The Axbridge Four Seasons Book Club have chosen The History of Mr Polly for their next novel to discuss. HG Well’s part biography of the fictional Mr Polly and part comical take on the foibles of lower middle class Edwardian England follows the likable but educationally stunted apprentice draper as he tries to make something of his life.
Published in 1910 Wells said that it was loosely based on the character of his brother Frank but also draws on his own experience of England in those early years of the 20th century.
Judged favourably by critics at the time and ever since the strength of the novel lies in its honesty and adherance to the thoughts and character of Mr Polly.
It’s lightness of touch has seen it as a favourite for school English literature classes to study and for children in general to read as a window on an adult world now lost. However the themes of self reflection and of making the choices in life are universal.
There have been a number of film and television adaptations including the 1949 movie with John Mills as Mr Polly, (below) while Lee Evans played the lead in an ITV production in 2007.
The BBC made two versions – both as a series – one in the 1950s and then again in the 1980 this time with Andrew Sachs as Polly. In the first series Emrys Jones played Polly in their five-part adaptation.
The Lee Evans Mr Polly (below) tended to come across more of a half-wit while John Mills managed to retain Mr Polly’s essential sensitiveness as he struggles with the twists and turns of life.