The Time Machine
How we cite our quotes:
Looking at these stars suddenly dwarfed my own troubles and all the gravities of terrestrial life. I thought of their unfathomable distance, and the slow inevitable drift of their movements out of the unknown past into the unknown future. (7.12)
This quote seems to reinforce the previous one: gosh, aren't we humans small potatoes. But in the previous quote, the Time Traveller noted the similarities that remained, whereas here he seems to be saying that past and future are unknown. That the future is unknown seems like a peculiar thought for someone who has invented a Time Machine. Or is he saying that the future will always remain unknown even with the Time Machine? As in, the future will simply be too complex and weird for people to understand?
The brown and charted rags that hung from the sides of it, I presently recognized as the decaying vestiges of books. They had long since dropped to pieces, and every semblance of print had left them. [...] Had I been a literary man I might, perhaps, have moralized upon the futility of all ambition. (8.9)
The "futility of all ambition" is an old theme in literature – check out Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Ozymandias" for a famous example – but here the Time Traveller somewhat turns that idea on its head by showing that all of literature might be futile in the long run. There's further irony here: Wells is writing a novel whose protagonist realizes that literature doesn't matter in the end.
In another place was a vast array of idols – Polynesian, Mexican, Grecian, Phoenician, every country on earth I should think. And here, yielding to an irresistible impulse, I wrote my name upon the nose of a steatite [soapstone] monster from South America that particularly took my fancy. (8.12)
After thinking about the futility of personal ambition, the Time Traveller seems to give in to that very impulse: he wants to leave some sign that he was there. This is another example of him acting less like a scientist and more like a normal (flawed) human being. Taking the long view is hard!