Churchill 'borrowed' famous lines from books by HG Wells

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Winston Churchill was a closet science fiction fan who borrowed the lines for one of his most famous speeches from HG Wells, says new research.

Dr Richard Toye, a history lecturer at Cambridge University, has discovered that the phrase "the gathering storm" - used by Churchill to describe the rise of Nazi Germany - had been written by Wells decades earlier in The War of the Worlds, which depicts an attack on Britain by Martians. Dr Toye also identified similarities between a speech Churchill made 100 years ago and Wells's book A Modern Utopia, published in 1905.

Tellingly, just two days before Churchill delivered the speech in Glasgow on 9 October 1906, he wrote to Wells to enthuse about the book, admitting: "I owe you a great debt."

"It's a bit like Tony Blair borrowing phrases from Star Trek or Doctor Who," Dr Toye said.

Dr Toye made the discoveries while researching a book on Churchill. He identified several points at which Churchill appeared to borrow Wells's ideas.

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Jonathan Dresner - 11/27/2006

I've always liked to mention Wells in my surveys, because he was both an historian and a speculative writer (and his speculative fiction sets the standard for a lot of 20th century literature and visual culture). Now I have another piece of evidence to use!