Skip to main content


  • Meegan Kennedy (a1)

H. G. Wells's 1908 novel Tono-Bungay is a remarkable concoction, binding together characters and setting out of Dickens, sparkling imitations of fin-de-siécle commodity culture and new media, bitter social satire inflected by Wells's socialism, fascination with invention and flight, and murderous imperial adventure. Readers, though often seduced by the wit and precision of Wells's depiction of patent medicines and their advertisements, have not known whether to read the narrative as anti-Bildungsroman, Condition of England novel, science fiction, or imperial romance. It is no wonder that many critics have labeled this novel a failure.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Available formats
Hide All
Allen, Walter. The English Novel: A Short Critical History. New York: Penguin, 1971.
Arnold, David. The Tropics and the Traveling Gaze: India, Landscape, and Science, 1800–1856. Seattle: U of Washington P, 2006.
Bartrip, Peter. “Secret Remedies, Medical Ethics, the BMJ.” The Codification of Medical Morality. Ed. Baker, Robert. Boston: Kluwer Academic, 1995. 191204.
Beckett, Chris. “Attitudes to Political and Commercial Endorsement in the Business Papers of Silas Mainville Burroughs, with Particular Reference to Henry Morton Stanley.” Medical History 52.1 (2008): 107–28.
Bland, Hubert. Rev. of Tono-Bungay. Daily Chronicle (Feb. 1909): 3.
“Bovril Repels Influenza (advertisement).” Illustrated London News, no. 3593 (Saturday, Feb. 29, 1908): 324. Illustrated London News Historical Archive. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.
British Medical Association. Secret Remedies: What They Cost and What They Contain. London: British Medical Association, 1909.
“Burmah Cup.” Daily Mirror (20 July 1904): 14.
Burroughs Wellcome. Abridged List of Fine Products Issued by Burroughs Wellcome & Co, 1906. USA, 1906. Wellcome Foundation. Archives and Manuscripts, WF/M/GB/01/07/02. [Circulars Book 6 - Part 2]. Wellcome Library, London.
Burroughs Wellcome. Anaesthetics: Ancient and Modern: An Historical Sketch of Anesthaesia. London: Burroughs Wellcome, 1907.
Burroughs Wellcome. Chemical and Galenical Supplement 1907. London: Burroughs Wellcome, 1907. Wellcome Foundation. Archives and Manuscripts, WF/M/GB/01/07, no. 118. [Circulars Book 6]. Wellcome Library, London.
Burroughs Wellcome. The Evolution of Journalism Etcetera. Souvenir of the International Press Conference London 1909. London: Burroughs Wellcome, 1909.
Burroughs Wellcome. Modern London: Souvenir of the First Universal Races Congress, London, 1911. 1911.
Burroughs Wellcome. The romance of exploration and emergency first-aid from Stanley to Byrd. New York: Burroughs Wellcome, [1934].
Burroughs Wellcome. “Tabloid”: A Brief Medical Guide (for Foreign and Colonial Use Only). London: Burroughs Wellcome. After 1928. Wellcome Library, London, Image no. M14856.
Burroughs Wellcome. Wellcome's Medical Diary and Visiting List 1907. London: Burroughs Wellcome, 1907. Wellcome Foundation. Archives and Manuscripts, WF/M/PB/003/20. Wellcome Library, London.
Church, Roy. “Trust, Burroughs Wellcome & Co. and the Foundation of a Modern Pharmaceutical Industry in Britain, 1880–1914.” Business History 48.3 (2006): 376–98.
Church, Roy A, and Tansey, E. M.. Burroughs, Wellcome & Co.: Knowledge, Trust, Profit and the Transformation of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, 1880–1940. Lancaster: Crucible, 2007.
Corley, T. A. B.Beecham's, 1848–2000. From Pills to Pharmaceuticals.” Beecham's, 1848–2000: From Pills to Pharmaceuticals. Lancaster: Crucible Books, 2011.
“Emin Pasha's Medicine Chest.” Times 35671 (11Nov. 1898): 4. Times Digital Archive. Web. 29 Nov. 2012. [Digitized under “By his will Mr Ralph Disraeli”].
Esty, Jed. Unseasonable Youth: Modernism, Colonialism, and the Fiction of Development. New York: Oxford UP, 2012.
Gabriel, Joseph M. Medical Monopoly: Intellectual Property Rights and the Origins of the Modern Pharmaceutical Industry. Chicago: U Chicago P, 2014
Hammond, John R. A Preface to H. G. Wells. Harlow and New York: Longman: 2001.
Helfand, William. Quack, Quack, Quack: The Sellers of Nostrums in Prints, Posters, Ephemera & Books. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2002.
Hill, Jude. “Globe-trotting medicine chests: tracing geographies of collecting and pharmaceuticals.” Social & Cultural Geography 7.3 (June 2006): 365–84. Taylor & Francis Online. Web. 13 March 2013.
Hokkanen, Markku. “Imperial Networks, Colonial Bioprospecting and Burroughs Wellcome & Co.: The Case of Strophanthus Kombe from Malawi (1859–1915).” Social History of Medicine 25.3 (2012): 589607.
Holmes, E. M. “The Commercial History of Strophanthus.” Pharmaceutical Journal (17 March 1906): 312–14.
“International Medical Congress.” Glasgow Herald 191 (Monday, 11 Aug. 1890): 4. 19th Century British Library Newspapers. Web. 4 April 2013.
James, Simon J. Maps of Utopia: H. G. Wells, Modernity, and the End of Culture. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2012.
Jeal, Tim. Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa's Greatest Explorer. New Haven: Yale UP, 2007.
Johnson, Ryan. “Tabloid Brand Medicine Chests: Selling Health and Hygiene for the British Tropical Colonies.” Science as Culture 17.3 (2000): 249–68.
Keen, Suzanne. Victorian Renovations of the Novel: Narrative Annexes and the Boundaries of Representation. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998.
Kupinse, William. “Wasted Value: The Serial Logic of H. G. Wells's Tono-Bungay .” NOVEL 33.1 (1999): 5172. JSTOR. Web. 1 Dec. 2012.
Larson, Frances. An Infinity of Things: How Sir Henry Wellcome Collected the World: How Sir Henry Wellcome Collected the World. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009.
Lodge, David. The Language of Fiction: Essays in Criticism and Verbal Analysis of the English Novel. London: Routledge, 1966.
“The London Hippodrome.” Times 38519 (18 Nov. 1907): 17. Times Digital Archive. Web. 30 Nov. 2012.
Macy, John Albert. The Critical Game. New York: Boni and Liveright, 1922.
“Man's Fight with Nature [Rev. of Lankester, Kingdom of Man].” Daily Express (27 Feb. 1907).
McClintock, Anne. Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest. New York: Routledge, 1995.
McFarlane, Ross. “Tabloid.” Lancet. 373.9659 (17 Jan. 2009): 205.
Mendelson, Edward. “Introduction.” Tono-Bungay. Ed. Parrinder, Patrick. New York: Penguin, 2005.
Nevett, T. R. Advertising in Britain: A History. London: Heinemann, 1982.
Osseo-Asare, Abena Dove. “Bioprospecting and Resistance: Transforming Poisoned Arrows into Strophantin Pills in Colonial Gold Coast, 1885–1922.” Social History of Medicine 21.2 (2008): 269–90.
Parrinder, Patrick, ed. H. G. Wells: The Critical Heritage. London and Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972.
Porter, Roy. Health for Sale: Quackery in England, 1660–1850. Manchester: Manchester UP, 1989.
Rhodes James, Robert. Henry Wellcome. London: Hoder & Stoughton, 1994.
Richards, Thomas. The Commodity Culture of Victorian England: Advertising and Spectacle, 1851–1914. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1991.
Richards, Thomas. The Imperial Archive: Knowledge and the Fantasy of Empire. London: Verso, 1993.
Roberts, Cecil. Achievement: A Record of Fifty Years' Progress of Boots Pure Drug Company Ltd.[1888-1938]. [n.p.], 1939.
“Royal Naval Exhibition.” London Standard 20,848 (2 May 1891): 1.
Schorer, Mark. “Technique as Discovery.” Hudson Review 1.1 (1948): 6787.
Schupbach, William. “Illustrations From the Wellcome Institute Library: Sequah: An English ‘American Medicine’-Man in 1890.” Medical History 29: 272317.
Smith, F. B. The People's Health 1830–1910. London: Croom Helm, 1979.
Squillace, Robert. “Bennett, Wells, and the Persistence of Realism.” Columbia History of the British Novel. Ed. Richetti, John J., Bender, John, David, Deirdre, and Seidel, Michael. New York: Columbia UP, 1994. 658–84.
Stanley, Henry. The Autobiography of Sir Henry Morton Stanley, G.C.B. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2011.
Stanley, Henry. In Darkest Africa: or the Quest, Rescue, and Retreat of Emin, Governor of Equatoria. London: Sampson, Low, Marston, Searle, and Rivington, 1890.
“Tabloid Drama: Shakespeare ‘Boiled Down’ for the Music Halls.” Daily Express (14 March 1904): 5.
Turner, Helen, and Wellcome, Sir Henry Solomon. Henry Wellcome: The Man, His Collection and His Legacy. London: Wellcome Trust and Heinemann, 1980.
Ueyama, Takahiro. Health in the Marketplace: Professionalism, Therapeutic Desires, and Medical Commodification in Late-Victorian London. Palo Alto: Society for the Promotion of Science and Scholarship, 2012.
Weissmann, Gerald. “The Atlanta Falcon and Tono-Bungay: Dietary Supplements as Subprime Drugs.” FASEB Journal: Journal of the Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology 23.5 (May 2009): 1279–82.
Wellcome, Henry. “To the Editor of the Times.” Times 33167 (12 Nov. 1890): 10 (col. B). Times Digital Archive. Web. 29 Nov. 2012.
Wells, H. G. Experiment in Autobiography: Discoveries and Conclusions of a Very Ordinary Brain (Since 1866). Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1967.
Wells, H. G.. Tono-Bungay. Ed. Cheyette, Brian. 1908–09. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1996.
Wells, H. G.. Tono-Bungay: A Novel. New York: Duffield, 1922.
Young, James Harvey. The Toadstool Millionaires: a Social History of Patent Medicines in America before Federal Regulation. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1961.
Youngs, Tim. Travellers in Africa: British Travelogues, 1850–1900. Manchester: Manchester UP, 1994.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Victorian Literature and Culture
  • ISSN: 1060-1503
  • EISSN: 1470-1553
  • URL: /core/journals/victorian-literature-and-culture
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 53
Total number of PDF views: 77 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 210 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 13th February 2017 - 24th April 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.