H.G. Wells (1866-1946)
From Literary Anecdotes About 19th Century Authors Born After 1829

I BEGAN the New Year with my first and only regular job on a London daily. Cust had promised that I should have the next vacancy, whatever it was, on the Pall Mall, and the lot fell upon the dramatic criticism. I was summoned by telegram. `Here,' said Cust and thrust two small pieces of coloured paper into my hand.

`What are these?' I asked.
`Theatres. Go and do 'em.'
`Yes,' I said and reflected. `I'm willing to have a shot at it, but I ought to warn you that so far, not counting the Crystal Palace Pantomime and Gilbert and Sullivan, I've been only twice to a theatre.'
`Exactly what I want,' said Cust. `You won't be in the gang. You'll make a break.'
`One wears evening dress?'

It was not in Cust's code of manners to betray astonishment. `Oh yes. Tomorrow night especially. The Haymarket.'

We regarded each other thoughtfully for a moment. `Right oh,' said I and hurried round to a tailor named Millar in Charles Street who knew me to be solvent. `Can you make me evening clothes by tomorrow night?' I asked, `or must I hire them?'

The clothes were made in time, but in the foyer I met Cust and George Steevens ready to supply a criticism if I failed them and nothing came to hand from me. But I did the job in a fashion and posted my copy fairly written out in its bright red envelope before two o'clock in the morning in the Mornington Road pillar box. The play was `An Ideal Husband', a new and original play of modern life by Oscar Wilde. That was on the third of January 1895, and all went well. On the fifth I had to do Guy Domville, a play by Henry James at the St. James's Theatre.

From From H. G. Wells, Experiment in Autobiography (1934), ii. 534-535.

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