The Full Wiki

More info on The Wheels of Chance

The Wheels of Chance: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Wheels of Chance  
The Wheels of Chance - A Holiday Adventure
Author H. G. Wells
Illustrator J. Ayton Symington
Country  United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Comedy
Publisher J. M. Dent & Co
Publication date 1896 [1]
Media type Print (Hardbound)
Pages 313 pp
Preceded by The Island of Doctor Moreau
Followed by The Invisible Man

The Wheels of Chance is an early comic novel by H. G. Wells about a cycle holiday, somewhat in the style of Three Men in a Boat.

Plot introduction

This novel was written at the height of the cycling craze (1890-1905) when practical, comfortable bicycles first became widely and cheaply available, and before the rise of the automobile (see History of the bicycle). The advent of the bicycle stirred sudden and profound changes in the social life of England. Even the working class could travel substantial distances, quickly and cheaply, and the very idea of travelling for pleasure became a possibility for thousands of people for the first time. This new freedom affected many. It began to weaken the rigid English class structure and it gave an especially powerful boost to the existing movement toward female emancipation.

These are the social changes Wells explores in this story. His hero, Mr. Hoopdriver, is a draper's assistant in Putney, a badly-paid, grinding position on the bottom fringes of the middle class (and one which Wells briefly held); and yet he owns a bicycle and is just setting out on a bicycling tour for his annual ten days holiday.

Wells portrays Hoopdriver as a dreamer full of Mitty-esque fantasies, and pokes fun at his shaky riding skills. Hoopdriver's awkwardness, the fact that the bicycle is only just under control and keeps getting away from him, can be seen as a metaphor for how Wells saw his entire society: uncertain and only barely keeping its balance on this new machine. But Wells likes Hoopdriver and truly appreciates the bicycle as well. He describes the start of Hoopdriver's adventure in a lyrical passage that any cyclist would enjoy:

Only those who toil six long days out of the seven, and all the year round, save for one brief glorious fortnight or ten days in the summer time, know the exquisite sensations of the First Holiday Morning. All the dreary, uninteresting routine drops from you suddenly, your chains fall about your feet...There were thrushes in the Richmond Road, and a lark on Putney Heath. The freshness of dew was in the air; dew or the relics of an overnight shower glittered on the leaves and grass...He wheeled his machine up Putney Hill, and his heart sang within him.

Not far along, Hoopdriver encounters a pretty young woman cycling alone and wearing rationals (bloomers).

Hoopdriver doesn't dare speak to the Young Lady in Grey, as he calls her, but their paths keep crossing. She is a girl of seventeen who has run away from her stepmother, and is unknowingly, in great moral danger, on the verge of being "ruined" by an older and unscrupulous companion. Eventually, and almost accidentally, Hoopdriver saves her from this fate, and the two wander in innocent companionship across the south of England until the real world, in the shape of the young woman's family, catch up with them.

Wells used real places and the entire route can be followed on a map.

Jessie's bookish and romantic education has kept her ignorant of the realities of life, and her ignorance allows Hoopdriver, half-accidentally to develop a fantasy of being not a draper, but an adventurer recently returned from Africa. Jessie longs to live a real life, meaning an independent life free of conventional limits. She has developed these ideas from reading "modern" novels about women written by her stepmother; Wells is satirical throughout about the harmful effects of the wrong kind of reading matter on impressionable young imaginations.

In the end, both Jessie and Hoopdriver go back to their former lives, Jessie with little possibility of greater freedom but Hoopdriver with some possibility of advancing out of his dead-end job. Wells explicitly denies the reader a finished, happy ending. He only claims not to know what happens to them next, and invites our sympathy for both. If the book is a metaphor for the effect of the bicycle on society, its ending is simply an admission that Wells can't tell if the revolution brought by its wheels will be good or bad.

The text of Wheels of Chance is freely available at several sites on the internet.


External links


Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

The Wheels of Chance: A Bicycling Idyll
by H. G. Wells
Information about this edition
The Wheels of Chance is a novel by H. G. Wells, first published in 1895. This novel was written at the peak of what has been called the Golden Age of the bicycle—the years of 1890-1905 when practical, comfortable bicycles first became widely and cheaply available, and before the rise of the automobile (see History of the bicycle).— Excerpted from The Wheels of Chance on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The Wheels of Chance: A Bicycling Idyll

By H.G. Wells.


  • The Principal Character in the Story
  • The Riding Forth of Mr. Hoopdriver
  • The Shameful Episode of the Young Lady in Grey
  • On the Road to Ripley
  • How Mr. Hoopdriver was Haunted
  • The Imaginings of Mr. Hoopdriver's Heart
  • Omissions
  • The Dreams of Mr. Hoopdriver
  • How Mr. Hoopdriver Went to Haslemere
  • How Mr. Hoopdriver Reached Midhurst
  • An Interlude
  • Of the Artificial in Man, and of the Zeitgeist
  • The Encounter at Midhurst
  • The Pursuit
  • At Bognor
  • The Moonlight Ride
  • The Surbiton Interlude
  • The Awakening of Mr Hoopdriver
  • The Departure from Chichester
  • The Unexpected Anecdote of the Lion
  • The Rescue Expedition
  • Mr. Hoopdriver, Knight-Errant
  • The Abasement of Mr. Hoopdriver
  • In the New Forest
  • At the Rufus Stone
  • The Envoy
PD-icon.svg This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.

The author died in 1946, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 60 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address