HG Wells's "Tono-Bungay," a memoir about quack remedies, as a free audiobook

A reader writes, "Librivox [ed: a trove of free, volunteer-read audio adaptations of public domain books] has released the audio version of Tono-Bungay the classic semi-autobiographical novel by H. G. Wells." From Wikipedia:

Tono-Bungay is a realist semi-autobiographical novel. It is narrated by George Ponderevo, a science student who is drafted in to help with the promotion of Tono-Bungay, a harmful stimulant disguised as a miraculous cure-all, the creation of his uncle Edward. The quack remedy Tono-Bungay seems to have been based upon the patent medicines Carter's Little Liver Pills and Dr. Williams' Pink Pills for Pale People.... As the tonic prospers, George experiences a swift rise in social status, elevating him to riches and opportunities that he had never imagined, nor indeed desired. The novel displays Edward's social climbing satirically, and also George's discomfort at rising in social class. The hero's personal life is narrated with unusual frankness for an Edwardian novel.... The empire eventually overextends itself and then collapses. George tries unsuccessfully to save his uncle and eventually ends up designing battleships for the highest bidder. (Summary from Wikipedia)


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  1. The part where they dig the radioactive rare-earth “quap” out of an island off the coast of Africa, is eerily prescient. Like a lot of Wells, sure, but really good. Here’s the narrator on how existentially creepy radioactivity is for him and his Edwardian certainties:

    To my mind radio-activity is a real disease of matter. Moreover, it is a contagious disease. It spreads. You bring those debased and crumbling atoms near others and those too presently catch the trick of swinging themselves out of coherent existence. It is in matter exactly what the decay of our old culture is in society, a loss of traditions and distinctions and assured reactions. When I think of these inexplicable dissolvent centres that have come into being in our globe—these quap heaps are surely by far the largest that have yet been found in the world; the rest as yet mere specks in grains and crystals—I am haunted by a grotesque fancy of the ultimate eating away and dry-rotting and dispersal of all our world. So that while man still struggles and dreams his very substance will change and crumble from beneath him. I mention this here as a queer persistent fancy. Suppose, indeed, that is to be the end of our planet; no splendid climax and finale, no towering accumulation of achievements, but just—atomic decay! I add that to the ideas of the suffocating comet, the dark body out of space, the burning out of the sun, the distorted orbit, as a new and far more possible end—as Science can see ends—to this strange by-play of matter that we call human life. I do not believe this can be the end; no human soul can believe in such an end and go on living, but to it science points as a possible thing, science and reason alike. If single human beings—if one single ricketty infant—can be born as it were by accident and die futile, why not the whole race? These are questions I have never answered, that now I never attempt to answer, but the thought of quap and its mysteries brings them back to me.

    SRLSY read the book it’s good.

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