foreshadowing’ in the classic tradition of the Victorian novel. The death of the red Martian weed is our first hint that the invasion of the Martians themselves may be doomed to failure through the same ‘natural’ processes.”

Annotation: But this is an anticipation.

GANGNES: This line was cut from the 1898 volume. It is the kind of text marker designed to keep serial audiences engaged in the narrative and clamoring to buy the next installment, but in a volume it may come off as unnecessary foreshadowing that distracts from the flow of the narrative. Wells has substituted another form of foreshadowing that is simultaneously subtler and more detailed. The following sentence was added just before this point (between “upon it.” and “The fronds”): “Now by the action of natural selection, all terrestrial plants have acquired a resisting power against bacterial diseases–they never succumb without a severe struggle, but the red weed rotted like a thing already dead.” See text comparison page.

Annotation: slake

From DANAHAY 161: “quench, to drink until no longer thirsty”

Annotation: Roehampton

From HUGHES AND GEDULD 233: “a suburb of London, about five miles southwest of the city center”

Annotation: came out on Putney Common. Here

GANGNES: The 1898 volume adds a few sentences here wherein the narrator again comments on the landscape through which he is traveling alone (see text comparison page):

“Here the scenery changed from the strange and unfamiliar to the wreckage of the familiar: patches of ground exhibited the devastation of a cyclone, and in a few score yards I would come upon perfectly undisturbed spaces, houses with their blinds trimly drawn and doors closed, as if they had been left for a day by the owners, or as if their inhabitants slept within. The red weed was less abundant; the tall trees along the lane were free from the red creeper.”

The addition enhances the desolate mood of the narrator’s journey and contributes to the visual writing style for which Wells is so often lauded.

Annotation: both hurried away from the advances I made them

GANGNES: Presumably the narrator is hoping to eat one of the dogs, as he planned to with the dog that came near the ruined house.

Annotation: I found the crushed and scattered bones of several cats and rabbits, and the skull of a sheep

GANGNES: It is not clear whether the Martians ate these animals, humans ate them, or other animals ate them. The text suggests that the Martians prefer to eat human beings.

Annotation: I went down Putney High Street

GANGNES: The section beginning here and ending with “…across the pavement” is either removed from the 1898 volume or repurposed and moved moved until after an additional chapter–”The Man on Putney Hill”–is inserted. There is a lengthier note about “The Man on Putney Hill” at the beginning of Installment 9. See text comparison page.

Annotation: as black as a sweep

GANGNES: Which is to say, like a chimney sweep covered in coal dust from cleaning a chimney.

Annotation: Fulham

From HUGHES AND GEDULD 229: “a district of West London, located just north of the Thames and south of Hammersmith, about four miles from the city center”

Annotation: Walham Green

From HUGHES AND GEDULD 234: “an area of Fulham, just north of the river Thames, about three miles southwest of central London”

Annotation: the City

From MCCONNELL 283: “the area [of London] north of the Thames, from the Tower of London on the East to St. Paul’s Cathedral on the west, enclosed within the original walls of London”

From HUGHES AND GEDULD 223 and 228: “On Sundays stores and businesses in the City of London are closed, and as the area is largely nonresidential, few people are to be seen.” The City is “London’s commercial and financial center, north of the Thames between the Temple (on the west) and Aldgate Pump (on the east). The Bank of England and the Royal Exchange are situated in The City.”

From DANAHAY 177: “the central part of London that contains many important financial and governmental buildings that would normally be closed on a Sunday”

Annotation: magnum

GANGNES: “a bottle for wine, spirits, etc., twice the standard size and now usually containing 1½ litres (formerly two quarts); the quantity of liquor held by such a bottle” (Oxford English Dictionary)

Annotation: pavement

GANGNES: The 1898 volume here adds the line “She seemed asleep, but she was dead.” This becomes a problem for consistency between the serial and the volume; see HUGHES AND GEDULD note in Installment 9.