Methuen & Co Ltd
11 New Fetter Lane, London EC4

-- iv --

The end-paper design is from Tallis' view of Tottenham Court Road 
from north to south, circa 1838, reprinted from London's Old Latin 
Quarter, by E. Beresford Chancellor. 


First published in Great Britain in 1965
Copyright © 1963 by the University of Washington Press
Printed in the United States of America
Catalogue No. 02/9413/10

-- v --


FOR permission to quote from manuscripts, I am indebted to Mr. A. 
C. Gissing, to the Yale University Library, and to the Henry W. and 
Albert A. Berg Collection of the New York Public Library as owner 
of original documents, for access to its Gissing materials and its 
consent to publication. Permission to quote from manuscripts in the 
Carl H. Pforzheimer Library has been granted by the Carl and Lily 
Pforzheimer Foundation, Inc. Quotations from Demos are published 
by permission of E. P. Dutton and Company. I am indebted to 
Professor Susan H. Nobbe and the late Professor Angus Burrell, both 
of Columbia University, for guidance in preliminary work leading to 
this book. For assistance in locating materials, I should like to thank 
Mr. George Matthew Adams, Dr. John D. Gordan, Miss Eleanor L. 
Nicholes, Miss Marjorie G. Wynne, and staff members of the 
Huntington Library. I am indebted to Mme. Denise le Mallier and M. 
Pierre Coustillas for a number of important facts. 

This book was prepared with the support of the Research Fund of 
the Graduate School of the University of Washington and is 
published with the aid of a grant from the Agnes Anderson Fund. 

-- vi --

-- vii --


I	From Wakefield to London			3 
II	The Palace of Art				43 
III	Escape from the Slums			73 
IV	Reviews of the People			99 
V	Travel and Marriage				119 
VI	The Profession of Letters			154 
VII	A Victorian Dilemma in Fiction		166 
VIII	The Woman Problem				183 
IX	Dickens and Italy				214 
X	France and England				234 
XI	Sequels						253 

Notes							266 
Selected Bibliography					301 
Index							307


George Gissing in 1895					24 
Gabrielle Fleury Gissing, about 1904			25 
Eduard Bertz in 1895						25 
First page of the manuscript of Demos			56		 
First page of the manuscript of New Grub Street	57 

-- viii --

-- 1 --


-- 2 --

-- 3 --




THE evening of July 21, 1880, Frederic Harrison stayed up long past 
his usual bedtime to read a novel sent to him by an unknown 
author. It was a savagely realistic account of life in the slums of 
London, the story of an orphan boy who gains friends among the 
poor and grows up, in spite of poverty and abuse, into a thoughtful 
and talented young man. Although Harrison felt that the novel's 
treatment of "prostitutes, thieves, and debauchees" verged on 
impropriety, he was stirred by its confrontation of the social evils 
and ethical dilemmas to which he had de-voted his own career as a 
social reformer. The next day, in the first flush of his enthusiasm, 
and without giving himself a chance to finish the novel, he wrote to 
the author. "There can be no doubt as to the power of your book," 
he began. "It will take rank amongst the works of great rank of 
these years. . . . I especially hate the so-called realism of Zola. . . . 
Your book therefore goes against all my sympathies in art, so that 
my admiration for its imaginative power is wrung from me. . . . 
There are scenes, I am sure, which can hold their ground with the 
first things in modern fiction." *1* The book which won this praise 
from the reluctant Harrison was _Workers in the Dawn_. It was the 
first novel of a young man of twenty-two named George Gissing. 

The novelist was soon invited to dinner, and Harrison found him to 
be a tall, shy man whose serious dignity of manner made him seem 
older than his years. His face was pale, sensitive, delicate in feature, 
and touched with freckles. He wore a drooping, full mus- 

-- 4 --

George Gissing tache, and his flowing, wavy, reddish-brown hair 
was combed straight back from his high forehead. His light blue 
eyes, deep-set under a prominent brow, might already have begun 
to acquire the piercing, agonized look that they had in later years. 
His face was al-ways grave, and it sometimes bore an unconscious 
expression of deep sadness which contrasted with the neat waxing 
of his mustache, the conventional stiffness of his collar, and the 
vigor of his walk. Harrison liked the young writer, and, learning 
that he was poor and in need, made a cause of him. He invited him 
to visit often, wrote on his behalf to a number of literary men, 
including John Morley, then editor of the _Pall Mall Gazette_, and 
recommended him to friends as a private tutor. Toward the end of 
the year he engaged him to teach his two oldest sons, who were 
being educated at home. 

The new tutor was an immediate success. At the first lesson he 
introduced himself to his pupils with a grave smile, turned their 
names of Austin and Bernard into comic Latin, and made warm 
friends of them. He seemed full of resources for making the lessons 
more vivid and enjoyable. He could talk about Greece and Rome 
with a fiery enthusiasm that carried over to such dull subjects as 
Roman history. The boys found him as playful and energetic as 
themselves on occasion. He could see the amusing side of common 
things and bring it forward with gentle irony. Often his humor and 
laughter became so uproarious that their father, hearing the noise, 
came in from the next room to join in the joke. 

In public, however, Gissing's boisterous good humor melted away, 
and he became shy and self-conscious. "Gissing at parties was an 
unforgettable spectacle of misery," reports Austin Harrison. "He 
would sit in a corner of the room, crouched together like a wet bird, 
silent and strangely watchful." *2* The music played at these 
parties made a profound impression on him, and he was visibly 
moved as he listened. He could whistle very skillfully himself, in a 
low, soft style. The boys often made him repeat a favorite melody, 
"Twickenham Ferry," after their lesson was over. Gissing had his 
own odd way of keeping order in the schoolroom. When the boys 
misbehaved, he simply stared at them with his sad and tortured 
eyes until their own shame had corrected them. Then he laughed 
and continued the lesson. 

Because they loved to hear the discussions between their tutor 

-- 5 --

and their serious, dogmatic father, the boys often adopted the ruse 
of delaying their lessons so long that Gissing had to stay for lunch. 
Harrison was then in his fifties and in the middle of his career as a 
militant liberal. He had intended to become a clergyman as a young 
man, but his dissatisfaction with the church's general incompetence 
and indifference to social problems led him to revolt against his 
Evangelical upbringing. After holding a fellowship at Wadham 
College, Oxford, from 1854 to 1856, he decided not to take orders 
and instead entered legal practice in London. He read Comte under 
the influence of Richard Congreve, one of the first English 
Positivists, became a Radical, and entered upon his lifelong work of 
attacking mid-Victorian prejudices with typical mid-Victorian 
earnestness and depth of conviction. 

Harrison described himself as "a humble follower of Comte, Mill, 
Spencer and Darwin." *3* A firm Positivist, he felt that the rapidly 
developing sciences had profound implications for political and 
social life and might serve as the source of a new ethical ideal, 
Although he was sympathetic with the 1848 revolutions and the 
Paris Commune of 1871, he advocated reform rather than 
revolution in England. Popular education, improved working 
conditions, and liberal labor legislation were among his interests. By 
the time Gissing came to know him, he had achieved a considerable 
public reputation as the author of two books and many articles, a 
member of two Royal commissions, a supporter of striking laborers, 
and a leading figure in the small English Positivist Society of which 
he was soon to become president. _Workers in the Dawn_ must 
have interested him because of its treatment of such problems as 
poverty, working conditions, and labor politics, and because its 
heroine, after a long quest, adopted Positivism as her personal 

All this, no doubt, led Harrison to expect in the author an 
enthusiasm for reform comparable to his own. But Gissing was 
concerned, he found, not with reform, but with fact; not with the 
abstractions of theory, but with the particularities of art. He felt 
that the moral and spiritual destruction wrought by poverty lay 
beyond the scope of political remedies. To Harrison, who was 
accustomed to dealing with practical matters, Gissing seemed to lack 
ethical sense. He despised the ignorance and brutality of the poor 
whose way of life he had so vividly captured in his novel, and he 
wrote about them, it seemed to Harrison, simply to feed the pessi-

-- 6 --

mism he perversely enjoyed. Harrison, who hated pessimism, could 
not abide the casual nihilism of this otherwise congenial young man. 
He did his best to instill some of his own reforming spirit into him, 
but Gissing refused to be converted. "I must wallow and de-scribe," 
he insisted. Thus, at the luncheons the Harrison boys enjoyed so 
much they saw the earnest advocate of the common people, armed 
with the ideals of science and progress, facing the detached, and no 
doubt slightly cynical, exponent of the interests of art and culture, 
It was not the first time Harrison had tried to convince an author of 
his responsibility toward social reform. In 1866 he had proposed to 
his friend and fellow Positivist, George Eliot, that she write a poetic 
drama illustrating the advantages of a society run on Comtian 
principles. And in the following year, by writing a vigorous 
rejoinder to Matthew Arnold's _Cornhill_ article, "Culture and Its 
Enemies," he had forced Arnold to state his defence of culture more 
fully in the series of essays that became _Culture and Anarchy_. 

Harrison, who had stiffly warned Gissing that he was less interested 
in literature than in the character and integrity of authors, began to 
learn some unpleasant things about his protŽgŽ as time went by. 
For one thing, he was impractical. His career as a writer for 
magazines, inaugurated under Harrison's sponsorship, did not 
prosper; Harrison was critical of his style, and Gissing said that he 
found the work "degrading." After doing three pieces on socialism 
for the _Pall Mall Gazette_, he gave up journalism, and in spite of 
Harrison's advice to take some regular position appropriate to his 
abilities he returned to earning his living by tutoring while working 
on another novel after hours. Harrison's respect for Gissing survived 
these disagreements, but it soon had to face a far more serious test. 
One day a man who had known Gissing when he was a student at 
Owens College in Manchester saw him at Harrison's house and let it 
be known that he had been arrested for stealing from the college 
common room when he was an undergraduate. He had been 
dismissed from the college in disgrace and had been tried, 
convicted, and sentenced to a term in prison. 

There followed, says Austin Harrison, "a long morning's 
explanation." Gissing must have been completely honest with his 
protector in this discussion. He undoubtedly admitted his crime, 
explaining that he had committed it only because he had hoped to 
save the girl he loved from prostitution with the money it brought 

-- 7 --

Later he had married her, and he now lived with her in poor 
lodgings, carrying on a bitter daily struggle against her illness, 
drunkenness, and irresponsibility. Harrison might easily have 
applied his severe moral standards to Gissing's past behavior and 
dismissed him. Instead he heard his confession sympathetically, 
acknowledged that he had gone through terrible trials for so young 
a man, and maintained an unchanged relationship with him. 


The pathetic and shocking life story Harrison heard from Gissing 
began in a perfectly ordinary way. The novelist's father, Thomas 
Waller Gissing, was a chemist, whose shop stood in the market place 
of the town of Wakefield in Yorkshire. George Robert Gissing was 
born in the rooms over the shop on November 22, 1857, the oldest 
in a family that was to consist of three brothers and two sisters. The 
house, which is still standing in a busy part of Wakefield, is now 
called 30 Westgate. It is a straight-fronted brick structure of three 
stories, and Thomas Gissing's pharmaceutical business is still carried 
on in the ground-floor shop by a modest branch of the Boots chain 
of chemist's shops. The novelist's father was a religious skeptic with 
pacifist leanings, a man of active mind. He had a knowledge of 
botany and published two little volumes giving the results of his 
investigations in the local countryside, _The Ferns and Fern Allies of 
Wakefield and Its Neighborhood_, Wakefield (1863), and _Materials 
for a Flora of Wakefield and Its Neighborhood_, Huddersfield 
(1867). Two of Thomas Gissing's enthusiasms were DŸrer and 
Tennyson. He often read poetry aloud, taught little George to recite 
"Break, Break, Break," and called his attention to a vivid line from 
"The Passing of Arthur." Certain of his blind spots puzzled his son 
when he later came to think about them. For example, in spite of his 
interest in natural science, he had no notion of applied science, and 
did not realize that a steam engine ran by mechanical action. He 
was so ignorant of classical languages that he did not know that 
Greek and Latin poetry lacked rhyme. 

This last deficiency seemed fairly serious to young George, whose 
bookish tastes flourished in the literate, if unsophisticated, 
environment of his home. The household was well supplied with 

-- 8 --

Gissing once made a list of the ones he owned which included, in 
addition to a number of the usual boys' favorites of the time, seven 
novels by Cooper, some by Scott, _Robinson Crusoe_, a volume of 
Wordsworth, Praed's poems, and Lemprire's _Classical Dictionary_. 
The family also possessed a large volume of Hogarth's etchings, 
framed portraits of Dickens and Tennyson, and a number of 
Dickens' novels. Dickens was at the height of his fame during 
Gissing's boyhood; the first book Gissing remembered reading all 
the way through was _The Old Curiosity Shop_. Every one of these 
early cultural impressions had a lasting influence upon Gissing's 
interests and his work as a writer, but none aroused his imagination 
so powerfully as his study of Greek and Latin authors at Harrison's 
Back Lane School. It is clear that, before he left Wakefield at the age 
of thirteen, Gissing had already developed the passionate interest in 
classical literature that absorbed him throughout his life, amounting 
at times to a kind of mania. 

Even as a child Gissing regarded himself as the mentor and 
guardian of his two younger brothers, Algernon and William, and 
his two younger sisters, Ellen and Margaret. When his father died in 
December, 1870, just after Gassing had turned thirteen, he felt that 
serious responsibilities toward his brothers and sisters had fallen to 
him, and in later years his sense of duty toward them persisted. 
Three lively caricatures of himself and his brothers, drawn when he 
was fourteen, give some interesting insights into the boy's mind and 
reveal the emergence of some of the most characteristic traits of his 
maturity. The first of the drawings shows Algernon, untidily clad, 
seated at a piano whose rack holds a sheet of music inscribed "Pot-
herb waltz." The walls of the room are dotted with posters referring 
to Algernon's interest in catching newts. and on the floor lies a pole 
with a net at the end. Beneath the caption "My library" stands an 
open volume named _Martin Rattler_, a popular adventure story for 
boys by Ballantyne, while under the table lies a neglected book 
with the title _Lives of Great Men_. The drawing is accompanied by 
some verses which reflect the poet's serious nature and show that 
he recommended good literature and art and disapproved of such 
idle activities as chasing newts and gathering pot herbs. 

The caricature of William shows him with a hammer raised high 
over his head, standing trouserless at a table on which is a box 
labeled "Tools." Toys and tools litter the floor. In the corner is a 

-- 9 --

chest of medicine bottles-Will must already have been sickly-and 
over a chair are draped his trousers. Posters on the wall allude to 
his interest in building things: "Model Boats," "How to make a steam 
engine," "5 ft. plank for sixpence." _Martin Rattler_ is the first name 
on a scroll headed "List of Books." The verses beneath the picture 
describe Will's activities as a waste of time and speak in favor of 
"instructive, useful books." 

The third drawing, a self-caricature which has been described by 
Ellen Gissing, is most revealing of all. 

     My brother represents himself as a hideous, 
     round-backed figure sitting on a high stool, and 
     leaning over a very small table on which a large 
     volume is open entitled "Ossian." Near to him, on 
     the floor, is a pot of jam with a spoon sticking out 
     of it; a bill is hanging on the wall which says 
     "Reduction in price, Apricot - 5/ - p. pot." On the 
     same wall hang other notices: one, "Excursion to 
     Roman Road," another, "Vote for no walks." A bunch 
     of keys is hanging on a nail with the words "non 
     tangendum" attached. A ragged-looking volume, 
     entitled "Martin Rattler" hangs on the wall, with 
     the words above "For the fire." In the room stands 
     an easel bearing an unfinished picture, and at the 
     foot are laid a pallet and paint brushes. Near to these 
     is a tall pile of books, the bottom one of which is very 
     large and labelled "Hogarth." On the wall near-by hangs 
     a scroll inscribed with the word "Perseverance.". . . 
     The inscription "Perseverance," placed near these books, 
     is significant as referring to the extraordinary persistence 
     which, even at that early age, characterized his reading 
     and studies in general. *4* 

Although there are no explanatory verses with this drawing, its 
details are transparently suggestive. Gissing's boyhood appetite for 
jam was to develop into the hearty and indiscriminate eating habits 
of his manhood. The reference to the "Roman Road" is probably an 
allusion to his interest in Latin literature. He must have condemned 
_Martin Rattler_, which was favored by his brothers, for its 
mealymouthed optimism; in later life he always preferred to take 
the serious view. He was very fond of the volume of Hogarth which 
appears in the caricature, sometimes copying or imitating the 
pictures in his own drawing. Qualities like Hogarth's irony and 
exactness of detail are characteristic of Gissing's fiction and his 
lasting curiosity about the poor and their lives may well have been 
stirred for the first time by Hogarth's art. 

Perhaps the most significant detail of all is the motto on the scroll. 
Overwork was Gissing's most settled habit. Both as a student and 
later in life, as a writer, he spent enormous stretches of time at his 

-- 10 --

George Gissing desk, stubbornly wrestling with the distractions and 
sterility of mind that seemed to beset him. Although his most 
painful efforts were often least productive, he seems to have 
derived a perverse satisfaction from application alone. Gissing 
probably suffered from some sort of psychological compulsion, 
subconsciously regarding his work sessions as acts of penitence 
which were doubly effective when they were futile. 

This compulsiveness, combined with great natural intelligence, 
enabled Gissing to achieve brilliant results as a student. His 
qualities are displayed in some school exercises which survive. One 
of the earliest of these, a long narrative poem in the meter of 
Byron's "Destruction of Sennacherib," called "The Battle of 
Roncesvalles," is impressive for its length complexity, language, and 
meter, and for its evidence of the poet's knowledge of his subject. 
"A Description of and critical dissertation upon Fingal, a poem of 
Ossian" consists of a summary, lists of names and epithets, and 
some remarks about the customs revealed in the poem. An essay 
called "John Milton," written when Gissing was fourteen, and copied 
in a large copperplate hand, contains apt and fresh observations 
about the poet, including the statement that he did not give way to 
melancholy, though he had good reason to. "Poetry," Gissing says, "is 
one of the great, and perhaps the greatest instrument of the 
education and enlightenment of the general public. . . . In many 
poems there is a great deal more truth than in many histories. . . ." 
In a lifetime devoted to literature, Gissing never changed this view 
that it should enlighten by telling the truth. An eighteen-page essay 
en-titled "The English Novel of the Eighteenth Century," probably 
written several years later at Owens College, begins with a review 
of medieval narratives and then deals with Richardson, Fielding, 
Smollett, and Sterne. The opinions expressed are perfectly standard, 
but they are obviously based on a thorough firsthand knowledge of 
the material. 

Gissing's intense concentration on his studies was partly due to his 
realization that, as a poor youth, he would have to make his own 
way academically. It was possible for a really gifted student to go 
very far by means of scholarships, and Gissing was well equipped 
for the competitive examinations that led to them. He began to 
show his mettle at Lindow Grove School, a Quaker establishment at 
Alderley Edge, Cheshire, where he and his brothers were sent after 

-- 11 --

his father's death. A series of his letters written to a friend named 
Bowes in 1872 and 1873 bristles with references to exhibitions, 
prizes, and examinations. While carrying on simultaneous programs 
of study for various examinations and academic competitions, he 
limited himself to five and one-half hours of sleep a night, read 
Shakespeare through three times, and declined an invitation to the 
theater because the thought of the study time he was missing 
would make him writhe in his seat throughout the performance. 

He agreed that he was already behaving like "a man who had an 
object in life," and recommended to Bowes, who had academic 
ambitions of his own, the motto on the books he had won as school 
prizes, _Arduus ad solem_. One year he won so many prizes, some 
of them in scientific subjects, that he had to take them home in a 
cab, although, as he wrote to Bowes, he had not done as well as the 
year before. When he sat for the Oxford Local Examination in 1872, 
he achieved the highest grade in the entire country, and he won 
exhibitions in German, Greek, and Latin that carried free tuition for 
three sessions at Owens College in Manchester. 

Owens College, which had been founded in 1852, was primarily a 
scientific institution, but Gissing was able to specialize in the 
humanities there. In his first year he won a poetry prize with 
"Ravenna," a poetic history of the capital of Byzantine Italy in 
twenty-one dignified and sonorous Spenserian stanzas. Although it 
is an interesting expression of the love for antiquity which appears 
in _By the Ionian Sea_ and _Veranilda_, "Ravenna," like all of the 
poetry Gissing wrote from time to time, is conventional and 
undistinguished. In 1874-75 he took the matriculation examination 
of the University of London, for which he had been preparing 
intensively for more than a year, and matriculated as B.A. with high 
honors, winning exhibitions in Latin and English. 

By 1876 Gissing, having accumulated an impressive number of 
academic distinctions, seemed ready to move on to the University of 
London and begin a scholarly career. But his promising 
development was suddenly and tragically interrupted. Books, 
money, and coats were missed from the common and locker rooms 
at Owens College where the students left their belongings. A 
detective who was hired caught the student responsible for these 
thefts by hiding himself in the room. That student was Gissing. The 
father of one of his schoolmates and some other people of 
Manchester seem to have 

-- 12 --

combined to assume responsibility for him and give him aid; a post 
as a clerk was found for him in Liverpool, and he was supplied with 
some money which he used to sail to America, arriving in Boston in 
the autumn of 1876. Thus, at the age of nineteen, he had to 
abandon all thoughts of taking his degree, following a university 
career, and leading a normal life in England. 

An explanation of the events leading up to this catastrophe must 
have formed an important part of the conversation between Gissing 
and Harrison that took place some six years later. What actually 
happened remains obscure, though the general outline is 
depressingly clear. Gissing was living alone in sprawling, industrial 
Manchester, in a loneliness very different from the warm 
atmosphere of his boyhood home in Wakefield, or that of the school 
at Alderley Edge, where he had his two brothers for company. 
Loneliness made him unhappy, but his reticence and studious 
habits prevented him from making friends easily. The result was 
that he somehow met and fell in love with a young prostitute, a girl 
a year younger than himself named Marianne Helen Harrison. He 
showed her picture to Morley Roberts, a school friend who has left 
the only firsthand account of these incidents, and told him that he 
was going to marry her. 

It is easy to imagine the mixture of idealism, na•vetŽ, and 
infatuation that made up Gissing's devotion to "Nell," as he always 
called her. Years later, long after she was dead, he copied into a 
notebook the historian Lecky's comment about the social role of the 
prostitute: "She remains, while creeds and civilizations rise and fall, 
the eternal priestess of humanity, blasted for the sins of the 
people." *5* Gissing regarded Helen as a victim of society, and he 
undertook the mission of redeeming her. In an attempt to supply 
her with a respectable way of making a living, he bought her a 
sewing machine. He gave her money and gifts, even selling a watch 
left him by his father. But he soon found that he could not provide 
enough for her needs, for, as subsequent events clearly show, the 
facts were that Helen was addicted to drink and had turned to 
prostitution to get money for it. Gissing had innocently plunged 
himself into a hopeless struggle with character, a bitter experience 
which he later used as material for some of the most vivid scenes of 
_Workers in the Dawn_. 

Tyrannized by the fear that Helen would revert to her old habits, 

-- 13 --

Gissing gave her whatever he had. When that was gone he turned in 
despair, to rifling the common room at Owens College and making 
off with his schoolmates' possessions.

 Gissing's crime cannot be explained as the result of youthful 
irresponsibility, for he seems never to have been too young to be 
dutiful and conscientious. The sense of duty instilled by his 
upbringing in the puritanical environment of a north-of-England 
manufacturing town had been reinforced by his success in the 
conservative atmosphere of his schools. He was certainly no 
hypocrite. He took Victorian propriety seriously, and he earnestly 
tried to make himself an example for his younger brothers and 
sisters. Even minor breaches of conduct tortured him with remorse, 
and he was capable of suffering agonies over imagined faults. Yet 
his crime did not represent a sudden shattering of his youthful 
inhibitions. Gissing never became the sort of person who 
consciously acts upon pure desire. He would have examined his 
motives closely, using all the ingenuity of his fine student's intellect 
to rationalize the con-duct into which he was being forced. 

The time itself encouraged moral originality. As a thoughtful youth 
and a wide reader, Gissing was aware that established ethical 
doctrines were being deeply probed by the blade of scientific 
inquiry, and that science seemed to suggest the possibility of a 
systematic code of morality based on its own principles. A vigorous 
rationalism, captained by such agnostics as Leslie Stephen, Thomas 
Henry Huxley, John Stuart Mill, and Herbert Spencer clashed with 
intuitive religion, attacking especially its three most crucial 
doctrines, the existence of God, the literal accuracy of the Bible, and 
the immortality of the soul. All the old spiritual convictions seemed 
open to question and subject to revision. Throughout Victorian 
literature the crumbling of religious belief was a common subject. 
As early as 1855, in Mrs. Gaskell's _North and South_ a clergyman 
who loses his faith appears in fiction, and the theme could still stir 
up controversy in 1888, when Mrs. Humphry Ward's _Robert 
Elsmere_ described the undermining of a devout young minister's 
belief by the formidable Biblical criticism of a rationalist scholar. 

But if God and the Bible no longer commanded absolute allegiance, 
what was there for man to serve? The answer to this question had 
been clearly given about the middle of the century by 

-- 14 --

Positivism, Auguste Comte's "Religion of Humanity," and it was an 
answer that grew increasingly popular with clever young men. 
Winwood Reade's _Martyrdom of Man_ (1872), a quasi-scientific 
history of religion which won great popularity in its time, declared: 

     Those who desire to worship their Creator must 
     worship him through man-kind. Such, it is plain, 
     is the scheme of Nature. We are placed under 
     secondary laws, and these we must obey. To develop 
     to the utmost our genius and our love, that is the only 
     true religion. . . . to cherish the divinity within us, to 
     be faithful to the intellect, to educate those powers 
     which have been entrusted to our charge and to employ 
     them in the service of humanity, that is all we can do. *6* 

When the hero of Samuel Butler's _The Way of All Flesh_ (1903) 
escapes the tyrannous influence of his clerical father for the first 
time and wonders what authority he ought to obey, a voice within 
him seems to say: 

     Obey _me_, your true self, and things will go tolerably 
     well with you, but only listen to that outward and 
     visible husk of yours which is called your father and 
     I will rend you in pieces even unto the third and fourth 
     generation as one who has hated God; for I, Ernest, am 
     the God who made you! *7*

Expressing another typical agnostic view of morality, Henry 
Maudsley wrote, in an article entitled "Materialism and Its Lessons," 
which appeared in the _Fortnightly Review_ in 1879, that moral 
laws were not handed down by divine revelation but were products 
of social evolution Materialism said Maudsley, enjoins men to follow 
the Golden Rule on the ground that "it is the true scientific function, 
and at the same time the highest development of the individual, to 
promote the well-being of the social organization - that is, to make 
life subserve the good of his kind." *8* 

Gissing came to agnostic principles early and held to them, with 
some modifications, until his death. But, as his novel _Born in Exile_ 
shows, he learned that the principles of free thought, excellent as 
they may be in themselves, are peculiarly vulnerable to the 
corruption of personal desire. The hero of his novel, Godwin Peak, is 
moved by ambition to conclude that dishonesty is justified in the 
name of self-fulfillment. His conflicts of thought and feeling are 
described in great detail; Gissing had reason to know them well, for 
they had once been his own. "Peak," he wrote to a friend, "is myself 

-- 15 --

- one phase of myself." *9* Like his own character, and like those 
other representative figures, Dostoevsky's Raskolnikov and 
Turgenev's Bazarov, the youthful Gissing was betrayed by the 
sophistry of unconscious self-interest as he strove toward the 
radiant nineteenth-century ideal of a rational, humanistic morality. 


The period of disgrace following Gissing's dismissal from Owens 
College was also a period of silence. Nothing is mentioned in his 
books, his letters, or his diary of his arrest, imprisonment, or clerk-
ship in Liverpool. The Gissing we rejoin through the medium of his 
letters in Boston in October, 1876, appears to have entirely 
forgotten his grim experiences. He has enjoyed the rough weather 
of his recent Atlantic crossing, and is now occupied with equally 
enjoyable observation of the people and customs of his new 
country. He is not in need, but is living comfortably in a small 
boarding-house at 71 Bartlett Street where he is impressed by the 
excellence and quantity of the food. His curiosity is extremely 
active, and his letters are full of odd facts about America, which he 
discusses in a buoyant and zestful mood. He approves of the air of 
democracy, the splendor of the railway cars, and the general bustle 
of American life, and constantly draws comparisons unfavorable to 
England. The presidential election of 1876, whose results were both 
contested and delayed, produced an atmosphere of excitement that 
he finds exhilarating. He is impressed by the huge sizes and 
numbers he finds everywhere, reporting with awe that the _Boston 
Herald_ on election day printed 232,000 copies, which weighed 
fourteen tons. He is fascinated by a new invention called the 
"Telephone" and by a stereopticon used to report election results. 
He is delighted by the free Boston library system; everybody about 
him reads and he him-self sits in the library reading George Sand's 
novels one after another. Even the weather, which is bitterly cold, 
agrees with him. "Altogether Boston is a splendid place. I should be 
very sorry ever to leave it for good." *10*

It was at this cheerful time of his life, in the bracing and open 
atmosphere of the New World, that Gissing appears to have first 
tried to earn his living as a writer. He had brought a letter of intro-

-- 16 --

duction to William Lloyd Garrison and hoped, through his influence, 
to connect himself with the _Atlantic Monthly_, then edited by 
William Dean Howells. He also met Professor Francis J. Child of 
Harvard, who gave him a glimpse of the notes for his important 
edition of early English ballads. While in Boston, Gissing wrote that 
he was working on an article on Burns and Heine, and that he had 
submitted a piece entitled "Sketches of Life in an English 
Manufacturing Town" to a periodical. Neither of these was 
published or heard of again. 

In the meantime he looked for something practical to do and 
succeeded in obtaining a position as teacher of English, French, and 
German at the high school in nearby Waltham, Massachusetts. 
Everything about his work pleased him. He was interviewed by a 
local reporter on his arrival and took this as a mark of respect. He 
found his classes attentive and obedient, and one of his students 
remembered him in later life as a successful and enthusiastic 

It is hard to say why Gissing left Waltham, where he appears to 
have been in his natural element. The fact remains, however, that 
about the first of March, 1877, he arrived in Chicago after a long, 
uncomfortable, and pointless journey. H. G. Wells, in his 
_Experiment in Autobiography_ (1934) vividly described the 
hazards to health and self-respect that young masters risked at 
country schools in England; perhaps, like Wells, Gissing found 
himself overworked, underpaid, isolated, and confronted with bleak 
prospects, and was inclined to escape at the first opportunity. On 
the other hand, it is true that more than once in his life he 
abandoned a secure situation for a doubtful and unpromising one. 
He was not the kind of person who was strengthened by adversity; 
on the contrary, he was easily demoralized by obstacles. But it is 
not too much to say that he was also afraid of success. He was 
already firmly convinced of "the native malignity of matter," to use 
one of his favorite phrases, and prosperity would have conflicted 
with the pessimism and sense of injustice that seem to have been 
parts of his nature. It is difficult to go further than this in 
accounting for the peculiar self-defeating and self-tormenting 
quality as obvious in his books as in his actions, or for his departure 
from Waltham so soon after his cheerful arrival. 

If he sought hardship, he found it immediately, The ironic ac-

-- 17 --

count which the writer Whelpdale gives in _New Grub Street_ of his 
travels in America fits in very well with what is known of Gissing's 
own experiences, and may be taken as a passage of autobiography. 
The desire for adventure and the search for material to write about 
drew Whelpdale first to America and then to Chicago. Arriving in 
Chicago almost penniless, he spent most of his money for a week's 
board and lodging and tried to earn more by approaching a news-
paper editor. The editor had no work to offer an inexperienced 
young man, but seemed willing to accept a short story. Whelpdale 
bought writing materials and busied himself in producing the 
required article under the most adverse conditions. 

     Impossible to write in my bedroom, the temperature 
     was below zero; there was no choice but to sit down 
     in the common room. . . . A dozen men were gathered 
     about the fire, smoking, talking, quarrelling. Favourable 
     conditions, you see, for literary effort. But the story had 
     to be written, and write it I did, sitting there at the end 
     of a deal table; I finished it in less than a couple of days, 
     a good long story, enough to fill three columns of the 
     huge paper. I stand amazed at my power of concentration 
     as often as I think of it! *11* 

In this way Gissing wrote his first published work, an alarmingly 
autobiographical short story entitled "The Sins of the Fathers," 
which appeared in the _Chicago Tribune_ of March 10, 1877, It tells 
of a meeting between a poor girl and a young man in the streets of 
a city in northern England. The man, Leonard Vincent, falls in love 
with the girl and sends her to live with his father while he goes to 
New England where he becomes a schoolteacher. In time, learning 
that Laura has died, he marries a pretty student and settles down 
in America. But it soon appears that Laura's death is only a fiction 
plotted by Leonard's disapproving father, who has disrupted their 
correspondence by sending her a forged letter in which Leonard 
retracts his love. As a result, she leaves his house, and the father is 
sure she will never be heard of again. However, she goes to 
America, where Leonard recognizes her in the chorus at a theater. 
He talks to her, explaining that he is now married and can no longer 
love her, and the story ends as the unhappy girl, overcome by 
despair, wraps her arms around him and pulls him into a river 
during a snowstorm. Thus, reflects the author in conclusion, are the 
children compelled to pay for the sins of the fathers. 

It is certainly' a poor story, but the opening passage, a description 

-- 18 --

George Gissing of Laura weeping on the pavement of a squalid 
street, has some of the restrained power characteristic of Gissing's 
later descriptions of poverty. He made use again of some of the 
episodes of this little tale in _The Unclassed_ and other novels. 
There is far more incident than a story of its length should have, 
and much of it is told in a rapid, summary style without detail, so 
that its effect is diffuse. The initial situation shows that Gissing 
intuitively reached directly into his own experience for his fictional 
material, although he departed from it in later stages of the plot. He 
seemed to be exploring his own feelings toward Helen when he said, 
of Leonard's attitude toward the girl he has saved from the streets: 

     The truth was that from the first his love had contained 
     far more of mere compassion and self-complacency than 
     he could imagine or would have been willing to admit. 
     Very soon after leaving England he had confessed to 
     himself the wish that Laura had been intellectually more 
     of a companion for him. *12*

Gissing remained in Chicago for about four months, supporting 
himself by writing short stories for newspapers. He was able to 
place one or two stories nearly every two weeks with the 
_Tribune_, the _Evening Post_, or the _Journal_. Three of the nine 
stories attributed to him, a Poesque trilogy, are unlike his later 
work. The others, however, have interesting suggestions of his later 
style and plots. "Joseph Yates' Temptation," which appeared in the 
_Evening Post_ on June 2, is a grim story of starving people trying 
to make the best of a penniless Christmas. The plot situation, in 
which a clerk finds himself compelled to take a hundred-pound 
check home over the weekend, appears again in _A Life's Morning_. 
Very different from Gissing's mature work is "Brownie," an eerie 
tale of murder and revenge in the countryside, not unlike Hardy's 
tales in its atmosphere and description of nature. 

The friendly _Chicago Tribune_ editor who had accepted Gissing's 
stories gave very little for them, but what he paid kept the new 
author from actually starving for a few weeks. At the end of that 
time Gissing's tenuous connection with the _Chicago Tribune_ 
ceased, and he left the city. "The Sins of the Fathers" had been 
pirated by a newspaper published in Troy, New York, and a mixture 
of innocence and desperation drew him there in the hope that 

-- 19 --

the editor of the paper would give him something to do. It was, of 
course, a foolish hope, and Gissing's unworldliness led him to the 
situation that has made him a celebrated case among starving 
authors. For a certain period of time during his stay in Troy, 
variously reported as lasting two and five days, he lived on peanuts 
bought by the handful from a street vendor. It was the lowest 
imaginable level of poverty. 

A fortunate chance lifted him to a somewhat higher estate when he 
found employment as an assistant to a traveling photographer. 
After wandering with this man through many New England towns, 
Gissing returned to Boston in September, 1877, and took ship for 
Liverpool. Before leaving America, however, he achieved one more 
small success as a writer of short stories. A little tale entitled "An 
English Coast-Picture" and signed "G. R. Gresham" appeared in the 
July, 1877, number of _Appleton's Journal_, a periodical published 
in New York. A very slender love story whose setting is the 
Northumberland coast where Gissing spent his holidays as a boy, it 
is pitiably weak in plot, but has a respectable description of the 
gull-haunted Farne Islands.

Gissing's picaresque American adventures did little to change him 
from the introverted, bookish boy he had been at school and 
college. In spite of his frequent encounters with the edge of 
starvation he managed to do some reading and some thinking, and 
to keep a record of both. This record survives, in the form of a 
small, worn, pocket-sized notebook with the elaborately curving 
initials "G.R.G." inscribed in ink on the cover, and it shows that his 
intellectual activity continued through his travels. He read widely 
and copied quotations from all sorts of sources: George Sand, 
Tocqueville, Musset, Goethe, the letters of DŸrer, Arnold, George 
Eliot, and Shelley. He composed aphorisms expressing enlightened 
commonplaces. For example: "An unmarried woman living 
outwardly with a single man is worthy of more respect than one 
who is married." Among the miscellany of notes, quotations, and 
addresses is clear evidence that he often had his mind on fiction. 
Here and there brief outline plots are jotted down. Like Henry 
James, Gissing made a habit of scribbling lists of likely names for 
future use in stories. Many of these are cacophonous and 
Dickensian: "Funk, Philander Griggs, Gorbutt, Goggin, Flipp, Dryfuss, 
Debeer, Pen-

-- 20 --

deysan, Patwin, Scroggie." One of the names in this notebook, 
"Widdowson," appears years later in _The Odd Women_. Also 
recorded in the American notebook is a list of "Books on London 
Streets," which shows the direction his thoughts were taking. 

The fourteenth chapter of _Workers in the Dawn_ gives so 
circumstantial an account of its heroine's visit to Germany, referring 
to details of the topography of TŸbingen and to certain features of 
the university system, that early writers on Gissing were led to 
believe that he had made a detour to Germany on his way from 
England to America. Austin Harrison even offers a sketch of the 
intellectual development he supposedly underwent while he lived 
in Jena studying philosophy. Actually, Gissing went directly home, 
for the last two entries of an itinerary noted on the flyleaf of the 
American notebook read: "Boston, Sept/77. Liverpool Oct 3/77." The 
eyewitness details that misled his biographers had been sup-plied 
by his German friend, Eduard Bertz, who collaborated with him in 
writing the chapter by providing an outline for it. 


When Gissing arrived in London, probably for the first time, in the 
autumn of 1877, it was a city of four million whose older districts 
had deteriorated into extensive areas of slums. Faced with the need 
to live as economically as possible, Gissing found his way into the 
picturesque but run-down region near the southern end of 
Tottenham Court Road, where he rented the mean lodgings 
described in _The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft_. The address of 
the house was 22 Colville Place, and Gissing lived there between 
January and September, 1878. He moved often in the next few 
years, to various addresses in Bloomsbury, Islington, and Canning 
Town, but was rarely able to afford anything better than a single 
hall bedroom in a squalid lodginghouse. While he was 
comparatively indifferent to his own discomfort, the hardships of 
the poor Londoners he saw about him made him aware for the first 
time of the terrible degradation that might befall the human 
condition. He dated his real education from this time. ". . . my early 
years in London were a time of extraordinary mental growth, of 
great spiritual activity," he wrote some years later. "There it was 
that I 

-- 2l --

acquired my intense perception of the characteristics of poor life in 
London." *13*

He saw whole families about him living in single rooms for which 
they paid an exorbitant weekly rental. They owned little or nothing 
of what they used, and were at the mercy of landladies hardened in 
their trade who supplied cleaning, a certain amount of service by 
dullard housemaids, and occasional meals. Vermin, dirt, 
drunkenness, violence, and profanity were common; open doors, 
crowding, and thin partitions made privacy impossible. Young 
people found it difficult to meet their friends under pleasant 
conditions and all but impossible to visit with members of the 
opposite sex. Love affairs, quarrels, tearful reunions, and the other 
crucial emotional episodes of daily life took place in streets and 
parks rather than at home. Family relationships were chaotic and 
unstable; children were neglected and abused, and desertion was 
frequent among married people. At night these dens became 
dangerous, for their halls and stairs sheltered homeless people who 
came in from the streets. 

Living under conditions like these, Gissing began a period of 
persistent literary labor that was to last almost without 
interruption for eleven years. He was still very young, a month 
short of twenty, and very poor. _The Private Papers of Henry 
Ryecroft_ gives a good idea of the life he led in London's dreary 
"Latin Quarter." The accounts of Ryecroft's moving from a dismal 
attic to a dismal cellar for the sake of saving a few pennies in rent, 
going without dinner in order to buy a beloved book, and gazing 
hungrily at pies and puddings steaming in a shopwindow are 
probably autobiographical. Like Ryecroft, Gissing considered himself 
lucky to be several shillings above destitution. He seems to have 
taken the view that his poverty was a test of character, and on 
these terms he almost enjoyed the squalor he was compelled to live 
in. Making a small living by tutoring whatever pupils came his way, 
he went about in ragged clothing, took his dinners at humble coffee 
shops, and communed with Greek and Latin authors. In the 
seclusion of small and hideous rooms let by the week, where he 
proudly set his gleaming Owens College prizes on whatever shelves 
were available, he began to write. 

He sometimes went to the British Museum for the sake of the 
warmth in the reading room or to work unsuccessfully on magazine 

-- 22 --

articles, but his main occupation was writing a novel. On February 
28, hardly four months after his arrival in England, he wrote to his 
brother Algernon, "I am getting on with my novel which I hope to 
be drawing to a conclusion in a little more than a month." *14* In 
those years he wrote swiftly, exulting in the energy that welled up 
in him when he had succeeded in earning enough to free himself 
from worrying about money for a few hours. The process of 
creation led him into a different and exciting world, and helped him 
to forget the squalor of his life. 

In the meantime, he can hardly have been as desperately poor as 
Ryecroft reports himself to have been. There is no doubt that he 
lived in poverty and spent many precious hours tutoring for the 
sake of a few shillings. But he was looking forward to receiving on 
his twenty-first birthday, November 22, 1878, a share of a trust 
fund left by his father. Even after the money, which came to about 
five hundred pounds, was actually his, he continued to give lessons 
and live in much the same way. Part of this money may have been 
used to pay a debt contracted in America for which Gissing had left 
some of his belongings as security. The debt was paid about the 
first of May, probably by a loan against his share of the trust fund. 
By June of the following year his inheritance had been reduced to 
three hundred pounds, and Gissing was seriously considering 
investing this amount in a house where he could live and take in 
lodgers. It continued to dwindle for another year until he spent 
what remained of it on the publication of _Workers in the Dawn_. 

Nor was Gissing's life in London the solitary one described in the 
Ryecroft papers. Some time before September, 1878, when he wrote 
to Algernon that "we" were moving from the address in Colville 
Place, Helen had come to live with him, and they were married in 
October, 1879. Hence, if he lived alone at all during this period, it 
was for less than a year. Gissing's motives in linking himself to 
Helen again have been given all sorts of curious interpretations, but 
it is most probable that, like his counterpart in _Workers in the 
Dawn_, he loved her and hoped to reclaim her. At first the two 
faced poverty bravely together, even resorting to vegetarianism for 
a time to save money. Once Gissing discovered an Egyptian lentil 
which made a thick and nourishing soup; he and Helen adopted it as 
a staple of their diet, and it was enthusiastically recommended to 
Algernon; but in later years, Gissing, who was a meat 

-- 23 --

eater at heart, had only bitter words for vegetarianism in general 
and lentils in particular. 

He had relatives in Paddington whom he visited, though he soon 
found the company of these working-class people tiresome and 
wrote to Algernon that his intercourse with them would have to 
come to an end, His brothers came to stay with him occasionally and 
he took an eager provincial's interest in theaters, meetings, and 
public affairs. He went to see Irving in his famous performance in 
"The Bells," and, with an uncle from Paddington, witnessed a 
disorderly meeting of workingmen in Hyde Park in February of 
l878. In the same month he went to watch the wedding of Eleanor 
Locker and Tennyson's son at Westminster Abbey on the chance 
that he might catch sight of the poet. 

Early in January, 1879, he made the acquaintance of Eduard Bertz, a 
young German of intellectual tastes four years his senior who 
became one of the two intimate friends of his London years. The 
two were said to have met through an advertisement Bertz placed 
in a newspaper, an action Gissing introduced into _The Unclassed_ 
as a means of bringing Waymark and Casti together. Bertz, who had 
been an active socialist when he was a university student was an 
exile from Bismarck's Germany. He resembled Gissing in being 
studious, poor, lonely, and interested in literature. An unsuccessful 
attempt on Bertz's part to teach at a girls' school no doubt provided 
Gissing with material for the figure of Eggers, the genial and 
ineffectual Swiss schoolmaster of _The Unclassed_. Bertz was even 
more incompetent in practical affairs than Gissing, but the two 
profited from the moral support they exchanged with each other. 
He played a significant part in Gissing's life, not only because of the 
companionship he provided while he lived in London but also 
through the long correspondence the two maintained from the time 
of Bertz's return to Germany until Gissing's death. In later years 
Bertz became a man of letters like Gissing, though with a somewhat 
different emphasis; he was managing editor of a periodical, _Die 
Deutsche Presse_, and an active journalist, and he produced a 
number of novels, miscellaneous works, and critical studies 
including two on Walt Whitman. He promoted Gissing's literary 
interests in Germany by finding translators for his books and 
publishing critical articles about him. During the last sixteen years 
of his life, Gissing corresponded with Bertz about once a month. In 

-- 24 --

these letters he discussed his travels, his literary opinions, his 
professional problems, his moods, and many other topics very fully, 
so that they form an important record of his activities and ideas. 

On November 9, 1878, Gissing wrote to Algernon about Auguste 
Comte's _Cours de philosophie positive_ with an enthusiasm which 
suggested that he had just read it for the first time. Comte's 
philosophy of Positivism was to play a vital part in the genesis of 
his first novel, as he declared in the letter accompanying the copy 
of _Workers in the Dawn_ which he sent to Harrison in 1880. 
Gissing had, somewhat belatedly, come under the influence of one 
of the most significant currents of nineteenth-century thought, the 
philosophy of science. Positivism sought to classify religion out of 
existence by declaring that of the three ages of knowledge, the eras 
of theological certainty and metaphysical speculation were over, 
and that a time when men would limit themselves to the acquisition 
of verifiable knowledge through scientific means was at hand. The 
human faculties, said Comte, are incapable of solving the problems 
of essences and first causes and the other mysteries involved in the 
conception of God. Man must therefore accept the fact that he will 
always be ignorant of ultimate reality, and should devote himself to 
gathering practical knowledge which will serve to promote his well-

Gissing frequently said in his later years that he had never had any 
religious belief, and it is more than likely, as we have seen, that 
Comte's ideas fell on the ground of a mind thoroughly prepared for 
them by skepticism. Some four months after writing the letter 
about Comte, Gissing was ready to address an audience on the 
subject of religion. In March of 1879 he prepared for his 
performance by hearing a lecture on "Dogma and Science," which 
attacked "the parsons," and by gathering material from such books 
as Lecky's _History of European Morals and Rise and Influence of 
Rationalism in Europe_, Draper's _Conflict between Science and 
Religion_, and Huxley's _Lay Sermons_. The latter pleased him, and 
he admiringly quoted its definition of liberal education, apparently 
agreeing with Huxley that it included a knowledge of science. His 
own lecture, "Faith and Reason," was delivered on March 23 in 
Paddington before a workingmen's club of which his uncle was a 
member. It was well received, and Gissing was invited to speak 
again in a larger hall. He planned to talk on "The State Church from 
a Rationalist Point of View," but this second lecture was never 
given, and his 

-- 25 --

career as a platform orator on religion came to an end after his first 

Gissing continued to look after his family in spite of his busy life in 
London. His brother Algernon, who wanted to be admitted to the 
bar, was preparing for his B.A. examinations, and Gissing took as 
active a part in his studies as he could through the medium of the 
mail. It was the beginning of a long and curious process of 
education by letters. Gissing gave Algernon detailed advice told him 
what subjects to concentrate on, sent some of his old note; and even 
made extracts for him from books in the British Museum The 
gratifying result was that Algernon passed his examinations with a 
first class. Gissing also corresponded with William whose health 
gave considerable concern, and who sometimes engaged his brother 
in intellectual skirmishes on matters of religion and politics, forcing 
Gissing to state his position with great clarity and exactness. 

Although Gissing took every opportunity of earning a little money 
and was soon tutoring four pupils, the novel was ultimately finished 
and sent to a publisher. It was probably sent to many more than 
one, in fact, for on July 24, 1878 Gissing wrote to Algernon with a 
characteristic blend of pessimism and determination: "The 
publishers respectfully decline the honour of publishing my novel. 
Just what I anticipated. The next must be better." *15* Nothing is 
known directly of this first unsuccessful novel, which was consigned 
to obscurity without a title. However, judging from some questions 
in Gissing's letters to Algernon about the legal aspects of lurid 
episodes involving murder and gunplay, it could not have been a 
serious effort. Almost two years of poverty, useless labor, and 
disappointment could not overcome his determination to write, for 
he set to work immediately on another long novel, which was to 
become _Workers in the Dawn_. 

During these years he drifted constantly from one disreputable 
lodginghouse to another, seldom remaining in one place for more 
than a few months. In September of 1878 he found a very 
attractive set of two rooms, but since the rent of fifteen shillings 
was more than he could pay he was forced to move into a single 
room in Gower Place for which he paid 6/6. In the same month he 
took a position as a temporary clerk at St. John's Hospital, a 
charitable institution for the treatment of skin diseases. He haunted 
the book-

-- 26 --

shops as usual, but was so poor that he would have been unable to 
buy a bargain if he had found one. *16*

Whatever illusions may have possessed Gissing when he took Helen 
back must have been quickly dispelled, for by November of 1879 
he had learned enough about her to write the powerfully 
circumstantial account of a marriage like his own that appears in 
_Workers in the Dawn_. Helen was continually ill. At different times 
she had neuralgia, "rheumatics," an abscess of the arm, an eye 
condition necessitating an operation, and, most sinister of all, 
mysterious convulsions followed by comas. The constant medical 
expenses caused by her sicknesses sometimes reduced Gissing to 
despair. The single room which was usually the best he could afford 
must have served as her sickroom as well as his writing room. 

But Helen had worse faults than poor health. She was not merely 
ignorant, but foolish, willful, and disobedient as well. When he was 
not distressed at her illnesses, Gissing was repelled and distracted 
by her vulgar friends, her foolish conversation, and her slovenly 
habits. Worst of all, however, were her alcoholism and the problems 
it created. Morley Roberts, who saw Gissing often after 1880, has 
described his situation: 

     . . . they were turned out of one lodging after the other, 
     for even the poorest places, it seems, could hardly stand 
     a woman of her character in the house. I fear it was not 
     only that she drank, but at intervals she deserted him 
     and went back, for the sake of more drink, and for the 
     sake of money with which he was unable to supply her, 
     to her old melancholy trade. And yet she returned again 
     with tears, and he took her in, doing his best for her. *17*

Although he was Gissing's oldest friend, Roberts was never al-lowed 
to see Helen. During an evening Roberts spent at Gissing's lodgings, 
his host was constantly called to the next room to attend to his wife, 
who, he said, was ill. Ultimately he had to ask Roberts to leave, and 
later, when he knew him better, told him what he already knew 
perfectly well, that Helen had been too drunk to be seen. The 
effects of a life like this upon the exceptionally sensitive Gissing can 
be imagined. It is clear that the indefinite allusions to miseries and 
burdens that are found so often in his letters to Algernon refer to 
Helen and the troubles she brought upon him. 

If the novel that had failed in 1878 really was a potboiler, Gissing 
undertook a very different project in his second attempt at fiction. 
In a letter written to Algernon soon after the death of their brother 

-- 27 --

Will, in the spring of 1880 and about three months after he had 
succeeded in arranging for the publication of _Workers in the 
Dawn_, Gissing expressed some of the feeling of moral responsibility 
that now began to motivate his writing. He did not believe in a 
future life, he said in meditating on Will's death. Nevertheless, he 
believed that men could achieve what he called "subjective 

     The immortality of man consists in this reflection - that 
     not a word we utter, not a thought we think, not a battle 
     we win, not a temptation we yield to, but has, and _must_ 
     have, influence upon those living in contact with us, and 
     from them, like the circles spreading in a pool, extends to 
     the whole future human race. Therefore is it of vast 
     importance to me whether I set an example of an ignorant 
     and foolish man, or of one bent upon using his faculties 
     to the utmost. *18* 

In his second novel, inspired by this Comtian sense of mission, he 
made serious use of his gifts to write a strong and honest portrayal 
of the poverty he saw about him in the slums, feeling that in doing 
this he was bringing to light for the first time the manners of a 
submerged social class which had never been treated realistically. A 
poem he wrote at the age of fourteen shows that Gissing had seen 
industrial poverty in Yorkshire as a boy. The lines strangely 
anticipate his voyage to America. They are called "On Leaving 

     Breezes, fill the swelling canvas! 
     Billows, bear us from the land! 
     Far away from yonder island, 
     Yon' low-lying, sea-beat strand. 

     Nay, don't turn to gaze upon it, 
     'Tis not worth another look; 
     Never sigh at parting from it, 
     'Tis not worth the breath it took. 

     Who would grieve to leave a country 
     Choked with smoke and swamped with rain? 
     'Gainst the fogs which rest upon it 
     Sun and breezes strive in vain. 

     Look upon the glorious ocean, 
     Forward to the glorious West, 
     Far away from smoke and trouble, 
     There is pleasure, there is rest. 

     We will climb the lofty mountains, 
     Far above the valleys fair, 

-- 28 --

     Up beyond the clouds around them, 
     Till we stop for want of air. 

     Then when we can see around us, 
     Sun above and clouds below, 
     When we cool our burning foreheads 
     In the everlasting snow; 

     Then we'll think of one low island 
     In the smoke and vapour roll'd 
     Think of struggling, toil-worn creatures, 
     And we'll grudge them not their gold. *19* 

But after the "glorious West" had failed to fulfill his expectations, 
the spectacle of the slums of London asserted an irresistible claim 
upon him. At first he called the novel _Far Far Away_, an allusion to 
a song that occurs in it, but he eventually adopted the resounding 
title of _Workers in the Dawn_. "It is," he wrote, "a novel of social 
questions and the principal characters are earnest young people 
striving for improvement in, as it were, the dawn of a new phase of 
our civilization." *20* He stated his aims formally in a letter written 
to Algernon soon after the novel appeared: 

     The book in the first place is not a novel in the 
     generally-accepted sense of the word, but a very 
     strong (possibly too plain spoken) attack upon certain 
     features of our present religious and social life which 
     to me appear highly condemnable. First and foremost, 
     I attack the criminal negligence of governments which 
     spend their time over matters of relatively no 
     importance, to the neglect of the terrible social evils 
     which should have been long since sternly grappled with. 
     Herein I am a mouthpiece of the advanced Radical It is 
     not a book for women and children, but for thinking and 
     party. . . . struggling _men_. *21* 


The mission Gissing undertook was a timely one, for the economic 
depression of the 1870's was making "social questions" desperately 
important by intensifying conditions that had been with England 
since the early days of the Industrial Revolution. The rapid rise of 
manufacturing at the beginning of the nineteenth century had 
created a large class of urban workers whose ordinary standard of 
living was deep poverty. Periodic fluctuations in trade could cause 
unemployment so serious that it resulted in death by starvation or 
exposure. In the thirties a recession of this kind made 

-- 29 --

the poor a national problem. A new Poor Law was followed by 
investigations, factory reforms, and reports on working and living 
conditions, and by the Chartist agitations, which sometimes led to 
serious violence. The worst hardships of the poor were alleviated 
by the relative prosperity of the fifties, and ceased to weigh so 
heavily on the conscience of the nation, although the huge hard core 
of poverty persisted. 

By 1878 far-flung economic developments, both in England and 
overseas, had caused a depression. The completion of the railways 
the rise of industrial competition in Germany and the United States, 
and the discovery of new processes in steel manufacturing that 
made the old ones obsolete were some of the causes for the 
reduction of Britain's exports from 256 million pounds in 1872 to 
192 million pounds in 1879 and the rise of unemployment from l to 
12 per cent. Industrial poverty had once been a result of increased 
manufacturing, but it was now being intensified by the contraction 
in trade. It grew in good times and bad; and, while it was not worse 
than it had been in the thirties, it had shown itself, after almost a 
century of attempted reforms, to be a far tougher, grimmer, and 
more durable opponent than the first industrial reformers had 
taken it to be. 

The tradition of social-protest literature which Gissing renewed in 
_Workers in the Dawn_ had arisen in response to the worst period 
of poverty, the thirties. Firsthand information about conditions was 
made available in reports of Parliamentary commissions on factory 
reform and sanitation, in Carlyle's passionate condemnation of 
industrialism, _Past and Present_ (1843) , in Friedrich Engels' 
_Condition of the Working-Class in England in 1844_, and in Henry 
Mayhew's _London Labour and the London Poor_ (1861). Mayhew, 
whose work is of particular interest, visited and interviewed 
hawkers, scavengers, prostitutes, thieves, and other members of the 
lowest social class, and compiled a clear and intimate report on 
their way of life. His book is full of humane feeling but free of the 
strident indignation characteristic of most protest literature. It has 
an interesting connection with Dickens' _Oliver Twist_ (1837-39), 
for Mayhew's account of the methods used by pickpockets 
corresponds exactly with Dickens' description of Fagin's gang. 

Between 1845 and 1860 social conditions furnished a whole 

-- 30 --

school of humanitarian novelists with material for arousing the 
indignation of the public. Disraeli's _Sybil_ (1845), Mrs. Gaskell's 
_Mary Barton_ (1848) and _North and South_ (1855), Kingsley's 
_Yeast_ (1848) and _Alton Locke_ (1850) , and Dickens' _Hard 
Times_ (1854) were typical of the many novels that gave vivid 
impressions of the lives of the poor and dramatized the suffering, 
crime, and social antagonisms produced by poverty. The reforming 
spirit expressed in these works was characteristically religious, 
romantic, or conservative. Carlyle and Disraeli were hostile to 
political liberalism, Kingsley and the Christian Socialists based their 
program on the religious principle of brotherly love, and Mrs. 
Gaskell felt that help for the poor must come from the upper 
classes. Mrs. Browning's famous poem, "The Cry of the Children," 
may be regarded as the keynote of this period of protest; it sought 
simply to arouse the feelings with accounts of the horrors of 
poverty, and its primary appeal was to the heart. 

When conditions improved in the middle of the century, protest 
literature tapered off. After 1860 there were no important social 
novels, with the notable exception of _Our Mutual Friend_ (1864-
65). The depression of the seventies revived many of the old 
questions, however, and a new wave of protest broke forth. During 
Gissing's early years in London a powerful, though not necessarily 
violent, spirit of revolution was in the air, and the reform literature 
of the eighties, responding to recent scientific, philosophical, and 
political developments, had a sharp new edge. The vague and 
sentimental humanitarianism of the middle of the century was 
supplanted by a scientific purposefulness that entered social reform 
through the work of Robert Owen, Comte, and Herbert Spencer. 
Beatrice Webb, whose work as a social investigator made her one of 
the leaders of the new reform, accounted for the shift in this way: 

     There was the current belief in the scientific method, 
     in that intellectual synthesis of observation and 
     experiment, hypothesis and verification, by means of 
     which alone all mundane problems were to be solved. 
     And added to this belief in science was the consciousness 
     of a new motive; the transference of the emotion of 
     self-sacrifice from God to man. *22* 

The new attitude taught that the lot of the common man must be 
improved, not merely relieved. Its outlook was secular rather than 
religious, for science and agnosticism had taught that there was 
likely to be no afterlife in which suffering on earth would be 

-- 31 --

rewarded and that man must look to himself for help. It was now 
clear that appeals to the sympathy of the rich could not produce 
more than sporadic philanthropies which were quickly swallowed 
in the gulf of the needs they were meant to satisfy. A new science 
of humanity, or sociology, seemed to promise that principles for the 
ordering of society on a rational basis could be developed by 
empiric methods. 

A new breed of scientific investigators, motivated by a desire to 
discover useful information as well as by sympathy, now set busily 
to work on systematic sociological projects. Beatrice Webb, for 
example, trained herself for this new profession and brought to 
light significant facts about housing and the exploitation of workers 
on the London docks. The Fabian Society, in its famous tracts, 
published information on pauperism, housing, municipal 
administration, and many other subjects, allowing the facts to speak 
for themselves. 

In spite of its scientific tone, the new reform literature did not lack 
emotional urgency. One of the most influential books of the time 
was Henry George's _Progress and Poverty_ (1882), which gave, in 
a fiery and eloquent style, a penetrating analysis of conditions and 
a simple, radical remedy for them. While Marx had denounced the 
capitalist as the villain of the economic tragedy, George denounced 
the landlord and suggested that his power be taken away from him 
by the expedient of a single expropriative tax on land. Although 
George's principles never gained significant acceptance, his book 
seemed to release dormant reforming energies and was responsible, 
according to Sidney Webb, for the rise of socialism. Another 
impetus to the cause of reform was provided by _The Bitter Cry of 
Outcast London_, a penny pamphlet written by the Reverend 
Andrew Mearns and issued by the London Congregational Union in 
October, 1883. It declared, in tones of powerful indignation, that the 
efforts being made to help the poor were insufficient. It gave the 
most horrifying details of squalor, immorality, overwork, and 
privation, setting the style for the frank and perceptive reporting 
that was soon to become commonplace in reform literature. 

The climax and, in many ways, the summation of the work of the 
social investigators was Charles Booth's _Life and Labour of the 
People in London_, which corresponds to the work of Mayhew in an 
earlier period. In 1886 Booth started a project of investigation 

-- 32 --

whose results he began to publish in 1889. Ultimately he produced 
seventeen volumes of factual and descriptive material on the daily 
lives, occupations, and religious state of the working people of 
London. Booth's London is the same London Gissing knew, and his 
details corroborate the accuracy of Gissing's realism much as 
Mayhew's work corroborates Dickens. Booth himself recognized the 
accuracy of Gissing's work as social history, for he named Demos as 
one of the few novels that gave trustworthy information about the 
lives of the poor. 

By writing with furious energy, Gissing completed _Workers in the 
Dawn_ in about a year, in spite of poverty and pupils. Some of the 
credit for this novel belongs to Bertz, for he encouraged Gissing 
when his confidence flagged, gave him details about Germany for it, 
and when it was finished sat listening for five days from morning 
till night as Gissing read it aloud to him. The novel was first 
submitted to a publisher in November, 1879. Although it is now 
clear that Gissing's book anticipated an approaching return to social 
themes in the novel and other forms of literature, it came too early 
to profit from the interest aroused by W. H. White's Mark 
Rutherford books, _Progress and Poverty_, and _The Bitter Cry of 
Outcast London_. It was rejected by a number of publishers, 
including Chatto and Windus, Smith and Elder, Sampson, Low, and C. 
Kegan Paul. Gissing refused to be discouraged. While the manuscript 
was making its depressing tour of publishers' offices he turned out 
some short stories and wrote, "I am now setting to work at another 
long novel." *23* 

Finally, he entered into an agreement with Remington and Company 
to publish his novel at his own expense and to pay £125, which was 
no doubt all that was left of his father's trust fund, for the cost of 
publication. The contract provided that the author pay fifty pounds 
on signing the agreement, forty pounds when the first two volumes 
were printed, and thirty-five pounds when publication was 
completed. This sum covered the production of exactly 277 copies. 
The three-volume set was to be priced at a guinea, and the author 
was to receive two-thirds of the profits after the deduction of 
advertising expenses. The novel emerged from the press in May, 
1880, and Gissing waited hopefully for the reviews. "If I am 
ignored," he wrote, "I must think very seriously of some mechanical 
day-labour." *24*

-- 33 --

_Workers in the Dawn_ was intended to be both a novel of social 
protest and a drama of ideas. Its structure shows no originality, for 
Gissing uncritically accepted the conventions of the Victorian novel 
with its main and subordinate plots, numerous characters, wide 
social range, variety of incident, thorough exposition, and mixture of 
narrative styles and interests; but he did achieve some-thing new 
in his intimate, realistic treatment of slum life. He was following the 
program, later described by Waymark in _The Unclassed_, of 
"digging deeper" into the customs of the poor. By describing their 
ordinary activities instead of limiting himself to moments of crisis 
and sensation as the earlier social novelists had tended to do, he 
succeeded in capturing the texture of their daily lives. Gissing had a 
genuine talent for such mundane particulars as the outrageous wit 
of a cheap-Jack, the tricks of a spurious beggar, the conversations of 
the respectable poor, and the shoddy ostentation of lower-middle-
class homes. It was this capacity for sustaining interest in the 
essentially uninteresting that struck Henry James and led him to 
grant Gissing the mild virtue of "saturation." Unfortunately, it was 
part of his method to invest his careful observations with 
interpolations of sarcasm, indignation, sympathy, and revulsion that 
jostle each other incongruously, and the result is an unsettling 
alternation of objective description and strident commentary. When 
the commentary is set aside, however, the passages about the 
Blatherwick household, Christmas at the Pettindunds', and the 
figures of Carrie Mitchell, Ned Quirk, and Michael Rum-ball are seen 
to be as accurate and pragmatic as the reports of social 

_Workers in the Dawn_ tells most of the life story of Arthur 
Golding, a young man with artistic gifts who feels called upon to 
take up arms against the social conditions of the slums where he 
has been bred. Circumstances shuttle him back and forth between 
working-class friends and political reform on the one hand, and the 
studio of his wealthy art teacher and a life of art on the other, until, 
at a decisive point, he commits himself to radicalism. Sympathy 
leads him to befriend and then to marry the poor and disreputable 
Carrie Mitchell, and his radical principles lead him to make an 
attempt to reform and educate her. When his wife fails to respond 
and abandons him, Golding turns to Helen Norman, a refined and 
intellectual girl who teaches him to seek fulfillment in 

-- 34 --

art rather than revolution. Their relationship ends, in spite of their 
love, when Helen learns that Golding is married. In the course of his 
unsuccessful search for a meaningful way of life, Golding encounters 
most of the social remedies of his day, and rejects them. Toward the 
end of the novel, he experiences a short period of Wordsworthian 
calm in watching the stormy sea during an Atlantic crossing, but the 
ultimate wisdom he learns after arriving in America is suicide, and 
the story closes melodramatically as he leaps into Niagara Falls with 
Helen's name on his lips. 

During the first part of the novel, while the main characters are 
children and much of the action takes place in London slums, a 
Dickenslike atmosphere prevails. Golding as a wandering and 
neglected waif, a cruel cockney, sprightly lower-class characters, 
Christ-mas kindness among the poor, and satire at the expense of a 
foolish clergyman all suggest counterparts in Dickens' work. 
However, as the story progresses, with Golding trying to choose 
between art and social reform, Helen Norman actively seeking a 
philosophy of life and choosing Positivism, and other characters 
experiencing moral crises, it becomes clear that Gissing is 
attempting the psychological analysis typical of the generation of 
novelists after Dickens. Like George Eliot and Meredith, he conducts 
his story with the expectation that the interest will arise from the 
spiritual development of his characters. His protagonists, like those 
of George Eliot, are idealists bent on testing their philosophies in 
action. As a result, the narrative leans heavily upon character 
analysis and exposition of thought. However, these were skills 
Gissing had yet to learn; all the accounts of mental and emotional 
life, with the exception of some of Golding's reactions to Carrie, are 
stiff, lifeless, and unsuccessful. 

Because he felt that it was more important to infuse a "personal" 
quality into his work than to strive for an impression of objectivity, 
Gissing did not hesitate to comment on his story, sometimes even 
couching his remarks in the first person. A similar intention, 
perhaps, led him to make use of his own experiences without much 
disguise. Helen Norman's intellectual development, Golding's trip to 
America, and the marriage between Golding and Carrie Mitchell are 
among the most prominent autobiographical elements in the novel, 
Gissing said, in his reply to Harrison's first letter, that he had never 
known a Helen Norman, but it is perfectly clear that he knew a 
Carrie Mitchell, and that the exceptionally convincing narrative 

-- 35 --

of Golding's unhappy marriage is based on Gissing's experiences 
with Helen Harrison. It was drawn from life as directly as any 
fiction ever has been, for he wrote it while he and Helen were 
sharing cramped lodgings, so that he composed with his original 
actually before him. 

Gissing detected regrettable weaknesses when he read the proofs of 
his novel. Mrs. Harrison later commented that there was enough 
material in it for six novels, and there are enough beginner's faults 
for six novels as well. The language of both the dialogue and the 
narration is stiff and literary. The two main characters are naively 
idealized; Gissing is found saying, in perfect seriousness, that 
Golding has a heart "throbbing with generous sympathy with all 
that is most beautiful in the world of nature or imagination," *25* 
and that the youthful Helen Norman is "on fire with noble 
thoughts." *26* The plot, although it has impressive range and 
vigor, is sprawling, awkward, weakly motivated, and full of 
coincidence. A shallow sans-culottism mars the vivid descriptions of 
slum life, and the satire directed against religion is too facile and 
exaggerated to be effective. 


The real subject of _Workers in the Dawn_ is the effort of Victorian 
civilization to reform itself. Poverty is merely the most obvious 
symptom of its disorder and the extreme test of the philosophies 
professed by the characters. In this first novel Gissing initiated the 
pessimistic double task carried out by his novels as a whole: an 
examination of the evils of society and a systematic rejection of the 
remedies suggested for them. _Workers in the Dawn_ deals with 
social philosophies covering the whole range of Victorian opinion, 
from the patrician indifference of the wealthy Gresham to the 
fanatical republicanism of the depraved Pether, and finds them all 

Positivism occupies a conspicuous place in this trial of ideas. It is 
personified by Helen Norman, a clergyman's daughter who loses her 
religious faith through a reading of Strauss's _Leben Jesu_ and goes 
to Germany to search for another belief. After a study of the Church 
fathers and the German idealist philosophers, she turns to Darwin, 
Schopenhauer, Comte, and Shelley, and goes back to Eng-

-- 36 --

George Gissing land to do social work among the poor in the name of 
the Religion of Humanity. In undergoing this intellectual change, 
Helen Norman represents the movement of nineteenth-century 
thought from the religious ideals of the earlier part of the century 
to the secular and scientific ones of its later years. Ultimately her 
new philosophy proves inadequate. She finds that the poor do not 
respond to her kindness, that the money she gives them goes for 
drink, and that her devotion and hard work produce no 
improvement. The cold intellectual doctrines that have made 
religious faith impossible for her have left her lonely and 
unsatisfied, and she dies in an exile she has sought as an escape 
from her failures in social work and in love. 

Helen Norman's disappointing experiences among the poor and 
Arthur Golding's futile effort to educate and reform his wife are 
negations of one of the underlying tenets of Victorian liberalism, 
the principle of perfectibility. The familiar doctrine that schooling 
and material improvements could raise the poor from their 
ignorance and debasement had deep roots in English philosophic 
thought, for its origin was Locke's theory that, except for a few 
fundamental ideas, the content of the mind is drawn from 
experience of the external world, and that man can therefore be 
molded by education and environment. Similarly, William Godwin, 
in _Political Justice_ (1793), repudiated the idea that judgment was 
innate, and declared that the responses mistakenly called 
instinctive were really learned. He contended that children 
normally came into the world with equal capacities, and that 
education and environment accounted for the differences that 
developed in them. 

The same principle was held by Jeremy Bentham, who sought in his 
_Principles of Morals and Legislation_ (1789) to show how con-duct 
could be influenced by "sanctions" imposed by society, and by 
Robert Owen, who found that people could be entirely re-formed by 
external influences. "Train any population rationally," said Owen 
flatly, "and they will be rational." *27* In the philosophical 
radicalism of his youth, John Stuart Mill believed that education 
could improve men's minds indefinitely. Later, in _Utilitarianism_ 
(1863) , he asserted that conscience and social feeling, the bases of 
good conduct, were not inborn, but acquired. A partial retreat from 
the principle of perfectibility on Mill's part is perceptible in the 
1852 edition of _Political Economy_ and "Chapters on Socialism" 
(1879), in which he admits that the standard of education neces-

-- 37-- 

sary for the communal organization of society is difficult, though 
not impossible, to achieve. Nevertheless, the doctrine of 
environment acquired great political importance toward the end of 
the century, after it had been strengthened by Darwinism; it 
remained an integral part of liberal programs like those of the 
Fabians and Socialists, and it was the basis of the reforms in 
education and housing which were put through in the seventies and 
eighties. In taking issue with this principle, Gissing was swimming 
against the tide of the radicalism he professed to support. 

_Workers in the Dawn_ is also critical of whatever spiritual 
remedies might be offered by conventional religion. Orlando 
Whiffle, the self-important and heartless curate, is a merciless 
caricature. Mr. Tollady, whose views are sympathetically presented, 
denounces organized religion in vigorous terms. But Gissing's 
ultimate verdict is far more temperate. He offers a likable 
clergyman in the character of Mr. Heatherley, who has been chosen 
by Helen Norman as her guide in social work with the 
understanding that he will not try to convert her. When, after her 
disillusioning experiences with the poor, she allows him to state his 
religious principles to her, she is surprised to find how inoffensive 
they seem. In the light of her own disappointment with Positivist 
ideas, religion seems a forgivable error, but the sad truth is that it 
offers no hope for social improvement. 

Another approach to the problem of poverty is represented by 
Arthur Golding's Radical club. In a brief sketch Gissing describes the 
type of organization to which it belongs-a group of working-men 
banded together in the name of egalitarian principles who looked 
forward to bringing the French Revolution to England and 
establishing a republic. Gissing is sympathetic enough with those 
aspects of the movement which stress self-help for the poor, but he 
does not approve of its program of social reform. Arthur ultimately 
leaves the club, not because he feels free of the social 
responsibilities it imposes, but because he thinks he is better suited 
for carrying on its work in another way. In actuality, he is torn 
between the rival claims of art and social reform. This was a conflict 
which interested Gissing deeply, for it was responsible for one of his 
most tormenting divisions of mind, and although he offers a 
solution for it in his novel he was never able to make that solution 
work for himself. 

-- 38 --

One of the most persistent themes in Victorian literature is the 
sense of responsibility for the condition of the poor, which haunted 
the minds of sensitive and educated men of the leisure classes. 
Louis Cazamian has said, "Le 'remords social' est nŽ en Angleterre 
vers 1840; il ne meurt plus." *28* One of the classic contemporary 
expressions of this feeling, Tennyson's "Palace of Art," plays a part 
in _Workers in the Dawn_ by leading Arthur Golding to weigh the 
importance of his artistic talent. The poem tells how the poet's soul 
builds a secluded "ivory tower" furnished with sensuous delights 
and reminders of art and history where it means to pursue its 
pleasures. But vague and sinister horrors invade the palace from 
the forsaken humanity outside it, and the soul leaves her elegant 
retreat, saying: 

     Yet pull not down my palace towers, that are 
     So lightly, beautifully built; 
     Perchance I may return with others there 
     When I have purged my guilt. 

The soul's guilt is the same sense of something gone wrong in the 
bleak, joyless scene of nineteenth-century industrial civilization 
that forced Ruskin to drop his writing on esthetics and turn to 
political economy, provided Carlyle with his most thunderous 
themes, made William Morris an active socialist, and monopolized 
the interest of young intellectuals like those who made up the 
Fabian Society. Explaining why he had begun to write on social 
questions, Ruskin said in the first letter of _Fors Clavigera_: 

     For my own part, I will put up with this state of things, 
     passively, not an hour longer. I am not an unselfish 
     person, nor an Evangelical one; I have no particular 
     pleasure in doing good. . . . But I simply can not paint, 
     nor read, nor look at minerals, nor do anything else that 
     I like, and the very light of the morning sky . . . has 
     become hateful to me, because of the misery I know of, 
     and see signs of, where I know it not, which no imagination 
     can interpret too bitterly. *29* 

It was this widespread and profound sense of moral responsibility, 
said Beatrice Webb, that motivated the reform movement in which 
she participated. In the face of emotions like these, art could not 
flourish in its own right. 

The hero of Gissing's novel has been trapped in this typical 
Victorian dilemma since boyhood. Mr. Tollady urges him to use his 
talent as a painter in the manner of Hogarth to depict the abuses 

-- 39 --

of society, but Arthur feels unequal to this course. After his 
revolutionary fervor dies down, he is attracted to art again but 
cannot reconcile this attraction with his feeling that he must 
continue to help the poor. The solution for his problem is offered by 
Helen Norman, who turns him in the direction taken by many 
important Victorians. Arnold and William Morris, for example, 
sought to win for art, or, to use Arnold's broader term, "culture," a 
legitimate place in the social structure by claiming that it exercised 
a formative influence upon character and intellect. Art, Helen tells 
Arthur, has a much more profound effect upon civilization than 
direct social action, for it forms the spirit of which social institutions 
are merely the embodiment. In becoming a "pure artist," she 
argues, Arthur will be doing far more to serve society than in 
undertaking philanthropic or political activities. 

Helen has included Shelley in her studies, and what she is doing 
here, in effect, is trying to persuade Arthur that "poets are the 
unacknowledged legislators of the world." The logic behind this 
famous assertion supported the view that social reform could best 
be achieved by spiritual, rather than material, ends: 

     A man to be greatly good, must imagine intensely 
     and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place 
     of another and of many others; the pains and pleasures 
     of his species must become his own. The great instrument 
     of the moral good is the imagination; and poetry 
     administers to the effect by acting upon the cause. *30* 

On the other hand, says Shelley, it is wrong for the poet to preach 
moral doctrine directly, for morals are no more than temporary 
social expedients. The poet must instead consult his intuition and 
seek to express the divine element in his own nature in undistorted 
form. Helen tells Arthur, ". . . nothing in this world is more useful 
than the _beautiful_, nothing works so powerfully for the ultimate 
benefit of mankind. . . . Genius has always had, and always will 
have, laws to itself, laws not applicable to the mass of mankind. . . ." 
*31* This belief in the ultimate social value of art enables Arthur to 
accept with resignation the reproaches of a fellow radical who feels 
that he has betrayed the movement by leaving it. 

The Shelleyan principle of imagination with its corollary of artistic 
independence is one of the two positive opinions offered in 
_Workers in the Dawn_. The other is a philosophy of conditional 
determinism expounded by Mr. Tollady. Ultimate destinies, says 

-- 40 --

Mr. Tollady, are fixed. Human beings do not have the power to 
choose their fate, but they do have the limited power of choosing 
the manner in which their fate shall be fulfilled. They are free to 
meet the inevitable with honor, courage, and nobility, and what-
ever satisfaction they seek must be derived from their behavior in 
the face of historical events which are predetermined. For that 
reason, people should not be held responsible for the ultimate 
consequences of their actions, which are really beyond their control, 
but should be judged instead according to the spirit in which their 
actions are performed. Martyrs who died for their religions, says 
Mr. Tollady, may have been mistaken in devoting themselves to 
superstitious beliefs, but their beliefs were only accidents of 
history; their true value for humanity lies in the examples of 
courage and devotion they furnished, and for that reason the 
anticlerical Mr. Tollady remembers them with as much pride as any 
pious believer. 

These two convictions were a small harvest to rescue from the 
pessimism of _Workers in the Dawn_, but they were the more 
valuable to Gissing for that reason. He never felt the need to submit 
them to a fictional test again but made them parts of his method 
and outlook. Fragmentary, and even illogical, they did not offer 
enough material for constructing a coherent philosophy, though 
Gissing, inspired by the synthesizing example of Positivism, was 
eager to lay his hands on such a philosophy. In a letter to Algernon 
written while _Workers in the Dawn_ was in the press he gave a 
very creditable summary of Positivist views, concluding: 

     So the Positivist Philosophy bids us keep our eyes on 
     science, to do our best to collect all the results of human 
     knowledge, and deduce therefrom a scheme of _the history 
     of the world_, and from an intimate knowledge of the past 
     to discern a number of general rules which shall enable 
     us in a certain sense to predict the future, and so to lead 
     our political, social and individual lives more in consonance 
     with reason. . . . Consistency is _always_ admirable in itself 
     and more than ever when it is displayed in a cause whose 
     end is the elevation of humanity. *32* 

He had not succeeded, however, in eliminating the inconsistencies of 
his own social views. In his indignation on behalf of the poor, his 
recognition of the effects of environment, his insistence on personal 
liberty, and his belief in the efficacy of scientific meth-

-- 41-- 

ods, Gissing was a liberal of the school of Bentham, Owen, and Mill; 
yet he could not accept the egalitarian reform measures that 
followed from their theories. On the contrary, he shared with 
Carlyle a profound distrust of democracy, and he echoed, in a 
somewhat altered and much vaguer form, Carlyle's faith in the 
elect. Like Victorian England itself, he hovered between the two 
social philosophies that can be roughly attributed to Bentham and 
Burke. On the central question of democratic reform, the ability of 
the masses to govern themselves, Mill himself remained undecided. 
In the early editions of his _Principles of Political Economy_, which 
first appeared in 1848, he took the view that the spirit of 
brotherhood required for the communization of property was 
beyond the capacity of human nature; but in the third edition, in 
1852, he ventured the proposition that communism was practical, 
although it required as a condition of its success a thorough 
cultivation of public spirit on the part of the workers. Gissing felt 
that so radical a change was beyond the power of mere education. 
After reading Edward Bellamy's _Looking Backward_ in 1889 he 
wrote to Bertz: "The ingenuity of the man in working out details is 
most remarkable and plausible. But I feel - as you do - that these 
men postulate too great a change in human nature." *33* 

He had learned this pessimism during his first years in London and 
recorded his lesson in _Workers in the Dawn_. His disillusionment 
with the potentialities of human nature is reflected in an anecdote 
he told Roberts about the incident that formed the basis for a short 
descriptive piece, called "On Battersea Bridge," which he contributed 
to a London newspaper. One evening, while he was standing on the 
bridge admiring the Thames gleaming with glorious colors in the 
sunset, he noticed a workman near him enjoying the spectacle and 
was delighted to think that the poor man was able to respond to the 
beauty of the scene. But the man turned to him with the remark, 
"Throws up an 'eap of mud, don't she?" A fictional version of this 
incident appears in _Workers in the Dawn_ as one of Arthur's last 
discouraging attempts to educate Carrie. He calls her attention to a 
beautiful sunset, but her reply is, "It's almost as pretty as the 
theatre, isn't it?" 

Gissing's first novel thus included an exploration of the London 
slums that brought the newly converted Comtist and radical ideal-

-- 42 --

ist face to face with truths he would rather have ignored. As a 
result, when Frederic Harrison impatiently prodded him for some 
statement of principles and some positive views about social 
reform, Gissing had none to offer, for his views and his principles 
were already being undermined by the tormenting actuality 
reflected in his novel. 

-- 43 --




GISSING celebrated the publication of _Workers in the Dawn_ by 
taking Helen to Hastings for a late June holiday. In spite of the 
amusement the change provided, he took the cares of authorship 
with him and wrote from Hastings that the publisher, Remington, 
was not advertising his book properly. Next time, said Gissing, he 
would take his work elsewhere. The fact was that, after straining 
every nerve to write and publish the novel, Gissing found that only 
forty-nine copies were sold in the first three months, and, when the 
publisher sent him a check for his share of the first year's sale after 
the cost of advertising had been deducted, the amount came to 
sixteen shillings. He seized, for encouragement, upon the fact that 
his book had been included in Mudie's selected list, but that was 
only a small light in the darkness. The reviews were not 
enthusiastic. The _Athenaeum_, which gave the novel an unusually 
long paragraph, praised the telling use of detail but criticized 
Gissing for singling out so easy an object of attack as Mr. Whiffle, 
the ridiculous clergyman. The anonymous reviewer disapproved of 
what he took to be Gissing's radicalism. He wrote: 

     Some people think the social difficulties of over-population 
     and pauperism may be redressed by rousing the passions 
     of the poor, and others that religion may be usefully replaced 
     by an amalgam of Schopenhauer, Comte and Shelley. To both 
     of these opinions our author is an enthusiastic subscriber. *1*

The opinions expressed by the novel as a whole are, of course, 
nearly the opposite of these. The _Athenaeum_ review contained 

-- 44 --

George Gissing first of the many misinterpretations Gissing's social 
opinions were to suffer at the hands of reviewers. The _Spectator_ 
conceded that _Workers in the Dawn_ was a powerful work of 
fiction, but its anti-clericalism led the reviewer to add that Gissing 
was guilty of a prejudiced presentation of life and character. The 
truth of the book, he said was "unquestionable"; its remedies, 
however, were "Quixotic." 

Disappointed but not demoralized by these reactions, Gissing took 
the step of sending a copy of his book to Harrison, explaining in a 
stiffly phrased letter that, although the reviewers had evaluated it 
as a novel of ideas, and had neglected its esthetic qualities, he could 
not give up hope for it. He added that he now wrote to Harrison in 
gratitude because he had learned about Comte, whose ideas had 
inspired his novel, from Harrison's writings. After Harrison's letter 
of July 22, in which reserve and enthusiasm were mingled, Gissing 
replied with one of the most revealing letters he ever wrote. He was 
sufficiently humble about the faults of his novel; he said distinctly, 
in answer to Harrison's expression of distaste for Zola, that he had 
never read Zola's work and that the qualities of _Workers in the 
Dawn_ resulted from his own reactions to the life of the poor. In the 
first part of his career, Gissing often had to defend himself against 
charges that he was a social reformer rather than an artist, but his 
letter shows that, for him at least, moral indignation and 
imaginative insight could be fused into a single psychic experience. 
He wrote that, after walking through the slums, 

     . . . I have involuntarily stood still and asked myself - 
     what then is the meaning of those strange words, Morality, 
     Decency, Intelligence, which I have somewhere heard? . . . 
     here they mean nothing, nay, their presence would be the 
     intrusion of an utterly incongruous clement. - And I have 
     undergone a strange interval of feeling, in which the 
     absence of all that mankind esteems good and lofty seemed 
     to me quite normal and natural. *2* 

Strongly impressed by the cultural gap between the classes, he 
wrote his novel in order to penetrate the "realms of darkness" and 
to dramatize the spiritual dangers run by sensitive people who 
undertook missions of social reform. As for the satirical treatment 
of religion, "I have never, since first I reasoned on such things, 
known one moment of enthusiasm for, one instant of belief in, the 
dogmas of religion." Positivism, he wrote, has been his only 
resource, and 

-- 45 --

he is glad that he has been spared the struggle of freeing himself 
from "the bondage of creeds." *3*

Within a week after reading _Workers in the Dawn_, Gissing wrote 
to Algernon, Harrison sent letters to "_eight_ literary friends" 
recommending him. One of these was John Morley, who, it was 
reported, persuaded Matthew Arnold to read Gissing's novel and 
also asked Gissing for contributions to the _Pall Mall Gazette_. It 
was natural for Gissing to respond to this encouragement by 
transferring his hopes to Harrison and his circle. 

The articles on socialism, written with Bert7's help and published in 
the _Pall Mall Gazette_ in the early part of September, 1880, show 
Gissing to have been sympathetic, at that time, with the rational 
approach to social reform advocated by responsible socialists and 
by the Positivists. Morley also asked Gissing to use his talent for 
description in writing "some sketches of eccentric life," and Gissing 
seems to have enjoyed the prospect of prowling about the streets 
disguised in workman's clothing in search of material. No 
descriptive articles appeared, although some years later in 
_Thyrza_ Gissing did make use of his impressions of a large public-
house party he visited on one of these expeditions. 

Early in November he went to a meeting of the Positivist Society at 
the Harrisons', where he met some eminent members and formally 
joined the organization himself. Not long afterwards he began to 
tutor the Harrison boys, and early in the following year he was 
recommended to Vernon Lushington, a former Secretary of the 
Admiralty, who hired him to tutor his four girls. 

In this way began a strange double life. Almost every day Gissing 
left the cramped misery of his room, where his sick and drunken 
wife awaited him, to appear at fashionable homes, both as tutor and 
guest. The contrast sometimes led to amusing situations. One lady 
who could not keep her servants asked Gissing how he managed his 
butler, and Gissing coolly replied that he preferred a maid. More 
often, however, the conditions of his life made him so unhappy that 
he could not bear to write to his brother about his feelings, only 
saying that he wished he had a relative nearby to whom he could 
look for sympathy. Something of an improvement came at the end 
of February, 1881 , when he moved to the West End for the sake of 
living closer to his pupils and saving traveling time. His new 
quarters at 55 Wornington Road had two rooms, and one of them 

-- 46 --

was used as a study. This, together with the time he saved, made it 
possible for him to continue writing. For in spite of all difficulties 
and disappointments, his writing did continue. The novel begun 
before _Workers in the Dawn_ had been accepted for publication 
had lain untouched for several months, but it was already half 
finished, and Gissing now felt that he would be able to go back to it. 

His relationship with Harrison led to welcome opportunities for 
earning money by tutoring, but these involved incursions into his 
writing time. He gradually increased his clientele, until in March of 
1882 he was occupied from nine to six with ten pupils, most of 
them children of wealthy families, His subjects were generally Latin 
and Greek, but when he was forced to discuss some field in which 
he was not prepared, like English history, or a new Latin text, he 
enjoyed the chance for study. The number of pupils and the hours 
he gave to private teaching of this sort diminished as time went on, 
but it was years before he felt able to give it up entirely. 

Another chance of making money came to him through Harrison 
and the Positivist Society in November, 1880, when Gissing received 
a note from a fellow Positivist, Professor Edward Spencer Beesly, 
inviting him to write a quarterly article on English affairs to be 
printed in translation in the Russian periodical _Le Messager de 
l'Europe_, which was published once a month in St. Petersburg. At 
first he was happy to accept this offer, for he was paid eight pounds 
for each article. However, he prepared his contributions with his 
usual conscientiousness, gleaning social and political material from 
the press and keeping himself scrupulously informed about current 
matters, so that each one took him about a month of hard work. The 
first was sent off to Russia in January, 1881. Gissing received copies 
of the magazine, which he described as "a fine-looking periodical, 
about the size of the _Nineteenth Century_," *4* but the only part of 
it that he could read was the English initials "G.R.G." following his 
article. This work brought in a much-needed thirty-two pounds a 
year, but it involved labor that Gissing soon found intolerable, and 
by October of 1882 he was writing to Algernon that he was 
"struggling bitterly with the old foe, the Russian article." *5* 

As an indirect result of the publication of _Workers in the Dawn_, 
Gissing renewed the acquaintance of a college friend who was 
ultimately to become his first biographer, Morley Roberts. The two 

-- 47 -- 

had not met since Gissing had left Owens College, but Roberts, 
seeing the name of his old schoolmate in the advertisements for 
_Workers in the Dawn_, wrote to him through the publisher. At 
Gissing's death, Roberts ranked as his closest and oldest friend. He 
had literary interests and was a prolific author and journalist, but 
as a vigorous, robust, Bohemian personality whose energies 
sometimes involved him with the police and often carried him off to 
distant parts of the empire and to America in search of fortune and 
adventure, he had little in common with Gissing. He was certainly 
less able to sympathize with Gissing than to criticize his deficiencies, 
but he was a sincere and congenial friend whose company Gissing 
enjoyed. The two frequently met in each other's shabby rooms to 
pass the time in animated literary discussions of the kind that take 
place between Reardon and Biffen in _New Grub Street_. Roberts 
was awed by Gissing's profound knowledge of the classics, but he 
was also impatient with his pedantry, timidity, and impracticality. 

Roberts' biography of Gissing, _The Private Life of Henry Maitland_, 
was badly received when it was published in 1912 and has always 
been regarded with distrust because the names in it are disguised. 
Roberts makes many errors of judgment, an almost inevitable result 
of the difference between his temperament and Gissing's. In 
addition, his book is rambling, unsystematic, and digressive. 
Nevertheless, it gives invaluable personal impressions and many 
facts, however inaccurately narrated, that would not otherwise be 
known. Although he often quotes from letters written to him by 
Gissing, Roberts never does so without making some deliberate 
minor change in the wording of the passage. His reason for doing 
this and for disguising the names was probably to forestall legal 
action on the grounds of unauthorized quotation or libel. He 
certainly did not intend to conceal anything, for he gave many 
direct clues, and no one seems to have been in any doubt whatever 
as to the real identity of "Henry Maitland" or most of the other 
thinly disguised personages in the book. 

When he moved to Wornington Road in February of 1881, Gissing 
was forced to borrow ten pounds from his mother, although his 
poverty was no longer as acute as it had been a year or two earlier, 
for he was soon to be earning forty-five shillings a week through 
his pupils alone. The trouble was that Helen's illnesses constantly 

-- 48 --

duced doctor's bills, raising his expenses to three pounds a week. In 
spite of money troubles and pupils, however, he locked himself into 
the second room every evening after his day's teaching was done 
and wrote busily. 

When he was writing _Workers in the Dawn_ he rose early, spent 
an hour thinking of his work and then wrote from nine until two, 
finishing a whole chapter of three thousand words or more. Now, 
however, he no longer felt the creative urge that had carried him 
through his first book and was content with half a chapter written 
in the evening, His obstacles multiplied. He became prey to 
indigestion, especially in bad weather. Helen's actions and illnesses 
disrupted his peace of mind. One day in April, 1881, for example, 
she had a fit in a nearby chemist's shop and had to be carried home 
through the streets. Incidents like these, combined with his 
constant struggle to earn a living, cast him into a profound 
depression. He was jealous of every moment taken from his writing. 
When a grandfather who lived in London complained of being 
neglected, Gissing was distressed, but insisted that he could not 
spare a precious evening in listening to the old man's conversation. 
As for leaving him alone with Helen, that was impossible. She could 
no more entertain a visitor, said Gissing, than his writing chair. The 
chair would, in fact, be preferable, for its silence was better than 
Helen's foolish and offensive remarks. 

In May one of the hazards of life in cheap lodgings spoiled their 
enjoyment of the pleasant pair of rooms in Wornington Road; a dead 
rat was found in the water pipes. Early in August they moved to 15 
Gower Place. Gissing's letters to Algernon at this time are often full 
of complaint: "I struggle with absolute anguish for a couple of hours 
of freedom every day, and can only obtain the semblance of whole-
hearted application. To say that I am like a man toiling up a hill 
with a frightful burden upon his back is absolutely no figure of 
speech with me; often, very often, I am on the point of stumbling 
and going no further." *6*

But there were expressions of resolution too, and the new novel 
progressed steadily through 1881. "I know very well," he once 
wrote to Algernon, "that this alone is my true work, and it shall not 
be sacrificed to whatever exigencies." *7* He had to do without 
Bertz's support, for his friend had become a member of the group 
which Tom Hughes sent to Tennessee to establish the model 

-- 49 --

he called Rugby. Bertz was out of England from July of 1881 until 
June of 1883. 

Gissing now began to tell Algernon some of the details of his life 
with Helen, and it is clear that similar facts lay behind the vague 
allusions to "conditions" in earlier letters. In the middle of January, 
1882, after having been hospitalized for one of her many disorders, 
Helen came home prematurely, and insisted on going out to do some 
marketing the next day. The result was another fit, this time in a 
chandler's shop. It was followed by a faint, which took place in the 
street while she was on her way home. She was taken to a hospital, 
where the doctors were mystified by her condition, as they had 
always been. Gissing was greatly disturbed, both by the public 
commotion these attacks caused, and by his own fear. He described 
the seizure as convulsions followed by periods of unconsciousness, 
and they may well have been caused by Helen's addiction to 
alcohol, which must by now have become chronic. She was often 
overcome in public places, and although Gissing forbade her to go 
out she disobeyed him and had to be locked in. Their relations had 
become hopeless. She continually deceived him, even conspiring 
with the servants. Once, for example, Gissing reported that when he 
had asked a maid to sell some old newspapers for him, Helen told 
her to say that they had brought a lower price, and cheated him of 
the difference. With the money she secretly bought liquor. 

He now felt clearly that his only hope of continuing his work lay in 
ridding himself of his wife. After her attack in January, 1882, he 
made arrangements for her to stay at an invalids' home in Battersea 
kept by two kindly old ladies. Helen begged not to be sent there, for 
it meant that she would be unable to obtain drink, but Gissing stood 
firm against her entreaties. He felt that it would be folly to give in 
to her, and he decided, furthermore, that once he had succeeded in 
sending her away he would never have her back. Her protests grew 
so violent and her melancholy so profound that Gissing was afraid 
she would go insane. She even threatened, he wrote, to become a 
Roman Catholic. She promised to reform, but Gissing realized that he 
could not trust her when he found a bottle of gin among her 
belongings. A few days later he succeeded, in spite of her 
resistance, in getting her to the lodging in Battersea. He told himself 
that she was mad and that her lunacy freed him from the 

-- 50 --

responsibility of living with her. The invalids' home was a heavy 
additional expense, but he felt that his new freedom was well worth 
its cost. 

He immediately began to make up for lost time, and in his solitary 
evenings wrote busily at the novel that he was to call _Mrs. 
Grundy's Enemies_. He shared his quarters with a big black tomcat 
named Grimmy Shaw whose way of devouring fishheads and then 
sleeping in the middle of his study table presented the toiling 
author with a spectacle of enviable contentment. During the day he 
was occupied with pupils from nine to six but found time for 
companionship. Algernon visited him in March, and the two went to 
see the famous elephant, Jumbo. On Mondays and Fridays he 
lunched with the Harrisons and was sometimes their dinner guest 
as well. When he stayed at home, he was often joined by Morley 
Roberts, who has described how they spent hours in lively literary 
conversation, interrupting their talk to create a miscellaneous and 
substantial stew in a pot cooked at the fire. In June Gissing saw 
"Frou-Frou," playcd by Sarah Bernhardt and a visiting French 
company. At about this time, the Harrisons, who were planning to 
spend September in Normandy, Sug"gcstcd to Gissing that he 
accompany them at their expense in order to give the boys lessons 
during the holiday. Gissing was greatly excited by this proposal and 
began to make plans to free himself from pupils for the month, but 
when September came the invitation had to be withdrawn because 
of an illness of Mrs. Harrison. 

In the middle of June the comparative equanimity that Gissing was 
now enjoying was shattered again by Ilclen. She had somehow 
escaped from her captivity in Battersea and was now living with 
friends who sent Gissing abusive letters, accusing him of 
mistreating her. One day she caused so serious a disturbance that 
the police were called, and he was summoned to court to take 
charge of her. He now had to find the police officer who had 
arrested her, and he complained that the affair disrupted his work. 

In spite of all this, _Mrs. Grundy's Enelnies_ was completed at the 
beginning of September, 1882, and a new novel was begun before it 
had been sent to a publisher. In the same month Gissing moved to 
17 Oakley Crescent, Chelsea, where he was to stay for almost two 
years, ending the troublesome wandering from one squalid lodging 
to another that had characterized his London life. Before the end 

-- 51 --

of the month, Smith, Elder returned _Mrs. Grundy's Enemies_ with a 
note saying that it was too "painful" and that it would not attract 
the kind of reader who subscribed to Mudie's circulating library. 
Gissing greeted this verdict with contempt, and sent the manuscript 
off to another publisher. 

In the meantime, Helen had been taken to the hospital again, this 
time for an eye operation. Instead of coming home afterward, 
however, she had gone to the house of another patient, and was 
being cared for there. Apparently her presence soon grew 
unwelcome, for in October, 1882, Gissing received a telegram asking 
him to come and take her away at once. He and Helen were now 
together again with equal unwillingness on both sides. Finding it 
impossible to keep Helen at home, even though she could not see, 
Gissing had to hire a woman to accompany her when she went out, 
at the troublesome expense of a shilling a day. 

The harsh experiences of these years were teaching him to modify 
his faith that society could be transformed by rational means. For a 
time at least, he seems to have persisted in believing that 

particular cases did not nullify the validity of generalizations 
derived in a rational manner. In February of 1881 he wrote that 
although he felt Positivism could satisfy emotional needs usually 
associated with religion, he preferred to stress its intellectual 
aspects. In January, as the newest of Harrison's converts, he had 
begun to date his letters according to the Positivist calendar, which, 
as he explained to Algernon, numbered the years from the year 
before the French Revolution. In six months, however, he returned 
to the conventional way of dating letters, and in less than two years 
the conditions of his life brought him to the pessimistic conclusions 
implied in _Workers in the Dawn_.

He formulated his new ideas in an article entitled "Hope of 
Pessimism," which was completed in October, 1882, but never 
submitted for publication because Gissing felt that it would not be 
accepted anywhere, and that if it were he would be embarrassed by 
Harrison's reaction to it. In this remarkable document, Gissing 
subjects the philosophy of nineteenth-century Radicalism, which he 
calls "Agnostic Optimism," to a critique based on standards drawn 
from Schopenhauer. It is a unique performance, beginning with the 
Victorian scientism of Mill, Comte, Darwin, and Spencer, and 
advancing to the twentieth-century pessimism of Camus, Or-

-- 52 --

well, and Aldous Huxley. Gissing argues that it is a mistake to 
believe, as the Comtists did, that science can eliminate "the 
metaphysical instinct," for even after people have been educated 
out of their religious ideas, they will still think in religious terms 
unconsciously. Further, science itself, when it has gone as far as 
possible in revealing the secrets of nature, will ultimately confront 
the unknowable, thus inspiring a sense of wonder that can only 
result in a return to mysticism. It can give no better knowledge of 
the nature of the universe than can conventional religion. When the 
scientist and the Philistine are on their deathbeds, both will be 
forced to acknowledge the futility of their beliefs, says Gissing, 
coining one of his best phrases, by "the convincing metaphysics of 

If "Agnostic Optimism" succeeded, however, the society it would 
produce would be intolerable. Optimism, says Gissing, is an 
expression of the will to survive, "egotism under another name," 
and it encourages the vices of competition. Also, it is opposed to 
reason and to realism, for the facts that life is unhappy and human 
nature radically evil are self-evident. In spite of its long struggle 
for improvement, the human race can never achieve absolute 
knowledge and is destined, one day, for extinction. With an inverted 
logic that recalls Camus"'Myth of Sisyphus." Gissing argues toward 
the close of his essay that an awareness of these tragic facts can 
serve as the basis for a new conception of virtue. Men must realize 
"the pathos of the human lot," must face each other with 
"compassion," must make mutual sympathy a duty. "We are 
shipmates tossed on the ocean of eternity," he says, "and one fate 
awaits us all." Gissing seems to be anticipating certain phases of 
Huxley's _Brave New World_ and Orwell's _1984_ when he says 
that the ultimate result of such a view of life would be the 
elimination of egotism, together with its concomitants, the will to 
live and the procreative impulse. Finally, ". . . a childless race will 
dedicate its breath to the eternal silence, and Mercy will have 
redeemed the world." 

The long, twenty-eight-page manuscript, written in passionate and 
ironic prose, is a key both to Gissing's convictions and to the many 
problems of his novels. It explains why his social novels so 
consistently reject not only reform, but even the possibility of 
reform. His opinion that the order of the universe is intrinsically 
evil and that human idealism can do little to change that fact is 
expressed in his novels through the failures of such genuinely well-

-- 53 --

intentioned social reformers as Helen Norman. His way of relating 
political democracy to competition and its vices in later novels such 
as _In the Year of Jubilee_ recalls his view that "Agnostic Optimism" 
is merely a ratification of the process of evolutionary conflict within 
the social order. 

"Hope of Pessimism" is a manifestation of that independence of 
mind which irritated Gissing's friends and kept him at odds with his 
age. It shows that his thoughts could go beyond the intellectual 
commitments of his time, to deal sensitively and imaginatively with 
issues that still lay beyond the horizon. Having honestly followed 
the premises dictated by his experiences and prejudices to their 
logical, if eccentric conclusions, he was no longer a militant of the 
Religion of Humanity or a "mouthpiece of the advanced Radical 
party," as he had once called himself. Gissing felt some satisfaction 
with his essay, for in the same letter of October 6, 1882, in which he 
told Algernon about "Hope of Pessimism," he said that he felt more 
inclined to state his social ideas as speculations than to embody 
them in fiction. 

The day after Christmas, 1882, Gissing wrote joyfully to Algernon 
that the firm of Bentley and Company had accepted _Mrs. Grundy's 
Enemies_. What matter if their price was fifty pounds, hardly more 
than a token payment? To the eager young author the chance of 
having his work published seemed reward enough in itself. Besides, 
the fifty pounds, little as it would seem to an established writer, 
was by no means unwelcome. As it turned out, however, Gissing's 
joy was premature. While the book was in proof the objectionable 
material that had led Smith and Elder to refuse it attracted the 
attention of the new publisher, and Gissing was asked to change 
certain scenes and dialogue. He consulted Harrison, who had by now 
become his confidant and adviser on legal and literary matters. 
Harrison thought that Gissing ought to make the required 
concessions. Gissing disagreed, but, after a lively discussion of the 
issues involved, he gave way, chafing under the necessity of 
compromising with "prejudices" and determining to take revenge on 
the "namby-pamby public" by means of a satirical novel and an 
article on morality in fiction. 

In the meantime, George Bentley asked Evelyn Abbott, a historian 
and fellow of Balliol College who had acted as a literary adviser to 
his firm, to read the novel and mark passages for omission 

-- 54 --

and revision. By March, Abbott, working with the proofs of the first 
two volumes and the manuscript of the third, had completed his 
task. There the matter rested for nearly a year. As late as February 
of 1884 Gissing was still waiting to hear of the publication of _Mrs. 
Grundy's Enemies_. At last, in August, he wrote to Algernon that he 
had received a moralizing letter from Bentley about the novel. 
Gissing spent the next six wep.ks revising it, and returned it in the 
middle of October, 1884. In spite of the revisions of Abbott and 
Gissing, however, the novel was never published, and the 
manuscript and proofs have been lost. 

Judging from Abbott's comments about it in his letters to Bentley, 
_Mrs. Grundy's Enemies_ reflected Gissing's continued interest in 
the poor, although his sympathetic attitude was changing. The 
realities of London were making it impossible for him to preserve 
whatever illusions he may have brought from Wakefield and 
Dickens about the potentialities of the poor. His radical idealism 
must have weakened quickly when he heard his own principles 
declared at restless and sometimes violent street meetings, for such 
scenes aroused in him a profound distrust of crowds. He had always 
feared and hated large groups of people, as a poem written when he 
was a boy shows. *8* This aversion asserts itself whenever he 
describes crowds in his novels. He felt them to be uncontrollable 
herds, capable of unlimited violence, in which human individuality 
was swamped by numbers. He could hardly continue for very long 
to be an advocate of democratic socialism when he feared the 
multitude and abhorred the possibility of mass action. One of the 
consequences of this prejudice was a pronounced dislike of theaters 
and plays, which he associated with crowds. Although he went to 
plays often enough, he looked upon them as attempts to pander to 
low public tastes. For this reason he disliked Dickens' dramatic flair 
and, in spite of his admiration for Ibsen, regretted that he had 
chosen to express himself in the form of plays. The spectacle of the 
poor swarming out on the May Bank Holiday of 1882 to waste their 
freedom in crowded discomfort at the seashore or in the parks 
filled him with disgust. It was a sight that never failed to make him 
think and one that he often described in novels and short stories. 

The trouble was, he wrote to his sister Margaret, that people did not 
enjoy periods of leisure often enough to learn to make use of them. 
"What we want is a general shortening of working hours all 

-- 55 --

the year round, so that, for instance, all labour would be over at 4 
o'clock in the afternoon." *9* However, such a thing could not come 
to pass while society continued to grub so hard for money. 

     All the world's work - all that is really necessary for the 
     health and comfort and even luxury of mankind - could 
     be performed in three or four hours of each day. . . . Every 
     man has to fight for a living with his neighbour, and the 
     grocer who keeps his shop open till half an hour after 
     midnight has an advantage over him who closes at twelve. 
     Work in itself is _not an end_; _only a means_; but we nowadays      
     make it an end, and three-fourths of the world cannot 
     understand anything else. *10* 


The events of the time reported in the newspapers convinced 
Gissing that he was living in a materialist society which had no 
nobility of spirit. Reports of athletic feats reminded him of the lack 
of attention paid to matters of intellect. When many thousands of 
pounds were spent to erect an ornamental statue of a grifEln in 
Fleet Street, and it was then found that the grifHn interfered with 
traffic, Gissing saw in the ugliness of the statue and the wasteful 
muddle of the whole affair typical reflections of the period's state of 
mind. Reading of a man who gave twenty thousand pounds to the 
Congregational Church, Gissing attributed the action to social 
ambition and an appetite for display and wished such sums could 
be contributed to humanitarian ends. The thought of all this money 
reminded him that London was unable to raise enough to establish 
a free library of the kind he had seen in America. "Our age," he 
wrote to Algernon, ". . . is thoroughly empty, mean, wind-baggish, 
and the mass of people care so little to find employment in 
intellectual matters that they are driven to all manner of wild 
physical excesses for the sake of excitement." *11* At the death of 
Carlyle in 1881 he reflected, as every generation does, that the 
giants of the time were going, leaving no great men to take their 
places, and envisioned the coming of an age democratized into 

Still, London offered some pleasures he could enjoy. In February of 
1883 he went to see an exhibition of pictures by Dante Gabriel 
Rossetti, and he wrote to his sisters about the Gilbert and Sullivan 
operas, including the current "lolanthe," which he had seen, In 

-- 56 --

spite of his aversion to the theater, Gissing seldom missed a new 
opera at the Savoy, and he felt a great interest in W. S. Gilbert and 
his work. Characteristically, he tempered the charming illusions of 
art and music with the harshness of reality by going for a long stroll 
in the East End on one day in the same month and taking note of 
the life he saw there. 

Since he had jettisoned Positivism and concluded that much of the 
world's suffering was due to frenzied industrial competition, it was 
natural that he should find something attractive in the economic 
doctrines of Ruskin. In a letter of May, 1883, he recommended 
_Unto This Last_ to his sister Margaret, as much for its thought as 
for its style, and admitted that he went very far in agreeing with it. 

The first of the works on economics that occupied the later part of 
Ruskin's career, _Unto This Last_ had first appeared in 1860 as a 
series of essays in _The Cornhill_. It attacked the principles of 
"political economy" because they ignored emotions, which Ruskin 
felt should be recognized as subtle and active economic forces. In 
the problems of production and distribution, he said, human and 
spiritual values ought to take precedence over mere volume of 
goods. His most ambitious move was an attack on orthodox 
conceptions of value, Mill had said that the measure of a product's 
value was its usefulness, and Ricardo had equated value with the 
labor of production, but Ruskin, drawing upon his own experience 
as an art critic, pointed out that these strictly material definitions 
failed to measure the value of works of art. Denying the common 
economic principles with more eloquence than logic, Ruskin 
declared that the value of a manufactured article, like the value of a 
great painting, was inherent. The end of production should be that 
of serving human beings; its object should be "mouth-gain," not 
"money-gain." Even prices, said Ruskin, are subject to the operation 
of human values, for they depend partly on the purchaser's desire 
for articles on sale. 

Gissing did not approve of the practical suggestions for workshops, 
government schools, unemployment relief, and other social 
measures set forth in the preface of _Unto This Last_. But Ruskin's 
attempt to humanize the most established principles of a 
materialistic age, his distrust of democracy and egalitarianism, and 
his insistence that real social advances could come only through 

-- 57 --

vidual improvement were all attractive to Gissing. In particular, he 
sympathized with Ruskin's view that art and art values deserved a 
central position in society. "His worship of Beauty I look upon as 
essentially valuable," he wrote. And he said in the same letter, ". . . I 
am growing to feel, that the only thing known to us of absolute 
value is artistic perfection. The ravings of fanaticism - justifiable or 
not - pass away; but the works of the artist, work in what material 
he will, remain, sources of health to the world." *12*

Although his social ideas were changing, Gissing's agnosticism 
remained firm. Bertz had recently returned from America, after 
suffering considerable hardship at Tom Hughes's experimental farm 
in Tennessee, which had failed and gone into bankruptcy, Late in 
the summer of 1883 he was struck by a new form of idealism, 
suddenly joined the Blue Ribbon Army and the YMCA, and began to 
frequent Salvation Army revival meetings. Gissing found this 
behavior "shocking" in an intelligent man, and asserted that there 
was no chance that he would go the same way, Reviewing his 
beliefs in a letter to his sister Margaret written at about the same 
time, he wrote that he did not think the senses were capable of 
apprehending absolute truth, and that this incapacity bound him to 
respect, though not to share, her religious convictions. 

     In very deed, I can prove absolutely, nothing whatever. 
     Am surrounded by infinite darkness, and live my little life 
     by the light of such poor tapers as the sun, moon and stars. 
     But I earnestly beg of you to understand that this position 
     is compatible with the extremest reverence. If you tell me 
     you believe that the light has been brought to you, by 
     means of a certain revelation, I cannot possibly say you 
     are wrong. I could only do so if my own senses were final 
     arbiters of truth. All I can say is that I am so constituted 
     that I _cannot_ put faith in the light you hold to me; it appears 
     to me an artificial reflection of man's hopes. My position with 
     regard to the universe is that of Carlyle in the wonderful 
     chapter of "Sartor" called "Natural Supernaturalism." *13* 

Gissing continued to hold himself responsible for the education of 
his sisters and his brother. His letters to Ellen and Margaret exalt 
the ideal of the educated woman, suggest reading and methods of 
study, and call their attention to topics of the day. In the fall of 
1883 his education of Algernon took a new turn. The latter had 
qualified himself as a solicitor and begun practice in Wakefield, but 
he apparently found little use for his training except that of 
advising Gissing about points of law involved in the plots of his 

-- 58 --

novels. In September of 1883, however, when he sent Gissing a 
copy of a letter he had written to a Wakefield newspaper, Gissing 
praised it extravagantly, saying it showed that Algernon had 
writing talent and urging him to try his hand. He mentioned the 
kind of subject he felt would suit Algernon - social material - and, 
although he recommended the essays of W. H. Mallock as models, he 
reminded him that it was important to be original. 

Gissing had taken Helen back in October of 1882, but she probably 
did not stay with him very long. He seems to have enjoyed freedom 
for both work and leisure during" most of 1883, and by autumn of 
that year Helen was certainly living elsewhere, for in September a 
policeman called to inform Gissing that she had again become 
involved in a street disturbance. Although she was the plaintiff in a 
case in which she charged two men with assault, things seemed 
likely to go against her. The policeman told Gissing that she was 
known as a drunkard and a person of bad character. The 
disturbance had taken place at one-thirty in the morning, and so 
many of Helen's faults of character seemed likely to emerge in the 
case that, as the policeman apparently suggested to Gissing, it would 
be easy to provide evidence to serve as grounds for divorce. Gissing 
was eager to follow the suggestion, but he feared that the legal 
proceedings might be beyond his means and, as he always did in 
such emergencies, consulted Harrison. 

Harrison advised immediate legal action, and offered to lend Gissing 
the money for it. Encouraged by the hope of freeing himself, Gissing 
told himself that the worst of the distress Helen had caused him 
was over. He had sent her a pound a week when they were 
separated, and he intended to continue this allowance when the 
proposed divorce was effected, provided Helen met such 
requirements as living where he asked her to. Haste was important, 
and he asked Algernon to recommend a London barrister, 
impressing on him the extreme importance of the affair. By the 
middle of October he was consulting an attorney named Poole, who 
was optimistic but suggested that Gissing gather more evidence. 
Accordingly, he engaged a policeman for a weekly fee to watch 
Helen's movements. After a couple of weeks, however, no new 
evidence had been secured, and toward the end of November Poole 
advised Gissing to give up hope of a divorce. There is no doubt that 
he was greatly disappointed, but he wrote to Algernon that it made 

-- 59 --

difference. He would have continued to send Helen money in any 
event, and as far as moral questions were concerned, he felt himself 
free of convention. Helen remained his wife, but he never saw her 
again until after she was dead. 


While awaiting the publication of _Mrs. Grundy's Enemies_, Gissing 
took advantage of his relationship with George Bentley to submit 
some of his work to Bentley's periodical, _Temple Bar_. A poem 
called simply "Song," the only verse Gissing seems to have 
published in his lifetime, appeared in the number of November 
1883; it is a sentimental Swinburnian effusion, written, according to 
Gissing's confession, in seven minutes. This acceptance seems to 
have suggested the possibility of earning some much-needed 
money by trying _Temple Bar_ with short stories, and he succeeded 
in placing one, or possibly two, early in 1884. The first, "The Four 
Silverpennys," appears unsigned, and can be attributed to Gissing 
only with some doubt. It tells of a lonely man who searches for 
someone of his own unusual name to designate as his heir. The 
second, entitled "Phoebe," has a number of characteristic elements: 
a sympathetic English _grisette_ finds in her room a large sum of 
money left by its eccentric former lodger, but she does not know 
how to make use of it, and it is eventually stolen by an ungrateful 
beggarwoman whom she shelters for the night. 

Gissing was, as always, occupied with a novel of his own, but he 
took time in October and November of 1883 to continue Algernon's 
literary education. In October, he covered three pages of a letter 
with the outline of a short novel for Algernon to try his talent on. It 
was a story about a love affair between two young people who 
meet under the auspices of an unconventional elderly lady but are 
prevented from marrying by the disapproval of the girl's parents. 
Compelled to wait until the girl is of age, they spend a year apart, 
then return to their patroness and are married. Gissing later used 
this plot, with some improvements, at the end of _Thyrza_, and he 
felt that as it stood it might be worked into a marketable short 
novel. He sent it to Algernon with many suggestions about 
characterization, warnings against possible mistakes, and even a 

-- 60 --

title - "Pastures New." He also offered to send a chapter outline if it 
should be needed. 

The pupil went busily to work and early in November submitted a 
first chapter which his master returned with detailed criticism. 
Although Gissing wisely limited his suggestions to matters of craft, 
and adapted them to the talents of his pupil, his advice to Algernon 
gives some excellent insights into his own methods. He 
recommended that the chapter in question begin with a description, 
and that didactic passages be omitted. He warned against the 
faultless character and advised Algernon to give more details and to 
introduce the facts obliquely, with the accompaniment of satire or 
humor, but without comment. It was extremely important to keep 
the plot simple and to command a firm grasp of the characters; 
publishers paid more attention to the larger aspects of plot and 
character than to style. He ended by asking Algernon to rewrite the 
chapter according to his suggestions and send it to him again. He 
suggested that Algernon read the newspapers for ideas and observe 
people carefully for characteristics and opinions that might be 
useful. He regarded Scott as a "dangerous model" because he 
introduced long discursive passages and did not attempt the 
psychological realism necessary in the newer fiction; but he 
recommended George Eliot for her structure, transitions, and 
conversations. The slow pace of his own plot-developments is partly 
explained by his rule that each chapter should have its own 
incident, and should move the story along one step. He pointed out 
Hardy's practice of keeping his people busy with small actions, a 
device that has much to do with the quiet atmosphere of his later 
novels: ". . . it is astonishinghow much interest can attach to the 
paltriest affairs if only they be vividly presented. Nay, it is often 
better to trust to the trivial." *14*

The letters of late 1883 are the beginning of a painstaking 
pedagogy that continued long after the novels of country life 
Algernon learned to write by these methods began to achieve 
publication. After 1888 the two brothers pursued parallel careers 
as novelists; Gissing occasionally wondered whether they were 
interfering with each other's interests; their work was certainly 
dissimilar, and Algernon never succeeded in establishing a 
reputation. Even after Algernon had begun to publish prolifically he 
still found his older brother's guidance necessary. Gissing discussed 
possible titles with 

-- 61 --

him, sent lists of corrections and suggestions after reading each of 
his books, helped him through difficulties with publishers, told him 
where he might place his novels when he met with rejections, and 
recommended that he try A. P. Watt, the agent, when one of his 
books could not find a publisher. 

Though Algernon wrote fluently and published much, his work 
brought such small prices that it never promised to provide him 
with a livelihood. He never entered a profession, though law and 
the church suggested themselves to him at various times, but seems 
to have spent his life in inexpensive country cottages with his wife 
and child, scribbling his inoffensive and unprofitable novels, and 
wondering what to do. Gissing was continually concerned about him. 
At one difficult juncture he warned that he ought not to continue 
with his efforts to make a living by literature, saying that writing 
was "a waste of life," "destruction in the prime of manhood," and 
"slow suicide." But Algernon persisted, and his novels kept 
appearing for years after Gissing's death. 

Toward the end of 1883 Gissing completed _The Unclassed_, and 
after sending it to Chapman and Hall, promptly began a new novel 
which was to be written at the rate of half a chapter a day. His life 
had now settled into a checkerboard pattern. The squares were 
novels, and hardly a day elapsed between the end of his work on 
one and the beginning of the next. It took him just half a year to 
pass from one square to another, so regular was his production. The 
regularity is deceptive, however, for Gissing was not a calm and 
methodical workman like Trollope, who could work by his watch 
and be sure of turning out a certain number of words of marketable 
fiction hour by hour. He worshiped prolific heroes like Dickens and 
Scott and tried to emulate them, but, in spite of his capacity for long 
hours and patient planning, every other quality he possessed was 
against him. He was self-critical, unsure of himself, easily disturbed 
by noisy neighbors or changes of routine or bad weather, and prey 
to sudden fits of sterility and reversals of judgment.

Although he had enjoyed writing at first, it soon became an 
agonizing struggle for him. He often had to make a number of 
attempts, sometimes as many as ten or a dozen, all recorded with 
anguish in his diary, before he could progress with the beginning of 
a novel. Even then he was not sure of himself; frequently he saw 

-- 62 -- 

his way clearly only when the first volume was completed, and 
then went back to begin over. One day in 1888 he recorded an 
experience "familiar enough and horribly distressing." He was on his 
way home from a public meeting when, ". . . of a sudden, like the 
snapping of a cord, I became aware that the plot of my story, as 
arranged for the next few days, would not do. Sat late brooding, and 
had a troubled night." *15* The difficulty of writing increased as 
time went on, and he found himself more dependent on notes and 
more concerned with matters of style. Every chapter of _The Nether 
World_, he said, was rewritten a number of times. More than once 
he completed a whole novel, only to lay it aside as unsatisfactory. 
He was bitter about this wasted time, for he wrote for bread and 
felt hunger watching every stroke of his pen jealously. But he also 
felt that these failures were valuable training and an inevitable 
part of his work. Even when he once spent three hours impotently 
struggling with twelve lines and had to give up in despair, he felt 
that it was all for the best. 

_The Unclassed_, like _Mrs. Grundy's Enemies_, offered a challenge 
to the standards of propriety observed by Victorian publishers. 
Bentley rejected it on the ground that its sympathetic portrayal of a 
prostitute would mislead the young, and, when it was submitted to 
Chapman and Hall, the reader, who spoke to Gissing personally, 
expressed enthusiasm but asked him to delete a scene in which the 
heroine goes for a moonlight swim and to revise the last volume. 
Gissing was willing to accept these recommendations, not only 
because he needed money, but also because he was impressed by 
his critic. This conference was reported a few years later: 

     Mr. Gissing did not know the reader's name, but was 
     amazed by the extraordinary familiarity which he showed 
     with all the details of the story, using no paper. He went 
     over these details, suggesting all sorts of alterations, and 
     leaving Mr. Gissing impressed with the conviction that he 
     knew the story far better than the writer did himself. *16* 

He completed the revisions in a single desperate week's work, and 
at the end of February, 1884, had the double satisfaction of feeling 
that he had improved his book and of having it accepted for what 
was supposed to be immediate publication. Two weeks later he 
managed to trap the elusive reader in Henrietta Street and to reach 
a final agreement with him. His payment was the incredibly small 
sum of thirty pounds, but he was so accustomed to genuine failure 

-- 63 --

that he was probably grateful for this small success. He had still 
heard nothing from Bentley about _Mrs. Grundy's Enemies_ and 
feared that an embarrassing situation would arise if it were 
published after _The Unclassed_. Chapman and Hall's man had 
promised to send his check promptly, and Gissing was bitter when 
it did not arrive on time. Publication of the book also proceeded 
slowly, and he waited impatiently through May, his annoyance at 
the delay interfering with his work. In addition, the house in 
Chelsea where he had lived for a comparatively long period now 
grew too noisy, and he moved to a single room at 62 Milton Street 
near Regents Park, where he could take his daily walk and enjoy 
the Sunday band concerts. 

In April, 1884, Bertz left England. His aimless and unfortunate 
ventures as a schoolmaster, a utopian, and an evangelist had been 
crowned at last by a minor success when a boys' book entitled _The 
French Prisoners_, which he had written, was accepted by 
Macmillan. Bertz himself had been too discouraged to submit the 
book to a publisher, but Gissing did it for him, and the twenty-five 
pounds it earned enabled Bertz to go back to Germany. 

After reading a story sent for criticism by Algernon in May of 1884, 
Gissing decided that his brother's talents were not congenial to the 
realism characteristic of current literature, and he advised him not 
to try fiction after all. His proper medium, said Gissing, seemed to 
be the "Ruskin" essay. Algernon was now reading Comte, at Gissing's 
suggestion, and the latter offered to send some relevant pamphlets, 
no doubt left over from his Positivist days. 

Just before _The Unclassed_ emerged from the press in the middle 
of lune, Gissing learned that the astute reader had been none other 
than George Meredith. Meredith did his work for Chapman and Hall 
anonymously, coming in from his home in the country only at the 
beginning of the week. The discovery of Gissing's talent was one of 
the services to literature he quietly performed in his capacity as a 
reader, for he was the first to accept one of Gissing's books on 
professional terms. Harrison promised to write to Meredith on 
Gissing's behalf, though Gissing feared Harrison would not like _The 
Unclassed_ when he read it. His kindness to Gissing had persisted, 
in spite of Gissing's flirtations with impropriety. He was a strong-
minded man who consistently disapproved of Gissing's social views, 
yet their arguments seem to have been conducted in an 

-- 64 --

atmosphere of tolerance, and he never ceased to invite Gissing to 
much-needed meals, help him with advice, keep his secrets, and 
recommend him to useful people. 


_The Unclassed_ is primarily a novel of love and character, though 
it is heavily charged with social awareness. In it Gissing addresses 
himself to the proposition that art and decency can be pursued by 
exiling oneself from modern industrial society instead of trying to 
reform it. The hero, Osmond Waymark, who enters the story 
through an advertisement reading "Wanted, human 
companionship," is a young novelist, a schoolmaster and a former 
radical, who is learned, poor, talkative, unrecognized, and, in fact, 
very much like Gissing himself. Having passed through the phase of 
social responsibility experienced by Arthur Golding, he is no longer 
occupied with seeking a creed, but is simply trying to earn his 
living without yielding to society's distorted moral standards. He 
has grown so indifferent to questions of social justice that he 
prefers working as a rent collector in the miserable slum 
neighborhoods of Elm Court and Litany Lane to teaching. The main 
plot of _The Unclassed_ is concerned with Waymark's choice 
between two girls who represent contrasting spiritual alternatives. 
Maud Enderby, the daughter of a disgraced clergyman, accepts him 
at first but ultimately enters a convent in obedience to an inward 
call. He then turns to Ida Starr, who has risen from poverty and 
prostitution to become a practical, self-sufficient, altruistic woman, 
a counterbalance to the dreamy and religious Maud. 

Waymark, Ida, and Waymark's friend, Julian Casti, are "the 
unclassed," young Bohemians of unconventional moral standards 
who are willing to let society go its way but find that the disorders 
generated by poverty and false morality intrude upon the separate 
lives they propose to lead. In the course of the story, Waymark is 
robbed of his rents by a pauper and left bound and gagged; Ida is 
falsely accused of theft by Casti's proletarian wife and sent to 
prison; and her uncle, the landlord Woodstock, dies of a disease 
caught in his own slums, giving Waymark occasion to think, "The 
slums have avenged themselves. . . ." Social evils exercise moral 

-- 65 --

claims too, for Waymark gives money to a needy prostitute, and lda 
renovates her uncle's slums and takes poor children on outings 
where they are given nourishing food and taught good habits like 
washing and reading. Though these social problems are not really 
central to the action, Gissing's bold confrontation of them, and the 
unconventional attitudes of his characters, were sufficiently 
alarming to attract attention in 1884. Gissing once heard that the 
novel had been banned from the lending library in a provincial 

So many of the minor details of the novel are drawn fTom Gissing's 
own immediate experiences that they cast doubt upon his ability to 
find other sources of material. Waymark, like Gissing, has the 
advantage of a small patrimony, publishes his novel at his own 
expense, and has once delivered a lecture attacking religion; 
Woodstock owns a book of Hogarth's pictures as the Gissing family 
in Wakefield did, and even the name of Ida Starr's cat is the same 
as that of Gissing's, Grim. There are, however, mere significant 
autobiographical elements as well. Gissing very curiously used the 
opportunity presented by Waymark's conversations with Casti to 
set forth an _apologia_ for his own novel and to state some of the 
principles it followed. Waymark says that the writer should not 
express moral doctrine but should approach life with detachment, 
as material for his art. In his own work he promises a stern realism, 
not in the interest of arousing reform sentiment but for the sake of 
artistic truthfulness. He says: 

     The fact is, the novel of every-day life is getting worn 
     out. We must dig deeper, get to untouched social strata. 
     Dickens felt this, but he had not the courage to face his 
     subjects; his monthly numbers had to lie on the family 
     tea-table. Not _virginibus puerisque_ will be my book, I 
     assure you, but for men and women who like to look 
     beneath the surface, and who understand that only as 
     artistic material has human life any significance. . . . The 
     artist is the only sane man. *17* 

When Casti objects that Waymark, in spite of his doctrine that art 
should be independent of morality, still writes about social evils, 
Waymark replies with Taine's theory that "Every strong 
individuality is more or less the expression of its age. This direction 
may be imposed upon me; for all that, I understand why I pursue 
it." *18* The modern artist, he explains, must deal with misery 
because misery is the dominant element of his time. Unstated, but 
implicit in Waymark's observations, is Gissing's feeling that the 

-- 66 --

esthetic theories of Ruskin, Morris, and Arnold had established a 
satisfactory bridge between pure art and the improvement of 
society. "I would make a chief point," he wrote to Algernon, "of the 
necessary union between beauty in life and social reform." *19*

_The Unclassed_, like _Workers in the Dawn_, betrays Gissing's 
preoccupation with Helen as a victim of society, but it has no single 
personage like Carrie Mitchell who is patterned upon her. Instead 
her characteristics are divided between the two figures of lda Starr 
and Harriet Casti. Ida's account of her girlhood as an orphaned waif 
and a household slave in low lodginghouses may have been 
suggested by Helen's tales of her life; but Ida is, unlike Helen, 
intelligent, dignified, compassionate, and eminently capable of 
rising to a higher station. The ailing, malevolent Harriet, however, is 
a realistic representation of Helen; one detail, her way of 
interrupting her husband's conversations with visitors by tapping 
on the wall to call him into the next room, closely resembles an 
instance of "Mrs. Maitland's" behavior given by Roberts, but even 
without this and other parallels the convincing quality of the 
characterization leaves little room for doubt that it is based upon 
intimate experience. 

Technically, _The Unclassed_ represents a considerable advance 
over _Workers in the Dawn_. Though he is still awkward at 
managing the ample proportions of the three-volume novel, Gissing 
is fairly successful in fixing his attention upon a group of central 
characters. Esthetic idealism, now relegated to the position of a 
spiritual failing in a figure of secondary importance (Maud 
Enderby) no longer prevents him from achieving some significant 
characterizations, and the result is that Waymark and Ida Starr are 
far more human than Golding and Helen Norman. _The Unclassed_ 
presents many features that came to be typical of Gissing's novels. 
lulian Casti, though he does not occupy the role of the protagonist, is 
a good representative of the tormented and ineffectual man who is 
the characteristic Gissing hero. The hearty man-to-man 
conversations about literature, classical languages, and the 
deplorable state of the contemporary world that take place between 
Casti and Waymark are the forerunners of many such scenes in 
later novels. Waymark himself is the first instance of that type of 
young man, "well-educated, fairly bred, _but without money_," 
which Gissing later described as his characteristic contribution to 

-- 67 --

Like nearly all of Gissing's social novels, The Unclassed fails to adopt 
a coherent attitude toward social problems. Having introduced the 
horrors of slum life through descriptions of Elm Court and Litany 
Lane, it offers no better remedy for them than the private 
philanthropies of Ida Starr. But the value of even this remedy is 
undercut when Waymark declares that he has "not a spark of social 
enthusiasm," and when Ida herself realizes that her devotion to a 
good cause is no substitute for Waymark's love. The question of 
whether "the unclassed" can withstand the corrupting effects of 
society is bypassed, for both of the main characters are ultimately 
enriched by Woodstock's will, thus becoming free to detach 
themselves from social problems and to find happiness within 
conventional limits. Perhaps the novel's failure to resolve this issue 
is due to the revision Meredith insisted upon, for it would have 
been very like Gissing to end by showing the lovers separated, their 
lives blighted by destructive social forces. 

The provocative subject matter and opinions of _The Unclassed_ 
aroused much criticism, and Gissing felt again, as he had after the 
publication of _Workers in the Dawn_, that his readers were 
ignoring the artistic aspects of his novel for the sake of attacking 
the opinions expressed by the characters. The _Athenaeum_ 
reviewer declared that preaching was out of place in a novel. 
Algernon was critical, and he must have been much surprised when 
Gissing denied that Waymark's opinions were his own, for he had 
read them, expressed in nearly the same language, in letters Gissing 
had written to him. Harrison took violent issue with Waymark's 
nihilistic views, calling them "mere moral dynamite." In June, 1884, 
he and Gissing had a conversation about the book that became so 
sharp that Gissing wrote later to apologize and to admit, in a 
revealing moment of self-analysis, that his rebellious tendencies 
often led him to antagonize his best friends. 

As for the element of protest in his novel, said Gissing, it was mild 
in comparison with the work of Balzac, Turgenev, and Dumas. "And, 
I repeat, it is not a social essay, but a study of a certain group of 
human beings. Of course I am responsible for the selection, but for 
nothing more." *20* But since it is the purpose of objective realism 
to allow its material to create its own effect, Gissing was obviously 
as responsible for the effect of his novel as for its subject. As he 
should have known, the incidental descriptions of Elm Court and 

-- 68 --

Litany Lane, and the actions of Slimy and Harriet Casti, are far more 
forceful than the parts of the novel devoted to the love story and 
character development. The poor, evoking in Gissing a curious blend 
of guilt and indignation, called forth his strongest powers. He told 
himself that such feelings had nothing to do with the mission of the 
artist, but he could not suppress them. As a result, his books had a 
didactic quality he was unwilling to recognize and, to judge from his 
many statements about the nature of art, neither intended nor 
approved. The trouble was that he had not succeeded in solving for 
himself the dilemma of art and social reform as he had solved it for 
Arthur Golding in _Workers in the Dawn_. In spite of his theory 
that art should be answerable only to itself, the sense of moral 
responsibility abroad in his time, made keener by his experiences 
with Helen, took control of him. The impulse to reform and the 
impulse to create were both vigorously at work in him, but they 
contended tirelessly with each other, creating a conflict in which the 
purposes of each were, to some extent, defeated. 

Although it is tempting to speculate on what Gissing might have 
done if he had been free in spirit to devote himself to the "worship 
of Beauty," the fact appears to be that, however he might have 
rationalized the intrusion of social concerns into his work, they 
were an inevitable and fundamental component of it. His own 
unhappy life, his observation of the social injustice of Helen's fate, 
and his awareness of the abuses of industrial civilization forced him 
to participate in the social protest of his time. The Shelleyan theory 
does not exempt the artist from social responsibility; on the 
contrary, it puts him at the source of the spiritual forces that mold 
society. Perhaps it was this aspect of the doctrine that enabled 
Gissing to feel that his novels, heavily weighted as they were with 
social concerns, could still be regarded as purely artistic 

No one, not even Bertz or Algernon, agreed with him. The reviewers 
found his novels both didactic and inconclusive and were 
sometimes aroused by them to declare that novelists had no 
business to toy with morality. One of them, commenting on Gissing's 
later novel, _The Nether World_, pointed clearly to his division of 

     It is difficult to discover whether he hoped to add to that 
     sort of fiction which has at times been more successful 
     than Blue-books or societies in 

-- 69 --

     calling attention to evils crying for remedy or whether . . . 
     the author chose his subject in something like an artistic 
     spirit. . . . His work does not show the energy either of an 
     artist or of an enthusiast. . . . *21*

The conflict between esthetic and moral intentions that is so clear in 
_The Unclassed_ continued to embarrass Gissing. He had to make 
the choice anew with every novel, and yet the choice was never 
really made. It may be that one of the reasons why he found it so 
painful to reread his books in later years was the realization that he 
had failed to achieve the objectivity for which he had struggled so 
hard. He did not hesitate to spin out fine-sounding theories in his 
letters to Algernon and to defend himself against critics who 
regarded him as a moralizing or political novelist. But he seems to 
have profited from the unpleasant reaction to _The Unclassed_, for 
some time later, in criticizing a story of Algernon's suggestively 
titled "Sewage Farm," he warned against shrill protest. It was much 
better, he said, to approach social abuses with surface calm, 
allowing the reader to infer one's indignation from occasional 
touches of irony. 


In the months after _The Unclassed_ was published, Gissing's mode 
of life underwent a transformation which he himself found strange. 
He began to be invited to social gatherings at the fashionable homes 
of the children he tutored, and these in turn led to other invitations, 
so that he was soon too busy to find time for his writing. In August 
of 1884 he spent two weeks with the Harrisons in the Lake Country, 
where he climbed Helvellyn with Austin and Bernard and toured 
the countryside near Grasmere associated with Wordsworth. Early 
in September he went on a weekend visit to a family named 
Gaussen who had a large country house in Gloucestershire. He came 
as a tutor to examine the children, but, at the warm invitation of 
Mrs. Gaussen, stayed as a guest. It was a highly enjoyable visit. 
Gissing's hostess was a well-traveled woman who had been born in 
India, "one of the most delightful women imaginable"; she had once 
known W. S. Gilbert, spoke both Hindustani and Armenian, and at 
the time of Gissing's visit was entertaining two Armenian ladies. 
The Gaussens were a horsy county 

-- 70 -- 

family' without much interest in intellectual matters, but Gissing 
seems to have been impressed by their comfortable style of living 
and their intimacy with titled people. To judge from his lively and 
good-humored account of the visit, he talked incessantly, amused 
everyone, and saw all the sights, including William Morris' house at 
nearby Kelmscott. Mrs. Gaussen's son soon became a pupil of his, 
and she herself cultivated Gissing eagerly in the next few years. 
Toward the end of 1884 he became a regular guest at dinner 
parties, private concerts, and musical Sundays, where he saw 
something of the wealth and leisure he had always admired at a 
distance. In November he even went to the expense of having some 
dress suits made. He drew the line, however, at tennis parties. 

His new upper-class friendships were at first a welcome change 
from his loneliness and provided him with material for his later 
novels. But they troubled him too, for he now began to learn the 
dreadful truth that he was at heart not a rebd at all but the mosf 
conventional of Victorians, who loved good manners, pleasant 
surroundings, and cultivated conversation and envied the easy 
urbanity of the people he was meeting. "Yes, there is very much to 
be said for civilization," he wrote, "if one is in a position to enjoy it." 
*22* He could not enjoy it because, as he later showed in _Isabel 
Clarendon_, _Demos_, and _Born in Exile_, a man who tried to gain 
acceptance in a class higher than his own met many unexpected 
hazards and experienced strange inner conflict. Gissing could not 
enter into friendships without reservation, for the dreadful secrets 
of the Owens College episode and Nell haunted him. He was a 
provincial of obscure education who had not yet offset his 
deficiencies of birth and breeding with any notable achievement. 
When he brought his sister Ellen to spend a week with the Gaussens 
in the spring of 1885, it was an uneasy occasion. Gissing had to send 
her detailed instructions about dress and behavior, preparing her 
elaborately and self-consciously, as though for a visit of state. He 
was too poor to be more than an inferior in the homes where he 
dined, and he had to tell acquaintances who wanted to know him 
better that he had no address. 

There was another reason for his lack of social success that 
corresponded to the cause of his comparative failure thus far as a 
writer. He loved company, but he abhorred the artificiality of large 
social occasions, and could not bear to make phrases or strike at-

-- 71 --

tentive poses. In the same way, he wanted fame desperately, and 
knew that a reputation as a successful author would compensate for 
everything else, enabling him to meet fashionable people as an 
equal, but he could not bring himself to make the compromises with 
principle necessary for achieving popularity. Each of the novels he 
had written so far had fallen foul of the proprieties, caused offense, 
or prompted editors to demand revisions in the interest of 
discretion. Neither cultivated society nor the publishers would 
accept him on his own terms. Ultimately, after a period of 
gregariousness, he found polite social intercourse tiresome and 
refused all invitations, returning to his old solitude. 

His attitude toward his writing underwent a parallel change. 
Embittered by his failure to gain recognition, he now felt that art 
itself, regardless of its acceptance by society, was the ultimate 
source of value, and he adopted the role of the lonely and 
unrewarded acolyte of art. He had always admired futile heroism, 
as one of his boyhood poems, "The Battle of Hastings," shows. 

     They faced the foe like heroes, 
     They fought but fought in vain; 
     The bravest and the noblest 
     Are numbered with the slain. *23* 

A letter written to Algernon in the summer of 1883 expresses an 
attitude of detachment very different from the involvement in 
politics, programs, and systems that filled his letters of 1881 and 

     Philosophy has done all it can for me, and mow scarcely 
     interests me any more. My attitude henceforth is that of 
     the artist pure and simple. The world is for me a collection 
     of phenomena, which are to be studied and reproduced 
     artistically. In the midst of the most serious complications 
     of life, I find myself suddenly possessed with a great calm, 
     withdrawn as it were from the immediate interests of the 
     moment and able to regard everything as a picture. I 
     watch and observe myself just as much as others. The 
     impulse to regard. every juncture as a "situation" becomes 
     stronger and stronger. In the midst of desperate misfortune 
     I can pause to make a note for future use, and the afflictions 
     of others are to me materials for observation. . . . Brutal and 
     egotistic it would be called by most people. What has that to 
     do with me, if it is a fact? *24*

He seems to have been only faintly aware of the connection 
between his painful social experiences and his faith that art was the 

-- 72 --

source of "absolute value," a connection that is implied in a letter of 
1884 in which he wrote: 

     When I am able to summon any enthusiasm at all, it is 
     only for ART - how I laughed the other day on recalling 
     your amazement at my theories of Art for Art's sake! 
     Well, I cannot get beyond it. Human life has little interest 
     to me, on the whole - save as material for artistic presentation. 
     I can get savage over social iniquities, but even then my rage 
     at once takes the direction of planning revenge in artistic 
     work. *25* 

Although he used a currently fashionable phrase to describe it, 
Gissing's philosophy of art had little to do with the estheticism of 
Pater, Moore, and Wilde, for it was based, not on the doctrine that 
sensation is the ultimate reality, but on a belief in the special 
perceptive powers of the artist. Whatever the egotistic or even 
narcissistic origin of Gissing's policy of "Art for Art's sake" may 
have been, the doctrine of the autonomy of art enabled him to 
resist alternatives offered by journalism, radicalism, and the 
propaganda novel. 

-- 73 --




BECAUSE Mrs. Gaussen had "threatened" to visit him, and his old 
room at 62 Milton Street was too "disreputable" for guests, Gissing 
moved to better quarters toward the end of 1884, signing a three-
year lease for a small flat in a "block" not far from the Marylebone 
Road near Regents Park. He had spent his years in London drifting 
from one unsatisfactory lodging to another, sometimes at intervals 
of only a few months, but his new address, 7K Cornwall Residences, 
was to remain his home for the next six years. The rented or leased 
flat was then a relatively new development, and Gissing, delighted 
with the privacy and convenience it afforded in comparison with 
furnished lodgings taken by the week, predicted that the system 
would spread. He was especially pleased with his neighbors, who 
were respectable and well behaved. Apartment 7K consisted of two 
rooms and a kitchen, where Gissing could cook his own meals, and 
where, shortly after taking possession, he discovered the virtues of 
canned soup. Morley Roberts has described 7K as sufficiently 
depressing, for its windows overlooked the yards of the city's 
underground railway, and the hissing of the trains at the Baker 
Street Station could be heard, but it was the best London home 
Gissing had had up to that time. The building was still standing in 
1952, and while it was ugly and simple, it was by no means a slum. 
Austin Harrison refers to this flat as the place in back of Madame 
Tussaud's which showed that Gissing was no longer in dreadful 
poverty. At about Christmas-time Gissing moved in with his books, 
papers, pipes, and tobacco,

-- 74 --

and after hiring a woman to char for him, settled down in comfort 
and seclusion. He was able to give Herculean stretches of time to his 
writing, and to make a living of sorts from a smaller number of 
regular pupils.

In January of 1885 Gissing crossed swords with Punch on the 
question of frankness in fiction. The _Pall Mall Gazette_ had 
published a letter of his fixing the responsibility for the inferior 
quality of novels on the novelists themselves, who, according to 
Gissing's charge, allowed fear of offending public taste to influence 
their work. "It is a hard thing to say," he wrote, "but Thackeray, 
when he knowingly wrote below the demands of his art to 
conciliate Mrs. Grundy betrayed his trust; and the same thing is 
being done by our living novelists every day." Thackeray had said 
in his introduction to _Pendennis_ that it had been impossible since 
Fielding's time to portray "a man" fully, and Gissing, no doubt still 
mindful of the fate of _Mrs. Grundy's Enemies_, attacked him and 
novelists in general for truckling to prudery. "Let novelists be true 
to their artistic conscience," he counseled, "and the public taste will 
come round." *1*
It was the irreverent allusion to Thackeray, who had been one of its 
first comic writers, that aroused _Punch_ to reply to Gissing's 
admirable challenge to convention. An age which found "the 
humour of Fielding" to be "contradictory" confidently thought it saw 
the real motives behind any demand for greater liberty in the 
treatment of "delicate" subjects, and _Punch_ felt free to drub 
Gissing mercilessly and tastelessly.

     All the world knows what that preface meant, save and 
     except GISSING, who thinks that THACKERAY'S artistic 
     conscience suggested Dirt, and his art demanded it, but 
     that he was afraid of losing money by it!! Had he but been 
     true to his conscience and his tastes, his receipts would 
     have gone up in time, for GISSING would have bought his 
     books. . . . As for our living novelists, they are disgusting 
     GISSING by "doing the same every day." Well, they are, 
     GISSING; and speaking with some knowledge of them, we 
     do not altogether regret it. We regret that GISSING cannot 
     get the reading he likes except by going back to more 
     conscientious days. . . . Praised be the gods for thy 
     foulness, GISSING! but also that, as we fondly hope, there 
     are not very many like thee. *2*

The _Punch_ writer's knowledge of contemporary novelists did not, 
by his own admission, include the fact that Gissing was one him-

-- 75 --

self. Gissing assured Algernon that having his name and opinions 
thus abused on the first page of Punch had not disturbed him in 
any way. The incident is of some importance in illustrating a state 
of public opinion that made it impossible to publish _Mrs. Grundy's 
Enemies_ and surrounded the publication of nearly every vigorous 
treatment of social life with a question of propriety. Gissing 
returned to the attack in _The Emancipated_, and the whole 
controversy became more general when Henry Vizetelly was sent to 
jail in 1888 for publishing translations of Zola's novels, and when 
Hardy's _Tess of the D'Urbervilles_ appeared in 1891.

Gissing's new quarters enabled him to work more comfortably, 
although the projects that occupied the first six months of l885 - a 
novel called _The Graven Image_ and a play entitled _Madcaps_ - 
remained unfinished. He still spent all day tutoring and snatched 
some hours from the night to turn out six of his large, closely 
written pages, but in the middle of the year he effected a deliberate 
change in his writing habits. Lie freed himself from all his pupils 
except one, a boy named Walter Grahame, who came in the 
morning, and devoted himself to his writing for the rest of the day. 
He first planned what he was going to do and then wrote it out, 
continuing from two in the afternoon until eight or ten o'clock at 
night. Sometimes he wrote for as long as nine hours a day. "When I 
am intensely occupied with fiction," he wrote to his sister, "the 
problems in hand fatigue my brain through the hours of sleep. I 
cannot get rid of them." *3*

He immersed himself, not only in work, but also in the massive 
intellectual application he enjoyed as a kind of sport. Inside the 
cover of a diary that he began to keep in 1887, he made the 
following notation:

     July-Sept 1885, Wrote "Isabel Clarendon"
     Sept-Nov1885, Wrote "A Life's Morning"
     Dec-March l885-6 Wrote "Demos"
     During the same months, I first studied Italian, and read 
     through the whole of the Divina Commedia. - Also, it should 
     be noted, I earned my living by teaching, which generally 
     took all morning. *4*

This record of industry astounded him when it caught his eye a few 
years afterward, and it is probably wrong in at least one respect, 
for _Isabel Clarendon_ seems to have been begun in October, 1884. 
He always read widely in several languages, and his friend Bertz

-- 76 --

had stimulated in him an interest in foreign writers that ultimately 
made him better acquainted with Continental literature than any of 
his contemporaries among the novelists.
Not long after moving into 7K he sent his sister Ellen some advice 
about a program of reading which tells something of his own range.

     Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides among the Greeks: 
     Virgil, Catullus, Horace, among the Latins: in Italian, Dante 
     and Boccaccio: in Spanish, Don Quixote: in German, Goethe, 
     Jean Paul, Heine: in French, Molire, George Sand, Balzac, De 
     Musset: in English, Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, 
     Keats, Browning and Scott. These are the indispensables. I 
     rejoice to say I can read them all in the original, except 
     Cervantes, and I hope to take up Spanish next year, just for 
     that purpose. *5*

This list does not cover the scope of his reading entirely, of course. 
It omits, for example, the German philosophers such as Kant and 
Schopenhauer and less "indispensable" authors such as Dickens and 
Dumas. Gissing was devoted to the Greek and Latin classics, and 
they continued, in spite of his other occupations, to be almost an 
obsession with him. Roberts was both awed and irritated at the 
importance Gissing attributed to fine points of Greek scansion, and 
H. G. Wells thought that Gissing's classical education had made him 
something of a pedant. Gissing's favorite of all books was Gibbon, 
and his favorite historical period was that of the later Roman 
Empire, when the classical civilization was being colored by other 
cultures. Although he was indifferent to organized religion, he 
studied the early Christian sects because of their connection with 
Roman history. He read French and German with ease, usually 
finishing a novel in these languages in a single day, and he now 
undertook Italian, applying himself to such good effect that he was 
able to read Dante and to carry on conversations when he visited 
Italy. He did not fulfill his ambition to read Cervantes in the 
original, however, until just before his death.
Gissing's stern monastic regime had serious effects on his spirits. He 
suffered from loneliness and monotony and at one point was ready 
to go back to America. This was the sort of existence that earned 
him a reputation as a recluse. The legend that Gissing once spoke to 
nobody but his landlady for a period of weeks is supported by this 
remark from a letter to Algernon written in the summer of 1885: 
"For three weeks I have not opened my lips, except in enter-

-- 77 --

ing a shop or in speaking to my servant. I find it difficult to talk 
even to that amount, one gets unused to the sound of one's own 
voice." *6* But he found this sort of life unbearable. He tried to 
divert himself with Dante and with Crabb Robinson's 
_Reminiscences_, and he spared himself the time for a visit with the 
Harrisons in the Country. His reward came in October, when he 
could look back at the two novels he had completed in less than a 
Gissing's devotion to classics of all languages did not prevent him 
from keeping up with such rivals and contemporaries as Walter 
Besant, Hardy, Meredith, and Daudet; and, after Turgenev had died, 
he secured six of his novels in German translation. This proved to 
have some effect on his own work, for _Isabel Clarendon_, his next 
effort after _The Unclassed_, was a departure in the direction of 
It was originally to be called "The Lady of Knightswell." Gissing 
always found titles troublesome, and was continually escaping 
disaster by a hair. "Far, Far Away," the original title of his first 
novel, was practically meaningless, and entirely unsuitable for the 
book. _Workers in the Dawn_ was handsome and sonorous, but its 
relevance was far from clear to most readers. He once planned to 
write a novel about characters who fail to gain their ends, and to 
call it "Will-o-the Wisp." This led him into an amusing perplexity, 
for he realized that it should be "Wills-o-the Wisp," which he found 
"awkward." _The Unclassed_ has many virtues as a title; it is 
challenging and ironic, and it arouses a piquant echo of the French 
_dŽclassŽ_. Its difficulty is that it applies to the people in the novel 
only in a special sense which Gissing found it necessary to explain. 
"The Lady of Knightswell" would have been perfectly satisfactory as 
a title for a book intended to be "inoffensive," and it is more 
difficult than usual to understand Gissing's motives for making the 
change. Isabel Clarendon is not the chief character, and her 
surname is that of her uncongenial husband who has been dead for 
some time when the novel opens.


Unlike Gissing's first novels, the two books written in 1885, _Isabel 
Clarendon_ and _A Life's Morning_, are not concerned with

-- 78 --

poverty, London slums, or social problems. In his earlier books 
Gissing had often approached upper-class characters with a certain 
amount of criticism and hostility. He once wrote to his sister 
Margaret in tones of ironic surprise that he found the aristocracy 
whose children he tutored no better than other people. Reviewers 
thought they saw in his novels signs of unfamiliarity with the lives 
of gentle folk, and were led to believe that Gissing was a working-
class novelist. Gissing, armed with his new experiences with the 
Harrisons, the Gaussens, and others, was enough of a snob to be 
anxious to refute this suspicion. One reason that has been given for 
his radical change of subject matter at this time is the influence of 
Meredith. _Isabel Clarendon_ was written expressly for Meredith, 
who had accepted _The Unclassed_ for Chapman and Hall with 
praise, and who was, as a result, promptly offered Gissing's next 
book. Meredith suggested that it be recast for publication in two 
volumes instead of three, and Gissing had to devote some months in 
the middle of 1885 to this unwelcome task before Chapman and 
Hall accepted it. In spite of all these indications, and the fact that 
Gissing admired Meredith's work, a more likely inspiration for 
_Isabel Clarendon_ seems to have been Turgenev.
When allowances are made for the setting and social class of the 
characters, _Isabel Clarendon_ has no resemblance to Meredith's 
novels. It is not comic, even in the philosophical Meredithian sense, 
it is little occupied with manners, and it takes a very different view 
of character from Meredith's. The chief personage, Bernard 
Kingcote, is a self-oppressed, introspective ex-medical student who 
falls in love with the refined widow for whom the b social activities, 
however, and his jealousy becomes open when he sees her in the 
company of other men. After a period of brooding and self-torment 
he finds himself attracted to the more modest but less superficial 
charms of Isabel's ward. Kingcote is the first of the self-defeating, 
self-tormenting characters who were to become typical of Gissing's 
books, and he closely resembles the sort of Turgenev hero 
exemplified by Rudin. The milieu of country house and garden that 
is the scene of most of the action resembles a number of Turgenev's 
stories, including Liza, and the character of Ada Warren has a 
suggestive resemblance to Liza herself. Finally, the incident in 
which Kingcote sees Isabel walking hand-in-hand in a garden with 
another man, and his emotional

-- 79 --

reaction to this, have a counterpart in the scene from _Diary of a 
Superfluous Man_ in which Tchulkaturin hears his beloved accept 
the proposal of a rival.
Although _Isabel Clarendon_ was a deliberate attempt on Gissing's 
part to purge his work of its _Tendenzroman_ character by writing 
about aristocratic country scenes where poverty and social evils 
never appear, his old concerns filtered into the story. One of the 
steps that lead Kingcote to realize the frivolity of Isabel's kind of 
life is his return to London to rescue his widowed sister from the 
poor lodgings where she and her children have been staying. Not 
long afterward, he makes the decision that he prefers to give 
happiness rather than to seek it for himself. On the whole, however, 
Gissing was successful this time in preventing social criticism from 
usurping an undue amount of interest. But he was successful in 
little else. The novel contains an unusual number of 
underdeveloped minor issues and characters only slightly related to 
the main progress of events. The chief plot is ill-defined and 
rambling. Kingcote's rejection of Isabel and his strongly suggested 
acceptance of Ada Warren depend both on his own emotional 
development and that of Ada. But the development of these 
characters is irregular, obscure, and unmotivated. Kingcote's 
ultimate preference for Ada is no doubt supposed to reflect 
somehow the spiritual progress that enables him to be content at 
the end with a humble position in a bookshop, but this idea, in spite 
of much effort, is only dimly worked out. The valuable parts of the 
book are Kingcote's reactions to the commercialism of London, to 
the social success of Isabel, and to other aspects of life that make 
him feel alien. These, however, were not enough to save it, some 
years later, from Gissing's opinion that it was too weak to be 
revised for another edition.
Unsuccessful though it was, _Isabel Clarendon_ served as a 
rehearsal for some future projects. In writing it Gissing was testing 
his ability to break away from the kind of novel that capitalized on 
the injustices of the poor, and to deal with the social class to which 
he returned, with greater success, in _The Emancipated_ and _The 
whirlpool_. It was also his first attempt to deal with qualified 
defeat, the kind of conclusion that offers the acceptance of modest 
goals and a low station in life as a triumph over ambitious feelings; 
this motif appears again in his last completed novel, _Will 
Even after it had been shortened to two volumes, _Isabel Claren-

-- 80 --

don_ was not accepted for publication without delay. The only 
payment he received for it was fifteen pounds. By the time he 
received the proofs, Gissing had another novel well under way, and 
it was finished so quickly that the two books appeared destined for 
simultaneous publication.
Written in only three months, and sent out with trepidation, _A 
Life's Morning_ (which at first had the title "Emily") was accepted 
with enthusiasm by Smith, Elder, and Company's reader, James 
Payn. Like _Isabel Clarendon_, it was an effort on Gissing's part to 
detach himself from social problems, for it has no poor, earnest, 
autobiographical hero and no passionate advocacy or denial of social 
theories. Unlike _Isabel_, however, it provided Gissing with 
opportunities for exercising some of his mature talents and 
expressing some of his favorite ideas. Its heroine, Emily Hood, is 
Gissing's first moderate success in the mode of mature character-
analysis practiced by George Eliot, Meredith, and James. For the first 
time, Gissing achieves in this novel a well-realized, plausible study 
of the thought processes of a complicated and principled mind. It is 
interesting to observe that he accomplished this advance through 
the same esthetic idealism that impairs the characterization of 
_Workers in the Dawn_ and _The Unclassed_. Instead of merely 
insisting that esthetic experience produced spiritual benefits, as he 
had in his earlier novels, he undertook to examine the effects of this 
belief on the thoughts of a girl who accepts it as a practical doctrine. 
The result is a creditable portrayal of his heroine's development as 
she moves from the conviction that beauty is the supreme good, 
through a number of emotional crises, to the realization that her 
"religion of beauty" is an illusion based upon ignorance of the 
problems of life.
Emily Hood, a poor but cultivated girl from a north of England town 
(a fictional version of Gissing's native Wakefield), is genuinely 
intellectual and lacks none of the sensitivity and moral scruple that 
the Victorians associated with refined womanhood. While serving as 
a governess in the country home of a wealthy family, she becomes 
engaged to her employer's son, Wilfrid Athel. During a visit to her 
home, she is subjected to the demands of her father's passion-
ridden employer, Dagworthy, who has learned that her father has 
committed a theft, and threatens to expose him unless she agrees to 
marriage. The unhappy Mr. Hood resolves her di-

-- 81 --

lemma by putting an end to his life. Emily then turns her lover, 
Wilfrid, away, partly out of sympathy for her father, partly as a 
spiritual discipline. Only many years later, when they have lost 
their youth, do the lovers become reunited and marry, a happy 
ending introduced, according to Roberts, at the insistence of Payn. 
The original ending must have shown Emily, submitting to the 
coercion exercised by guilt upon an idealistic nature, renouncing her 
lover and her hopes for happiness. In the final version, she realizes 
that her renunciation was a hysterical act, withdraws it, and 
marries Wilfrid after all, belying what was apparently Gissing's 
original intention, that of portraying a sacrifice made in the name of 
an austere personal morality. Emily's story forms a sequence of 
spiritual developments that is logical without being banal. By 
comparison, the character shifts in Gissing's earlier novels seem 
heavily manipulated. It is safe to fix _A Life's Morning_ as the point 
at which he achieved the power of translating moral and spiritual 
issues into the medium of character.
There are two other simpler, but no less impressive instances of 
characterization in the novel: James Hood, Emily's father, and 
Richard Dagworthy, his employer. Hood, a toiling middle-aged clerk 
whose self-respect has been destroyed by years of poverty and 
drudgery, stumbles unintentionally into a crime. After finding a 
ten-pound note among the pages of an old ledger, he is compelled to 
go on an errand before he is able to return it. He loses his hat in the 
train and has to spend part of the money in a neighboring town in 
order to buy a new one. Once the note has been exchanged, he finds 
himself spending more and more of it, until he abandons his 
original intention of giving the money back. Even before the full 
consequences of his act overtake him, he suffers severely. His 
gradually changing intentions, accesses of guilt and fear, and his 
ultimate feeling that he has cut himself off from his daughter form 
a series of authentic psychological developments. In the shorter 
episode of Mr. Hood's tragedy Gissing achieved a union of plot and 
doctrine which he had been attempting since _Workers in the 
Dawn_, and which he remained unable to perfect in the novel as a 
whole. Mr. Hood's story expresses two of Gissing's favorite ideas. It 
demonstrates that even the smallest compromise with honor leads 
to disaster, and that poverty destroys the moral sense.
Although he could be severely critical of the excesses of Victorian

-- 82 --

propriety, Gissing's moral standards were very much like those of 
the ordinary middle-class Victorian liberal. He felt that human 
nature was capable of following a course of right conduct without 
the support of systematic belief. Victorians might disagree about 
religion or economic reform, but society as a whole accepted the 
Kantian doctrine that morality was a self-validating principle which 
everyone could find in his own conscience if he really searched for 
it. Ruskin, when asked by a correspondent what honesty should be 
based on, replied: "Your honesty is _not_ to be based either on 
religion or policy. Both your religion and your policy must be based 
on _it_. Your honesty must be based, as is the sun, in vacant 
heaven. . . ." *7*

Gissing thought of moral character as a complex whole whose 
smallest weakness leads to a general downfall. In his novels little 
dishonesties are the beginning of a crescendo of immorality that 
eventually leads to complete ruin, and the more trifling the first 
misstep, the more impressive is the ultimate disaster likely to be. 
When the painter, Gresham, intercepts a letter to Helen in _Workers 
in the Dawn_, Gissing assures us that this small crime is the 
beginning of his complete demoralization. Richard Mutimer's breach 
of faith with Emma Vine in _Demos_ is precisely the comparatively 
unimportant personal dishonesty that leads to the wreck of the 
socialist movement he has founded and to his death. In the story of 
Mr. Hood, whose error was simply to postpone returning the money 
until a more convenient time, is contained the warning that an 
instant of hesitation about moral issues may eventually consume 
the soul. Obviously, the boy who had been dismissed from Owens 
College had good reason for feeling that moral character was so 
susceptible to corruption, especially when it suffered under the 
pressure of poverty. Though there are no London slums in _A Life's 
Morning_, poverty and its devastating effects appear in the 
excellent impressions of daily life in the pinched Hood household. 
These are presented with a reserve and intimacy that make them 
far superior to the sensational descriptions of poverty in Gissing's 
earlier novels.
Except for the insight given into his character, Richard Dagworthy 
would be a villain of melodrama. A man of strong will and harsh 
methods, he nevertheless has an unformed poetry of spirit that 
drives him to seek marriage with a refined woman as a way of 
satisfying dim but powerful aspirations. Jealousy and desire force

-- 83 --

him to resort to tactics that are no less futile for being ruthless. 
Dagworthy achieves a remarkable humanity as Gissing subtly 
makes the point that he is as much the victim of his passions as 
Emily is. But this revelation does not dissolve the characterization in 
sentimentality; Gissing retains his conception of the man, and 
Dagworthy remains calculating, unimaginative, and unregenerate to 
the end.


_Isabel Clarendon_ was still being considered in its revised form by 
Chapman and Hall and _A Life's Morning_ had not yet been sent to 
a publisher when Gissing's next novel, _Demos_, was begun. 
Although his published novels had been failures, and the two still in 
manuscript were doubtful, Gissing declared in his letters of late 
1885 that he found consolation only in unremitting and difficult 
work. His usual uncertainty had been increased by Meredith's 
opinion that he had made a mistake in abandoning the slum 
material of his first two novels, and _Demos_ was a return to what 
he called "my special line of work." The outlook of _Demos_, 
however, would not be the sympathetic one of _Workers in the 
Dawn_ or _The Unclassed_, for the lessons Gissing had learned 
about human character and its reactions to poverty and deprivation 
had now crystallized, and he was ready to write "a savage satire on 
working-class aims and capacities." He willingly gave it even more 
time and energy than usual, for he felt that he was expressing his 
individuality strongly and unequivocally this time. ". . . _Demos_," 
he wrote to his sister, "will be _something_, I assure you." *8*
The novel tells the story of Richard Mutimer, a Radical workingman 
who, after unexpectedly inheriting a fortune, becomes the leader of 
a socialist movement and uses his money to establish a cooperative 
factory. However, his new wealth and power accentuate the defects 
of character he brings from his working-class origin. Indifference to 
the feelings of others, a failing due to the lack of imagination 
Shelley held responsible for immorality, leads him to abandon the 
poor London girl to whom he has been engaged, and to deal harshly 
with some of his workers. He marries an upper-middle-class lady 
who does not love him, and runs for Parliament. A moral crisis

-- 84 --

is reached when his wife, Adela, finds a lost will that deprives him 
of his inheritance. Mutimer wants to destroy this document, but 
Adela will not permit it. The money goes to the rightful heir, the 
socialist experiment is shut down, and the Mutimers move to 
London to live in relative poverty. A new socialist crusade is halted 
when one of Mutimer's associates dupes him, and he is killed by a 
stone thrown from a mob of his followers who have turned against 
_Demos_ is an undisguised _Tendenzroman_. Through Mutimer and 
his family it exposes the selfishness, narrowness, dishonesty, and 
weakness of will that Gissing believed to be characteristic of even 
the respectable poor. Its thesis is that the poverty of the poor 
debases them beyond remedy and makes them incapable of the 
self-rule that democratic socialism proposes to grant them.
No idea is expressed more often in Gissing's novels. In explaining 
why Bob Hewett of _The Nether World_ turned to counterfeiting, 
Gissing says:

     Genuine respect for law is the result of possessing 
     something which the law exerts itself to guard. Should 
     it happen that you possess nothing, and that your 
     education in metaphysics has been grievously neglected, 
     the strong probability is, that your mind will reduce the 
     principle of society to its naked formula: Get, by whatever 
     means, so long as with impunity. . . . *9*

Friedrich Engels made the same point in terser language:	.
". . . for him who has none the sacredness of property dies out of 
itself." *10* Reardon of _New Grub Street_ tells his wife that 
poverty has the same moral effect in modern times that slavery 
had in the ancient world, alluding to a line from Homer for 
authority. "It is not," said Disraeli of Wodgate, the slum region of his 
novel, _Sybil_, "that the people are immoral, for immorality implies 
some forethought; or ignorant, for ignorance is relative; but they are 
animals; unconscious; their minds a blank. . . ." This was the 
brutality Gissing felt in Bank Holiday crowds and the audiences of 
working-class meetings. It was, in his view, an inevitable result of 
poverty, and the only effect of education was to transform it into 
some form of amorality more socially acceptable but equally 
Gissing was motivated to write _Demos_ by important political 
movements which seemed to him to be based upon ignorance of the 
facts of working-class life and character. In 1880 socialism in 
England was hardly more than an ideal proven unworkable by the 
unsuccessful experiments of the Christian Socialists. In 1881, how-

-- 85 --

ever, it sprang into vigorous life, and by 1885 three new socialist 
organizations were in existence, publishing books, pamphlets, and 
magazines, attracting eminent figures to their membership, 
organizing frequent public meetings, and even putting up 
candidates for Parliament. The liberal economic philosophy that had 
dominated public life and thought during most of the century was 
showing signs of being exhausted by its own success. It had 
established laissez-faire principles of trade and employment, 
widened the franchise by means of the Reform Act of 1867 to 
include even field laborers and miners, and made education 
universal and compulsory. The accomplishment of their political 
aims (whether by Liberals themselves or by their Conservative 
rivals) put the Liberals in the position of arguing that there was 
nothing more to be done, but social and economic conditions cried 
out that there was still a great deal to be done, and it was in answer 
to this demand that socialist principles were regenerated.
The socialism of the eighties drew its ideas from a long line of 
thinkers, and counted Robert Owen, Comte, the Christian Socialists, 
and Ruskin among its forebears. Although the movement was 
divided by the disagreements and schisms of its leaders, its chief 
aim, like that of all socialism, was to place the power of government 
in the hands of the numerical majority of the nation, the working 
class. According to Sidney Webb, one of the ablest socialist 
theoreticians of the time, this power would be exercised by means 
of collective administration of the economic system, government 
control of the means of production, and the subordination of 
individual interests to the good of the community as a whole.
The first of the new socialist organizations was the Democratic 
Federation, a union of Radical clubs of the type described in 
_Workers in the Dawn_, founded in 1881 by H. M. Hyndman, a 
wealthy Cambridge graduate who had caught the socialist fire from 
Marx's _Capital_. The Federation, which soon changed its name to 
the Social Democratic Federation, gained the support of union 
leaders and became an active force in English political life, 
combining some of the vigor of the old Chartists with the sweeping 
revolutionary vision of the Continental socialist movements. It 
specialized in propaganda and agitation, making many demands 
upon the existing government but looking forward at the same time 
to a dramatic act of deliverance, by violent revolution or other 
means. In 1884 a

-- 86 --

number of dissidents, including William Morris, left the Federation 
to form a new organization called the Socialist League, which had 
Marx and Engels among its leaders. The third socialist organization 
of the time was the Fabian Society, founded in 1884 by a group of 
young intellectuals that included George Bernard Shaw and Sidney 
Webb. It undertook the task of adapting revolutionary social theory 
to democratic principles and, by following a more moderate and 
responsible course than the extreme socialist movements, achieved 
great success as a propaganda and educational organization.
Socialists could be seen in their most characteristic moods at public 
meetings, and a number of these are vividly described in _Demos_. 
While the novel was in progress Gissing went to a meeting of the 
Socialist League in Hammersmith for the dual purpose of seeing 
Morris there and gathering material for his crowd scenes. In 
_Demos_ both the behavior of Mutimer on the platform, with his 
attitudes of self-criticism, devotion, and quasi-religious fervor, and 
the swift emotional responses of the noisy, uncontrollable audiences 
have a life of their own. The impassioned Mr. Cullen and the 
unctuous Mr. Cowes rise like comic twins to subject the meeting to 
their oratory, disagreeing violently in public, but drinking 
peacefully together in private. Someone tickles the mob's sense of 
humor, someone else arouses its passion, and the session ends in an 
In February of 1886, when _Demos_ was being written, a huge 
meeting of the Social Democratic Federation in Trafalgar Square was 
turned into a disorderly mob as its leaders tried to lead the crowd 
up Pall Mall to Hyde Park. Stones were thrown, windows broken, 
shops looted. For a moment it seemed as though the country were 
on the brink of revolution. Gissing describes a similar scene; 
Mutimer is attacked at a meeting he is addressing, and he uses the 
occasion to comment ironically on the character of the common 
people and their political movement:

     The meeting was over, the riot had begun. Picture them, 
     the indignant champions of honesty, the avengers of virtue 
     defamed! Demos was roused, was tired of listening to mere 
     articulate speech; it was time for a good wild-beast roar, for 
     a taste of bloodshed. Scarcely a face in all the mob but 
     distorted itself to express as much savagery as can be got 
     out of the human countenance. . . . On all sides was the thud 
     of blows, the indignant shouting of the few who desired to 
     preserve order mingled with the clamour of those who 
     combated. Demos was having his way; civilisation was 
     blotted out, and club law proclaimed. *11*

-- 87 --

Many shades of socialism appear in the novel. The organization of 
Mutimer's works at New Wanley reflects the spirit of Robert Owen 
combined with the cooperative ideas of such French theoreticians as 
St. Simon. His doctrines and speeches seem derived from the fiery 
and provocative utterances of the Social Democrats. His movement 
suffers from a schism engineered by an extremist named 
Roodhouse, and this suggests the defection of some of the Social 
Democratic Leaders and the formation of the Socialist League. 
William Morris is represented by Westlake, the cultured and artistic 
socialist who relies mainly upon public education and whose 
methods Mutimer grows to dislike. Marxism is brought into the 
novel by Mr. Keene, a distinctly unsympathetic journalist who is 
translating _Capital_ for a periodical and who helps to destroy 
Mutimer's socialist movement by the tactic of boring from within.


In essence, _Demos_ is an extensive examination of lower-class 
character as it is exemplified by Mutimer, a superior, though 
typical, workingman. He joins intelligence, industry, and 
determination to his revolutionary principles, but Gissing sees 
evidence of the spiritual sterility of his class in the tasteless 
furnishings of his home and the shrill radical polemics he studies. A 
notable exposure of proletarian character occurs when Richard and 
his family come into an unexpected inheritance. Mutimer's younger 
brother refuses to work or to accept discipline, and becomes a 
tramp. His sister immobilizes herself by the fire, reading cheap 
novels and welcoming the advances of Mr. Keene. Most interesting 
of all, his mother refuses to have anything to do with the wealth 
she does not understand and locks herself in her room when she is 
no longer allowed to perform her usual household tasks. Richard 
succeeds in learning to dine with his well-to-do neighbors, in 
courting a girl who is his social superior, and in carrying on 
elaborate projects of reform, but he fails the ultimate test of 
character imposed by the somewhat melodramatic device of the lost 
will. When his wife, Adela, learns that he prefers to destroy the will 
and keep the money from the rightful heir, she realizes that his 
deficiency of honor is due to a

-- 88 --

class difference that Mutimer has never been able to overcome. 
Once, when he falls asleep on a train, she studies his face carefully.

     It was the face of a man by birth and breeding altogether 
     beneath her. . . . He was not of her class, not of her world; 
     only by violent wrenching of the laws of nature had they 
     come together. She had spent years in trying to convince 
     herself that there were no such distinctions, that only an 
     unworthy prejudice parted class from class. . . . To be her 
     equal this man must be born again, of other parents, in 
     other conditions of life. . . . She had no claims to 
     aristocratic descent, but her parents were gentlefolk; that 
     is to say, they were both born in a position which 
     encouraged personal refinement rather than the contrary, 
     which expected of them a certain education in excess of 
     life's barest need, which authorized them to use the service 
     of ruder men and women in order to secure to themselves 
     a margin of life for life's sake. Perhaps for three generations 
     her ancestors could claim so much gentility; it was more 
     than enough to put a vast gulf between her and the 
     Mutimers. Favourable circumstances of upbringing had 
     endowed her with delicacy of heart and mind not inferior 
     to that of any woman living. . . . And her husband was a 
     man incapable of understanding her idlest thought. *12*

This crucial passage reflects many of Gissing's most characteristic 
attitudes and betrays the conflict in his mind between the radical 
doctrine of environment and the conservative one of heredity. Mere 
environmental changes, Gissing felt, are not enough to reform 
character; the story of the Mutimer family, which is shattered by a 
sudden improvement in its standard of living, is enough to show 
that. The influences must be older, as in the case of the three 
generations of gentility that have produced Adela. Gissing, whose 
thinking on these points was still pre-Darwinian, failed to see 
clearly that the three generations were not enough to establish a 
difference in heredity, and that the ultimate cause of Adela's 
superiority - that "margin of life for life's sake" enjoyed by her 
ancestors - was really environmental.
Throughout his novels Gissing lays great stress upon the effects of 
both heredity and environment, but, since he never gives a decisive 
role to either, he never faces the question of whether the poor could 
be saved by improved living conditions. In spite of the clear answer 
offered by a long tradition of environmentalism, and by many 
liberal reformers of the eighties, the issue still remained undecided. 
Conservatives like W. H. Mallock persisted in regarding "the Poor" 
as a race apart, and even scientists like ThŽodule Ribot,

-- 89 --

whose work on heredity Gissing read a few years later, attributed 
great cultural importance to heredity. Ribot, following materialist 
theory, declared that moral characteristics are based on physical 
ones, and are therefore inherited, just as physical traits are. Thus, 
the instincts, intellect, national character, and predispositions to 
vices like gambling and alcoholism are due to heredity. Ribot 
pointed out that belief in heredity results in a belief in caste, so that 
Gissing's conviction that class differences were too deep-seated for 
change is a natural correlate of the importance he attributed to 
Up to the middle of the century, class status was usually made 
perfectly clear by outward signs; it would normally have been quite 
impossible to mistake a workingman for a member of the middle 
class. Later in the century, however, it became easier for people of 
low social origin to overcome inferiorities of dress, manners, speech, 
and education. Nevertheless, Gissing, with characteristic 
conservatism, continued to look to the small signs of everyday 
behavior as a guide to the vital distinction between the lower 
classes and the rest of society. When Mutimer dines with the 
middle-class Walthams for the first time, Gissing sees in his self-
conscious behavior at table a significant betrayal of his plebeian 

     At dinner he found himself behaving circumspectly. He 
     knew already that the cultivated taste objects to the use 
     of a table-knife save for the purposes of cutting; on the 
     whole he saw grounds for the objection. He knew, 
     moreover, that manducation and the absorption of fluids 
     must be performed without audible gusto; the knowledge 
     cost him some self-criticism. But there were numerous 
     minor points of convention on which he was not so clear; 
     it had never occurred to him, for instance . . . that a napkin 
     is a graceful auxiliary in the process of a meal and not 
     rather an embarrassing superfluity of furtive application. 

Manners and morality: the two were inseparably linked in Gissing's 
mind. In 1884, writing to Algernon that he was sorry to see William 
Morris' work appearing in the radical _Secular Review_, he said, "I 
confess I get more and more aristocratic in my leanings, and cannot 
excuse faults of manner in consideration of the end." *14* He felt 
that middle-class conventions were the counterpart of a moral code 
which, though it might often be broken, nevertheless did exist. But 
among the poor, anarchy prevailed, as their noisy, cruel, 
inconsiderate behavior showed. The rampant disorder of their holi-

-- 90 --

days, which delighted Dickens, was profoundly depressing to 
Gissing. He was repelled by their food, their table manners, their 
common eating houses, their low humor and mockery. The 
furnishings of their homes, even when they were in comfortable 
circumstances, were dreary, vulgar, and tasteless. He had learned 
much of this from his association with the working-class relations 
he had known during his first years in London. He had written of 
them to Algernon: "Without wishing to be harsh to these people, 
you must recognise how utterly impossible close relations with 
them become. . . . I fear they put me down for a prig, an upstart, an 
abominable aristocrat, but _que voulez-vous_? The matter is 
entirely intellectual." *15*
This snobbery may not have been "entirely" objective, but it had a 
rational aspect connected with Gissing's profoundest convictions. 
The way of life the poor led reflected the materialism and 
competitiveness of the industrialism that formed it. It favored the 
survival of the harshest, the cruelest, the most unscrupulous, and 
these, in accordance with evolutionary doctrine, came to dominate 
it. In addition, the lives of the poor gave no opportunity for the 
generous experience of art and beauty which, according to Shelley, 
enlarged the imagination, the seat of the moral faculties, or for 
entering the realm of the ideal whose eternal truths, as Pater said, 
gave men their ethical standards. Gissing declared:

     The fatal defect in working people is absence of 
     imagination, the power which may be solely a gift of 
     nature and irrespective of circumstances, but which in 
     most of us owes so much to intellectual training. Half 
     the brutal cruelties perpetrated by uneducated men and 
     women are directly traceable to lack of the imaginative 
     spirit, which comes to mean lack of kindly sympathy. *16*

When Edmund Gosse, in an article on Tennyson's funeral written in 
1892, reported that he saw no evidence to support the notion that 
the general public followed Tennyson's work, Gissing wrote to 
congratulate him on this insight. He said he suspected that the 
majority of leisured people paid little attention to poetry, but he 
could testify that the poor almost never read any; when they did, 
they read it without feeling, as if it were factual material.
The imaginative and moral capacities lacking in Mutimer and 
members of his class are, however, found in his wife. It is not the

-- 91 --

ideals of her middle-class background that make Adela superior to 
her husband, but her flexibility of mind and the potentialities that 
leisure and education have conferred upon her. Caught in the 
conflicting intellectual currents of the time, she responds to various 
influences, gradually learning a philosophy from her trying 
experiences. Her development is given intensive analysis in every 
stage. When Mutimer first meets her she is a refined but immature 
girl, dominated by her mother and attached to Puritanical religious 
beliefs. Although she is in love with another man, his character is 
under a cloud, and she marries Mutimer in obedience to her mother 
S wishes. At first indifferent to Mutimer's radical ideas, she 
becomes a socialist out of marital duty, and the studies she 
undertakes in connection with her new beliefs are her first break 
with immaturity. Her observations of socialism in action are 
discouraging, however, and she learns that it is based upon an 
untenable theory of human nature. Afterward, the death of her 
child, the recognition of her husband's harshness, and the decay of 
her faith fill her with a sense of futility.
Gissing exercises considerable subtlety in making Adela retain her 
integrity in spite of her disillusionment, and in keeping her faithful 
to the Victorian ideal of the loyal wife in spite of her insight into 
her husband's faults. Although there are points where he loses the 
thread of Adela's development, his treatment of her is an able 
imitation of George Eliot's method of following the interplay of 
character and experience. Through Stella Westlake, Adela 
ultimately finds peace of spirit in the contemplation of beauty, 
which means far more to her now than her husband's social 
dogmas. Her passionate attachment to this woman has an intensity 
modern readers will find ambiguous, but Gissing no doubt intended 
it simply as an expression of her love for the intellect and 
imagination Stella represents. She reads, enjoys friendship, forsakes 
socialism for a life of self-fulfillment, and finds in this a lasting 
Although he had once attributed importance to the propagandistic 
power of art, the story of Adela Mutimer shows that Gissing now 
felt that the value of art, culture, and introspection lay in their 
capacity for directly strengthening the faculties which poverty and 
industrialism were doing so much to destroy. Out of the spiritual 
growth achieved in the passive contemplation of truth and beauty 
would somehow arise the deliverance the world needed so badly.

-- 92 --

This self-culture could be pursued only by withdrawing from the 
world and its interests.
The distrust of action expressed in _Demos_ led Gissing to 
disapprove of William Morris, who seemed to him to be sacrificing 
the better course toward reform for the worse one. Morris, already 
famous as a writer and designer, had been an active socialist since 
1883, when he had joined the Democratic Federation; when the 
Socialist League was founded in 1884 he became treasurer and 
editor of its publication. Some of the League's members were 
arrested at a street-corner meeting in the East End in September of 
1885, and when they appeared in court the next morning there was 
some disturbance in which Morris, who had come to witness the 
proceedings, was involved. When he read about the incident in the 
papers, Gissing wrote irritably to his brother:

     . . . what the devil is such a man doing in that galley? . . .
     Why cannot he write poetry in the shade? He will 
     inevitably coarsen himself in the company of ruffians. 
     Keep apart, keep apart, and preserve one's soul alive - 
     that is the teaching for the day. It is ill to have been 
     born in these times, but one can make a world within 
     the world. *17*

Some years later, at a time when he was occupied with a criticism 
of society as a whole rather than with the lower classes, Gissing 
found the argument against social reform summed up in an 
aphorism of Herbert Spencer: "There is no political alchemy by 
which you can get golden conduct out of leaden instincts." Gissing 
copied the sentence in his commonplace book, adding, "The whole 
answer to Socialism is: that if society were ready for a pure 
socialism, _it would not he such as it now is_."


In offering a life of art and reading as a solution for Adela 
Mutimer's social perplexities, Gissing was giving practical 
expression to one of the favorite ideas of his time. The doctrine that 
esthetic activity and contemplation strengthen the moral capacities 
is as old as Plato, but some of Gissing's most influential 
contemporaries considered it particularly relevant to current 
problems. It is a central idea in the thought of Ruskin and Morris 
and finds ifs place in

-- 93 --

Pater's philosophy as well. Arnold's _Culture and Anarchy_ (1869) 
is perhaps the most precisely focused statement of the theory that 
disinterested self-cultivation was the best path to social reform. 
Arnold said that spiritual growth was a necessary preliminary to 
any real social advance. He argued that improvement could not be 
brought about by political fanaticism, or the promotion of the 
interests of any class, or the mere extension of liberty, but only by 
a balanced and profound understanding of the welfare of the nation 
and its historical spirit. Deliverance from the evils of the time must 
be pursued through "culture," which he defined as the desire "to 
make reason and the will of God prevail" and "the study of 
perfection." The "Hellenism" he advocated was the development of 
intellectual and esthetic qualities that had been obscured by the 
repressive moral discipline of "Hebraism." He proposed entrusting 
this task, not to any particular class, for each was corrupted by the 
prevailing materialism, but to "aliens," - "persons who are mainly 
led, not by their class spirit, but by a general _humane_ spirit, by 
the love of human perfection."
Arnold's views were contested by many, including Frederic 
Harrison, who accused him of ignoring the world's troubles, and 
characterized him, in Arnold's own words, as "in the midst of the 
general tribulation, handing out my pouncet-box." *20* To such 
objections Arnold replied:

     . . . we do not at all despair of finding some lasting truth 
     to minister to the diseased spirit of our time; but . . . we 
     have discovered the best way of finding this to be not so 
     much by lending a hand to friends and countrymen in 
     their actual operations for the removal of certain definite 
     evils, but rather in getting our friends and countrymen 
     to seek culture, to let their consciousness play freely 
     round their present operations and the stock notions on 
     which they are founded, show what these are like, and 
     how related to the intelligible law of things, and auxiliary 
     to true human perfection. *21*

Improvement was to be won by a kind of "wise passiveness" 
consisting of "reading, observing, thinking" exactly like the rŽgime 
adopted by Adela Mutimer.
Gissing had learned the invigorating power of intellectual pursuits 
from his own experiences with Greek, music, Dante, Spanish, and 
other studies he undertook. Unlike social theories, they produce 
actual improvement in society by improving the human material of 
which it is formed. So convinced was Gissing of the potential ef-

-- 94 --

fectiveness of self-cultivation as a social remedy, that in _Demos_ 
he dared to match it against realistic scenes of slum life.
Gissing's high regard for the life of the mind had an important 
political correlate. Since it was possible to lead such a life, in his 
experience, only under the sheltering power of money, he came to 
agree heartily with the characteristic materialism of his time in its 
regard for wealth. He had learned the immense difference between 
having and not having in his years of squalor, when a few shillings 
made all the difference between a day of hunger and a day of 
peaceful study or writing. He agreed with Mr. Overton, the narrator 
of Samuel Butler's _The Way of All Flesh_, who will have no 
nonsense about the improving effects of poverty, but insists, with a 
fine balance of literal and ironic meaning, that "material prosperity 
is the safest test of virtue." In describing how the lives of Emily 
Hood's parents, in _A Life's Morning_, have been poisoned by 
poverty, Gissing achieves an irony comparable to Butler's:

     . . . that love and joy, the delights of eager sense and of 
     hallowed aspiration should he smothered in the foul dust 
     of a brute combat for bread, that the stinted energies of 
     early years should change themselves to the blasted hopes 
     of failing manhood in a world made ill by human 
     perverseness, this is not easily - it may be, not well-borne 
     with patience. Put money in thy purse; and again, put money 
     in thy purse; for, as the world is ordered, to lack current coin 
     is to lack the privileges of humanity, and indigence is the 
     death of the soul. *22*

These views put Gissing on the side of the middle class in the social 
struggle, for only in a leisured environment could the potentialities 
of mind and spirit be fulfilled. He knew that the middle class had its 
faults, and he was to say a great deal about these in his novels. But 
it was the social level where the things he eared about could be 
found, and that fact constituted almost the whole of his grievance 
against the socialists, who threatened to eliminate it. To lose the 
middle class, in Gissing's view, was to lose everything. Thus, Hubert 
Eldon of _Demos_ speaks for Gissing himself when he says of the 
workmen who have staged a socialist demonstration: ". . . in the 
presence of those fellows I feel that I am facing enemies." *23*
Gissing was perfectly aware that the comfortable existence of the 
middle class was made possible by those injustices and abuses he so 
vigorously protested. He knew that English industrial civilization

-- 95 --

was founded upon the poverty of the many. When Eldon is asked 
whether he is content to have the majority set to labor to support 
his way of life, he answers that he is. Gissing himself was not quite 
capable of this patrician indifference. Culture and love of beauty 
must be served, but Gissing allowed Mutimer to explain clearly 
enough in one of his platform speeches how the leisure for them 
was wrung from the twisted bodies of the poor. He was forced to 
face the fact that his love of art and learning and the demands of 
his moral nature for social justice were irreconcilable in society as it 
existed. One could be satisfied only at the expense of the other. 
Adela Mutimer's pursuit of beauty does nothing to relieve the 
poverty, overwork, disease, and death that are the lot of Emma 
Vine and her family, yet these sufferings are too acute to be 
Both sides of the controversy are well presented, with an indecisive 
resulting effect. The genuinely comprehensive view of the time's 
social difficulties expressed in the contrasted stories of Mutimer 
and his wife is blurred by Gissing's conflict of allegiances. This 
conflict is brought to a focus in the scene between Adela and Eldon 
in which the latter admits that he is willing to live on the labor of 
the majority. ". . . I think it very unlikely," he says, "that the 
majority will ever be fit for anything else. I _know_ that at present 
they desire nothing else." And when Adela replies, "Then they must 
be taught to desire more," Eldon does not answer, for when radical 
and conservative stand opposed to each other on the issue of 
perfectibility, as they do here, Gissing cannot feel that either is 
wholly right. *24* He has reached the dark center of his dilemma. 
And when, later in the novel, the conservative Mr. Wyvern is asked 
what social conditions seem to promise for the future, he can 
answer only, "Evil." *25*


When James Payn accepted _Demos_, he wrote, according to Gissing, 
that the style of the writing was better than George Eliot's. For this 
opinion Gissing termed him a "jackass." But on the eve of 
publication Gissing himself, in a fit of jubilant optimism, wrote that 
he felt it to be "distinctly ahead" of any novel since George Eliot's 
time. When large and encouraging advertisements heralding

-- 96 --

the publication of _Demos_ appeared, Gissing was full of confidence 
that his day had come at last. Writing to Ellen about an invitation 
from Mrs. Gaussen, he said: "Thank Heaven I can go without the 
torture of feeling myself _Nobody_. . . . No, I can't endure to be 
nobody. I knew that would have to come to an end." *26*
Since _Isabel Clarendon_ was then being printed, simultaneous 
publication was avoided by issuing _Demos_ anonymously. The 
combination of anonymity and the controversial issues brought to 
general attention by the recent socialist disturbances piqued the 
public's curiosity, so that Harrison could report numerous 
references to the novel in the press. Several years later Booth 
alluded to it in his _Life and Labour_ as one of the few books that 
gave a true picture of the lives of the poor. The _Spectator_ review 
was warm, though certainly not extravagant, recommending the 
descriptions of working-class life and the character of Adela and 
the accounts of socialist meetings. The Westlakes, however, are 
"shadows," according to the _Spectator_, and all the scenes of 
middle-class life are inferior. The characterization of Adela falls just 
short of excellence, in the opinion of the reviewer, because of her 
vacillation between a secular and a spiritual standard of morality. 
The characters of Emma Vine, Mutimer, and Alfred Waltham are 
heartily praised; the reviewer is so delighted with the latter that he 
quotes a long conversation to show Gissing's skill in authentic 
characterization. "Aestheticism," he concludes, is the only 
alternative to socialism _Demos_ has to offer, and the story needs 
some more spiritual solution to counteract the materialism it 
Far less cordial was the _Athenaeum_ review, which complained 
that Gissing's ideas about socialism were old-fashioned and 
belonged to the time of Kingsley and Mrs. Gaskell. In addition, it 
pointed out (what is very true), that the whole case of socialism was 
prejudged on the basis of character, for all the socialists are weak 
and evil, while their opponents are refined and honest. But what 
the _Athenaeum_ called "a blemish in point of art" had been 
adopted by Gissing as a means of illuminating character through 
politics and polities through character.
This intention and Gissing's whole purpose in _Demos_ were fully 
understood in at least one contemporary publication. The _Scottish 
Review_ of April, 1886, in an omnibus review of recent novels deal-

-- 97 --

ing with ethical questions, pointed to _Demos_ as a book of unusual 
importance and merit. It said:

     It is a book not only to read, but to mark, learn and 
     inwardly digest, a most thorough exposure of sham, 
     so-called "Socialism," pitiless in its calm completeness, 
     and total abstinence of any animus or trace of personal 
     feeling. The author keeps himself entirely out of sight; 
     he deals with a class which it is abundantly evident he 
     well knows. . . . By the simple means of truthful 
     portraiture, he shows that the motive force which 
     underlies a fiery crusade on behalf of the oppressed, 
     wage-earning class is a selfishness as absolute as any 
     which has helped to produce the evils against which it 
     declaims. *27*

Gissing had always complained about reviews, and the "mixed" 
reaction to _Demos_ implanted a lifelong aversion to them in his 
mind. He asked his publisher not to send him any reviews of his 
next book, and read for himself only the _Spectator_ reviews, which 
he thought sensible. He often found himself misunderstood, for 
reviewers missed both his irony and his reticence and attributed to 
him opinions that he did not hold. Although Gissing occasionally 
found examples of carelessness in reviews, the truth is that the 
fault was often on his side. His indecision about the complex 
questions he dealt with prevented him from expressing his ideas in 
his stories in a clear-cut and unambiguous manner. It is not 
surprising that he found it painful to read the reviews, for they 
often told him very plainly that he had failed to convey his ideas 
with precision.
The intense labors of 1885 had been punctuated with brief but 
pleasant interruptions for recreation and study. During the summer 
of the year he had occasionally visited the Harrisons at their house 
in Surrey, and was grateful for some glimpses of the countryside. In 
December Algernon came to London, staying at 7K with him for a 
time. When _Demos_ was finished, about the middle of March, 
1886, he had his chance for a real holiday. _Isabel Clarendon_ was 
scheduled for early publication, Smith, Elder had accepted "Emily" 
the previous December, and Gissing was temporarily free of his only 
pupil, Grahame, who was out of London. Most important of all, 
Smith, Elder had just sent him a check for one hundred pounds. 
Gissing immediately took advantage of his liberty and his affluence 
to make the first of his trips to the Continent, going to Paris for a 
stay of three weeks.
As his notes on his later journeys and his fine travel book, _By the

-- 98 --

Ionian Sea_, testify, Gissing was an eager, almost a passionate, 
traveler, and his first reactions to Paris were intense, too intense, it 
would seem, for communication in his letters. This first escape from 
London opened unsuspected horizons to him. "It is the beginning of 
a new life," he wrote. He visited the Morgue, ". . . which was at once 
very horrible and very simple. . . ." *28* He went to the site of the 
Bastille, meditated upon the Venus de Milo, saw a performance by 
Sarah Bernhardt, and admired the new building of the Paris opera. 
By the middle of April he was back at 7K, concerning himself with 
the critical reaction to _Demos_ and the fate of his two unpublished 

-- 99 --




WHEN Gissing wrote to Margaret, on April 28, 1886, the week after 
his return from Paris, that he was planning to begin a new novel 
very soon, he had already established a considerable backlog of 
unprinted work which slumbered quietly in the hands of 
publishers. "Emily" was not to be published until the beginning of 
1888, about two years after it had been submitted. _Isabel 
Clarendon_, having been thoroughly revised, was promised by 
Chapman and Hall first for December, 1885, and then for February 
of 1886. Gissing was understandably impatient by May, therefore, 
to see some sign of its appearance. When it was announced at last in 
May, he was annoyed by the fact that it was made to appear a new 
book, written after _Demos_. 

_Demos_ seemed to be winning him something like the success he 
was so eager for. About six weeks after publication, Payn told him 
that five hundred copies had been sold, a satisfactory number for 
the anonymous and expensive first edition. In June Gissing wrote to 
Margaret that he detected two signs of his coming "emancipation" 
from the necessity of teaching in order to make a living. _Demos_ 
had been published in Germany in the Tauchnitz Collection, and 
George Smith of Smith, Elder, and Company, the publisher of the 
book, called with a dinner invitation. Even more valuable to Gissing 
was the praise of John Morley, who wrote to Harrison that he had 
found "genius throughout." 

In spite of all this encouragement, the new book, _Thyrza_, made 

-- 100 --

slow and painful progress. It was to be another novel of working-
class life, and in his desire for authenticity Gissing went to Lambeth, 
the working-class district in the south of London, where he spent 
many hours gathering material. On the August Bank Holiday he 
interrupted his work to observe the crowds of pleasure-bound 
people. Like Zola, he regarded faithful perception of actuality as a 
necessary preliminary for writing. Zola was, of course, the standard 
contemporary example of reportorial accuracy in fiction; a cartoon 
of the time shows him plunging under the hooves of a pair of cab 
horses, notebook in hand, in search of firsthand experience. English 
novelists had traditionally been as much concerned as Zola with 
authenticity, but they tended to make use of experiences they met 
with instead of undertaking deliberate research. Both Mrs. Gaskell 
and Kingsley, for example, learned about the poor by doing 
philanthropic work among them. For them, as for Dickens, the vivid 
memory of what they saw was enough to incite and control the 
imagination. Gissing, however, in his eagerness to achieve the most 
exact and literal realism, embarked on Zola's kind of investigation, 
kept notes, and introduced his careful observations into his novels.
He seems to have felt that _Demos_ was superficial and inaccurate, 
and he wanted, in _Thyrza_, to write ". . . a book which will contain 
the very spirit of London working-class life. . . . It will be a stronger 
and profounder book than _Demos_." *1* He wanted, he said in a 
revealing remark, to juxtapose Hellas and Lambeth, and he felt that 
it could be done by studying human nature closely enough. 
Investigations and meditations of this sort slowed his work. At the 
end of July an obscure dissatisfaction made him destroy most of 
what he had done and begin over. He seemed to be pressing his 
powers to their utmost and searching himself deeply. It would not 
be useless, he felt, for after _Demos_ he could be sure of a hearing.

While he was working on _Thyrza_ he wrote to his sister Ellen that 
he was too occupied to read, but he recommended books and 
authors. He had extravagant praise for his old favorite, George Sand, 
and sent Ellen a copy of Heine's _Buch der Lieder_ with the 
suggestive comment: "In all literature he is one of the men most 
akin to me." *2* He wrote to Margaret that he drew his inspiration 
from French and Russian authors and disapproved of the English 

-- 101 --

proach to fiction. That was why he feared his works would never be 
popular. "The mob will go to other people who better suit their 
taste. Day by day that same mob grows in extent and influence. I 
fear we are coming to a time when good literature will have a hard 
struggle to hold its footing at all." *3*
Toward the end of September the pressure became too strong for 
him, and he escaped from London for a rest. He went to Brighton, 
but finding it "hideous and vulgar," walked along the coast until he 
came to Eastbourne, which delighted him. He was soon back in 
London at work, however. In spite of his feeling that "the mob" was 
indifferent to his work, a cheap one-volume edition of _Demos_, this 
one with his name on the title page, was published in November. It 
was the first of his novels to enter a second edition, and a third, still 
less expensive, edition of it was to appear in 1888. These 
reprintings did not bring Gissing any income, for the copyright had 
been sold outright to Smith, Elder, and all proceeds realized after 
the first edition belonged to the publisher. Still, the new edition was 
welcome news, for it meant a kind of popularity which Gissing felt 
would enable him to ask a higher price for his next book.
But he was disappointed in this expectation. When _Thyrza_ was 
submitted in January, 1887, Smith, Elder gave Gissing the choice of 
selling it outright for one hundred pounds or taking fifty pounds 
and 10 per cent of the publisher's sales. He chose the latter 
arrangement in an experimental mood. He soon realized, however, 
that this had been a mistake, for he knew that he would worry, 
regardless of the book's sale, and that his work would suffer.
Although it is Gissing's most sympathetic work about the poor, 
_Thyrza_ is simply a reiteration, in softer terms, of the 
antidemocratic sentiments of _Demos_. Like _Demos_, it puts on 
trial a widely supported theory of social reform, and condemns it, 
this time, however, making some allowances for idealism and good 
intentions. lie plot is complicated and clumsy, an awkward splicing 
of social interest and love story. A wealthy young idealist named 
Walter Egremont decides to educate the working people who are 
the raw material of reform. Recognizing that the lowest poor are for 
time being beyond his help, Egremont addresses himself to 
relatively prosperous and well-educated workmen. He recruits a 
small and of pupils in Lambeth and, as an antidote for the 

-- 102 --

that their lives and occupations have encouraged, offers a series of 
talks on English literature. The results are discouraging, except for 
the response of a bookish workman named Gilbert Grail.
Egremont's educational work is interrupted by a mutual attraction 
which develops between himself and Thyrza Trent, a beautiful 
workgirl who is Grail's fiancŽe. Unable to resist his love for her, 
Egremont leaves England to wait until Grail and Thyrza have been 
safely married, but his departure drives Thyrza to leave home in 
order to avoid marrying Grail. Her whereabouts are discovered by 
Mrs. Ormonde, a wealthy matron interested in philanthropic work; 
she takes Thyrza in but refuses to allow Egremont to see her on the 
ground that she would not be a fit wife for him. She succeeds in 
making him agree to wait two years before claiming Thyrza. This 
part of the novel was developed from the outline plot Gissing had 
sent Algernon in 1883 as material for his first attempt at fiction. 
Unlike the original outline, however, the novel does not end well for 
the lovers. Thyrza overhears the bargain between Egremont and 
Mrs. Ormonde being made, and she confidently awaits Egremont's 
return, living under Mrs. Ormonde's care and receiving the training 
and education of a young lady. But when Egremont comes back 
after two years, Mrs. Ormonde convinces him that Thyrza has 
become too refined and precious for him, and that the marriage is 
now as impossible as ever, though for the opposite reason. After 
this disappointment, Thyrza dies, and at the end of the novel 
Egremont has turned to a girl of his own class.
The results of Gissing's observant loitering in the streets of Lambeth 
appear in the accounts of Thyrza's neighborhood and in the 
numerous working-class scenes and characters of the novel's 
subplots. Lively and sensitive descriptions of a market, a tiny, 
crowded shop, and a celebration in a pub are notable for their 
richness of detail and for the occasional objectionable tone of 
conscious forbearance. Gissing had apparently set himself to 
describe the more attractive moments of Lambeth's life, but his 
disapproval is never suppressed for long.
The many instances of kindness in _Thyrza_ make it Gissing's most 
warmly human novel, although it often threatens to lapse into 
sentimentality. Its heroine arouses generosity and affection in 
almost everyone she meets. An infirm old fiddler named Mr. Boddy, 
who is growing helpless, inspires charitable feelings in the people of 

-- 103 --

neighborhood. His landlady's daughter secretly brings him food, and 
when Thyrza and her sister playfully make him a Christmas gift of 
a badly needed coat, their kindness brings tears to the old man s 
eyes. Gilbert Grail, however, is sympathetic without being 
sentimentalized; the reader is given a good insight into the humility, 
patience, and love of reading that he has managed to preserve 
through his years of illness and hard manual labor. In spite of his 
sensitivity and his tender love for Thyrza, he manages to bear her 
preference for Egremont with fortitude. He is one of a group of 
characters in the novel whose great virtue is their ability to endure 
suffering patiently.

More often than any of Gissing's other novels, _Thyrza_ reverts to 
the theme of loss. Unlike Dickens, Morrison, and Maugham, he could 
not regard his slum material as amusing, or occupy himself solely 
with the virtues he occasionally found. He could not adopt a tone of 
hearty acceptance, but maintained a distant point of view that 
clearly revealed the narrow limits of slum life. The most sordid 
details point beyond the horizon, evoking sorrow at the waste of life 
they signify. Gissing feels this waste particularly strongly in the 
cases of women, and in _Thyrza_ the busy scenes of lower class life 
are dominated by women. Young mothers carry their babies 
through the crowded market, little girls peddle vegetables shrilly, 
and in the pub entertainment an ugly workgirl singing a love song 
becomes an eloquent symbol of deprivation.
Morley Roberts wondered why Gissing, who had a sensitive ear for 
music, was so fond of common barrel organs. He loved to hear them 
in the streets when he went to Naples and was upset to learn, on his 
second visit to Italy, that they had been forbidden. A passage from 
_Thyrza_ reveals the repressed sadness and tenderness that the 
unlovely music aroused.

     Do you know that music of the obscure ways, to which 
     children dance? Not if you have only heard it ground to 
     your ears' affliction beneath yon windows in the square. 
     To hear it aright you must stand in the darkness of such 
     a by-street as this, and for the moment be at one with 
     those who dwell around in the Near-eyed houses, in the 
     dim burrows of poverty, in the unmapped haunts of the 
     semi-human. Then you will know the significance of that 
     vulgar clanging of melody; a pathos of which you did not 
     dream will touch you, and therein the secret of hidden 
     London will be half revealed. The life of the men who 
     toil without hope, yet with the hunger of an unshaped 
     desire; of women in whom the sweetness of their sex is 

-- 104 --

     under labour and misery; the laughs, the song of the girl 
     who strives to enjoy her year or two of youthful vigor, 
     knowing the darkness of the years to come; the careless 
     defiance of the youth who feels his blood and revolts 
     against the lot which would tame it; all that is purely 
     human in these darkened multitudes speaks to you as 
     you listen. *4*

"Vulgar," a favorite word of Gissing's, expressed a great many 
aspects of his complicated attitude toward the poor. It meant their 
lack of taste in food, music, clothing, and furnishings. It meant their 
callow insensitivity to the feelings of others, their narrow and 
inflexible selfishness. But it also meant the rough, childish good 
nature and kindness they often showed. Vulgarity is the 
irreverence of the atheist, Bunce, in _Thyrza_, who expresses his 
disbelief in God by sarcasm and gives his child illustrated parodies 
of the Bible to read. It is the pompous egotism of Bowers, who 
harbors a grudge against Egremont because he has not been offered 
the librarian's position given to Grail. A part of vulgarity is the 
speech of the London workman, made odiously distinctive to Gissing 
by its cockney accent and strident tones. But it is also the pert 
independence and self-sufficiency of Totty Nancarrow, the workgirl 
who preserves her virtue and her Catholicism against the hostile 
influences of Lambeth.
_Thyrza_, like _Demos_, has a clear social thesis; it is a vigorous 
attack upon mass education. The environmental ideas of Locke and 
Owen and the ideal of perfectibility found practical expression in 
Gissing's lifetime in the extension of education among the poor. The 
School Board system of compulsory education was established 
between 1870 and 1880 through a series of Parliamentary acts 
which filled in the gaps left by voluntary schools, universalizing 
education for boys. By 1880 Victorians of all shades of opinion 
could be counted upon to agree that it was necessary to educate 
their future masters. "Let us reform our schools," said Ruskin, "and 
we shall find little reform needed in our prisons." *5* Graham 
Wallas in his contribution to _Fabian Essays_ insisted strongly on 
the importance of education:

     If this generation were wise, it would spend on 
     education not only more than any other generation 
     has ever spent before, but more than any generation 
     would ever need to spend again. It would fill the school 
     buildings with the means not only of comfort, but even 
     of the higher luxury. . . . It

-- 105 --

     would seriously propose to itself the ideal of Ibsen, that 
     every child should be brought up as a nobleman. *6*

In spite of his love of learning, Gissing had no faith in education as a 
social remedy. In _Workers in the Dawn_ Arthur tries desperately 
to improve his wife's literacy, but the poor girl is unable to muster 
the necessary self-discipline, and Arthur is forced to recognize that 
he cannot change her. The government's attempt at mass education, 
Gissing felt, would be equally futile. Conceived in a commercial 
spirit, wasted upon hopeless human material, it would only make 
more efficient helots of the poor and put vulgarity on a higher level, 
resulting in the lowering of public taste and the general 
debasement of civilization. Such results are treated in _New Grub 
Street_ and _In the Year of Jubilee_. In _Thyrza_ Gissing puts his 
case against mass education into a speech by a character named Mr.

     The one insuperable difficulty lies in the fact that we 
     have no power greater than commercial enterprise. 
     Nowadays nothing will succeed save on the commercial 
     basis; from church to public-house the principle applies. 
     There is no way of spreading popular literature save on 
     terms of supply and demand. Take the Education Act . . . 
     a more intelligent type of workman is demanded that 
     our manufacturers may keep pace with those of other 
     countries. *7*

Egremont's attempt to lead the poor away from the materialist 
spirit by helping them to recognize beauty in literature seems to be 
a critical allusion to F. D. Maurice's pioneer experiment in adult 
education, the Working Men's College. Egremont's plan is a failure 
and he himself eventually recognizes that it was a futile idealistic 
Not quite the same problem is that of Gilbert Grail, the intelligent 
self-educated man, who is a laborer in everything but mind. His 
gifts and his education are of no use to him in the social struggle. 
Nobility and inspiration are available to him in books, but in life he 
finds only monotony and degradation. Even before the educational 
reforms of the last part of the century, poor men of this type were 
often to be found. Engels, in his book on the English working class 
reported in 1844:

     I have often heard working-men, whose fustian jackets 
     scarcely held together, speak upon geological, astronomical, 
     and other subjects, with more

-- 106 --

     knowledge than most "cultivated" bourgeois in Germany 
     possess . . . the epoch-making products of modern 
     philosophical, political and poetical literature are read by 
     working-men almost exclusively. *8*

Kingsley's characters Alton Locke and Tregarva, the gamekeeper of 
_Yeast_, belong to this group, and the hero of Mrs. Humphry Ward's 
_Robert Elsmere_ is surprised to find that the members of the 
workingmen's clubs where he speaks are often well read. Mr. 
Wyvern of Demos speaks for Gissing in saying that he is less 
concerned about the ignorant poor than about the educated 
minority among them.
_Thyrza_ clearly reflects Gissing's painful indecision about the 
relative importance of heredity and environment in the formation 
of character. Knowing that the faults of the poor could be attributed 
to their living conditions, he was nevertheless unable to rid himself 
of the conviction that heredity was, after all, the more powerful 
force. He could rationalize Thyrza's transformation into a lady at the 
hands of Mrs. Ormonde only by providing her with an inheritance 
superior to that of her ordinary working-class neighbors, a mother 
who has been a refined schoolteacher. But one of the results of her 
training is a situation reminiscent of the scene in _Great 
Expectations_ in which Joe Gargery, coming to London to visit his 
former apprentice, finds him transformed into a fine young 
gentleman and calls him "sir." When Thyrza's sister, Lydia, comes to 
see her, she feels ill at ease in the presence of a lady who was once 
her sister, and who a year before shared her bed and her single 
small room. No more eloquent evidence for the power of 
educational influences could be found, yet this development 
directly contradicts the theme represented by Egremont's failure to 
achieve social reform through education.
Gissing asked Smith, Elder not to send him any reviews of _Thyrza_, 
but he saw the _Athenaeum_ review, which praised it, incidentally 
detecting in Gilbert Grail and Egremont a pair of figures resembling 
Adam Bede and Arthur Donnithorne in George Eliot's novel. 
Laudatory quotations from reviewers in the advertisements for the 
book also caught his eye, and he concluded that it would be liked 
better than _Demos_, though it was not as strong a novel. "It will be 
a long time before I do anything better than Demos artistically," he 
wrote. *9* The fact that Mudie's took eighty-five copies was 
encouraging, but Gissing observed that they had taken two 
thousand of H. Rider

-- 107 --

Haggard's latest novel. "Yes," he added, "but mine will be read when 
Haggard's is waste paper." *10* "When I write," he said, perhaps 
defensively, "I think of my _best_ readers, not of the mob." *11* He 
felt that thinking people read and valued his books. An East End 
clergyman who was enthusiastic about _Thyrza_ paid him a visit, 
and he received a letter from Germany proposing a translation He 
wrote to his sister Ellen:

     I cannot and will not be reckoned among the petty 
     scribblers of the day, and to avoid it, I must for a time 
     issue only one novel a year, and each book must have a 
     distinct character, a book which no one else would be 
     likely to have written. . . . I want money and all it will 
     bring very badly, but I want a respectable position in 
     literature yet more. *12*

In spite of the strong response to _Thyrza_, it was not a marked 
success. Ultimately, fewer than five hundred copies of the first 
edition were sold.


Gissing went to work industriously after _Thyrza_ as usual, and by 
April, 1887, he had finished the greater part of a new novel, but in 
spite of constant application everything written for a year after 
_Thyrza_ was either uncompleted or unpublished. It was a year of 
wasted effort. On April 24 he wrote to his brother that he was 
planning one of his reorganizations of his working hours. He now 
planned to work from nine until three so that his evenings would 
be free. The trouble with this arrangement was that Mrs. King, the 
charwoman, who came in about noon, disturbed him; but Gissing 
felt that he could safely give her a quarter of an hour. His novel, 
_Clement Dorricott_, was almost finished in April, and he planned to 
write a satire on literati to be called _Sandray the Sophist_. Later in 
the year he wrote that he was making progress on a novel called 
Dust and Dew, and in December he reported that he was 
desperately revising _The Insurgents_, which approached 
completion. Of these four projects, three were certainly finished or 
nearly finished. Yet none was ever published.
The only one submitted to a publisher, _Clement Dorricott_, was 
accepted by Bentley, who praised it and offered to publish it in the 
usual three-volume format, but Gissing felt that it was not 
sufficiently "characteristic" to be a worthy successor to _Thyrza_, 

-- 108 --

wanted to restrict it to magazine publication. Bentley returned the 
manuscript, and Gissing tossed it aside without unwrapping it. It 
was never mentioned again, and is said to have been destroyed.
He seems to have achieved a satisfying mode of life in 1887 by 
locking himself away from the world and devoting himself to his 
writing. He gave some time every day to a single pupil, Walter 
Grahame, who was a gifted student of Greek, but reserved the rest 
of the day for his work. He no longer enjoyed visiting and making 
acquaintances, as he had a year or two earlier. He explained his 
rejection of an invitation he received in May of 1887 by writing to 
his sister that his loneliness made him too morose to go into 
company. "I cannot get the kind of people who would suit me, so I 
must be content to be alone." *13* He did emerge from his solitude 
to hear music, however, for in May he saw the new Gilbert and 
Sullivan opera, _Ruddigore_, attended his first Wagner opera, 
_Lohengrin_, and heard Adelina Patti sing at the Albert Hall.
In the summer he went to Eastbourne and visited his family at 
Wakefield, and he was willing enough to accept another invitation 
from his publisher, George Smith, in July. Smith was a prominent 
personality in Victorian publishing who, at twenty-two, had taken 
over the firm of Smith, Elder; founded by his father, and extended it 
vigorously and imaginatively. He cultivated the personal 
friendships of the writers he dealt with, and, since Leigh Hunt, G. H. 
Lewes, George Eliot, Browning, Thackeray, Trollope, and Charlotte 
Bront‘ were among them, he had a great deal of knowledge about 
the leading literary figures of the time. Among Smith's ventures 
were the _Cornhill_, a periodical whose first editor was Thackeray, 
the _Pall Mall Gazette_, and the monumental _Dictionary of National 
Biography_. Gissing had probably first encountered Smith through 
his work for John Morley and the _Pall Mall Gazette_, and he 
thought of sending _A Life's Morning_ to Smith, Elder, in the fall of 
1883; Chapman and Hall, who were still delaying the publication of 
_Isabel Clarendon_, could not be expected to publish the new novel 
promptly. Smith, Elder, remained Gissing's regular publisher until 
_New Grub Street_ in 1891 (although _The Emancipated_ was 
brought out by Bentley). While dining with Smith in the summer of 
1887, Gissing enjoyed hearing his account of the famous episode 
early in his publishing career when Charlotte Bront‘ appeared in 
his office to reveal that she was Currer Bell, the author of

-- 109 --

_Jane Eyre_. However, he did not always have a good opinion of 
Smith, whose reader, James Payn, rejected _Born in Exile_ in a 
tactless fashion, and he disapproved of the adulation poured forth 
by the press on Smith's death in 1901.
In December Gissing broke his self-imposed rule against visits again 
by attending an "at home" at the Deanery in Westminster in order 
to meet Dean Bradley's daughter, Mrs. Margareta Louisa Woods; her 
novel, _A Village Tragedy_, had aroused his enthusiasm. At an art 
lecture in the same month he saw Oscar Wilde, who had grown fat, 
shortened his hair, and wore the conventional style of dress. He 
wrote that he felt fit, in spite of his seven hours' work a day, and 
was often in good spirits. He was still poor. In a letter to Algernon 
dated Good Friday, 1887, he asked for five pounds to tide him over 
for three weeks until the date of publication of _Thyrza_. He said he 
could make the small sum last that long because he was 
"desperately economical," even using dripping with his bread 
instead of butter.
In the middle of 1887 he began to frequent a new working-class 
neighborhood, Clerkenwell, a venerable slum region, specializing in 
light metal manufacturing, which was a center of radicalism. The 
speeches he heard one Sunday evening in August on Clerkenwell 
Green filled him with outrage at the coarseness and political 
ambition of the orators. In October and November he reported to 
Algernon and his sisters that London was constantly disturbed by 
disorderly meetings of workingmen which were not reported in the 
papers but which seemed to him to be dangerous.
Early in November, James Payn wrote to him to announce that his 
novel, "Emily," which had been in his hands for over two years, was 
to run as a serial in the _Cornhill Magazine_, beginning with the 
number of January, 1888, but that the title was unsatisfactory. 
Gissing suggested _Her Will and Her Way_, but that had already 
been used, and he finally decided on the attractive but 
inappropriate _A Life's Morning_. He was intensely dissatisfied with 
the novel on seeing it again after two years, but he later decided 
that serial publication, which made it impossible to read the book as 
a whole, was responsible for the poor impression it made.
The beginning of the year found Gissing in "a very shaky state of 
health" and unable to continue his work. After several weeks of 
effort he felt that he must escape from London, and he went to

-- 110 --

spend a week with his brother, who was now married and living at 
Broadway in Worcestershire. He returned home to work on 
February 4, but his efforts were so futile that by February 7 he was 
"almost ready for suicide." The next day he laid aside what he had 
written and began a new novel, to be called "Marian Dane," which 
was discontinued in its turn the next day. In desperation, he 
repeated the experiment of January, 1887, and went to Eastbourne, 
a strange choice for a winter holiday, which offered the advantages 
of privacy and cheap accommodations. However, the weather was 
bad, the wind came through the walls of the old lodginghouse, and 
loneliness, headaches, and sleeplessness made it impossible for him 
to work. Roberts came to join him for a week, and the two took long 
walks in the snow and driving wind, or sat huddled in their 
overcoats before an inadequate fire, trying to converse. Since he 
was unable to write, Gissing spent his time reading recent novels 
and planning the work to be done when he returned to London. On 
February 29, coming back to his lodgings late in the afternoon after 
a trip to Lewes, he found a telegram waiting for him which said: 
"Mrs. Gissing is dead. Come at once."
He telegraphed Roberts, who had gone back to London, took the 
next train to town, and at eleven o'clock reached 7K, where he 
found Roberts waiting for him. Exercising characteristic outward 
control of his emotions, Gissing said little of what he felt, but 
Roberts interpreted the trembling of his voice and hands as 
meaning that he hoped intensely, in spite of serious doubts, that the 
information in the telegram might be true.
After spending the night together at 7K, the two went to Lambeth 
the next morning. Fearing a trap of some kind, Gissing sent Roberts 
ahead, to verify Helen's death, and then went to the house himself. 
He recorded every detail of the following events in his diary, 
including the names and addresses of the doctor and undertaker, 
the amount paid to the mourners hired for the funeral, and the 
pathetic squalor of the room in which Helen had died. There were 
almost no clothes or bedding, and he found some pawn tickets that 
showed that she had pawned them during the summer months. In a 
drawer he found a piece of bread and some butter, the only food in 
the room. He was moved to see that she had kept certain mementos 
of him and his influence - his photograph and letters and portraits 
of Byron and Tennyson. Signs that she had continued to struggle

-- 111 --

against her alcoholism appeared in three cards pledging to abstain 
from drink, which she had signed during the last six months. As he 
examined this room, noting every eloquent detail with a novelist's 
perception, Gissing experienced a powerful renewal of the 
indignation that had first drawn him to Helen's cause and to his 
mission as a social novelist. Her death seemed to draw him into one 
of those strangely lucid moods of mingled emotion and detachment 
that animated his creative impulse. Writing about it to Algernon, he 
said: "Well, now it behooves me to get to work. I have a somewhat 
clearer task before me than hitherto, and one that will give me 
enough to do for many years." And, "For me there is yet work to do, 
and this memory of wretchedness will be an impulse such as few 
men possess. . . ." *14* Helen would help him more in death, he 
wrote in his diary, than she had hindered him in life.
He made up a little parcel of a few of her belongings, and took them 
home with him. He did not intend to go to the funeral, and asked 
the landlady to make the necessary arrangements. On the next day, 
however, he did return to Lambeth to see Helen, for the last time, in 
her coffin. Her face, which had been unrecognizable the day before, 
now seemed more familiar. Acting upon confused feelings 
unintelligible to himself, he redeemed her wedding ring, which had 
been pawned, and cut some of her hair to keep. Then he left her. A 
few days later, his sister Ellen came to London for a short visit, but 
he was as spiritless as ever after her departure, and was prevented 
from writing by a cold. Finally, on March 19, after almost three 
weeks of unhappy idleness, he began the novel entitled _The 
Nether World_.
It was now two years since he had worked well, for every effort to 
write since the completion of _Thyrza_ in January of 1886 had been 
futile, and there had been signs of disintegration and collapse in his 
behavior of early 1888. But Helen's death seemed to recall him to 
himself and give him new energy. _The Nether World_, begun soon 
after she died, and completed in four months, was his last and most 
bitter book about the problems of poverty.


_The Nether World_ is the only novel by Gissing in which nothing 
but poverty appears. The reader is immersed in the miserable 

-- 112 --

of the slums, and there are no scenes from middle- or upper-class 
life to relieve their effect or to set them off. Within these limits, 
however, Gissing is able to discriminate differing degrees of misery. 
Close to the lowest possible abyss of homeless pauperdom is the 
Candy family, people of no occupation, whose earnings are always 
casual. A step above is the family of John Hewett, who works when 
he can but turns to almost any occupation when he cannot find 
regular employment, and is one of the first victims of hard times. 
When Hewett's son marries Penelope Candy, everyone feels that he 
has married beneath him, so clear are the distinctions between 
these two ranks of poverty. Considerably above them are the 
Peckovers, landlords of a lodginghouse in Clerkenwell, and masters 
of the squalid world they survey. The highest rank of all is reached 
by the Byasses, who have a modest but commodious house in a 
different neighborhood, and whose morals and manners have 
escaped the poisoning effects of deprivation.
Because it has no contrast between rich and poor, _The Nether 
World_ achieves more fully than any of Gissing's other novels the 
character they all tend to assume - that of a broad, static canvas. 
The elaborate plot provides constant action and change of situation, 
but its complexity is easily lost to sight among the many characters 
and vivid details of daily life. The actions see-saw back and forth, 
ultimately changing little in the lives of the characters, and they do 
not alter the general impression of the book - an enormously 
detailed and accurate panoramic picture, much like one of Frith's 
crowded and realistic scenes of Victorian life.
The main character, Sidney Kirkwood, is an embittered young 
workman who cannot resist viewing the suffering about him with 
irony, although he is essentially kind and good-hearted. Gissing's 
summary of his development is revealingly autobiographical:

     Saved from self-indulgence, he natural]y turned into the 
     way of political enthusiasm; thither did his temper point 
     him. With some help . . . he reached the stage of confident 
     and aspiring Radicalism, believing in the perfectibility of 
     man, in human brotherhood, in - anything you like that is 
     the outcome of a noble heart sheltered by ignorance. It 
     had its turn, and passed. *15*

Kirkwood befriends Jane Snowdon, an enslaved child whose 
sufferings as a household servant are reminiscent of Ida Starr's 
girlhood, and who leads Gissing to the central thesis of his novel. 

-- 113 --

is discovered and saved from her miserable existence by a 
grandfather, Michael Snowdon, who returns from Australia laden 
with wealth which he keeps secret. When Jane grows up, Michael 
reveals the reason for his secrecy. Having grown repentant of a 
careless youth, he now wants to use his money for philanthropic 
works, with Jane as his instrument. He proposes to leave her the 
bulk of his fortune on condition that she devote herself and the 
money to improving the lot of the poor.
Jane is not the sort of person, however, who can become a saint of 
social work. Simple, weak, retiring, she is easily defeated by her 
first experience in waiting on the poor in a charitable soup kitchen, 
and wants nothing more than to marry Kirkwood, with whom she 
has fallen in love, and to live out her life quietly and humbly. 
However, her grandfather's fanaticism demands that she sacrifice 
her own happiness for the mission it has thrust upon her. In the 
end she loses both Kirkwood and the inheritance, and is condemned 
to a lonely and unhappy life. This plot recalls an observation made 
by Mr. Wyvern in _Demos_ that might serve as the motto of _The 
Nether World_. To devote oneself to social reform, he said, was not 
in itself either a good or a bad thing; its value depended upon the 
relevant facts.
In addition, Jane Snowdon's story expresses Gissing's feeling that 
philanthropy and social work promised neither real help for the 
poor nor peace of mind for the rich, Beatrice Webb, who had a great 
deal of experience with charitable activities and their results in the 
London of Gissing's day, took a similar view. Discussing the moral 
dilemmas that plagued the Charity Organization Society, she said, ". . 
. wherever society is divided into a minority of 'Haves' and a 
multitude of 'Have Nots,' charity is twice cursed, it curseth him that 
gives and him that takes." *16* is not surprising, says Gissing, that 
the recipients of charity at the soup kitchen in _The Nether World_ 
boldly protest against changes in its administration by pouring their 
soup on the floor. The poor are too dehumanized to respond with 
gratitude, and the philanthropist who expects it of them will miss 
his reward.
_The Nether World_ contains more direct reporting from actuality 
than earlier books, a result, possibly, of Gissing's new practice of 
using notes. The fruits of his observations in streets and workshops, 
at the Crystal Palace, at political meetings on Clerkenwell Green,

-- 114 --

and in many other places appear in faithful circumstantial accounts. 
The dialogue is more vivid in its reflection of character, more 
faithful in phrase and pronunciation to the dialect of working-class 
speakers. One correspondence between the novel and real life is 
particularly striking. The cards showing the futility of Helen's 
repeated efforts to "take the pledge," which Gissing had seen in his 
dead wife's room, became a detail in his description of the room of 
Maria Candy, a wretched old woman hopelessly enslaved by alcohol.
In _The Nether World_ Gissing demonstrates a more intimate 
knowledge of the feelings and opinions of ordinary working people, 
and of the difficulties they encountered in making a living. There is 
a new reserve and authenticity in his presentation of small physical 
details. The spectacle of Clem Peckover at tea, the lunch customs of 
girls working in a paper flower factory, and the arrangement of a 
sickroom in a crowded lodging are described with meticulous 
clarity. Numerous instances of the corruption of character by 
environment occur. The stories of Scawthorne, the unscrupulous 
clerk, and Bob Hewett, the counterfeiter, are like case histories in 
their incisive linking of cause and effect.
As always, however, Gissing is less concerned with the causes than 
with the quality of the facts, and the prevailing impression created 
by the poor of _The Nether World_ is one of animality. Gissing's 
contempt is apparent as he shows the slum people quarreling, 
plaguing one another with cruelty, and drinking themselves into 
violence or insensibility at parties and outings. The chapter 
describing the wedding excursion of Bob Hewett and his wife to the 
Crystal Palace is a great panorama of lower-class life, marvelously 
animated with vivid details of riot and disorder and thoroughly 
imbued with Gissing's characteristic bitterness. He did not 
sympathize with the poor in their barbarity, because he knew that 
they preferred their way of life and would resist change. That men 
should be rendered so depraved by hardship as to prefer the crude 
comforts and vicious pleasures of the slums to civilized habits was 
evidence of a supreme social crime, but that did not make their 
depravity less real.
Gissing said little directly in his novels about cosmic questions, but 
his treatment of the slum and its way of life suggests that he felt in 
it, obscurely enough, a manifestation of the absolute. His most 
searching explorations suggested further depths of mystery

-- 115 --

and power. In his novels the slums control the destinies of the rich 
as well as the poor, sitting astride the paths of their ambitions and 
sending forth tentacles of guilt and revenge to trouble them in the 
comfortable fastnesses of their country homes. This spectacle 
inspired a profound fatalism in him. The social order, with all the 
evils it produced, seemed to be the expression of a cosmic necessity 
too powerful for human resources to resist. As Mr. Tollady says in 
_Workers in the Dawn_: "History pursues its path, using us as its 
agents for the working out of prescribed ends. To think that we 
men can modify those ends is the delusion of ignorance or 
madness." *17*
For all its pretensions to progress, Victorian industrial civilization 
seemed to be ruled by the same pitiless fates which dominated the 
world of Homer and Aeschylus, familiar to Gissing since his 
boyhood. Perhaps that is what he meant when he wrote that he was 
trying in _Thyrza_ to bring Hellas and Lambeth together. The 
spiritual vacuum of his agnosticism was filled by a combination of 
the nineteenth century's scientific determinism and his native 
pessimism. "I see no single piece of strong testimony," he said in the 
_Ryecroft Papers_, "that justice is the law of the universe; I see 
suggestions incalculable tending to prove that it is not." *18*
To Hardy, another Victorian fatalist, the hostility of the cosmic 
power appeared most clearly in the struggle for existence that 
dominated the world of nature. In Gissing's novels, on the other 
hand, the malevolence of the universal order manifests itself in the 
works of man. It is embodied in the operation of the chaotic 
economy, in the deadening organization of industry, in repressive 
social and domestic institutions. Its special instrument is the 
economic system, devised by man but seemingly used against him 
by other powers. Indifferent to man's well-being, it subjects 
workers and capitalists alike to the vicissitudes of panics, 
depressions, and labor disturbances, and it establishes ruthless 
competition as the law of survival. Throughout Gissing's novels of 
poverty, the truth of Engels' comment on the insecurity of the 
workingman is clearly apparent: "Everything that the proletarian 
can do to improve his position is but a drop in the ocean compared 
with the floods of varying chances to which he is exposed, over 
which he has not the slightest control." *19*
Modern industrialism was organized to serve man, yet everywhere, 
as Carlyle pointed out, man went unserved. Instead the

-- 116 --

dogma of production became the animating spirit of the slum, in 
whose filthy tenements untold evils germinated and whose streets 
and cellars, teeming with corrupting influences, poured forth their 
army of vulgarians. This is the dark and bristling vision evoked 
anew by Gissing in each of his novels of poverty, until finally in 
_The Nether World_ it emerges more powerfully than ever before. 
This book, with its unrelieved amassing of details and its 
explorations of the mysterious psychological and material depths of 
poverty, is Gissing's final and most harrowing confrontation of the 
hostile power that ruled his universe.
The poverty he saw around him seemed to be an integral part of an 
entrenched social system which was the creation of an omnipotent 
power. Even the most energetic reforming efforts could not hope to 
eliminate conditions that were a part of the fundamental order of 
the universe. These convictions, long operative below the surface of 
Gissing's novels of poverty, acquire a new and decisive force in 
_The Nether World_, so that even Gissing's own vague estheticism 
came under the heel of his satire. In the midst of his description of 
the disorderly Bank Holiday festivities at the Crystal Palace, he 
pauses to mock the reformers of his day with the irony of a hollow 
imitation, which suddenly drops its ironic tone for a terrible 

     To humanise the multitude two things are necessary - 
     two things of the simplest kind conceivable. In the first 
     place, you must effect an entire change of economic 
     conditions; a preliminary step of which every tyro will 
     recognize the easiness: then you must bring to hear on 
     the new order of things the constant influence of music. 
     Does not the prescription recommend itself? It is jesting 
     in earnest. For, work as you will, there is no chance of a 
     new and better world until the old be utterly destroyed. 
     Destroy, sweep away, prepare the ground; then shall 
     music the holy, music the civiliser, breathe over the 
     renewed earth, and with Orphean magic raise in 
     perfected beauty the towers of the City of Man. *20*

_The Nether World_ was completed, not without many indecisive 
revisions and failures of inspiration, on July 22, 1888. The last two 
and one-half pages were written on that day, and the fact entered, 
with relief, in Gissing's diary. He had worked swiftly, but with little 
pleasure. He had been prey to even more mental disturbances than 
usual, including the disturbance of falling in love.
Apart from one or two vague episodes, mentioned by Morley

-- 117 --

Roberts, Gissing had little to do with women while Helen was alive. 
Her death, however, must have suggested that he could now free 
himself from one of his greatest hardships, that of loneliness. 
According to his sister Ellen, the family life at Wakefield in his 
boyhood had been warm and eventful, and he could never accustom 
himself to the isolation he was forced to endure so often as a man. 
Two diary entries of May, 1888, suggest a sad little story. Having 
been pent up for weeks in 7K occupied with his reading and 
writing, Gissing was driven to despair by loneliness and by thoughts 
of a Miss Curtis of Eastbourne. The next day he went to see her, and 
he wrote in his diary simply that his visit and its transparent 
purpose had failed.
The month after completing _The Nether World_ and sending it to 
Smith, Elder, he went to stay with his mother and sisters at Agbrigg, 
near Wakefield. While taking the train at King's Cross Station he 
saw some copies of the third edition of _Demos_ with his name on 
the title page for sale at 3/6. At Agbrigg he passed the time in 
performing the notable feat of translating the Odyssey aloud to his 
sister Margaret. He also read Crabbe and Hawthorne, finding in the 
former an anticipation of his own realism, and remarking with great 
interest that he had written some prose tales which did not survive. 
Finding Wakefield dull, he took his mother and sisters to Seascale 
for a pleasant two weeks' holiday. Then, in September, he went to 
stay with Algernon and his wife at their cottage in Worcestershire. 
From Broadway he made a visit to Stratford, where, in spite of 
guides and hawkers, he captured the sense of Shakespeare's 
presence. In the spring of 1888 he had already decided to let 7K 
and go abroad, but had been vague about his destination. On 
September 26, however, before hearing whether Payn 'had 
accepted _The Nether World_, he left for Paris, accompanied by a 
German acquaintance named Plitt.

Just before leaving on what was to be an extensive trip that gave 
him a five-month respite from writing, Gissing had a letter from the 
Reverend George Bainton of Coventry, who was preparing a lecture
for young people on the art of composition and said that he was 
asking some well-known authors for accounts of their writing 
methods. With his characteristic sense of duty, Gissing gave 
considerable time to the composition of a careful answer. In the 
calm, even sentences of his reply is to be found the disquieting fact 

-- 118 --

Gissing, almost thirty and the author of seven novels produced with 
great effort, felt that he had learned little from his work except 
despair. He told the young people of Coventry through Mr. Bainton 
that good English is written intuitively by those who have the gift 
for it and can succeed without deliberate study. He himself was not 
that kind of a writer. "My own attempts at authorship," he wrote, ". . 
. have had the result of making me constantly search, compare, and 
strive in the matter of style; I would that the issue were more 
correspondent with the thought I have given such things." *21*

-- 119 --




WITH the independence typical of the British tourist, Gissing 
prepared himself for the rigors of Continental travel by buying a 
frying pan, a spirit lamp, and some other utensils for simple 
cooking. Both Harrison and Morley Roberts came to see him off from 
Victoria Station when he left London with Plitt on September 26, 
1888. The arrival in Paris the next day was inauspicious. Gissing 
was suffering from a sore throat, and in addition he and Plitt 
seemed unable to agree on rooms, for Plitt refused to pay enough 
rent to secure what Gissing considered to be a minimum of comfort. 
Plitt's alternate obduracy and indecision, combined with his own 
illness, made Gissing's first hours in Paris miserable. The two 
travelers finally agreed on the H™tel de Londres, Rue LinnŽ, but this 
was done only by separating, with Plitt's taking a room somewhat 
cheaper than Gissing's. When Gissing, desperate to close the bargain, 
offered to pay five francs of Plitt's twenty-five-franc weekly rent, 
Plitt accepted the offer immediately, without thanks or delicacy. 
Gissing attributed this boorishness to mere stupidity, reflecting that 
Plitt was really honest and well intentioned.

He quickly realized, however, that he had chosen an entirely 
uncongenial companion, who was a serious threat to his pleasure 
and peace of mind. Plitt had what Gissing considered to be the 
characteristic faults of the plebeian; he was insensitive and 
inconsiderate, intolerant of differences of opinion, not interested in 
art or culture, and unable to understand those who were. He was 
not of much

-- 120 --

help in practical matters, for he was vacillating, stupid, and lazy. 
One of his most trying traits was his stinginess. Gissing, who had 
good reason to know the value of money, always spent it 
grudgingly, but he was prodigality itself in comparison with Plitt. 
His comfort was constantly menaced by the German's drastic 
economies. Once, for example, Plitt suggested a very cheap 
restaurant frequented exclusively by workingmen, and, when 
Gissing refused to dine there, he was taunted with accusations of 
antidemocratic prejudice.

Plitt's motive in visiting Paris was nominally artistic, for he had 
some skill as a draughtsman. But his artistic pursuits were very 
limited. He painted pictures of fruit and flowers, not from life, but 
from representations which he sought throughout the city. Gissing 
was revolted by Plitt's taste in art, for, although he found little to 
admire in the Louvre and spoke disparagingly of the Mona Lisa, he 
once became enraptured by a gaudy picture of a flower on a soap 
advertisement in a grocer's shop. Two days later he actually bought 
this production, paying, to Gissing's horror, two francs for it.

On October 3, five days after his arrival in Paris, Gissing received a 
letter from Smith, Elder offering £150 for _The Nether World_. It 
was the highest price he had ever received for a book; yet it was 
very low, considering the fact that he had now become an 
established author. The publishers explained that they could not 
make a better offer because the sale of Gissing's books remained 
slow. Gissing accepted without hesitation, for the money meant that 
he could extend his trip to Italy. The next day he made 
arrangements to go to Naples.

He had hopes that Plitt would not accompany him, for the latter was 
reluctant to go to Italy, which he had already visited, and could not 
understand Gissing's eagerness to see Rome. By this time Gissing 
was wishing he and Plitt could part without rancor. The two were 
not economizing by sharing rooms and the only effect of their 
partnership was that Gissing was subjected to constant oppression. 
But he could not bring himself to do anything that might displease 
Plitt, "intellectually _bornŽ_" as he might be. When Gissing received 
a letter from Bertz in Germany, Plitt said that correspondence with 
Bertz might lead to their being arrested as spies, and Gissing asked 
Bertz to write to his English address. In fact, Gissing found himself 
going to extremes to placate his companion,

-- 121 --

and this led him to write out a painful self-examination in the diary 
which accompanied him on his travels. He had, he felt, accepted a 
role of complete submission to Plitt, a person inferior to himself. He 
guarded his speech, washed the dishes of their common meals, and 
used the butter sparingly, not out of regard for Putt, but rather out 
of "cowardice." It was, he thought, a contemptible weakness, and 
had always been one of his failings. "Therefore it is that I am never 
at peace save when alone." *1*

After waiting for a few days until his sore throat improved, Gissing 
began actively touring, crowding his days with visits to theaters, 
lectures, museums, galleries, and graves. At the Salle des 
ConfŽrences he heard a talk on feminism and lectures on Daudet 
and George Sand, enjoying the speaker's dramatic style of reading 
from the novels. On October 6 he saw a performance of _Crime and 
Punishment_ adapted for the stage, and objected to the mutilation 
of a novel he greatly admired. The following week he saw 
_Athalie_. He was disappointed in this first experience of classical 
French drama, for he found that the acting did not equal reports he 
had read of the great French actress Rachel. He spent several hours 
each day at the Louvre and other galleries, making notes of the 
pictures he saw there in his diary. He also visited places associated 
with the gods of his private Pantheon, standing outside Daudet's 
house for a time, content simply to look at it. At Pre Lachaise and 
the Cimetire de Montmartre he saw the graves of ThŽophile 
Gautier, Murger, Heine, Balzac, Rachel, Michelet, and Chopin, 
entering brief descriptions of each in his diary.

His escape from London and the sight of great cultural 
achievements in Paris were working curious and subtle changes in 
him. He felt that he was losing his interest in the poor. While 
working wearily on _The Nether World_ in June of 1888 he had 
found himself tiring of "this idealism," and vowed that he would 
soon give it up. At that time he had been reading (in German 
translation) some plays by a Norwegian named Ibsen, and he found 
them "extraordinary productions." Perhaps _Pillars of Society_, _The 
Wild Duck_, and _Ghosts_ suggested to him that it was possible to 
pursue a criticism of society without espousing the cause of the 
poor. Toward the end of his stay in Paris he wrote in his diary that 
he felt little but antipathy toward the common people. "On crossing 
the Channel," he wrote, "I have become a poet, pure and simple, or 
perhaps it

-- 122 --

would be better to say an idealist student of art." *2* In general, 
this was to be the spirit in which he toured Europe. It was the sign 
of a permanent change, for when he returned to England and to 
novel writing, he ignored almost entirely the poverty that had been 
his usual theme in the first part of his career.

In the spring of 1888, during the weeks of lethargy that had fallen 
upon him after Helen's death, he had received a letter from a 
Frenchwoman named Fanny Le Breton, who asked permission to 
translate Demos and also manifested an interest in _A Life's 
Morning_. Gissing's books had attracted some attention among the 
French as representatives of a realism resembling that of their own 
literature. He had granted Mlle. Le Breton permission for her 
translation, and now he went to visit her at her home in Paris, after 
learning her address from her publisher, Hachette. He found her to 
be a plain, elderly woman living with a widowed sister. She told 
him that her translation of _Demos_ was soon to be published and 
asked Gissing to set a price for the translation rights of _Thyrza_, 
but he asked nothing.

During his stay in Paris, Gissing prepared himself for the great 
experience of Italy by refreshing his Italian, communing with the 
Italian paintings and ancient sculpture in the museums, dreaming 
of Pompeii and Vesuvius, and reading Goethe's _Italienische Reise_. 
In Goethe's longing for Italy, so intense that he found references to 
Roman culture unbearable, Gissing detected feelings exactly like his 

When the time for the journey to Naples arrived, Plitt at the last 
moment refused to leave Paris. He said that he had found some new 
models to copy from, and would now have to pay the price of 
buying instead of hiring them. Since Gissing would not postpone 
their departure, Plitt proposed that the extra expense be shared 
between them. Gissing agreed to this, but soon afterward began to 
suspect that the whole affair had been a scheme designed to extract 
a few francs from him. Before they left, Plitt bought some books. He 
chose difficult works by Pascal and Condorcet, explaining that his 
reading had to be profound, since he had so little time to give to it. 
The real difficulty was, Gissing remarked in his diary, that his 
capacity for attending to a book lasted only ten minutes. The entries 
about Plitt, which come close to monopolizing Gissing's

-- 123 --

diary at this time, are a vivid and characteristic mingling of 
fascination and aversion.

They left for Marseilles from the Care de Lyons on October 26. From 
the train windows Gissing saw the autumn foliage of the Rhone 
Valley, which gleamed with a golden color in the sunlight, and the 
splendor of the sight moved him deeply. At Marseilles, which had 
been founded as a Greek colony, he felt that he was crossing the 
threshold of the ancient world that had called to his imagination 
since his boyhood. The Mediterranean countries spoke to Gissing 
with a special power and clarity. The glory of the past seemed to 
him to form a visible aura over the landscape. "You seem to see the 
light of the sky _through_ the mountains," he said, writing of a 
sunset on the French coast. *3* What he felt when he looked at the 
shores the Greeks had colonized, and traveled the seas their ships 
had sailed, was a nostalgia which lifted him out of himself, offering 
the release he sought from the world of commerce and 
industrialism. "Let no one tell me," he wrote from the steamer he 
had boarded at Marseilles, "I am in the 19th century, nothing of the 
kind. . . . These are the mountains that the Greek colonists saw. The 
sea and the shore having nothing altered since the times when 
Carthage was the great Empire of the Mediterranean." *4* He now 
felt himself to be entering the realm created in his mind by Gibbon, 
Horace, Virgil, and Homer, and reliving the great fable of the past.

They went from Marseilles to Naples by a coastwise steamer whose 
evil smell and crowds of poor emigrants Gissing found oppressive. 
Freed for a time from Plitt, who took a third class ticket, while 
Gissing took a second class, he befriended a young American from 
Missouri who proved to be a rather unstimulating companion. Plitt, 
finding the third class accommodations unbearable, soon joined 
them. The American asked whether his companions knew a book 
named _Don Quixote_, remarking that he had often started it, but 
could never make much progress with it. Plitt sagely observed that 
an understanding of _Don Quixote_ required a knowledge of Spanish 
life. To such erudite literary conversation did Gissing listen while 
the coasts of Italy and her offshore islands slipped by.

They arrived at Naples on October 30, and were established a few 
days afterward at the Casa di Luca, the house of a German

-- 124 --

landlady named Frau HŠberlin, at Vico Brancaccio 8. Although he 
had come to Naples primarily for its classical associations, Gissing 
found his attention attracted by the many small differences of 
everyday behavior that the observant tourist notices in a part of 
the world new to him. He noted the high, thick-walled houses, the 
streets thronged with goats and donkeys in elaborate harness, the 
bargaining going on in the streets, the cheap and abundant fruit, the 
sounds of hand organs and peddlers crying their wares about the 
streets at night. The numerous priests and nuns gave the town a 
medieval appearance. He enjoyed the food served in the restaurants 
and quickly adopted the Italian custom of drinking wine with 
meals. In spite of his thorough Italian studies, he was baffled by the 
Neapolitan dialect, but his Italian was good enough to allow him to 
converse with the occasional northerner he met.

He had again arrived at a new place in poor health, but three days 
afterward felt well enough to go for a long walk through some of 
the nearby towns. He strolled through Fuorigrotta, Bagnoli, and 
Pozzuoli, lingering in the squares and along the shore, thinking of 
the Romans who had once lived there. In Pozzuoli, which had once 
been the Roman seaport of Puteoli, he sat in the public garden, 
smoking his pipe and listening to the soft music of a hand organ 
nearby. Among these placid scenes and their associations he must 
have felt very far away from Lambeth and Clerkenwell. "I felt 
happy," he wrote in his diary account of this walk, "more than 
happy." *5*

Gissing viewed the ruins and landscapes of antiquity with an 
informed and scholarly eye. He was ready to strip whatever he saw 
of the centuries that had passed since Virgil and Horace had lived in 
Naples and its neighborhood. To him Pozzuoli was still Puteoli and 
Baja was Baiae. Nearby was Cumae, the spot where Aeneas, founder 
of the Roman nation, was said to have first landed in Italy, and on 
one of his walks Gissing came upon Lake Avernus, supposed by the 
ancients to flow into the lower world, and to have been the gateway 
of Aeneas' visit to the realm of the shades.

In November he visited Pompeii, being careful to go on a Sunday, 
when admission to the ruins was free, and spent several days 
touring in the vicinity of Amalfi and Salerno. His only thought of 
authorship came on November 15, the day _A Life's Morning_ was 
published in book form; he was happy to be far from the scene of

-- 125 --

the event. Such things were easy to forget among the ruins of 
Pompeii and the Greek temples of Paestum, with their splendid 
view of the sea.

On his return from this tour, Gissing stopped at an inn in Pompeii 
where he encountered a number of German guests. He thought he 
detected something both familiar and peculiar in the speech of one 
of them, and after dinner it turned out that this individual was no 
German at all, but a Yorkshireman named John Wood Shortridge 
whose strong northern accent had colored his German. Gissing 
quickly made friends with this man, who had relations in 
Wakefield, and learned that he had been in Italy seventeen years. 
Shortridge had a house, an Italian wife, and a large family in Massa 
Lubrense, near Sorrento, and he promptly invited Gissing to 
accompany him there.

Before going with Shortridge, however, Gissing devoted a day to 
climbing Vesuvius. First it was necessary to approach the summit 
on horseback, and the unaccustomed ride made him sore. After 
dismounting, he found that volcanoes are more attractive at a 
distance. The rocks and cinders of the mountainside cut his boots, 
and he objected to being pulled upward by his guides at the end of 
a rope. At the top he felt somewhat compensated for the hardships 
he had endured, for he enjoyed the splendid view and the constant, 
threatening din of the crater. At lunch two of the guides told him 
that their names were Raffaelle and Michelangelo, information 
which Gissing took seriously. When he arrived at the inn near the 
foot of the mountain on his way back, he had the opportunity of 
rescuing an American lady who had been temporarily abandoned 
by her family, and, not knowing enough Italian to order a meal, was 
in danger of starving. On November 23, the day after his thirty-first 
birthday, he and Shortridge set out on foot from Pompeii for the 
latter's home.

Gissing found there a strange and chaotic English-Italian household 
like the unhappy family described by E. M. Forster in _Where 
Angels Fear to Tread_. It consisted of Shortridge and his Italian 
wife, Carmela, their four children, her illiterate parents, and 
Shortridge's brother. Although Shortridge had some vague intention 
of giving his children an English education, they were growing up to 
speak nothing but the local Italian dialect, like his wife. In the 
vaulted cellar room where he slept, Gissing met his host's brother,

-- 126 --

Herbert, who was to be his roommate for the night. He generally 
went to bed at seven, as did the rest of the family, but he sat up 
late to talk to Gissing. He was, said Gissing, a hopeless drunkard who 
had once been a medical student at Edinburgh. The room was filled 
with medical books, which he could never bring himself to open. He 
ate only at night, for he never had any appetite at other times, and 
kept some bread and _salame_ by his bedside, which Gissing saw 
him eat when he woke up at about one in the morning.

After a day with the Shortridges, Gissing spent two days on Capri 
and then returned to Naples. The pages of his diary contain some 
firmly outlined drawings of local sights: a campanile seen from his 
window, a view of Vesuvius, a diagram of a peculiar lock. Rather 
abruptly, on November 29, he left by night train for Rome, ridding 
himself at last of Plitt. The phrase "a Roma," heard repeatedly on 
the train, made him think of the centuries during which the same 
word had been used to name the city. Even after a sleepless night 
on the train he could not resist going out on his very first day in 
Rome to see the Forum and the Colosseum. His first impression of 
the Roman populace was favourable, for he found them quieter and 
more dignified than the Neapolitans.

His first day was given to ancient Rome, but a part of his second 
was given to England, for he went to the Protestant Cemetery to see 
the graves of Keats, Shelley, and Keats's friend, Joseph Severn, 
carefully noting in his diary the situation of the graves, their 
inscriptions, and their condition. The following month was almost 
equally divided between Christian and pagan Rome. He wandered in 
the Forum and on the Palatine Hill repeatedly, explored the 
Campagna, went to see the site of the ancient city of Veii, and 
examined the Roman sculpture in the galleries; meditating on the 
past which these things evoked, and which had been familiar to him 
since his school days in Wakefield. The sight of Mount Soracte, 
which recalled the familiar ninth ode of Horace, thrilled him. Of the 
long-horned oxen which he saw drawing carts, he said: ". . . they 
always bring to my mind antique statues and bas-reliefs. . . . Such 
oxen Homer had in mind, and Virgil." *6* "The Roman life and 
literature," he said, "becomes real in a way hitherto inconceivable. I 
must begin to study it all over again." *7* Looking hack at his 
experiences in Rome just after he had left it, he wrote to

-- 127 --

Ellen: "I am no longer ignorant of the best things the world contains. 
It only now remains for me to go to Greece. . . ." *8*

The churches and the religious paintings in the Vatican galleries 
and elsewhere inspired him, not with Christianity, but with the 
religion of beauty preached by Ruskin and Pater. On December 14, 
in the midst of his daily explorations of ruins and galleries he wrote 
in his diary: "Woke early this morning and enjoyed wonderful 
happiness of mind. It occurs to me, is not this partly due to the fact 
that I spend my days solely in the consideration of beautiful things, 
wholly undisturbed by base necessities and considerations?" *9*

He objected violently to the prudery that had draped some of 
Michelangelo's figures in the Sistine Chapel, where he spent hours 
at a time. His diary contains a diagram of its walls and ceilings 
identifying each of the panels, as well as brief comments on many 
of the works of art in the galleries. It was a good thing, he observed, 
that only old men became Popes, for a young man in possession of 
the Vatican's wealth of art would go mad.

After attending Christmas services at St. Peter's, be left, just before 
the end of the year, to go to Florence, which be found less 
interesting than Rome. He paid homage to the museums, regretting 
the lira charged for entrance at each of them, and thought of 
Florence's association with Walter Savage Landor, but nothing in the 
city moved him as deeply as had the relies of Roman antiquity he 
had seen further south. Florence lacked the exuberance and color he 
had enjoyed in Naples, and it was oppressively cold. In addition, his 
indigestion returned, and he was forced to consult an English doctor.

About January 15, 1889, he began to think of the novel he would 
write when he returned to England. It was a comparatively long 
time since he had had thoughts of this kind. For ten years, 
beginning in 1878, Gissing had hardly passed a day without 
working at fiction, either in imagination or by actual writing. Even 
on his holidays, the project of the moment weighed heavily upon 
him. This burdensome habit had been broken abruptly in 
September of 1888. His journey to France and Italy was an escape 
from all that writing meant, and he scarcely gave a thought even to 
the events related to his own career that went on in England during 
his absence. If the experiences he had in Europe suggested material 
to him - and

-- 128 --

they did eventually - he said nothing of that in his diary or his 
letters. However, the news, coming on the fifth of January, that the 
proofs of _The Nether World_ were ready for correction may have 
recalled future necessities to his mind.

At the end of January he arrived in Venice, where he lived in a 
house called Palazzo Swift, whose curious name he was unable to 
account for. The Renaissance atmosphere of the city only served to 
make him think of how much he preferred the Greek temples at 
Paestum. About two weeks after arriving in Venice he went to hear 
a lecture on Zola. He was surprised to find women and schoolboys 
present, and was amused both by the lecturer's emotional delivery 
and by his extravagant praise of Zola. Gissing shared the estimate of 
Zola common among English critics of the time, who found him 
offensive on both moral and esthetic grounds. Zola was much more 
appreciated in England after the reopening of the Dreyfus case in 
1898, and by that time he had become one of Gissing's literary 
heroes. It is worth noting, however, that in February of 1889 
Gissing agreed with the low estimate of Zola common in England, for 
it is precisely his novels written before that time, those dealing 
with poverty, which are supposed by some critics to show a strong 
influence of Zola.

In Venice Gissing completed the plan of his next book, _The 
Emancipated_, which was to be set in some of the Italian scenes he 
had visited. Noting from advertisements in the Athenaeum that 
_The Nether World_ was scheduled for publication in March, he 
sent Smith, Elder a sentence from a lecture by Renan as a motto for 
the title page of the book: "La peinture d'un fumier pent tre 
justifiŽ pourvu qu'il y pousse une belle fleur; sans cela le fumier 
n'est que repoussant." *10*

His travels were drawing to a close. On February 26 he left Venice, 
arriving in Brussels via Milan and Basle on February 28; while 
waiting for the boat-train, he wandered about Brussels, thinking of 
Charlotte Bront‘, who had once lived there and used it as the 
setting of her novel _Villette_. His return to London at nine in the 
morning of March 1 was not an exciting experience to him at all. 
The only remark entered in his diary on that date observes that his 
rooms at 7K were badly in need of the cleaning the charwoman was 
giving them.

-- 129 --
Gissing had grown tired of his usual theme even before his 
departure for the Continent, and his traveling experiences made it 
impossible for him to remain the gloomy poet of the slums. The 
pleasant, stirring towns of France and Italy reminded him that 
London was not the world. In observing the poor of other countries 
he often remarked that they were clean, well-mannered, and 
considerate, in contrast to their English counterparts. Occasionally, 
to be sure, he had been pestered by a hawker or cheated by a 
guide, and he attributed their faults to the influence of generations 
of slavery. But he found the festivals of the poor lively and colorful, 
free of the boorishness and disorder that prevailed at the Crystal 
Palace or Brighton on Bank Holidays. This evidence that people 
could be poor without becoming brutalized added another 
complication to the problem of the relationship of character and 
poverty, deepening his confusion about it.

On the other hand, some of his ideas were strengthened rather than 
weakened by his experience in Europe. His journey had given him a 
chance to feel the humanizing power of leisure, art, and culture. He 
attributed the profound peace of mind he felt on his travels to his 
frequent communion with art and history, and thought he was 
drawing a permanent benefit from them. Of the antiquities he saw 
in Rome he said: "All these things are realities to me, and, as long as 
I keep my memory, no one can rob me of them. . . . My life is richer 
a thousand times - aye, a million times - than six months ago."  *11* 
He was still enough of a Comtist to be profoundly moved by the 
evidences of human achievement visible everywhere. In the 
beautiful rituals of the Christmas masses at St. Peter's he sensed, 
not the presence of a supernatural divinity, but the power of 
inspiring human effort. His feelings toward the priests he saw 
officiating were divided. "At one moment contempt for them all, at 
another reverence, seeing that they represent a system which was 
once so powerful and embodies so much human intellect." *12*

For, in spite of the splendor of the religious art he saw in Italy, his 
agnosticism was not altered. On the contrary, he strongly pre-

-- 130 --

ferred pagan art, which reflected the times and spirit of classical 
literature, and he rated Venice and Florence as second in interest to 
Rome and Naples. He wrote to Bertz from Venice that he had always 
been indifferent to Christian art. To Algernon he wrote, "Florence is 
the city of the Renaissance, but after all the Renaissance was only a 
shadow of the great times, and like a shadow it has passed away. 
There is nothing here that impresses me like the poorest of Rome's 
antiquities." *13* Most Victorian travelers would have taken a 
contrary view, for interest in the Renaissance had been stimulated 
by some of the leading figures of the time, including Browning, 
Pater, Ruskin, and John Addington Symonds.

Gissing's first novel after his return to England, _The Emancipated_, 
is partially set in Naples and its vicinity. In it he dealt with some of 
the moral and esthetic issues Italy had suggested to him, as well as 
some of the streets, pensions, and landscapes he had seen. He found 
_The Emancipated_ a difficult book to write. For one thing, he had 
broken the habit of regular work. Secondly, it was, as _Isabel 
Clarendon_ had been, a departure from his usual subject.
It was, in fact, the beginning of a new phase of his career, and he 
had to make unusual efforts to arouse and sustain interest in the 
less sensational material of middle-class life. This phase of Gissing's 
fiction has often been neglected in favor of his more picturesque 
early novels of poverty, yet it produced some work of deeper 
significance, and, on the whole, of more lasting value.

Up to _The Nether World_ Gissing's criticism of civilization had been 
directed at its exploitation of the poor. Now, however, he began to 
examine the values and achievements by which that civilization 
justified its shortcomings. His travels on the Continent suggested 
that the condition of the poor was only one symptom of the malady 
of money-making that paralyzed the spirit of English society, 
transforming all potential ideals and aspirations into the values of 
trade. He now laid aside the theme of poverty, turning in
_The Emancipated_ to the larger subject of the spiritual condition of 
modern industrial society.

Many incidental features of his life in London interfered with 
Gissing's attempt at this new and more complicated task. He had a 
number of friends and much companionship, but these only served 
to interrupt him and did not really relieve the loneliness that often 
discouraged him and prevented him from working. After going

-- 131 --

north to visit his family, he returned to London to spend a few days 
writing a piece entitled "Christmas at the Capitol," which had been 
promised while he was in Italy. On March 18 he was reunited with 
Roberts, and the next day he went to Acton to pay a promised visit 
to a sister of Shortridge. On March 23 he went to meet Roberts at 
the studio of Alfred Hartley, the painter, where he made two new 
friends, Hartley himself and W. H. Hudson, the novelist. Gissing was 
eager to meet Hudson, who was then practically unknown as a 
writer. His first novel, _The Purple Land That England Lost_ (1885), 
had not been well received, and he was to remain an obscure 
naturalist until 1904, when _Green Mansions_ was published. 
Gissing, who was keenly appreciative of originality, may have liked 
_The Purple Land_ before its qualities were generally understood. 
Hudson, who had been born in Argentina and migrated to England 
when he was about forty, was leading a shabby existence on the 
rents of a boardinghouse kept by his wife. The year before meeting 
Gissing he had published a curious Utopian novel, _A Crystal Age_, 
but it had almost no circulation.

After giving much thought to his novel, Gissing began it in March 
and made gradual progress. On April 1 his former pupil, Bernard 
Harrison, came to see him, and although Gissing unkindly 
begrudged the half hour he stayed, the visit did not prevent him 
from finishing his first chapter. April 3 was the publication date of 
_The Nether World_; an invitation to dine with the Harrisons on the 
sixth annoyed him as an interruption, but lie was gratified to find, 
on dining with them again a few nights later, that they had already 
read his new book.

Visits and conversations with Roberts, Hartley, and Hudson became 
a regular recreation. Once, however, Roberts seriously disturbed 
him. On April 9, when Gissing was expecting his friend, a messenger 
arrived with the news that Roberts had been arrested for becoming 
involved in a brawl, and Gissing was asked to come to his rescue. 
Roberts' account of the incident in _Maitland_ describes a cheerful 
Gissing handing over the three pounds that was Roberts' fine. 
Actually, he was much annoyed at this incursion on his slim 
resources. He had not sold a book for a long time. His account at the 
Wakefield bank was dwindling, and would soon be down to five 
pounds. In conversations with Roberts he wished for the kind of 
patron Coleridge had had in Gillman, and, after ex-

-- 132 --

temporizing a few whimsical stanzas on the subject, he wrote some 
more and fashioned them into the comic poem printed in 

On April 18 he had to sustain a visit from Plitt, newly arrived in 
London from his European travels. Meaning to be entertaining, he 
told Gissing of a mistress he had kept in Rome, but his story only 
intensified Gissing's loneliness and prevented him from working for 
some time afterward. However, Plitt proved to be useful about a 
month later, on May 14, when he interpreted a German letter 
whose script Gissing had found impenetrable. It was from a Frau 
Clara Steinitz, whom Bertz had suggested as a translator of _Demos_, 
and who wrote, in reply to an encouraging letter from Gissing, to 
ask permission to publish an abridgment of the novel as part of a 
periodical. Gissing agreed to her proposal, and the translation was 
published in 1891.

His work on _The Emancipated_ assumed the aspect of a war of 
attrition. From the middle of March to almost the end of May he 
alternately attacked and retreated. Often enough he wrote quickly 
and without hesitation, but he was invariably beaten back by 
revisions and uncertainty. Twice he was completely routed, for he 
had to discard long sections of painfully revised manuscript to 
make new beginnings. On May 25 a final defeat took place. Painters 
descended on Cornwall Residences (now more splendidly named 
Cornwall Mansions) and Gissing gave up whatever ground he had 
gained and fled to his mother's house in Wakefield to begin anew.

He chose his new field of battle without much optimism, for he had 
always found Wakefield and its neighborhood deadening. His 
mother and sisters, who had strong religious convictions, 
disapproved of Gissing's lack of faith, and the atmosphere of the 
house made him uncomfortable. Though his sisters, who were 
schoolmistresses, must have had some intellectual interests, Gissing 
complained of the triviality of mealtime conversations. 
Nevertheless, by installing himself in the garret and going to work 
with a will he managed at last, to his own amazement, to make 
progress. He succeeded in achieving a daily "quantum" of five pages, 
and at the end of three weeks had already completed the first 

Gissing's diary record of the composition of _The Emancipated_ 
explains why his novels were generally written in haste, in spite of

-- 133 --

the pains they cost him. He wasted a great deal of time in 
preliminary work that eventually proved useless and, when he 
found himself in good form, wrote speedily day after day, hardly 
daring to rest or reconsider anything for fear of losing his facility. 
In this way, the first volume of _The Emancipated_ cost him three 
months of hard labor, although the story itself was written at top 
speed in three weeks. By maintaining this rate for the next two 
months he succeeded in finishing it by the thirteenth of August and 
sent it off to Bentley, fearing that it might meet with some objection 
of the kind Bentley had made to _Mrs. Grundy's Enemies_ and _The 
Unclassed_. But Bentley accepted it, and with _The Emancipated_ 
Gissing inaugurated a series of novels concerned with the middle 


Gissing's criticism of the middle class is a logical extension of the 
social ideas of his novels of poverty. The great horror of poverty 
was its corruption of human gifts, but Gissing now saw that the 
competitive spirit of modern civilization produced the same result 
in all classes, though it might operate in more indirect ways.

The middle class, after gradually coming to power in England during 
the Industrial Revolution and winning its political rights in the 
reform of 1832, quickly began to supersede the old landed 
aristocracy as leaders in most phases of English life. The ideals of a 
Puritan class engaged in competitive business permeated all of 
English society from the poorest factory workers to the royal 
family. It was in effect a new aristocracy, which set fashions and 
moral standards and based its ideas of social organization upon the 
exigencies of mass production.

Many of the attitudes typical of the Victorian merchant and 
manufacturing class can be explained as the result of a need for 
security; the attachment to custom and tradition, the preference for 
quiet, the respect for commercial and industrial power, the social 
pressure in favor of conformity, and the support of imperialist 
political policies. The solidity and seclusion of prosperous Victorian 
homes and the comfort of their furnishings seemed to express a 
wish that nothing would ever happen to unsettle the way of life 

-- 134 --

represented. The characteristics that such contemporary observers 
as Mill and Arnold found so detestable in the middle class arose 
from this desire of its members to put themselves beyond the reach 
of change. They insisted upon uniformity of manners, dress, and 
opinions, adhered stubbornly to received religious beliefs, and 
regarded everything foreign or new with an impregnable sense of 
their own superiority. Exaggeration was a natural element of this 
inbred and defensive way of life. Religion was turned into 
religiosity, and an unquestioning belief in the literal accuracy of the 
Scripture, a rigid Sabbatarianism, and a despotic prudishness 
became parts of society's ordinary moral standards. Although 
spotless respectability was demanded, and the plain terms and 
common facts of life became unmentionable, human beings 
remained human beings, and ordinary people seemed no more able 
to live up to such ideals than the men of other times had been. 
Prostitution flourished, and respectable gentlemen made suspicious 
trips to Paris and might be expected to have some such book as a 
copy of Rabelais locked away out of sight. The need for maintaining 
an appearance of innocence under any circumstances gave rise to 
the habit of hypocrisy, institutionalized self-deception which 
brought with it a general sense of guilt.

The overmastering ambition of Victorian society was moneymaking. 
Calvinist religion preached the doctrines of election and economic 
success as almost equally important to salvation. Engels pointed out 
how commercial turns of phrase invaded the common speech, 
betraying the obsession with business. As the schoolroom scenes of 
_Hard Times_ show, mass education was often directed toward the 
mechanical skills that would produce efficient clerks and good men 
of business. The novel, like Victorian society in general, spoke the 
language of money, for it would hardly have been intelligible if it 
had used any other tongue.

Responsible contemporary observers reported that the Victorian 
middle class thought, felt, suffered, and rejoiced in terms of money. 
According to John Stuart Mill, it was incapable of purely esthetic 
pleasure, and its taste in art and furnishings was based, not on 
beauty, but on expenditure. "It knows no bliss save that of rapid 
gain," said Engels, "no pain save that of losing gold." *14* The effects 
of this thirst for accumulation upon society as a whole were clearly 
evident to Engels, when he came to England as a young man

-- 135 --

to work as an executive in the Manchester textile factory partially 
owned by his father. Although his book, _The Condition of the 
Working Class in England in 1844_, is mainly concerned with 
Manchester, he perceived the harm the economic struggle was 
doing to individuals of every class soon after he arrived in London. 
His book opens with a vivid, pleasant picture of London's great 
commercial activity, which is followed by a deeper insight.

     But the sacrifices which all this has cost become apparent 
     later. . . . One realizes for the first time that these 
     Londoners have been forced to sacrifice the best qualities 
     of their human nature, to bring to pass all the marvels of 
     civilization which crowd their city; that a hundred powers 
     which slumbered within them have remained inactive, 
     have been suppressed in order that a few might be 
     developed more fully. . . . The very turmoil of the streets 
     has something repulsive, something against which human 
     nature rebels. The hundreds of thousands of all classes 
     and ranks crowding past each other, are they not all 
     human beings with the same qualities and powers, and 
     with the same interest in being happy? . . . They crowd by 
     one another as though they had nothing in common, 
     nothing to do with one another, and their only agreement 
     is the tacit one, that each keep to his own side of the 
     pavement. The brutal indifference, the unfeeling isolation 
     of each in his private interest becomes the more repellent 
     and offensive, the more these individuals are crowded 
     together. . . . Hence comes it, too, that the social war, the 
     war of each against all, is here openly declared. *15*

Toward the end of the century, when _The Emancipated_ was 
written, a reaction to the rigid Puritanism of the mid-century was 
under way, although there had been no real change in the 
underlying emotional and economic facts of bourgeois civilization. 
The mid-Victorian businessman had been proud of his 
independence and thrift, but his counterpart of the eighties 
preferred to display his wealth. The children of people who had 
sought edification in prayers, churchgoing, and moral sentiment 
turned to art galleries, concerts, the theater, and less respectable 
indulgences in their search for adventure and enlightenment. 
Puritanism began to fade. The new middle class began to look to the 
older aristocratic standard of manners as its model. As a result, 
Gissing's treatment of the bourgeoisie in _The Emancipated_ and 
later novels was somewhat more complicated than that of Dickens, 
for he had to deal with the gradual changes that were beginning to 
mask the rock-ribbed qualities of an older generation personified 
by such characters as Pecksniff and Dombey.

-- 136 --


The hero of _The Emancipated_ is a moody and lonely painter 
named Ross Mallard, Gissing's representative in the novel, a man 
much like his author in opinions, temperament, and habits. Quietly 
industrious, suspicious of extremes, sensitive and easily disturbed, 
he is jealous of art's freedom of expression but refuses to embrace 
any grandiose theories about its social usefulness. When he is 
challenged to show how his art serves mankind, he disclaims this 
purpose altogether, saying: "The one object I have in life is to paint 
a bit of the world just as I see it. I exhaust myself in vain toil; I 
shall never succeed; but I am right to persevere, I am right to 
please myself." *16* These are Gissing's attitudes and Gissing's 
accents. Jokingly skeptical of innovations, Mallard is at the same 
time bitterly opposed to the Philistinism of the middle class.

_The Emancipated_ has a curious symmetry of design not found in 
Gissing's other novels. This characteristic suggests that the intense 
efforts he expended on the preliminary drafts of the novel were not 
wasted, but found their way into the final hasty writing in the form 
of a clear grasp of the contrapuntal plot. The chief characters of the 
story fall into two groups, and have Mallard, who belongs to 
neither, between them as a center of balance. On the one hand are 
"the emancipated," people who have actively taken up arms against 
convention, and who traffic in pretentious but futile ideas about art 
and culture. The leader of this group is Cecily Doran, the orphaned 
daughter of an old friend of Mallard's and his ward. Cecily's 
education has been entrusted to Mrs. Lessingham, a guardian who 
has brought her up in a spirit of freedom and enlightenment still 
shockingly new in a society that felt that girls must be ignorant if 
they were to be pure. This is how Mallard ironically describes the 
results of Cecily's education:

     Miss Doran is a young woman of her time; she ranks with 
     the emancipated. . . . Miss Doran has no prejudices, and, 
     in the vulgar sense of the word, no principles. She is 
     familiar with the Latin classics and with the Parisian 
     feuilletons; she knows all about the newest religion, and 
     can tell you Sarcey's opinion of the newest play. Miss 
     Doran will discuss with you the merits of Sarah Bernhardt 
     in "La Dame aux CamŽlias," or the literary theories of the

-- 137 --

     Brothers Goncourt. I am not sure she knows much about 
     Shakespeare, but her appreciation of Baudelaire is 
     exquisite. I don't think she is naturally very cruel, but 
     she can plead convincingly the cause of vivisection. *17*

But Cecily uses her enlightenment as a shibboleth and a fashionable 
ornament without having any real Convictions about it or 
understanding of it. She can remark that the artist is free, "a prince 
among men," but Mallard, a working artist beset by doubts and 
difficulties, is embarrassed by her ignorance of the truth. Her lover, 
Reuben Elgar, displaying a similar superficiality, decides upon a 
career as a writer in preference to business, but is eternally at a 
loss for anything to write. Cecily's friends, the empty-headed 
Denyer girls regard themselves as devotees of culture, but when 
Madeline Denyer's fiancŽ, who is a painter, seems unable to earn a 
living, Madeline advises him to work for money until he is able to 
afford the luxury of painting as he pleases.

Contrasted with these _amateurs_ of art is a group of Dissenters, 
whose religion has made them hostile to the art, freedom of 
conscience, and breadth of experience that they see about them in 
Italy. Miriam Baske, the recently widowed sister of Reuben Elgar, a 
young woman of strict Evangelical education, is the central figure of 
this group.

     To the time of her marriage, her outlook upon the world 
     was incredibly restricted. She had never read a book that 
     would not pass her mother's censorship; she had never seen 
     a work of art; she had never heard any but "sacred" music; 
     she had never perused a journal; she had never been to an 
     entertainment - unless the name could he given to a 
     magic-lantern exhibition of views in Palestine, or the like. 

Miriam spends her time in Italy planning a chapel for the people of 
her north of England manufacturing town and ignores the sights 
and art works of Italy. She regards Mallard's admission that he 
paints for his own pleasure as a confession of sinful hedonism, and 
she is somewhat offended when Cecily plays the piano on Sunday. 

Her friends, the Bradshaws, are older and more amusing examples 
of middle-class parochialism. Prosperous middle-aged business 
people from the north of England, they can make nothing of the 
carefree Italians about them or the art of the museums. Stubbornly 
insular, they do not try to understand the strange customs of the 
country, but regard it as a kind of madhouse. The nude statues in 
the museums astonish Mr. Bradshaw and irritate his wife. When

-- 138 --

he consults Lemprire's _Classical Dictionary_, a book familiar to 
Gissing from his Wakefield boyhood, Mr. Bradshaw is scandalized 
and asks indignantly whether boys in England are really given such 
material to study. This kind of prudery, says Mallard's friend 
Spence, is an integral element of their hypocritical civilization, 
where even the most liberal-minded are embarrassed by honesty 
and innocence. He observes that the same limitations apply to 
literature, which demands skipping and elisions if it is read in the 
family. Mallard laments this triumph of Philistinism and declares 
that his children shall be taught "a natural morality."

Gissing had always objected to conventional ideas of propriety. 
Once, while visiting Shortridge at Massa Lubrense, he happened to 
come into a room where Shortridge's wife was bathing her baby 
girl. The woman laughed and said, "Come  bella nuda!" giving 
Gissing occasion to think how differently an English mother would 
have reacted under these circumstances. He had accepted _Punch_'s 
scolding about his views on honesty in literature in silence, but now 
he began to speak out on the subject, condemning "Grundyism" as 
one of the blighting forces of middle-class civilization.

The two main groups of characters represent the two ways in which 
an essentially inartistic age responded to art, and Mallard stands 
between them as a genuine artist who belongs to neither extreme. 
The balance into which the characters fall is reflected by the 
natural opposition of a number of other elements. The art and 
freedom of Cecily's group is associated with Italy, sunlight, and 
nature; its opposite, the Puritanism of Miriam and her friends, is 
related to England (especially the north), smoke, and industrialism. 
The antithesis is carried further by the contrasting development of 
the two chief female characters. While the emancipated Cecily 
follows her modern principles into tragedy and unhappiness, the 
benighted Miriam learns to escape her provincialism, to open 
herself to experience, and to fall in love with and marry Mallard.

Mallard's first love is his ward, but since he fails to declare himself, 
she is won by Miriam's dissolute brother, Reuben Elgar, who woos 
her by kissing her among the ruins of Pompeii. Cecily is 
immediately confronted with the formidable defenses of Victorian 
convention, is refused consent to the marriage, and is forbidden to 
see Elgar privately. She finds, in short, that she is not allowed to 
make use of the power of self-determination developed by her ad-

-- 139 --

vanced education. Against this situation she rebels, eloping with 
Elgar to England.

Two years of marriage make her position even more difficult, 
however, for her husband, who is supposed to share her views 
about the independence of women, reverts to the Puritanism of his 
upbringing and forbids her to see certain friends. When he tells her 
that she is incapable of making her own decisions in such matters, 
she is forced to play the conventional submissive wife. This, and the 
death of her child, make her see the futility of her old ideals and 
interests. But Elgar is not strong enough to fill the dominating role 
that he has assumed. His attempts to write a book are unsuccessful, 
and, gradually demoralized by his inability to make his life 
meaningful, he drifts into infidelity and debauchery. When she 
learns of this, Cecily longs for the old-fashioned wifely resignation 
with which women of an earlier generation tolerated such disgrace, 
but the contradictory values of a period of changing social customs 
have involved her in an insoluble dilemma. She cannot divorce her 
husband, and according to the general view it is her duty to remain 
with him in spite of everything. She cannot, however, love a 
husband whose infidelity she knows; she has already decided that it 
is right for the woman to leave her husband under such conditions, 
but only after her own marriage approaches the breaking point 
does she see how heavy the responsibilities of independence are. 
Gissing comments:

     Life is so simple to people of the old civilization. The 
     rules are laid down so broadly and plainly, and the 
     conscience they have created answers so readily when 
     appealed to. But for these poor instructed persons, what 
     a complex affair has morality become! Hard enough for 
     men, but for women desperate indeed. Each must be her 
     own casuist, and without any criterion save what she 
     can establish by her own experience. *19*

Unable to act upon her principles, Cecily enters into an uneasy 
reconciliation with Reuben, but his moral disintegration continues 
until she is forced to leave him. At the end of the book she learns of 
his death in a sordid street fight over an actress, and the novel 
closes as she bursts into tears.

Miriam Baske, who is as drearily conventional at the beginning of 
the novel as Cecily is enlightened, undergoes a contrasting 
development. Mallard, his talks about art, and a reading of Dante 
are the first influences that make her begin to see the sterility of 

-- 140 --

Evangelical beliefs. After opening her mind to Italy and visiting the 
Sistine Chapel and the Vatican with Mallard, she can see no point 
whatever to her former church enthusiasm. When she returns to 
England to visit her home town, she finds its atmosphere and her 
fellow church members repulsive. The powerful effect of Italian art 
upon her recalls the experience recorded by Ruskin in his 
autobiography, _Praeterita_. He had had the same narrowly pious 
and repressive Evangelical training as Miriam, and his first step 
away from it came through discovering the beauty of the 
illustrations in a Catholic missal he had bought in an Italian town.

Like all of Gissing's novels, _The Emancipated_ has a number of 
minor plots and characters of considerable interest. A bitter 
comment on the spiritual hollowness of the age is embodied in Mr. 
Musselwhite, a fellow lodger of Miriam's. Since he has no occupation 
or interests, his leisure is a fearful burden, and he ultimately finds 
a calling by marrying the orphaned daughter of a bankrupt 
commercial traveler. A more harrowing story is that of Madeline 
Denyer, who is at first engaged to a charming and artistic young 
man named Clifford Marsh. Madeline's father insists that Clifford 
become self-sufficient, while Clifford refuses to give up his painting. 
Under the stress of these differences the young lovers separate, and 
the tragedy of this becomes clear later in the novel when an 
accident confines Madeline to her bed and some powerful scenes 
show her bitterness as a frustrated and resentful invalid.

_The Emancipated_ was written at a time when Gissing had 
temporarily outstripped his personal resentments. His old fierce, 
denunciatory tone is gone. Even the note of protest is muted. 
Instead there is the urbane, perceptive irony suggested in the title, 
and a mood of sympathy for such innocent victims of social law as 
Cecily and Madeline Denyer often prevails.


Gissing was grieved to learn, while spending the summer at 
Wakefield, that the bad health of Algernon's wife, Katie, forced 
them to give up the pleasant cottage in Worcestershire where 
Gissing had often visited them and move to Harbottle in 
Northumberland. Algernon remained poor, for he had great 
difficulty in selling the

-- 141 --

novels of country life he had learned to write under Gissing's 
tutelage. His first, _Joy Cometh in the Morning_, had been placed 
with the firm of Hurst and Blackett about the beginning of 1888, 
and brought him a few pounds. A second novel, _Both of This 
Parish_, was accepted in the summer of 1889, but only after it was 
rejected by Bentley; Algernon got twenty-five pounds for it only by 
selling the copyright as well as the right of publication.

During his quiet stay at Wakefield, Gissing turned for awhile to 
religious problems. He received from Bertz a German translation of 
_Niels Lyhne_, by the Danish author Jens Peter Jacobsen. This was 
to become one of his favorite books, for its profound and 
sympathetic study of an atheist who is attracted by the consolations 
of religion echoed his own spiritual dilemma. Immediately after 
reading it he reported to Bertz that Jacobsen was having a 
considerable, though vague, influence on his own work. While 
thinking about the problem treated in _Niels Lyhne_, he turned to 
Canon Liddon's _Some Elements of Religion_; but he found that, like 
all religious thought, it was based upon unproven and arbitrary 

A week after finishing _The Emancipated_, Gissing took his sister 
Margaret to the Channel Islands on a holiday that was originally 
intended to include Brittany but was ultimately restricted to 
Guernsey and Sark. The three weeks provided him with a number 
of little experiences that later turned up as minor incidents of 
novels and stories. The original of one of the unsatisfactory writers' 
wives in _New Grub Street_, for example, was the wife of a painter 
who made herself disagreeable in the hotel dining room by 
complaining about the food and refusing to eat any of it. Gissing 
found Margaret a fearfully uninteresting companion. They were 
often at a loss for conversation, and on Sundays her piety reared 
itself formidably, for she went to both English and French church 
services. Gissing noted that she relaxed her Sabbatarianism to the 
extent of taking up a book by Victor Hugo, whom he was himself 
reading at the time, having gone through _Toilers of the Sea_, 93, 
and _Les MisŽrables_ in quick succession. On hearing from Bertz 
that he was rereading _Workers in the Dawn_ and _The Unclassed_ 
as preparation for an article on Gissing to be written for a German 
periodical, he wrote from the placid seclusion of Sark that he would 
never read them again himself, for they belonged to a dark period 
of his life that Bertz, who had shared it with him, knew well 
enough, and would

-- 142 --

remind him of the imperfection of his early work as well as past 

Bertz also wrote that an article on _The Nether World_ by Frederick 
W. Farrar, the Archdeacon of Westminster, had appeared in the 
current _Contemporary Review_. Pleased to have his work 
discussed by so prominent a figure in such an important periodical, 
Gissing sought the article out when he returned to London, but he 
was disappointed to find that it was little more than a well-
intentioned rhapsody of indignation at social abuses, written in a 
religious tone. Archdeacon Farrar, having been deeply moved by 
_The Nether World_, saw in its realism a potent propaganda 
weapon in the cause of reform, and called the public's attention to it 
". . . in order that the rich and the noble may get to know something 
of the world which lies beneath their feet, and may lay to heart the 
awful significance of the facts which are here revealed." *20* Noting 
that Gissing offered no remedies for the evils he depicted, the 
archdeacon suggested some of his own: sympathy, duty, and a sense 
of responsibility. Gissing was discouraged to see that his book had 
been used as the text for a sententious sermon, and that his name 
had not been mentioned once throughout the article.

Another review of his work, far more competent but hardly more 
welcome to Gissing than Archdeacon Farrar's, appeared in 
_Murray's Magazine_ in April, 1888; it was written by a clever 
woman whom he was to meet the following year. This was an 
article called "Two Philanthropic Novelists," by Edith Sichel, a 
comparative discussion of Gissing's and Walter Besant's social 
novels. Recognizing the need for useful literature of social reform, 
Miss Sichel pointed out, with more than a hint of cynicism, that this 
need had produced the "Philanthropic Romance"; the two leading 
writers of this genre were Besant the Optimist and Gissing the 

The two Besant novels discussed in Edith Sichel's article, _All Sorts 
and Conditions of Men_ (1882) and _Children of Gibeon_ (1886), are 
comedies of social reform that seem to anticipate Shaw's plays. The 
first and weaker book is about a wealthy girl, a graduate of 
Newnham College, who sets up a dressmaking establishment in 
Stepney on the cooperative principles of the Christian Socialist 
workshops. These workshops had all failed, but that, as Angela 
Messenger, Besant's heroine, explains, was because they

-- 143 --

were run by men. Her project is rather unreal, for while there is 
little work for the needlewomen she employs, there is a great deal 
of exercise, dancing, tennis, and other activities designed to improve 
their mental and physical condition.

Angela meets and falls in love with another adventurer in Stepney, 
a young man who, after being reared as a gentleman, has 
discovered that he is really the son of a sergeant, and returns to 
assume his original position in life. Like Gissing's Arthur Golding, he 
has to choose between the alternatives of social reform and art for 
its own sake, but Angela shames him out of considering the latter. 
The novel trudges through a certain number of moderately 
distressing scenes of poverty and ends with a wedding where the 
hero marries Angela, not knowing that she is really an heiress. 
Thus, he has the double happiness of marrying unselfishly and yet 
gaining a wealthy wife. Angela's reform efforts, which end in a 
blaze of glory with the establishment of a Palace of Delight 
containing a library, theater, concert room, and other cultural 
facilities, are directed toward civilizing the poor by teaching them 
to enjoy simple pleasures and want better things. Through the lips 
of his hero Besant derides the aimless fanaticism of radicalism, but 
he has little to offer himself except a vague estheticism, a 
denatured derivative from Ruskin and Morris. The thin 
characterization and comic tone of the novel suggest that it is not 
intended to be taken seriously as social comment.

More cogent, though still essentially comic, is _Children of Gibeon_. 
Making use of an artificial plot based on a confusion of identities, 
the novel follows the attempts of a girl who thinks she is of lower-
class stock to establish relations with an oppressed workgirl whom 
she at first thinks to be her sister. The slum neighborhood of 
Hoxton, where she takes a room, the ordeal of the long working day 
suffered by the sweated needlewomen, and the other hardships and 
hazards of their lives are described with a certain force and a great 
deal of bitter and satiric comment directed against employers and 
wealthy people who know nothing of these things. Especially 
effective is Besant's account of his heroine's transplantation, at her 
own desire, from her comfortable home with its servants to a single 
room in a poor lodginghouse where she suddenly discovers what a 
burden it is to keep herself alive by cleaning, cooking, and 
marketing. Besant expresses scorn for both socialism and religion. 

-- 144 --

only remedy that works in _Children of Gibeon_ is the heroine's 
patient kindness to the poor girls she has decided to care for. Thus 
the novel in effect rejects organized reform in favor of individual 
philanthropy. In spite of a sensational and unlikely plot and 
unrealistic characterization, it has some powerful descriptions of 
hardship and privation and is more successful than _All Sorts and 
Conditions of Men_, both as a story and as a social document.

As Edith Sichel noted, both of Besant's novels end amid naive and 
buoyant optimism with definite schemes for relieving the misery of 
the people. Gissing, on the other hand, knows too much, she says, 
and offers no hope. He is ". . . the thorough Conservative, who being 
powerless to prevent the 'progress' to which he ascribes all the ills 
of the world, has nothing better left him than to sit and bewail 
them - the more zealously that he is presumably, at present, a 
convert from the Radicalism of his youth." *21* As she understood 
Gissing's position from _Thyrza_ and _Demos_, he looked to the 
upper classes for help and recommended ethical doctrines. In 
contrast with Besant, he accepts conditions with resignation, and, 
even though he has the merit of being more factual, the attitudes 
expressed in his work do little to promote reform.

It must have been the half-sarcastic tone, rather than the content of 
this article, that stung. In June of 1889 Gissing wrote to its author, 
denying that his novels were "philanthropic," and declaring that his 
only motives were esthetic. A correspondence followed, and toward 
the end of September, after he had returned to London from 
Wakefield, Gissing paid Miss Sichel a visit at Chiddingford. He found 
her to be an educated woman of pronounced literary tastes, and a 
lively conversationalist. Although she was not a member of any 
organization, she was strongly interested in social reform, and had 
done social work of her own in Whitechapel and at Holloway Gaol, 
and the year after Gissing met her she established a nursery at 
Chiddingford. Later in her career Edith Sichel wrote works on 
literature and history and became a reviewer for the _Times 
Literary Supplement_. Gissing attributed her cultivated taste and 
general refinement to her wealth and her access to books and 
educated companions. She naturally interested him, and he 
repeated his visit about six weeks later, this time meeting her in 
her luxurious London apartment, where, in the course of two hours 
of literary talk, they discussed his books. She seemed far more 
interesting - almost

-- 145 --

beautiful - on this occasion, and thoughts of her remained in his 
mind for months afterward.

In the fall of 1889, after his return from the Channel Islands, 
Gissing reverted to the activities of his first years in London, 
although he was, of course, not so poor or so lonely as he had been 
then. He often went to the British Museum, no longer to take shelter 
with the classics, but to read some of the significant scientific works 
of his time. Though he was not sympathetic with the philosophy of 
science, the determinist tendency he encountered in these books 
corresponded with his intuitive fatalism. In Taine's history of 
English literature, for example, he found the theory that even 
genius could be attributed to the operation of specific factors. 
Buckle's _History of Civilization_ used the surprisingly regular rates 
of murder and suicide to argue that history was subject to uniform 
laws that individual desires could do little to alter, and that a 
science of history was therefore possible. ThŽodule Ribot's 
_L'hŽrŽditŽ psychologique_, which Gissing extracted in his 
Commonplace Book, advanced what was, in effect, a materialist 
theory of morals, maintaining that moral and psychological 
characteristics depended on physical ones and were therefore 
subject to the laws of heredity. He was less interested in Darwin's 
_Origin of Species_, which gives environment some power over 
heredity, for he felt that it was peculiar and confused. Some of his 
time at the British Museum was spent in research in feminist 
literature in preparation for a novel about a girls' school; it was to 
be called _The Headmistress_ and was begun in October but never 
completed. However, he made use of this information in later 
novels, for "the woman question" soon became one of his leading 


Gissing's and Roberts' friendship with Alfred Hartley and W. H. 
Hudson had now become firmly established. Early in October they 
all dined together at 7K, with Gissing acting as cook, and after 
dinner there was lively and intellectual conversation carried on 
with hearty laughter in clouds of tobacco smoke. It was the kind of 
relaxed, informal evening that Gissing valued among the best things 
in life. Roberts dubbed the group "The Quadrilateral" on this oc-

-- 146 --

casion (he himself attributed this name to Gissing), but it did not 
have much stability, for about a month later Gissing reduced it to a 
triangle by leaving on his second Mediterranean trip.

His travels in Italy had been an enriching experience, but he still 
wanted to see Greece, which exerted an even stronger attraction on 
him. When Bentley's firm offered £l5O and a royalty for _The 
Emancipated_ on September 27, a visit to Greece became possible. 
Gissing left behind not only "The Quadrilateral" but also such 
unfinished business as _The Headmistress_ and his new friendship 
with Edith Sichel. Quickly traversing the route of his earlier trip, he 
left Victoria Station on the eleventh of November, was in Marseilles 
the following day, and on the next embarked for Piraeus. By the 
sixteenth his steamer was in the straits of Messina, and Gissing, 
seeing the outlines of Stromboli and Mt. Etna and the beautiful 
colors of Seacoast, sea, and sky, felt that he was in the land of 
Apollo. Two days later the coast of Greece appeared, gleaming, to 
Gissing's eager eye, with a classical splendor: "It is no use to say 
that such things are like a vision; no one ever _had_ a vision like 
what this is in reality. . . . The mountains seem translucent; all the 
coast is incredibly barren and desolate - no sign of habitation - but 
the light transforms it to indescribable loveliness." *22* As they 
approached Piraeus, he promised himself that he would never 
spend another winter in England. "I had rather live in the south on 
2d. a day," he wrote to his mother; "here life is worth living. . . ." 

By the time he landed at Piraeus on November 19, Gissing had 
befriended a young Greek fellow passenger named Parigory, whose 
father met them at the dock and drove them to Athens in a 
carriage. He was surprised at the oriental atmosphere created by 
the bazaars and the dress of the common people. Numbers of 
soldiers appeared on the streets, reminding Gissing that even 
Greece labored under the militarism he heartily detested. The day 
after his arrival he went up to the "sacred soil" of the Acropolis, 
where he made drawings of the views. His diligent touring included 
a visit to the house where Schliemann, the archaeologist, had lived, 
examination of the local graveyards and marketing customs, and 
many walks in the dusty streets. He marveled at the dryness of the 
soil and the dustiness of the town. The rivers famous since 
antiquity were mere trickles a foot across. He found, however, that 
the barren and arid landscape could be beautifully colored by the 

-- 147 --

and that wonderful hues appeared on the hillsides at sunset. He 
visited the Acropolis repeatedly to see how it looked at different 
times of the day, once writing in his diary an extremely detailed 
description of the changes in the sky at twilight. At the site of the 
battle of Salamis he stood at the spot where Xerxes had watched the 
fighting, reconstructing it in his mind, and on the banks of the 
Ilissus he thought of Socrates and the discourse that was to become 
the _Phaedrus_.

Modern Athens, unlike Naples, seemed featureless to Gissing, and 
he wrote that it had no attraction for anyone not interested in its 
classical remains. Parigory reappeared to take Gissing out to dine 
and to witness a session of Parliament, but the two men were kept 
out by the police, whose rudeness annoyed Gissing. They did 
succeed, however, in attending a lecture on Greek literature at the 
University. Sophocles' _Philoctetes_ was the subject, and, although 
Gissing understood only a little of the modern Greek that was 
spoken, he enjoyed the experience thoroughly, disapproving, 
however, of the way the professor treated the meter in his reading.

He left Athens on December 17 by train, having written to 
Shortridge in Massa Lubrense that he expected to be in Naples soon. 
Fever and a sore throat had been troubling him, but they seemed to 
disappear the moment he stepped on the train. The steamer 
passage from Patras to Brindisi was made in rough weather, so that 
his arrival in Naples was delayed until the twentieth. With another 
Greek acquaintance he had met on the steamer he stayed at Frau 
HŠberlin's on the Vico Brancaccio for a few days, observing the 
lively local Christmas celebrations with their bells and fireworks. 
However, he was distressed to learn that street organs, whose music 
he loved, had been forbidden in Naples. On December 31 he went to 
spend a few days with Shortridge.

He found the strange household at Massa Lubrense in a chaotic 
state. Herbert Shortridge was now clearly dying of "consumption"; 
he despised the Italian relations he was living with and swore at 
Carmela's father, a paralytic who took his meals alone in a corner of 
the kitchen. The household was as squalid as ever, and the 
fastidious Gissing found dinner a slovenly and uncomfortable 
experience. Shortridge opened his heart to Gissing in a long talk. He 
was greatly disturbed at the loss of his son Jack, who had died not 
long ago, and resentful of his brother's churlish behavior. He

-- 148 --

told Gissing that when the boy was ill he had kept a knife under his 
pillow with which he threatened to kill "zio Herberto" when he grew 
up. Shortridge said that he hoped to take the whole family to 
Hartford, Connecticut, to begin a new life, but Gissing thought him 
too weak to do anything so energetic and felt that he was deceiving 
himself with idle dreams. Shortridge was practical in small matters, 
however, had once been a seaman, and was able to demonstrate the 
operation of the household's macaroni machine. Gissing also thought 
that some water colors that he brought out and displayed showed 
signs of talent.

Carmela confided in Gissing just as her husband had done, telling 
him in the Neapolitan dialect, which he had now learned to 
understand, that Shortridge often mistreated her. He was moved by 
her open confession that the poverty and ignorance in which she 
had grown up prevented her from pleasing her English husband, 
and he concluded that her complaints against Shortridge were 

After a week with this unhappy family, Gissing returned to Naples, 
where he reluctantly began preparations for leaving Italy. On 
January 12 Shortridge unexpectedly turned up to spend a week 
touring the city with him. There were rumors that influenza was on 
the rise in Naples, and a few days after Shortridge's departure on 
January 20 Gissing fell ill with a respiratory disorder. After a visit 
to a doctor he stayed indoors for a few days under the care of Frau 
HŠberlin, but congestion of the right lung developed, and he had to 
take to his bed for a week, missing the boat he had intended to take 
back to England. It was the first serious touch of the illness that was 
eventually to kill him.

The Germans who were filling up the Casa di Luca enabled the 
convalescent Gissing to practice his German at meals, although after 
a time he found his new housemates far too noisy. Remembering 
the discontents of the London life to which he was about to return, 
he thought of Germany as a possible place of refuge, and wrote to 
Bertz that he planned to go there to live after completing his next 
book. On February 20 he was well enough to embark for home.

He was depressed to encounter the atmosphere of England aboard 
the ship. The wineless English meals and the company of English 
travelers were equally distressing. Englishmen, he wrote to Bertz,

-- 149 --

did not know how to travel. They refused to give up any of their 
usual habits, to cultivate friends in foreign countries, or to speak 
foreign languages, but spent all their time abroad with their own 
countrymen. He felt now that he had little in common with them, 
and that his real home was Naples. An incident that occurred 
aboard the ship occasioned some bitter reflections on Gissing's part 
about his place in society. The ship's parson had noticed Gissing's 
name on some of his belongings and learned from a clergyman 
traveling first class that he was a well-known author. It was 
symbolic of his whole life, thought Gissing, that his books were 
known to first-class passengers while he himself was condemned to 
associate with those in the second class.

Immediately after arriving in London on February 28, he wrote to 
Bentley to ask why no notices of _The Emancipated_ had appeared. 
It was time for him to go to work, for he estimated that the 
seventy-seven pounds he had would last only until September. He 
saw Roberts the day after his arrival, and they went together to 
visit Hudson, renewing old times. Writing began on the thirteenth of 
March; at about the same time Gissing wrote to his brother that his 
subjects were likely to change, that he felt out of place and lonely in 
London, and that he planned to move to the Continent soon. 
"England is a failure with me. . . . I cannot get on with English 
society, the thing is proved." *24* His reading of the moment 
included two old favorites that were treatments of spiritual exile, 
_Niels Lyhne_ and _Fathers and Sons_.

When _The Emancipated_ appeared at the end of March, 1890, it 
evoked the usual conflicting opinions. His sister Ellen disapproved 
of it, suspecting that she had served as the original of Miriam Baske, 
but Roberts thought it was Gissing's best book. The _Spectator_ fully 
appreciated the criticism of social institutions intended, but 
declared that it was necessary to distinguish between natural 
customs and mere conventions.

An April visit to Paris with both of his sisters was planned, and 
Gissing worked busily in the meantime. He had begun a story about 
Guernsey and Sark, but after three weeks he abandoned the thirty-
one pages he had written to begin something different. The new 
project, begun on April 8, was called _A Man of Letters_, a title 
which clearly foreshadows his next novel, _New Grub Street_. 
However, there were several false starts before _New Grub Street_ 

-- 150 --

actually written. After the trip to Paris between April 18 and April 
30 his work went smoothly for a time, but two months later he 
began to lose confidence in what he was doing, and at the end of 
June he made a new beginning. A first volume was completed by 
September 15, but this achievement was followed by a collapse of 
his creative power. On October 1 he began again, this time having 
definitely decided that his book would bear the title _New Grub 

While he was threshing about in this desperate way, important 
emotional changes were taking place in him. He had now lost the 
pioneering zeal of his youth and yearned for rest, comfort, and 
companionship. While engaged with the abortive attempts to begin 
_New Grub Street_, he wrote to Bertz that he wanted to live in the 
full sense of the word instead of spending all his time in the slavery 
of writing. On the other hand, his feeling of alienation made it 
impossible for him to find friends. He had not fulfilled his ambition 
of becoming so well known that he would be recognized as an 
author when he went into company. This made him bitter, and he 
remained aloof, increasing his unhappiness and isolation. He 
rejected two invitations from Edith Sichel, telling himself that he 
was finished with the kind of society she represented, and sold his 
dress suit, convinced that he would never dine "at a civilized table" 
again. He felt that he ought to follow Roberts' advice to move to 
Germany or another country on the Continent, where he might do 
what was impossible for him in England - marry. However, he did 
not leave England when his lease on 7K expired later in the year, 
because illness and difficulties delayed his writing.

Having given up hope of gaining the only place in enlightened social 
circles he would accept - that of a well-known author - Gissing 
seemed to set about deliberately destroying his social connections 
in order to follow a course of action that was clear in his mind by 
the middle of 1890. He entrusted to his diary the observation that 
he would not be able to do any good work until he was married. On 
the other hand, although he greatly admired refined and educated 
women of the type represented by his own heroines and Edith 
Sichel, he could not hope to marry one. He sent his full thoughts on 
this subject to Bertz in a letter of September 6, 1890. A poor man 
like himself, he said, could never marry an educated girl, for 
women preferred remaining single to marrying men who earned

-- 151 --

less than £400 a year. In complaining of his loneliness, he said that 
he must find "some decent work-girl" to live with as a substitute for 
marriage. He had reason to know that a relationship with a lower-
class girl might involve him deeply. But he felt that he had no real 
chance of marrying a woman of a higher class.
The intention was followed by the deed. On October 25 he wrote to 
Bertz that he had found just such a "work-girl" as he had hoped for, 
and he expected her to come to live with him when he moved from 
7K. Her name was Edith Underwood, and she was the daughter of a 
small shopkeeper in Camden Town. Although Roberts says that 
Gissing made her acquaintance, one day when he found the solitude 
of his room unendurable, by rushing out into the Marylebone Road 
and speaking to the first woman he met, a diary notation of 
September 24 suggests that he met her on that day at a cafŽ in 
Oxford Street. According to Roberts, she was common and 
unattractive, with no intellectual qualities, "just a female." Wells 
describes her as "a servant girl." Gissing was not in love with her, 
and he knew it, but he had reached so desperate a condition that he 
felt he could consider only his physical needs. Edith seemed to him 
to be quiet, flexible, and amenable to training. As future events 
showed, this was one of the greatest errors in the judgment of 
character ever made.
Gissing did not at first intend to marry her. They went on 
excursions together, and he came to her home once or twice until 
her father (who was, according to Roberts, a bootmaker) told him 
directly that he was an unwelcome visitor. Mr. Underwood seems to 
have made no objection, however, when Edith spent frequent 
evenings with Gissing at 7K. They passed their hours there chatting, 
and on one occasion Gissing read "The Pied Piper" aloud to her. It 
was apparently as a result of this friendship that New Grub Street 
prospered at last. Begun on the first of October, it was completed, 
with incredible speed, early in December. This meant that Gissing 
averaged some four thousand words a day, and the result was one 
of his best novels.
It is hard to understand why Edith Underwood should have had this 
effect on Gissing, and above all why, after his first bitter experience 
with marriage, he married her. There is no reason to doubt that, as 
he wrote to Bertz, their relations were Platonic, and Roberts 
explained, in his account of these incidents, that Gissing

-- 152 --

was not a passionate man. It was Roberts' opinion that Gissing was 
never really in love, and that his overtures to women, like those of 
many of his characters, were made in the name of an abstract ideal 
of "fulfillment." He wanted, as he said, to live. Gissing made use of 
his relationship with Edith, revealing a great deal about his feelings, 
in the short story, "A Lodger in Maze Pond," whose protagonist 
explains how, on the eve of inheriting a fortune, he has happened to 
commit himself to marry the servant in the lodginghouse where he 

     I am a fool about women. I don't know what it is - 
     certainly not a sensual or passionate nature . . . 
     there's that need in me - the incessant hunger for a 
     woman's sympathy and affection. . . . Day after day 
     we grew more familiar. . . . When she laid a meal for 
     me, we talked. . . . I made a friend of the girl. . . . We 
     were alone in the house one evening. . . . I was lonely 
     and dispirited - wanted to talk - to talk about myself 
     to some one who would give a kind ear. So I went down, 
     and made some excuse for beginning a conversation in 
     the parlor. . . . I didn't persuade myself that I cared for 
     Emma, even then. Her vulgarisms of speech and feeling 
     jarred upon me. But she was feminine; she spoke and 
     looked gently, with sympathy. I enjoyed that evening - 
     and you must hear in mind what I have told you before, 
     that I stand in awe of refined women. . . . Perhaps I have 
     come to regard myself as doomed to live on a lower level. 
     I find it impossible to imagine myself offering marriage -      
     making love - to a girl such as those I meet in the big 
     houses. *25*

All the evidence indicates that Gissing himself was speaking 
through these words, trying to explain his inexplicable relations 
with Edith.
Perhaps he contemplated marriage because he was resigned to the 
fact that the company and approval of a woman were necessary to 
his creative powers. For a second time, Roberts was shocked to 
learn of his marriage plans, and for a second time tried to dissuade 
him. "His mind recognized its truth," said Roberts of the argument 
he had used, "but his body meant to have its way." *26* In 
desperation, Roberts tried to save him from the fate he had chosen 
by a fantastic expedient. He had two unmarried female cousins, who 
had met and admired Gissing when he was a boy of seventeen, and 
who knew of his career as a writer. They were gentlewomen of 
sufficient refinement and education, and Roberts now went to see 
them, told them of Gissing's misfortunes and hard life, and after a 
long and tactful introduction, came to the point: he suggested that

-- 153 --

one of them consider marrying Gissing. After recovering from their 
surprise, the two ladies agreed to meet him, but when Roberts went 
to lay his plan before Gissing, he found that Gissing had already 
asked Edith to marry him, and, much to Roberts' disgust, he refused 
to retract his proposal.
Roberts thought that Gissing avoided serious attachments to women 
because he was afraid of having to confess his crime to a woman 
who loved him, just as he avoided society because he feared that 
someone he should meet might know of it. A more subtle cause for 
his conduct is suggested by the fact that _New Grub Street_, which 
was in progress exactly at this time, contains a number of vignettes 
about intelligent men victimized by ill-tempered, overbearing, and 
garrulous wives, so lively and realistic that Roberts wondered, 
when he read them, how Gissing could have gone ahead with his 
marriage when he had such a clear knowledge of its probable 
consequences. It is difficult to escape the obvious conclusion that he 
married Edith in spite of his foreknowledge because a part of him 
wanted to suffer those consequences. Apparently, the marriage was 
another of those acts of self-mortification that Gissing committed 
from time to time with the subconscious motive of putting himself 
at a disadvantage.
His plan of life now included leaving London, and he chose Exeter 
for his new home because of its cathedral, country views, and 
access to the seacoast. When he learned, on January 7, 1891, after a 
suspenseful interval, that Smith, Elder were willing to pay £150 for 
_New Grub Street_, he moved to temporary quarters at 24 Prospect 
Park in Exeter. The marriage date had been fixed as January 17, but 
Edith asked for a postponement and continued to hesitate until 
Gissing wrote to insist that the marriage take place on February 25. 
On that date he returned to London, went through the ceremony at 
St. Pancras Registry Office, and brought Edith back to Exeter. In a 
letter to Mrs. Harrison written two months later, Gissing explained 
his rejection of an invitation by saying that he had been compelled 
to marry in order to carry on his work, that he had chosen a woman 
of "the artisan class" because his income would never be higher 
than an artisan's, and that he intended to sever all relations with 
educated people. He thus revealed that his marriage was, at least in 
part, a foolish gesture of renunciation inspired by his old self-pity 
and resentment.

-- 154 --




NEW GRUB STREET is an exceptional novel for many reasons One 
critic, Q. D. Leavis, has called it Gissing's only great novel; it is 
certainly one of the most candidly autobiographical works of fiction 
ever written; and it has an excellent claim to being the most 
complete and honest treatment of the writer's life in English fiction. 
While a natural self-absorption has often led novelists to introduce 
writers into their work, surprisingly few of the many novels and 
stories about writers deal directly with the major facts of their 
occupation: the task of creation, the hazards and profits of 
publishing, the atmosphere of recommendations and reviews a book 
breathes, relations among writers and their associates, and the 
peculiar economic position of the professional writer. _New Grub 
Street_ is probably the only novel wholly dedicated to the theme of 
authorship. It is a unique exploration of the writer's problem of 
survival in a commercial age, of the social and professional 
background that bears upon his work, and of the relations between 
his activity as an artist and his personal and family life. 

The novel was written at a time when the vigorous competition 
characteristic of the economic system and the methods of the 
lending libraries, led by Mudie's firm, were creating difficulties for 
all but the most successful novelists. Lending libraries were already 
on the scene when Charles Edward Mudie began his bookselling 
business in 1840, but Mudie bested his rivals by cleverly adapting 
his stock to middle-class tastes. He had 25,000 subscribers in 1852, 

-- 155 --

and, since he ordered new novels by the hundreds, became an 
important power in the publishing world. A novel could hardly 
hope to succeed if it was not suited to the tastes of Mr. Mudie's 
clientele; in fact, that was exactly what Smith, Elder gave as their 
reason for rejecting Gissing's _Mrs. Grundy's Enemies_ as late as 
1882. These tastes were extremely prudish, for Mudie thought of 
his typical reader as the unmarried daughter of a refined middle-
class family. Anything that might be considered "improper" for an 
adolescent girl was ruled out, and his library was influential enough 
to enforce this severe limit on the subjects that could be treated in 
novels for many years. 

There were at least two other important effects of the dominance of 
the lending library system. It kept the three-volume novel alive 
until the nineties, long after it might otherwise have succumbed to 
competition; and, in spite of the fact that it promoted the sales of 
novels in general by making them available to a larger public, it 
limited the circulation of individual novels and the amount author 
and publisher could expect to earn from a single work. 

An account of the novel-publishing scene in a _Fortnightly Review_ 
article by Alexander Innes Shand in 1886 reported that the lending 
system had definitely replaced the custom of book buying, and that 
the old motive of display no longer led people to buy books, Novels 
were simply too expensive to buy outright. An established author 
might expect the lending libraries to take 600 copies of his novel, 
but there would be very little additional demand. Shand compared 
this with the sales of popular novels and shilling serials earlier in 
the century, and drew the obvious dismal conclusions about. the 
author's earnings. 

The sharp practices of publishers joined with naturally 
disadvantageous publishing conditions to keep all but the most 
successful Victorian novelists poor. If an author published on a 
half-profits or royalty agreement, he had no way of knowing 
whether the figures of sales and costs presented by the publisher 
were accurate. When Gissing received an account from Remington 
showing that his share of the profits of _Workers in the Dawn_ was 
sixteen shillings, he had no way of relieving his grave (and entirely 
justified) doubts about the publisher's honesty. In agreeing to pay 
for the cost of his novel, he had fallen into a trap often laid for 

-- 156 --

authors. His payment eliminated the element of risk to the 
publisher and was probably based on an inflated estimate of the 

He was not alone in falling victim to practices of this kind. Samuel 
Squire Sprigge, whose _Methods of Publishing_ (1891) was 
designed to warn authors against such dangers, estimated that 
three-fourths of _all_ novels were published under terms requiring 
a payment from the author; this generally meant that all profits 
went to the publisher, for the author seldom succeeded in securing 
a percentage high enough to repay his investment, while the 
publisher, having ventured nothing, could hardly fail to gain. 
Arnold Bennet, in his amusing account of the acceptance of his first 
novel in _The Truth About an Author_ tells how the royalty 
arrangement to which he agreed ultimately gained him a single 
pound more than he had paid for having his manuscript typed, but 
he comments that he does not regret this, for many a first novel has 
cost its author a hundred pounds. 

Many such cases were revealed by the Society of Authors, which 
was founded in 1883 under the leadership of Walter Besant for the 
purpose of correcting publishing abuses. Besant, after learning what 
the finances of publishing were by publishing a novel himself, 
urged authors to insist that the figures of both sides in a royalty 
agreement be kept open and that no secret profits be allowed. Of 
the kinds of agreements open to authors, he most strongly 
condemned outright sale, the method usually adopted by Gissing, 
for this meant that the author relinquished his copyright to the 
publisher together with any claim to the profits his novel might 
make in the future. If the novel went into a second edition, as most 
of Gissing's did, all the profits belonged to the publisher. However, 
since the publisher was not compelled to open his books to the 
author, and since the costs of publication were difficult to learn, a 
royalty or half-profits agreement enabled the publisher to cheat the 
author by rendering him a false account. Under these 
circumstances, it usually seemed advisable to take a modest but 
sure price for the book in ready cash instead of venturing a double 
gamble on the book's success and the publisher's honesty. 

As a professional writer of only moderate popularity, Gissing 
learned what conditions like these meant to a novelist who tried to 
live by his pen. Scott at the height of his fame could expect to make 
£6,000 from a single novel and was said to earn £15,000 a year. 

--157 --

Even in Gissing's day such a huge success as _David Grieve_, by Mrs. 
Humphry Ward, was rumored to have earned its author £20,000. 
Far more usual, however, were the figures given by Anthony 
Trollope as the earnings of his earlier novels. _Barchester Towers_ 
was published at half-profits with £100 in advance. Trollope 
estimated that together with _The Warden_ it brought him a total 
of £727 over the years. He sold _The Three Clerks_ to Bentley for 
£250 and was well content to get £400 from Chapman and Hall for 
each of his next two novels. The sale of _New Grub Street_ 
illustrated one of the problems it described, for it brought Gissing 
only £150, although he was an established novelist. In explaining 
this to Algernon, Gissing wrote that he and Roberts were surprised 
to find, on the basis of calculations they had once made, that 
publishers earned very modest profits from three-volume novels 
that had as small a sale as his. Since even Hardy earned little from 
his books, Gissing wrote that he would have to be content with 
making just enough to support himself. 

On at least two occasions Gissing drew up accounts giving itemized 
records of the income he earned from literature, and these, together 
with stray comments in his diary and correspondence, give an 
indication of the pressures under which he wrote. He could lead his 
quiet life, taking many of his meals at home and getting his 
entertainment from books and friends without much expenditure, 
on a budget of a little over ten pounds a month. Only with _The 
Nether World_ did he begin to earn enough by writing to support 
himself on this modest scale. _Workers in the Dawn_ brought him 
£2 (though this leaves his own investment of £125 in it out of 
account); he published nothing after that until 1884, when _The 
Unclassed_ brought £30. In 1886 _Demos_ earned £100; according 
to the "Account Book" kept by Gissing, _Isabel Clarendon_ earned 
nothing, although he once recorded that Chapman and Hall had paid 
£15 for it, _Thyrza_ was sold for £50, and the sale of the copyright 
brought an additional £10. In 1888 _A Life's Morning_ earned £50 
as a three-volume novel and an additional £50 as a serial in the 
_Cornhill_. Beginning in 1889 with _The Nether World_ and 
continuing for three years Gissing published a novel a year, earning 
£150 for each, or about £30 more than his economical way of life 

Even at best, payment like this meant constant exertion, and for 

-- 158 --

Gissing, with his difficulties of health and temperament, things were 
seldom at their best. In his _Fortnightly_ article, Alexander Innes 
Shand observed that although the novelist is privileged in many 
ways, for he works his own hours and makes no investment of 
capital, he cannot be sure of writing steadily, must cultivate a 
public, manifest some versatility, and be able to withstand the 
pressure of household costs that mount steadily while his pen races 
frantically over the paper toward the publisher's check. Gissing was 
peculiarly unable to deal with these hazards; he had almost no 
versatility; his public was small, and he felt that he could not afford 
to write more than one novel a year. The fear of poverty and the 
dwindling of his resources whenever he stopped to plan or revise 
paralyzed his creative powers. Yet up to the time of _New Grub 
Street_ he never succeeded in escaping from this position. 
Whenever he sat down to write, he knew that he must finish within 
a limited time. As chapter after chapter was written and canceled, 
and one beginning after another was made, he imagined destitution 
approaching, until the bells of the Marylebone Workhouse across 
the way from Cornwall Mansions seemed, as he described them in 
_New Grub Street_ to be calling to him. 

_New Grub Street_ is partly a condemnation of the 
commercialization of literature, partly a moving act of self-
revelation. Characters modeled on himself in Gissing's earlier books 
had been self-justifying idealizations; but he was now ready to 
reach for a new level of psychological authenticity by using such a 
figure as a vehicle for divulging" the most painful private truths. As 
a result, the character and career of Edwin Reardon, _New Grub 
Street_'s protagonist, are copied from Gissing's own with little 
disguise and with no attempt at extenuation. He is like many of 
Gissing's weak and morbid heroes, and differs from them only in 
resembling Gissing more. A provincial boy with a good classical 
education, he uses his small patrimony to come to London in order 
to make a career as a writer. After some time divided between the 
loneliness of squalid lodgings and the reading room of the British 
Museum, he takes a position as a clerk at a hospital, just as Gissing 
had once done. On the advice of a successful novelist who tells him 
that he will be unable to sell the learned essays he writes, he tries 
fiction, and, mistaking the ease with which he disposes of his first 
novels for genuine success, leaves his clerkship and turns to novel 
writing in earnest. After selling a 

-- 159 --

book for a hundred pounds, he visits Europe, and then, as the 
external events of the novel begin to take a course different from 
those of Gissing's life, meets and marries Amy Yule, a refined 
middle-class girl who expects him to become wealthy and famous. 
He has nightmares about being unable to sell his books and sinking 
into poverty again, and confesses this lack of confidence to Amy, 
but they are married nevertheless and go to live in a flat much like 

Reardon eventually finds that he cannot meet his financial needs by 
writing. He racks his brain for new plots and situations, feels one 
project after another crumble in his fingers, and struggles against a 
growing lack of confidence. When we first meet Reardon he has 
been married for some time, has a child, and is sitting over a blank 
sheet of paper, trying desperately to continue the novel he has just 
started. He has been attempting for months to begin a book but has 
destroyed everything he has written, and he tells his wife that he 
feels he will never be able to write again. All the difficulties and 
contradictions of the professional novelist's predicament emerge as 
Amy and Reardon discuss their problems. He envies the clerk who 
does work assigned to him and earns his regular wages from day to 
day regardless of his moods. "What an insane thing it is," he says, 
"to make literature one's only means of support! When the most 
trivial accident may at any time prove fatal to one's power of work 
for weeks or months. No, that is the unpardonable sin! To make a 
trade of an art!" *1* His wife disagrees with him, urging him to 
complete his novel in slapdash fashion and sell it quickly. "Art," she 
tells him, "must be practiced as a trade, at all events in our time. 
This is the age of trade." *2* Reardon recognizes the truth of this, 
but is unable to be "practical." He cannot continue with his usual 
kind of work, he tells a friend, because his trip to the Continent has 
disrupted his intellectual development, and his growing fear of 
poverty has kept him from recovering himself. 

However, he does manage to go on in a perfectly mechanical way, 
until he is brought to a stop. 

     A familiar symptom of the malady which falls upon 
     outwearied imagination. There were floating in his mind 
     five or six possible subjects for a book, all dating back to 
     the time when he first began novel-writing, when ideas 
     came freshly to him. If he grasped desperately at one of 
     these, and did his best to develop it for a day or two he 
     could almost content himself; characters, situations, lines 
     of motive, were laboriously schemed, and he felt 

-- 160 --

     ready to begin writing. But scarcely had he done a chapter 
     or two when all the structure fell into flatness. He had 
     made a mistake. Not this story, but that other one, was 
     what he should have taken . . . it invited him, tempted him 
     to throw aside what he had already written. Good; now he 
     was in more hopeful train. But a few days, and the 
     experience repeated itself. No, not this story, but that third 
     one, of which he had not thought for a long time. For 
     months he had been living in this way; endless circling, 
     perpetual beginning, followed by frustration. A sign of 
     exhaustion, it of course made exhaustion more complete. . . . 
     Little phrases which indicated dolorously the subject of his 
     preoccupation often escaped him in the street. It had 
     happened that he caught the eye of someone passing fixed 
     in surprise upon him; so young a man to be talking to 
     himself in evident distress! *3* 

Although his writing day is rigidly organized to allow ten hours of 
working time, Reardon often makes pathetically slow progress. 

     Sometimes the three hours' labour of a morning resulted 
     in half a dozen lines, corrected into illegibility. His brain 
     would not work; he could not recall the simplest 
     synonyms; intolerable faults of composition drove him 
     mad. He would write a sentence beginning thus: "She took 
     a book with a look of ----;" or thus: "A revision of this 
     decision would have made him an object of derision." . . . 
     He had an appreciation of shapely prose which made him 
     scorn himself for the kind of stuff he was now turning 
     out. "I can't help it; it must go; the time is passing." *4*

When he glances at some lines of the _Odyssey_, they only serve to 
remind him of the baseness of his own work. "Yes, yes; _that_ was 
not written at so many pages a day. . . . How it freshened the soul! 
How the eyes grew dim with a rare joy in the sounding of these 
nobly sweet hexameters!" *5*

The mention of reviews is enough to throw Reardon, who despises 
them, off his stride for days, so that he can neither write nor rest, 
but sits at his desk absorbed in an exhausting inner struggle. When 
the book is finished at last he is too worn out to think of a title, and 
calls it by the name of its chief character. Already in debt by the 
time the novel is accepted, he now finds that he has reached the 
end of his powers. Completely demoralized, he continues to write 
for the sake of appearance, and when his new work is rejected, he 
gives up authorship, moves to a poor neighborhood and takes 
another humble position as a hospital clerk. 

Amy refuses to follow him into poverty, and his failure as a writer 
is quickly followed by their separation and the dissolution of their 
home. While she takes their child to her mother's comfort-

-- 161 --

able house, Reardon moves to a. garret where he dreams of his trip 
to Europe, discusses Greek meters with an old crony, and grows 
withdrawn and eccentric. None of the glamor of art surrounds his 
poverty. Having lost his ability to write he is no longer a poor artist, 
but simply a poor man. Still jealous of his independence, he refuses 
to be reconciled with Amy after she has inherited a fortune and 
offers to come back to him. His friend Biffen, however, points out 
that he has ruined his life and his wife's in the name of "an 
obstinate idealism." "The art of living," says Biffen, "is the art of 
compromise." Reardon learns this lesson too late, for after Biffen has 
sent him back to his wife with the words, "Go, and be happy!" and 
the illness of their child has brought them together, his own illness 
cheats him of the promised felicity and he sinks into death through 
delirious nightmares of frustration. The title of the death chapter is 
"Reardon Becomes Practical." 

Around this tragic central figure Gissing ranged a large gallery of 
smooth opportunists, picturesque pedants, ineffectual bookworms, 
and fierce quill-drivers, giving a rich panoramic picture of their 
world. It is a world blighted by the same forces that dehumanize 
the society of which it is a part: commercialism, competition, and 
greed. The educational reforms that had increased literacy without 
cultivating a taste for learning had created a mass market for 
amusing and superficial reading matter, especially in periodical 
form. This sort of literature became a valuable commodity, 
particularly when used in conjunction with illustrations, and 
numerous magazines like _The Sketch_ and _Tit-Bits_ depended on 
it. Thus the customs, standards, and practices of mass production 
were introduced into literature. Where it is important to command 
a mass market of "quarter-educated" readers, originality, 
individuality, or profundity are unwelcome. A flair for notoriety is 
the best gift for succeeding in this environment. One must apply the 
principles of trade to writing, try to "hit" the taste of a wide public, 
make friends among editors and reviewers, and curry favor where 
it will do the most good. It was a dangerous atmosphere that 
required astute maneuvering, for irrational animosities filled the 
air, and the fate of a book or an editorship could be determined by 
the operation of far-flung alliances. 

The conqueror of this literary battlefield is Jasper Milvain, an 
acquaintance of Reardon's who begins his career as a humble and 

-- 162 --

diligent journalist, confident that a creditable apprenticeship in 
writing articles (he is not imaginative enough for fiction) will lead 
him to wealth. The doctrine that literature is a trade is his, and he 
acts upon it unfailingly. He has no objection to the work of Dante or 
Shakespeare, but he feels that he is engaged in the entirely 
different activity of producing material that will attract readers and 
cause some stir, though it may be of only ephemeral interest. 
Milvain's success grows as Reardon's ineffectual efforts drag him to 
disaster, until at the end, after Reardon's death, Milvain achieves 
wealth by winning an editorship and marrying Reardon's widow.

A contrast to the good-natured optimist, Milvain, is the sour and 
defeated Alfred Yule, "a battered man of letters," whose lifetime 
spent in doing odd jobs of writing has taught him nothing so well as 
envy and hate. Ill-tempered, pedantic, hypercritical, he lives 
through the arid medium of print. He knows how to punish an 
enemy through a covert thrust in an article, and how to repay a 
flattering allusion in a footnote with a pleasant review. Nothing 
gives him so much pleasure as the misfortune of a rival whose 
journal has published contradictory reviews of the same book. His 
friends are writers, his conversation is the gossip of the editorial 
back stairs, his natural habitat is the reading room of the British 
Museum. Quaint, bookish mannerisms and turns of speech give this 
character a convincing individuality. Graspingly ambitious, he tries 
to induce his daughter to invest some money she has inherited in a 
journal which he will edit, but he fails in this as in all else, and ends 
in pathetic blindness. 

Another and younger failure is Whelpdale. After suffering through 
some adventures in America patterned after Gissing's own, he 
returns to England, and, finding that he cannot sell any of his work, 
conceives the idea of giving instruction in fiction writing to 
neophytes. His plans include writing about the middle class and 
dealing with Such topics as boating and riding. Later he writes for a 
periodical named _Chat_; he plans to improve it by changing its 
name to _Chit-Chat_ and filling it with a potpourri of small items 
that can be read without effort by the semiliterate products of the 
democratic educational system. "Everything must be very short," he 
says, "two inches at the utmost; their attention can't sustain itself 
beyond two inches. Even chat is too solid for them; they want chit-
chat." *6* 

-- 163 --

Reardon's friend Biffen is a penniless scholar who shares his 
enthusiasm for Greek poetry and is capable of making fine metrical 
distinctions, but can do nothing more effective toward earning a 
living" than occasional tutoring. He lives in picturesque squalor, 
wearing his overcoat indoors to disguise the fact that he has no coat 
over his shirt sleeves, and eating his bread-and-dripping with a 
knife and fork to make it seem more filling. He is at work on a new 
kind of novel, a photographically faithful account of the daily life of 
a grocer. 

     What I really aim at is an absolute realism in the sphere 
     of the ignobly decent. The field, as I understand it, is a 
     new one; I don't know any writer who has treated 
     ordinary vulgar life with fidelity and seriousness. . . . 
     I want to deal with the essentially unheroic, with the 
     day-to-day life of that vast majority of people who are 
     at the mercy of paltry circumstance. The result will be 
     something unutterably tedious. Precisely. That is the 
     stamp of the ignobly decent life. If it were anything but 
     tedious it would be untrue. *7*

Biffen carries out this project with the devotion of a Flaubert, 
spending infinite time, patience, and discrimination on the prose 
style of his drab tale. The masterpiece of tedium is nearly lost when 
his lodginghouse burns down, but he risks his life to save the 
manuscript from the flames, thus exhibiting in a dramatic action the 
courage that enabled him to continue his work through the 
hardships of his life. _Mr. Bailey, Grocer_ actually achieves 
publication, and Biffen is paid fifteen pounds for it; he does not 
mind the hostility of the reviewers or the indifference of the public, 
for he is satisfied with it. But his heroism as an artist and a man 
turns out to be futile; he cannot escape the habit of isolation 
developed through years of work, and suffers from being deprived 
of a woman's love, particularly that of Reardon's widow. Ultimately, 
he lapses into a state of lonely depression which ends in suicide. His 
perfectionism asserts itself for the last time as he straightens a 
book on its shelf and the blotting' Pad on his desk before going out 
to poison himself. 

The background of the novel swarms with minor literary artisans. 
There are Milvain's sisters, who find that they can make a living by 
writing children's books, Quarmby and Hinks, superannuated hacks 
who haunt the British Museum reading room like shabby ghosts, 
and Marian Yule, who helps her father as a kind of literary slave, 
doing research for his articles, copying them when 

-- 164 --

they are completed, and sometimes even writing them herself. 

In _New Grub Street_ Gissing gives a surprisingly accurate report of 
the social transition described by Mr. David Riesman in _The Lonely 
Crowd_. It was natural that he should first sense the emergence of 
"other-direction" in his own profession. Milvain, Whelpdale, and the 
crowd of journalists they move with expect to succeed by pleasing 
the public; they have no abstract convictions about their work, 
except that it must sell and win approval. They consider it essential 
that a writer be able to change with the winds of trade and be 
ready for any sort of an assignment; when Whelpdale says that he 
has been hired to write a column for a journal, Milvain asks, 
"Cosmetics? Fashions? Cookery?" and Whelpdale regrets that he is 
not so versatile. They are less concerned with the intrinsic qualities 
of their work than with people's opinion of it, and most of their 
conversations are devoted to gauging the climate of opinion in 
editorial quarters. 

Reardon, on the other hand, is an example of Mr. Riesman's "inner-
directed" type, who belongs to an earlier stage of social 
organization. He is not entirely indifferent to general opinion, but he 
gives precedence to his own convictions. The easy versatility of men 
like Milvain seems to him to be simple insincerity. He is attached to 
one style of writing and one way of conducting himself, and cannot 
adjust, as Milvain would, to changing conditions. Popularity, 
Milvain's only motive for writing, means nothing to him, and when 
he cannot satisfy his own standards he feels no desire to write. In 
thinking over the actions that have driven Amy from his side, he at 
first wonders what her relations will say about him, but he then 
consults moral standards, which he considers absolute, by framing 
such questions as, "Had he done well? Had he done wisely?" 
Reardon is caught in a kind of landslide of social standards, for, 
while he embraces an old moral code in considering it a virtue to be 
true to his own modest talents, the new concept of success in 
writing calls for conformity, popularity, and response to public 

_New Grub Street_ was a success built with the materials of failure. 
Gissing's early novels are marred by the tendency toward self-
justification apparent in the portrayals of Arthur Golding and 
Osmond Waymark, and by a resentment that sometimes rendered 
his depiction of social evils more appropriate to melodrama than to 

-- 165 --

realism. Because he had suffered himself, he considered suffering a 
requirement for merit; according to Roberts, his criticism of any 
writer who might be mentioned was, "He never starved." He 
contemplated failure with perverse pleasure because it proved "the 
native malignity of matter," the injustice of the scheme of things. 
But after twelve years of writing novels without either gaining 
popularity or satisfying his own aspirations, he was ready to stake 
the painful truth of his private deficiencies on an attempt to 
achieve an ultimate realism, As a result, Reardon is portrayed in 
_New Grub Street_ not as a noble heretic but as a hesitant weakling 
who is bewildered by the problems of his profession; at the same 
time the evils of the system that destroys him are incisively 
analyzed. If _New Grub Street_ is more authentic, more cogent, and 
clearer in construction than Gissing's earlier novels, it is because he 
had at last learned, through a discipline of self-abnegation, to 
balance his passionate indignation with the objectivity necessary 
for genuine realism. 

-- 166 --




WHEN _New Grub Street_ was published early in April, 1891, Smith, 
Elder made the mistake of sending Gissing the reviews, and, 
although he quickly wrote to stop "this horror," he could not help 
learning, after about a month, that the book had been well received. 
The reviews warned readers that it was a depressing novel, but its 
brave realism was widely recognized and understood. A notice in 
the _Saturday Review_, which Gissing sent to Bertz, said:

     The book is almost terrible in its realism, and gives a 
     picture cruelly precise in every detail, of this commercial 
     age. The degradation of art by the very necessity of its 
     "paying its way" is put forward with merciless plainness. 
     The bitter uselessness of attempting a literary career 
     unless you are prepared to consult the market, and supply 
     only that for which there is a demand, forms a sort of text 
     for the book. Art for art's sake is foredoomed to financial 
     failure. *1*

An especially authoritative accolade, possibly written by Walter 
Besant, appeared in the June number of _The Author_, the 
publication of the Society of Authors. "Mr. George Gissing," said the 
unsigned notice, "ought to be publicly thanked for introducing the 
world to a form of literary life which has long been known to all 
who have penetrated into the by-ways and slums of this many-
sided calling." Reardon, Milvain, and Yule are said to be true to life, 
though Gissing has somewhat dramatized the fate of the first two. "I 
know them all personally," said the reviewer of the novel's 
characters, ". . . and the fidelity of Mr. Gissing's portraits makes me

-- 167 --

shudder." *2* Andrew Lang, in the next number of _The Author_, 
objected to Gissing's pessimism, saying that he knew poor writers 
who were jolly and hopeful and that there was, after all, a bright 
side to the picture. Two letters of rejoinder followed Lang's article. 
One supported Gissing, citing the special case of the free-lance 
journalist, who led an especially hard life, and the other replied to 
Lang's remark that the literary feuds in which Yule engaged were 
harmless. "Slating," or attacking a book in a deliberately critical 
review was done for pay, said this correspondent, and could be fatal 
to a book or an author's career.

There were reactions to the novel in all the papers, and the 
expression "New Grub Street" appeared in the press. Even among 
his friends and relations Gissing found an unusual unanimity of 
opinion about the book. His mother, his sister Ellen, Roberts, and his 
pupil, Walter Grahame, all wrote to say they liked it. Bertz praised 
it, but objected to the materialism of the characters. Admitting the 
justice of this criticism, Gissing attributed the fault to his strong 
conviction that poverty stifled creative powers. The success of _New 
Grub Street_ was capped by a second printing of the three-volume 
edition after the first month of publication. "The first time," 
observed Gissing, "I have ever achieved this." *3* Having sold the 
copyright, he could not hope to profit from the new edition, but he 
expected that the good sale of _New Grub Street_ would be helpful 
in the future.

A new novel, called "Raymond Peak" or "Godwin Peak" up to the 
time it was published as _Born in Exile_, had been begun about a 
week after his marriage and was finished in six months without 
much difficulty. It was, he wrote to Bertz, "a study of a savagely 
aristocratic temperament." *4* While working on it he occupied his 
leisure by botanizing in the countryside, exploring the vicinity of 
Exeter, and reading Chaucer, Tolstoy, and Hardy's _Far from the 
Madding Crowd_. He was secure from the emotional disturbances 
London might have stirred in him, but his new responsibilities as a 
family man made him feel keenly the limits of his poverty. He 
remarked in his diary the irony exploited in _New Grub Street_: 
that it was possible to be a famous author and starve. In spite of 
the success of _New Grub Street_, he reflected, he still had to work 
hard to support himself and could not afford to buy books or 
subscribe to a library; he wrote, "Who of the public would believe 
that I am still

-- 168 --

in such poverty?" *5* It was a characteristic exaggeration; actually, 
he subscribed to the Exeter Literary Society a few days later.

He tried to remedy his poverty by asking Smith, Elder for £250, a 
substantial increase over his usual price, when he sent them the 
new novel on July 20, 1891, but "Godwin Peak" proved very 
difficult to dispose of. This was partly a result of the circumstance 
that James Payn of Smith, Elder was about to go on a holiday when 
the manuscript came, and he wrote to Gissing that its consideration 
would be delayed for a month. He told Gissing in advance that his 
firm would not give £250 for the novel because _New Grub Street_ 
had been a failure, a reason which must have surprised and grieved 
Gissing. Instead of rebelling, however, he meekly wrote to say he 
would take £1 50 if that were paid immediately. But Payn abruptly 
sent the manuscript back unread, making use of the opportunity to 
tell Gissing that his books would not sell until they became more 

Gissing, who must have been much depressed at this summary 
treatment of a novel which deeply involved his feelings, met the
situation by sending his manuscript to a literary agent, A. P. Watt. 
Tired of being victimized by "the age of trade," he at last consented 
to try some of its methods. Toward the end of August, Watt 
reported that he had received an offer of £120 from Chatto and 
Windus, but since this fell short of the £200 Gissing had asked him 
to aim for, the book was sent on to another publisher. In the next 
few months both Longmans and Bentley rejected it, and Gissing, 
who now regretted having engaged Watt, wrote to insist that the 
book had to be placed before the end of the year.

In explaining his difficulties with "Godwin Peak" to Bertz, Gissing 
said that he thought it was a "rather strong" novel, but that its story 
of an atheist who tries to create the impression that he is a pious 
man by studying for orders probably discouraged the publishers. 
Toward the end of December the novel was at last accepted by the 
firm of Adam and Charles Black, but on less favorable terms than 
Gissing had hoped for. The price of £150 after Watt's 10-per-cent 
commission had been deducted came to hardly more than the 
original offer of Chatto and Windus. Although the book was not to 
be published until October, 1892, according to the original 
understanding, it appeared at the beginning of May. Be-

-- 169 --

fore that time Gissing spent a month revising it, gave it its final title 
of _Born in Exile_, and, noting from the proofs that the last volume 
was too short, wrote in two days a new chapter to be inserted 
before the last.
_Born in Exile_, like _New Grub Street_, is a criticism of society in 
the form of a confession, but the confession goes deeper, and the 
criticism is more damning. It is the story of a clever young man of 
lower-class origin and scientific interests who falls in love with a 
well-to-do young woman, pretends to be a conventional Christian, 
and even makes a show of preparing himself to become a minister 
in order to win her family's acceptance. Gissing's knowledge of the 
thoughts of a philosophic and fundamentally moral man engaged in 
a deliberate deception must have been drawn from his own 
experiences at the time of the Owens College episode. Godwin Peak, 
his hero, is just such a student as Gissing eager for prizes, who is 
forced to leave college prematurely as Gissing did, though for a 
different reason. His pride will not let him remain after his Cockney 
uncle discloses a plan to open a restaurant opposite the college. 
Sternly honest, Peak suffers feelings of intense guilt when a well-
meaning printer shows him an advance copy of an examination. He 
wants desperately to be a gentleman, like one of his schoolmates 
whom he sees occupying a box in a theater where he sits in the pit. 
Because he shares the tastes and interests of the rich, and has 
nothing in common with his own impoverished family, Peak feels 
that be is in the wrong social class, and that he has been "born in 

He grows up to be a well-dressed, well-mannered intellectual of 
scientific leanings who believes that "truth is indeterminable" and 
certainty is impossible. It is his aim "to get through life with as 
much satisfaction and as little pain as possible," and he believes 
that moral and intellectual principles are encumbrances to a man 
who seeks happiness. His motto is _Foris ut moris; intus ut libet_. 
When a friend suggests that the right thing to do is to act upon 
conviction, he asks: What if one has no convictions? His own are 
few, but powerful. He hates religion and the poor, especially the 
vulgarians of the London slums. And he is certain that he can 
achieve happiness by marrying a refined and educated woman of 
the class he admires.

-- 170 --

When he meets such a woman in Sidwell Warricombe, however, he 
finds that her family are faithful churchgoers and that her father, 
though a devoted geologist, is unintelligent enough to believe that 
scientific and religious beliefs can be reconciled with each other. In 
order to win the approval of his new friends, Peak pretends that he 
is outgrowing his youthful skepticism. He has heard that well-bred 
women will marry clergymen, no matter how poor, and he returns 
to his college studies in order to qualify himself for the Church. He 
impresses the family by commenting brilliantly on a sermon, 
discusses religious matters with Sidwell's brother, and offers to 
translate a German theological work for her father. lie tells himself 
that he is no more hypocritical than society, which pays homage to 
a false religious. idealism while pursuing grossly materialistic ends, 
but he cannot suppress the tormenting self-accusations that rise 
within him. When Sidwell's brother discovers that he is the author 
of an atheistic article, Peak's fraud is revealed, and he flees to 
Germany, where, not long afterward, he dies.

A suggestion that all this takes place within a framework of 
determinism occurs when Peak acknowledges, before he has carried 
his deception very far, that forces beyond his control are motivating 
him. After saying that he intends to enter the Church, he has the 
feeling that the remark was involuntary, the result of some 
subconscious influence. Further, he comes to believe that his 
scheme paradoxically alienates him from the class he is trying to 
enter, for it is a proof of his lower-class inheritance, an act of 
dishonesty attributable to the "ancestral vice" of his "base-born 
predecessors." Sidwell, on the other hand, Names the prevailing 
hypocrisy of society for Peak's crime, thus explaining it by 
environment rather than heredity.

"'Born in Exile,'" Gissing once wrote to Bertz, "was a book I _had_ to 
write." *6* In essence, the novel dramatizes the moral conflict of the 
Owens College episode, making use of the deeper insight into his 
motives which Gissing had by now gained. In addition, it is the fruit 
of a realization, based on his reading of a number of novels about 
young men inspired by scientific progress to reject traditional 
beliefs and take morality into their own hands, that his experience 
was not isolated, but reflected a general crisis of the European 

-- 171 --


The special attraction of the philosophy of science, as it was 
presented in such works as Comte's _Philosophic Positive_ and 
Ludwig BŸchner's _Kraft und Stoff_, was the hope it offered that the 
empiric methods that had dealt so successfully with physical facts 
could be extended to human phenomena, so that they too could be 
organized under practical and incontrovertible principles. As G. H. 
Lewes put it: "If the Positive Philosophy be anything, it is a doctrine 
capable of embracing all that can regulate Humanity. . . ." *7* "Un 
mme dŽterminisme," asserted Zola, "doit rŽgir le pierre des 
chemins et le cerveau de 1'homme." *8*

A condition of the success of science in government, morals, and 
ethics was the destruction of theological and metaphysical ideas 
that still dominated man's regulation of his own life, although they 
had long surrendered their hold on the physical sciences. Comte 
held that the human faculties were incapable of solving the 
problems of essences, first causes, and other mysteries surrounding 
the conception of God. Man must therefore resign himself to 
ignorance about these questions and devote his talents to gathering 
practical knowledge that can be used in promoting his well-being. If 
there were no divinity, or if He were indifferent to and out of touch 
with humanity, it followed that man became the arbiter of his own 
spiritual destiny. If there were no afterlife and no system of 
rewards and punishments to face after death, man, as the supreme 
product of evolution and the only possessor of rational intelligence, 
was free to plan his actions according to his own understanding. 
Thus, self-realization and service to humanity became the basis of 
morality. These convictions, the philosophical foundation of English 
agnosticism and Russian nihilism as well as French Positivism, were 
shared, for the most part, by Gissing himself. Late in life he wrote to 
Bertz, with unusual emphasis: "Yes, yes, yes: _Entwicklungsfreiheit!_ 
Whether we like it or not that is the principle of life in this world, 
and, with you, I cannot help thinking that on the whole it promises 
for _some day_ a true ethical culture." *9*

Gissing could not agree, however, with those of his fellow agnostics 
who deified humanity. As his novels show, he knew that

-- 172 --

character is easily corrupted by poverty, jealousy, or power, and 
even his best men manifest a diffidence and hesitation that are far 
from godlike. While sharing with other agnostics their respect for 
human nature, Gissing could not worship it as a substitute for 

Among the novels that treated the moral problem taken up in 
_Born in Exile_, two in particular were pre-eminent in their 
influence on Gissing: Turgenev's _Fathers and Sons_ (1862) and 
_Niels Lyhne_ (1880), by the Danish novelist Jens Peter Jacobsen. 
Turgenev's novel had an almost hypnotic influence on Gissing, for 
he reported that he had read it "five or six times." Its hero is a 
brilliant young scientist who has adopted rationalist ideas and finds 
any sort of faith impossible. He is scornful of the feelings that bind 
his parents to each other and to their land, of the "animal passion" 
of love, and of all the institutions of his country supported by 
authority or religious belief. He is interested only in the kind of 
certainty he finds in the dissection of frogs and beetles. "There are 
no general principles . . ." declares Bazarov. "There are feelings. 
Everything depends on them." *10* But as he undergoes emotional 
conflicts for which he cannot account on rational grounds, and 
which make him hate himself, he grows to envy the happy 
innocence of his parents. He cannot hold convictions or organize his 
experience, and, when he contemplates the universe, feels himself 
to be naked in the withering presence of the infinite and 

	The tiny space I occupy is so infinitely small in 
	comparison with the rest of space, in which I am not, 
	and which has nothing to do with me; and the period 
	of time in which it is my lot to live is so petty besides 
	the eternity in which I have not been, and shall not 
	be. . . . And in this atom, this mathematical point, the 
	blood is circulating, the brain is working and wanting 
	something. . . . Isn't it loathsome? Isn't it petty? *11*

Ultimately, Bazarov escapes his despised identity to find peace in 
death, which, like every other event in his chaotic world, occurs by 

The hero of Jacobsen's novel is a dreamy and imaginative man 
whose religious faith has been shattered by a childhood experience. 
The vague poetic narrative describes a number of emotional trials 
that make Niels realize that he is deeply at odds with life. Although 
he idealizes valiantly, believing that his doctrine of atheism will 
ennoble humanity by giving it freedom and inner strength, his wife

-- 173 --

calls for the parson when she dies, and Niels himself, worn out with 
suffering at the death of his son, prays desperately, confessing the 
power of God. Afterward he regrets this lapse.

	. . . he ought to have resisted it, for he knew with the 
	innermost fibres of his brain that gods were dreams. . . . 
	He had not been able to bear life as it was . . . in the 
	stress of the fight he had deserted the banner to which 
	he had sworn allegiance; for after all, the new ideal, 
	atheism, the sacred cause of truth - what did it all mean, 
	what was it all but tinsel names for one simple thing; to 
	bear life as it was and allow life to shape itself according 
	to its own laws. *12*

At the close of the novel Niels is wounded in battle, but refuses to 
see the minister, preferring to face death alone, thus winning the 
hardest battle of all.

In another of Gissing's favorite novels, _Crime and Punishment_, the 
hero feels himself to be free of the usual claims of morality, family 
affection, and friendship, for modern thought has taught him that 
superior individuals like himself are justified in adopting any 
means of fulfilling their destinies. Raskolnikov's murder of the old 
moneylender and her sister is committed to demonstrate his 
freedom from conventional moral laws. But he is surprised and 
frightened to see how weak his feelings of sympathy and fear have 
grown, and how detached he can become in emergencies. Only the 
quasi-divine intervention of Sonia and the purgative suffering of 
his Siberian exile can save him from the moral disintegration 
represented by Svidrigailov.

Similar characters appear in two novels, both known to Gissing, by 
the French author Paul Bourget. The hero of _Le Disciple_ (1881), 
Robert Greslou, is a fanatical admirer of a scholar, a "French 
Spencer," who has put the science of psychology on a positivist 
basis, showing that the human passions and will are subject to 
determinist laws. The brilliant young student decides to put the 
speculations of the unworldly scholar into practice, and as an 
experiment, makes a girl of noble family fall in love with him. 
When she discovers the motive of his courtship she commits 
suicide, and Greslou himself is shot by her brother. The old scholar 
whose theories have inspired Greslou's actions wonders bitterly 
whether the responsibility for all this destruction does not really 
belong to the "truths" he has discovered.

In _Un Crime d'Amour_ (1886), a wealthy young idler who

-- 174  --

suffers from an "inward nihilism" which makes him incapable of 
enjoying life, seduces the wife of his closest friend without loving 
her. When their relationship is discovered, and the hero's mistress 
offers to sacrifice everything to go away with him, he is compelled 
to admit his ]lack of feeling for her. The terrible effects of this 
confession upon a sincere and virtuous woman make him realize 
that his course of action constitutes "a crime of love." Profoundly 
disturbed by her suffering and his own coldness of feeling, he 
reviews his past and his education, concluding that his capacity for 
belief has been destroyed by science, misanthropy, and debauchery.

Whether or not any of these novels influenced _Born in Exile_ 
directly, they show that in Godwin Peak Gissing was dealing with a 
characteristic figure and a characteristic problem of nineteenth-
century civilization. All over Europe young men were making an 
ideal of science, and the fictional record of this development shows 
how their contempt for feelings resulted in a stifling of their own 
emotional capacities; what began as an exile from environment 
ended as an exile from the self. The individual became an amoral 
desperado, committing some affront to society that aroused in him 
feelings of guilt and remorse he had hitherto suppressed, and these 
feelings forced him to recognize the inadequacy of the scientific 

The passionate and gloomy _Sturm und Drang_ heroes of the 
romantic period were forerunners of the Peaks, Bazarovs, and 
Raskolnikovs who appear in later European literature. The actual 
psychic experience must have been the same both at the beginning 
and after the middle of the century: a feeling of estrangement from 
the world, an inability to share the common attitudes, an awareness 
that spiritual certainty is impossible. There are striking differences, 
however, in its external manifestations. In the romantic works the 
crisis of the disturbance was generally brought on by an intense 
self-consciousness accompanied by dandyism, sensationalism, and 
megalomania. In the Victorian novels, on the other hand, its source 
is the social and intellectual environment. New scientific truths or 
political ideals make it impossible for young men to accept 
traditional beliefs. They are, in contrast to the romantic rebels, cold, 
intellectual, indifferent to such externals as sunsets, landscape, or 
impressive costumes. Where the romantics erred in enthroning

-- 175 --

passion, they committed the parallel and contrary error of 
enthroning intellect.

_Born in Exile_ dramatizes the limitations of the scientific 
materialist philosophy as a spiritual guide; Godwin Peak's tragedy 
shows that it can destroy traditional beliefs but is unable to rebuild. 
The novel's lesson recalls the conclusion reached by Helen Norman 
in _Workers in the Dawn_: that even though Christianity was a false 
belief, its sudden extinction might be a worse evil than its 
continued existence. Peak's rebellion is motivated by a moral ideal, 
but it is a remote one and has no means of dealing with immediate 
spiritual problems. Contemptuous of faith and feeling, lie would like 
to believe that his freedom from emotion brings with it freedom of 
action and conscience. But the vacuum of the perfect objectivity he 
thinks he has achieved is invaded by fears and passions. His pride 
corrupts the abstract doctrine of self-fulfillment into mere anarchic 
selfishness. Ethical morality dissolves into no morality at all. 
Ultimately, however, the strict honesty that has forbidden him to 
accept the moral dictates of supernatural religion forbid him to 
accept those of his own egotism, and he is forced to recognize the 
true nature of his motivation. He finds that he has wandered into a 
strange amoral realm, where certainty, on either scientific or 
religious grounds is impossible, and every question of right and 
wrong is an intolerable nightmare.

In giving Peak's hypocrisy the form of a belief that religious 
doctrines can be reconciled with scientific knowledge, Gissing was 
directing criticism at one of the most characteristic products of the 
Victorian compromise. Both agnostics and orthodox Christians 
turned to it as a way of ending the conflict of beliefs. Even the most 
aggressive of the agnostics tended to drift toward the view that the 
order of the universe supported Christian morality. Samuel Butler's 
_God the Known and God the Unknown_, after offering some highly 
unorthodox speculations about the nature of God, arrived at 
conclusions that were mere religious truisms. Herbert Spencer in 
_First Principles_ (1860) suggested that religion and science could 
come to terms on the basis of a recognition that knowledge of the 
universal Power was inaccessible to either. When Huxley's little son, 
Noel, died in 1860, Kingsley wrote to the bereaved father, urging 
him to take consolation in the doctrine of immortality. Huxley's  re-

-- 176 --

ply was a courageous reaffirmation of his belief in scientific 
method, and a refusal to abandon it in his grief, but he also said 
that he felt an order in the physical universe that inspired 
something akin to a sense of religion. "The absolute justice of the 
system of things," wrote Huxley, "is as clear to me as any scientific 
fact. The gravitation of sin to sorrow is as certain as that of the 
earth to the sun, and more so. . . ." *13*

Religious thinkers, on the other hand, undertook the task of 
absorbing scientific discoveries into the body of religious dogma; 
such a policy is the touchstone of Peak's hypocrisy. He borrows this 
line of thought from Chilvers, a young clergyman who acts as a sort 
of counterbalance to him in the novel, and seriously defends it.

	There is distinct need of an infusion of the scientific 
	spirit into the work of the Church. . . . It behooves us to 
	go in for science - physical, economic - science of every 
	kind. . . . What we have to do is to construct a spiritual 
	basis on the basis of scientific revelation. I use the word 
	revelation advisedly. The results of science arc the divine 
	message of our age. . . . *14*

Gissing made this compromise the master fallacy of _Born in Exile_ 
because it seemed to him a typical example of the Victorian 
spiritual failure. Both science and theology claimed to shed light on 
the nature of the cosmos and the moral duty of man, yet Gissing 
could accept the claims of neither. And he could not accept a 
sophistical combination of both as a formula for exempting man 
from the need for wrestling with the paradoxical realities of his 

In writing to Edward Clodd of metaphysical questions, Gissing said:

	Well, well, let us agree that it is very good to acknowledge 
	a great mystery. How to go further than this recognition I 
	know not. That there is _some order_, _some purpose_, seems 
	a certainty; my mind, at all events, refuses to grasp an idea 
	of a Universe which means nothing at all. But just as unable 
	am I to accept any of the solutions ever proposed. . . . These 
	things have a meaning - but I doubt, I doubt - whether the 
	mind of man will ever be permitted to know it. *15*

Gissing was one of a minority of Victorians who felt with equal 
force the attraction and the impossibility of faith. The agnostic 
position meant spiritual peace and intellectual freedom to most of 
his contemporaries who adopted it. To the artistic mind, however, 
agnosticism must seem, not an answer to the problem of man's

-- 177 --

place in the universe, but only a way of posing that problem in its 
most unequivocal terms. The feeling that there is a divine order, 
but that it is inaccessible to man, a view accepted without any 
strong emotions by John Stuart Mill and Herbert Spencer, meant to 
Gissing that life was a tragedy of the spirit. To many, agnosticism 
offered relief from the impossible task of solving the riddle of the 
universe, but to Gissing it meant only that man was doomed to 
pitiful ignorance and loneliness in a harsh universe he could never 

Although he rarely dealt directly with the problem of universal 
order in his novels, it seems clear that Gissing's indecision about 
metaphysical questions is the ultimate source of his indecision 
about social and economic themes. Moral values depend on man's 
relation to the universe, yet agnosticism held that it is impossible to 
understand fully the nature of that relation. Gissing could neither 
understand nor ignore it. His conflict about his artistic intentions, 
and his ambiguous attitudes toward the poor and the middle class 
were counterparts of his metaphysical doubts. Behind the 
pessimism and contradictions of his novels there lurks the anguish 
of the unknowable, the feeling that filled him when he 
contemplated the ultimate problems of existence as they were 
embodied in the immediate problems of his age.

_Born in Exile_ is an important spiritual document, and the only 
novel by Gissing that can be called European in character. Although 
it is a profound and honest book, its workmanship is 
undistinguished. The plot progresses by minute stages through 
many scenes of little dramatic value, so that its effect is extremely 
diffuse. Peak himself is very thoroughly explored as a character, 
and the most living parts of the book are his meditations and his 
reactions to the world about him. His youthful intolerance of his 
family, the tortuous rationalizations of his actions, and his response 
to the comfort and refined society he has always admired are 
marked by Gissing's authoritative skill in describing states of mind. 
There arc no other interesting characters, however, and the large 
portion of the book devoted to subplots and minor characters is 
exceptionally fiat.

Because it is slow-moving and esthetically uninteresting, _Born in 
Exile_ has never won its due recognition as a novel of ideas. 
Contemporary reviewers missed its ideological implications entirely.

-- 178 --

The _Spectator_ wondered at the perversity of people who refused 
to enjoy life, termed Peak's crime a "specially despicable hypocrisy," 
and found the novel "devoid of charm," a quality it made no 
pretension of offering. The _Athenaeum_ warned its readers that 
following Peak's psychological development would demand 
attention, but would be ultimately rewarding. Gissing was 
particularly outraged by the review in the _Pall Mall Gazette_, 
which said, "The material is of the slightest, but it is cleverly 
worked up." Gissing copied this obtuse comment into his diary, 
following it with an inarticulately wrathful "Ye gods!" *16*


His trouble in placing _Born in Exile_ caused Gissing some anxious 
moments in the middle of 1891, for, as he noted in October, he was 
down to only twenty-seven pounds. In addition, Edith was 
expecting a baby, and disagreements with his landlady forced him 
to undertake the task, always particularly painful for him, of 
looking for a new house and moving his household. Toward the end 
of August he moved from the rooms he had been occupying to a 
pleasant eight-room house at 1 St. Leonard's Terrace in Exeter. The 
removal was a considerable improvement, for he now had a quiet 
study of his own, with views of flowers and greenery in all 
directions, where he spent his first month in almost uninterrupted 

On September 26, not long after moving to St. Leonard's Terrace, 
Gissing had the unprecedented experience of being approached by a 
publisher. The new firm of Lawrence and Bullen, having heard from 
Roberts that Gissing was working on a one-volume novel, offered to 
publish it in a six-shilling format, giving Gissing a royalty of one 
shilling on every copy sold, with one hundred pounds in advance. 
This news, coming while _Born in Exile_ was drifting from one 
publisher to another, must have cheered Gissing considerably, for it 
gave new impetus to his current project, which he now titled "The 
Radical Candidate." Early in November one of the new firm's 
partners, A. H. Bullen, who was making the rounds of booksellers to 
introduce himself, appeared in Exeter and invited Gissing to dine 
with him.

-- 179 --

Bullen was a man of exactly Gissing's age, who had studied classics 
at Oxford, been a schoolmaster, and earned a reputation as an 
expert on the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in English 
literature. After applying for, and failing to win, the Chair of English 
at University College, London, he had gone into publishing in 
partnership with H. W. Lawrence. On his initiative the firm 
published valuable editions of Elizabethan playwrights and poets, 
later extending its publications to a ten-volume edition of 
Shakespeare and some of the most important scholarly material of 
the period, including Henslowe's diaries. Gissing found Bullen to be 
younger and less intellectual than he had expected, but he seemed 
optimistic about Gissing's future as a novelist.

When Gissing sent the completed short novel to them toward the 
end of November, Lawrence and Bullen promptly paid him £l05 on 
account, although they wrote that the novel did not seem "very 
strong," and that its title would have to be changed to _Denzil 
Quarrier_, for the original political title might alarm women readers. 
The publication of _Denzil Quarrier_ was the beginning for Gissing 
of a long, pleasant, and profitable association with Lawrence and 
Bullen. Unlike other publishers Gissing had dealt with, Bullen was 
candid, friendly, and encouraging. lie set out to capture Gissing for 
his firm by asking first refusal of his next book, proposing 
inexpensive reprints of his early novels, and offering royalties, 
which enabled him to share in the profits of his books, instead of a 
flat price.

There were two reasons for Gissing's change to shorter forms in 
_Denzil Quarrier_ and the numerous short stories he was to write 
after 1892. It was a way of making money quickly. In addition, the 
three-volume novel was being overtaken by history at last. Writing 
to Algernon in l885, Gissing said he approved of the new practice 
which allowed the novelist to present a series of episodes rather 
than a biography, and to use the "dramatic" method of suggesting 
thoughts instead of analyzing them at length. Although he 
continued to use the three-volume style and form, his preference 
for the new method continued to grow, and one of the lessons on 
writing he sent to Algernon in 1891 reads, "lam convinced that the 
less you think about analysis, the better and more acceptable work 
you will do. Let the reader analyse character and motive . . . do you 
simply present facts, events, dialogue, scenery." *17*

-- 180 --

He admitted the need for "condensation" in his work, and made 
practical acknowledgment of it by sharply cutting _Thyrza_, _The 
Unclassed_, and _Workers in the Dawn_ when he revised them for 
new editions. (The revision of _Workers in the Dawn_ was never 
completed.) His method of revision was to eliminate or condense 
passages of dialogue, psychological analysis, and authorial 
exposition, as well as to make minor changes of diction. Although he 
said that it would be pleasant to be free of the three-volume novel, 
he came to the new methods slowly. When he did adopt them, his 
work benefited from the newly fashionable economies of technique, 
but the confining forms of short stories and short novels did not 
suit him; before long he applied his more dramatic narrative style 
to full-length stories, as before.

Although _Denzil Quarrier_ was written primarily to take advantage 
of Bullen's offer, it represents a step in Gissing's development and is 
on the whole a pleasing book, mingling with a melodramatic plot 
some of Gissing's most characteristic touches. Its hero, a strong-
minded and vigorous man of action, enters polities as the Liberal 
candidate for Parliament in a provincial town named Polterham. To 
a supposedly friendly rival named Eustace Glazzard, whom he has 
bested for the nomination, he confides the unusual story of his 
marriage, which is not really a marriage at all. He met his wife, 
Lilian, while she was a governess in Sweden, and discovered only 
after proposing to her twice that she was already married, though 
only in a technical sense, for her husband was arrested for forgery 
while leaving the church after the wedding, and has never lived 
with her. Quarrier tells Glazzard how, after hearing this account, he 
induced Lilian to live with him in London, and now proposes to take 
her to Paris for the sake of appearing to be married there, and to 
brave the social law, that would keep them apart by settling down 
with her in Polterham as man and wife. After this mock marriage, 
Lilian, who is a frail creature, takes up her social duties in 
Polterham with reluctance.

When Parliament is dissolved and an election approaches, Quarrier 
begins active campaigning. In the meantime, Eustace Glazzard, 
vaguely resentful at Quarrier's new importance, has succeeded in 
tracing Lilian's missing husband. He goes to see him without any 
clear motive at first, but soon plans to embarrass Quarrier's 
campaign by having him appear in Polterham to claim his wife just

-- 181 --

before the election. The husband accordingly wanders through the 
town until he meets Lilian, demands that she return to him, and 
renews his demand on the eve of the election. This drives the 
unstable Lilian to kill herself by drowning herself in a pond. The 
grief-stricken Quarrier, who is elected the next day, finds himself at 
once a member of Parliament and a widower. The final chapter, 
which takes place a year after Lilian's death, unmasks Glazzard as 
the betrayer of Quarrier's secret. The novel ends as Glazzard quietly 
confesses his guilt and Quarrier sadly admits that he now sees the 
need for the social law he violated.

The book was, as Gissing wrote to Algernon, "a strong defence of 
conventionality"; yet it would be a mistake to conclude that his 
feelings were genuinely involved, for he repudiated 
"conventionality" a few years later when, by what must be one of 
the oddest coincidences in literature, he found himself in precisely 
the same situation he had contrived for his characters. When he 
was prevented from marrying Gabrielle Fleury by his own former 
marriage, lie followed the course his novel warned against, made a 
pretence of marriage, and lived with her as man and wife, though 
he cautiously set up his home outside of England. It is impossible, 
therefore, to attribute much sincerity to the lesson of _Denzil 
Quarrier_, or to take it seriously as an acceptance of convention on 
Gissing's part. It can be explained as the beginning of a policy of 
following two simultaneous writing careers; in one Gissing courted 
popularity and tried to increase his income by short stories and 
light novels that offered no challenge to convention, and in the 
other he pursued the social criticism that was his real vocation, in 
such longer novels as _The Odd Women_, _In the Year of Jubilee_, 
and _The Whirlpool_.

As Gissing's first attempt at a shorter novel, _Denzil Quarrier_ is 
comparatively lively and fast-moving but its structural difficulties 
betray his inexpertness with the new genre. The weak motivation 
and thin characterization might have been improved if he had had 
more space to work in. The accumulation of detail, dialogue, and 
minor action, which he had recommended to Algernon as a means 
of maintaining interest, may have given the novels of Dickens and 
George Eliot their solidity, but they interfered with the unity and 
pace of a short novel. Some of the minor elements, however, seem 
to spring from Gissing's deeper feelings and to be connected with

-- 182 --

his general opinions. For example, Lilian's sympathy with the poor 
is presented as weakness of character, and Quarrier's lecture on the 
rights of women and his relations with a feminist named Mrs. Wade 
foreshadow Gissing's interest in the woman question. His treatment 
of the Polterham townsfolk is Gissing's first moderately successful 
attempt at social comedy, a genre he had occasionally tried before, 
and was to take up again in the future.

-- 183 --




WHEN his first son was born early in the stormy morning of 
December 10, 1891, Gissing felt no excitement at this beginning of a 
new life but only a savage resentment at the pain Edith had to 
undergo. At 4:15 in the morning he wrote that the "blackguard 
business" was almost finished. An hour later he recorded, "So, the 
poor girl's misery is over, and she has what she earnestly desired."  
*1* It was some time before Gissing expressed any enthusiasm for 
his son, who began life by disrupting his sensitive father's routine. 
The child's crying depressed Gissing; when the birth was registered 
he chose the names Walter Leonard for no better reason than that 
they were inoffensive. Edith was ailing and had begun, in addition, 
to show the first signs of the bad temper that poisoned the 
atmosphere of the house and eventually led to their separation. 
When, early in 1892, the servant (whose name happened to be 
Thyrza) became ill, domestic responsibilities fell heavily on Gissing 
and made him frantic. He had to interrupt his work on the revision 
of _Born in Exile_ to engage a woman to take the child, nicknamed 
"Gubsey," out to board at her farmhouse.

A period of peace followed. After the revision of _Born in Exile_ was 
completed, Gissing took Edith to Penzance for a week's holiday, 
returning to Exeter and work on February 15. He was in an 
aggressive mood. Forgetting his earlier struggle to subdue the 
didactic element in his work, he now wanted to write something 
that would reveal the vulgarity of modern civilization. In the past, 

-- 183 --

wrote to Bertz, he had dealt with gifted people who occupied a 
lower social position than the one they really deserved; now he 
wanted to write about stupid people who were placed higher than 
they should be. At first he thought of a novel about fools in 
positions of authority to be called "Jacks in Office." Democracy, he 
explained to Bertz, was leveling society down, partly through the 
influence of America, and partly through the education provided by 
the Board Schools. A class higher than the lowest was emerging, but 
it was still very far from being truly educated.

While Gissing was occupied with ideas like these, and with a series 
of useless attempts to begin his novel, Gubsey was brought home in 
the middle of April, and disorder erupted. Edith, who was incapable 
of getting along with servants, had continual disagreements with 
the baby's nurse, and Gissing was constantly being interrupted to 
hear complaints or settle disputes. It was not long, of course, before 
the nurse left, and then Gissing himself had to nurse the child, care 
for it, prepare its meals, and perform other duties that even in 
modest households like his were invariably left to servants.

Gissing must now have begun to gain some disquieting insights into 
his wife's character. The depths of ignorance he discovered in her 
did not disturb him; he simply noted them as examples of the 
plebeian mind at work. He observed with clinical interest that she 
had never heard of _Pilgrim's Progress_, said "amusing" when she 
meant "interesting," and did not realize that "Henry" and "Harry" 
were forms of the same name. But he suffered at what he called
"uproar in the house," quarrelsome scenes with servants or 
neighbors that left him unable to work for days. He must already 
have begun to fear that he had sacrificed too much to his physical 
needs by marrying. In January of 1893, after less than two years of 
marriage with Edith, he was compelled to acknowledge to himself 
that he had needs that she could not possibly satisfy. He wrote in 
his diary:

     On way home at night, an anguish of suffering in the 
     thought that I can never hope to have an intellectual 
     companion at home. Condemned for ever to associate 
     with inferiors - and so crassly unintelligent. Never a 
     word exchanged on anything but the paltry everyday 
     life of the household. Never a word to me, from anyone, 
     of understanding sympathy - or of encouragement. *2*

-- 185 --

The summer of 1892 passed as Gissing, between crises created by 
Edith's neuralgia, the baby's illness, and an incredible succession of 
dissatisfied nurses who came and 'vent every week, tried 
ineffectually to start another novel. By July 10 he had recorded 
eight unsuccessful attempts, and on August 2 he stopped making 
entries in his diary because, as he later wrote, he was "sick of 
chronicling endless beginnings." By September 2, however, he had 
finished the first volume of a novel, after making twelve starts. By 
October 4 he completed the book, gave it the title _The Odd 
Women_, and sent it to Lawrence and Bullen.

Gissing had been concerned all his life with the subject of _The Odd 
Women_, the problem of the social status of women. When his 
sisters were girls he urged them to take their studies more 
seriously than girls generally did, and he wrote to them that he 
preferred the kind of knowledgeable and self-reliant woman who 
could travel alone. Four of his novels, _The Emancipated_, _The Odd 
Women_, _In the Year of Jubilee_, and _The Whirlpool_, form a 
searching examination of such aspects of the problem as courtship, 
marriage, sexual mores, and the fate of single women. The theme is 
important in _Workers in the Dawn_, where it is represented by 
Carrie Mitchell, and it forms a more or less significant interest in 
nearly every subsequent novel.

On this subject at least, Gissing's opinions were clear, consistent, and 
uncompromising. An enemy of the Victorian myth of the inferiority 
of women, he believed firmly that women were the intellectual and 
spiritual equals of men. His favorite novelists, George Eliot, Charlotte 
Bront‘, and George Sand, were women; he admired such clever 
women as Edith Sichel and Mrs. Woods without the usual 
reservations. Like John Stuart Mill, he felt that the emancipation of 
women was an important phase of the general struggle for liberty. 
In addition, he was convinced that the one false idea of the 
inferiority of women subtly poisoned the most intimate social 
relationships and undermined the happiness of marriage and the 
home. Lie might legitimately have attributed his own marital 
difficulties to the Victorian conception of the role of women. Lie 
wrote to Bertz that he was in favor of equality for women because 
"social peace" would be impossible until women had the same 
education as men. "More than half the misery of life," he wrote, "is 
due to the ignorance and childishness of women." *3* He admitted 
that the

-- 186 --

readjustment would bring "sexual anarchy" for a time, but he 
claimed that it would not destroy anything of value.

According to such spokesmen for the Victorian ideal as Ruskin and 
Coventry Patmore, a woman was no more than the pillar of the 
home and the helpmeet of man. By assuming that every woman 
would find a place as the protected and inferior partner in 
marriage, the law, custom, moral standards, and women's education 
rendered women incapable of independence. As Mrs. Annie Besant 
put it, a woman counted only as somebody's wife, somebody's 
daughter, or somebody's mother. Under the law, as it stood through 
most of the century, married women simply did not exist; a married 
woman could not hold property or be party to a lawsuit. Because 
they were legally accountable for the actions of their wives, 
husbands had the right to impose severe physical discipline upon 
them. The threadbare legal fiction that husbands could control their 
wives is demolished by the henpecked Mr. Bumble of _Oliver 
Twist_, who, when he is told that he is guilty of his wife's crime in 
destroying evidence pertaining to Oliver's birth because "the law 
supposes that your wife acts under your direction," bitterly replies: 
"If the law supposes that . . . the law is a ass - a idiot. If that's the 
eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law 
is, that his eye may be opened by experience - by experience." *4*

Marriage, which was supposed to sanctify the relation between the 
sexes, often proved to be its ultimate corruption, for the ignorant 
and dependent woman produced by the Victorian education could 
be expected to share neither her husband's emotional nor his 
practical life. Her training as a kind of superior servant with limited 
responsibility thrust upon husbands powers that no husband who 
respected his wife as a human being would wish to possess. "The 
relative position," said Mrs. Besant, "is as dishonouring to the man 
as it is insulting to the woman. . . ." *5* In effect, a woman 
surrendered her identity to the man she married. She had, for 
example, no redress whatever for infidelity on the part of her 
husband. The English divorce laws were almost as rigid and 
cumbersome as they had been in Milton's time; divorces could be 
obtained only at great expense and at the cost of dishonoring one of 
the partners. A wife separated from her husband was, in law, a 
nonentity. She had no claim over her children or her property; her

-- 187 --

husband retained the right to discipline, coerce, or confine her, and 
be could even have her legally imprisoned.

Although the process of women's emancipation was well under way 
in 1892, when _The Odd Women_ was written, many of the serious 
social disabilities still existed. A first recognition of the legal rights 
of married women had been won earlier in the century by Mrs. 
Caroline Norton, who, after being separated from her husband and 
learning that she had no power under the law to see her children, 
keep what she might earn, or defend her reputation in court, led a 
propaganda campaign that resulted in the Infants' Custody Act of 
1839. This was followed by a series of enactments on divorce and 
the economic rights of married women, including the introduction 
by John Stuart Mill of a motion on woman suffrage in connection 
with the Reform Bill of 1867, and the Married Woman's Property 
Act of 1882. The woman suffrage movement grew steadily until it 
met a paralyzing Parliamentary defeat in 1884.

At the beginning of the century no trades were open to women 
except, oddly enough, a few rough ones, like coal mining. A middle-
class spinster could work as a governess, and this ill-paid profession 
was crowded by thousands of impoverished gentlewomen, in spite 
of the hardships and inferiority of station it involved. By 1850 
working women had won a recognized place in the factories, and by 
1880 various agencies had been set up to train women as clerks, 
commercial artists, and even engineers and architects. On the 
assumption that the "female brain" was incapable of any but the 
most superficial learning, the usual girls' school limited itself to 
teaching elementary subjects and accomplishments like dancing, 
music, and needlework. The first step beyond these educational 
standards was the founding of Queens College for women in London 
in 1848. Other girls' colleges began to appear, and a group of girls 
challenged masculine academic superiority by sitting successfully 
for the Cambridge University Local Examinations in 1863. The 
founding of Newnham College in 1871 and Girton College in 1873, 
both boarding colleges with standards based on those of Cambridge, 
put women's education on the same level as men's. When London 
University opened all its degrees (including the crucial medical 
degree) to women in 1878, the fight for equal educational 
opportunities was won.

-- 188 --

_The Odd Women_ surveys the emancipation process through the 
experiences of four women in their encounters with the shifting 
customs of the time. Alice and Virginia Madden, helpless and 
genteel spinsters in their middle thirties, are typical victims of the 
Victorian ideal of womanhood. Unemployable, unmarriageable, 
unwanted by society, they live together on a pitifully small income 
in a single room, clinging desperately to some shreds of refinement 
and to the illusion that they may someday be employed again as 
governesses or companions. While their poverty is in itself a nearly 
unbearable hardship, Gissing perceives that the most desperate 
element of their plight is the loneliness and barrenness of lives in 
which an invitation to tea or a slice of roast beef are events of 
supreme importance.

Their hopes are based on their younger sister, Monica, who is sure 
to marry because she is pretty. But Monica's marriage becomes a 
sad instance of the inadequacy of traditional marriage customs in a 
period of social transition. Seeking to rise from her position as a 
kind of slave in a draper's establishment, she tries to learn the new 
skill of using the typewriter but, unable to muster the necessary 
self-discipline, drifts into marriage with a wealthy, dull, middle-
aged bachelor whom she has met on a public boat on the Thames. 
Her husband, Widdowson, a partisan of the most old-fashioned 
ideas about marriage, imposes a life of strict seclusion upon her. 
When Monica, who is fatally bored by her dull husband, ventures 
the opinion that women are not so different from men as 
Widdowson believes, and asks to be allowed to pay visits and seek 
entertainment, Widdowson feels that she is in rebellion against him. 
Before long, his tyranny drives her into unfaithfulness. Brooding 
over his shattered marriage, Widdowson is forced to recognize that 
he has no real understanding of his wife as a personality, that their 
union is mainly physical, and that the marriage bond holds Monica 
against her will. But when Monica's adultery and attempt to run 
away are revealed, Widdowson grows stern, and he remains 
unforgiving even after she dies in childbirth, leaving a written 
confession. Like the unhappy Elgars of _The Emancipated_, the 
Widdowsons learn that the Victorian ideal of marriage does not fit 
the facts of life.

Monica Widdowson is not an emancipated woman, but merely a girl 
who has responded to some of the new ideas about equality

-- 189 --

and has grown accustomed to a freer life than old-fashioned 
marriage allowed. The cause of emancipation is represented by 
Mary Barfoot, who runs an agency devoted to training middle-class 
women in occupations that will enable them to live independently, 
and Rhoda Nunn, one of her followers, who is the heroine of the 
novel. Miss Barfoot's enterprise must have been suggested to 
Gissing by the Society for Promoting the Employment of Women, an 
organization founded in 1859 by Jessie Boucherett, which had 
developed a number of subsidiary branches by the nineties.

In contrast to Miss Barfoot, whose moderate ideal is that of enabling 
girls who do not marry to find positions in offices, where they are 
still far from welcome, Rhoda feels that women can be saved only 
by a sweeping reorganization of society. A fanatic of feminism, she 
believes, like Herminia Barton of Grant Allen's _The Woman Who 
Did_ (1895), that the marriage custom itself is responsible for the 
subjection of women, and when she falls in love with Everard 
Barfoot, Mary's active and adventurous cousin, she contemplates a 
free union of the kind Herminia enters into, a marriage in all but 
legal fact. While Monica's story exemplifies the danger of marriage 
on the old plan, Rhoda's shows how impossible the new plan is in a 
society governed by the old suppositions. The engagement between 
Everard and Rhoda is a kind of treaty based on principle, and it is 
promptly destroyed by a matter of principle. Each partner proposes 
to allow the other freedom, yet Rhoda cannot ignore certain doubts 
about Everard's fidelity. Demanding that she have faith in him, 
Everard refuses to enter into an explanation of suspicious 
circumstances, but Rhoda cannot overcome the distrust of men at 
the root of her militant feminism. After they have parted, and she 
has learned that Everard is innocent of any wrongdoing, she realizes 
that her independent attitude makes it impossible for her to marry. 
Everard calmly turns to another woman, entering into a 
conventional and advantageous marriage, while Rhoda is left to pity 
the little girl born to Monica Widdowson at the close of the novel. 
She has failed, not because feminism is an impossible ideal, but 
because her real motive as a feminist, pride, prevents her from 
making the compromises necessary to apply it to practical affairs.

Bullen asked Gissing to rewrite the first chapter of _The Odd 
Women_ when he accepted it, and there were some other revisions

-- 190 --

while the book was in proof. However, in spite of its excellence as a 
varied and scrupulously realistic examination of a single problem 
(the _Athenaeum_ called it Gissing's best book), many of Gissing's 
typical structural weaknesses remain. The twist in the plot that 
leads Widdowson to believe that Barfoot is Monica's lover is 
brought about by the most flagrant of coincidences. Everard can end 
his disagreement with Rhoda by the very simple means of denying 
something that is, in fact, untrue, and his refusal stems from an 
implausible insistence upon a fine point of principle that hardly 
seems worth the loss of his fiancŽe. There are, as usual, too many 
characters, although some of the minor ones are excellent, and the 
major feminine characters are notable examples of Gissing's ability 
to dramatize the interplay of social forces and individual 
psychology. There are also too many pointless incidents and too 
many conversations, and the value of the illustrative anecdotes in 
and out of the dialogue seems to diminish as they multiply.

Lawrence and Bullen were pleased with _The Odd Women_, and 
they offered to pay nine shillings per copy for the first edition in 
three volumes and sixpence per copy for the 3/6 edition to follow, 
with a hundred guineas in advance. They also proposed to republish 
_The Emancipated_ in a cheap edition, an offer which put Gissing 
into an embarrassing position. Only 492 copies of Bentley's edition 
of _The Emancipated_ had been sold. When Gissing asked to buy the 
copyright back, Bentley wrote that he could have it if he made up 
the fifty-two pounds that the book had lost. With characteristic 
candor, Gissing forwarded this letter to Bullen, who was shocked to 
learn how slowly the books of his new author had sold. However, 
when Bentley reduced his demand to twenty guineas, Bullen met it, 
and the new edition of _The Emancipated_ was published in 
October, 1893; Gissing was to receive half profits.

Lawrence and Bullen's eagerness to have Gissing's work, and their 
generosity in sharing profits with him, did much to relieve his mind 
at this time. They distributed his books widely by selling the 
copyrights of _Denzil Quarrier_ and _The Odd Women_ to firms on 
the Continent, and in the United States, Australia, and the colonies. 
The profits of these foreign sales were small, but, such as they 
were, Gissing shared in them. Bullen did not succeed in increasing 
the sale of Gissing's books, but he strengthened his self-respect by 
telling him that it was a "privilege" to publish his books at a loss,

-- 191 --

and that in any case he hoped they would bring future profits. 
Gissing's dealings with the agent, Watt, and with Lawrence and 
Bullen seem to have taught him to take a more professional 
approach to the marketing of his work; he made more businesslike 
financial arrangements and saw the merit of using agents, social 
connections, and other means to make the most of his abilities.


After completing _The Odd Women_, Gissing took a long holiday 
alone while Edith went to stay with a sister in London. He spent a 
week at the seashore, visited his family at Broadway, and early in 
November took rooms in Birmingham for three weeks in order to 
gather material for a novel about the industrial north. He explained 
his intentions to Bertz, writing: "It is not my purpose to deal with 
the working-class of that district. I shall use it as a picturesque 
background to a story of middle-class life, insisting on the degree to 
which people have become _machines_, in harmony with the 
machinery amid which they spend their lives." *6*

Because the study of the house in St. Leonard's Terrace no longer 
afforded enough protection from domestic disturbances, Gissing 
hired a sitting room to work in when he returned. The Birmingham 
novel went well. Lie told Bertz that it was better than his recent 
work, was concerned with characters who did "social work of the 
higher - the intellectual kind," and was generally cheerful in tone. 
He even hit upon an excellent title for it, _The Iron Gods_. But by 
March, 1893, when he was within twenty pages of completing it, he 
doubted that it would ever be finished. It never was. He gave it up 
for unexplained reasons, turning to other projects.

At the end of March Gissing spent a week alone in London. Lie 
wandered through the streets, feeling as if he had never left the 
city, and visited the office of Lawrence and Bullen, who were very 
friendly; but his real purpose was finding a new home in London. 
The feeling he had once expressed to Bertz that "my London life is 
in the past" had now changed, perhaps because of the comparative 
success of his recent books. On May 15 he rented a house at 76 
Burton Road in Brixton, and toward the end of June, 1893, the move 
was made. Edith remained in Exeter while Gissing under-

-- 192 --

went more than a week of misery at the hated work of unpacking 
in hot weather. When they were settled, he hired a separate place 
to work in as before, this time a bare attic in Kennington.

Not long after his return to London, Gissing made the acquaintance 
of a woman who was to become one of his closest and most valuable 
friends, Clara E. Collet. Lie had first heard of her in March, 1892, 
when his sister Ellen had called his attention to a brief and rather 
confused report of a lecture on his novels by Miss Collet appearing 
in _The Queen_, a ladies' magazine. In May, 1893, Miss Collet wrote 
asking to meet Gissing, and after he had characteristically declined, 
sent him some of her articles from the _Charity Organization 
Review_. These included a report on the proceedings of a Royal 
Commission on the Depression of Trade which pointed out that the 
inhuman exploitation of labor was one of the reasons for the success 
of Britain's competitors in the world market, and an article on 
Gissing himself which he liked.

After declining a number of other invitations, he at last paid her a 
visit at her home in Richmond on July 18. Although he did not 
record his reaction, he must have found her to be an intelligent, 
strong-minded woman whose attitude toward social problems was a 
blend of sympathy and practical method resembling that of the 
Fabian Society and the Charity Organization Society. She had 
worked as a Labour Correspondent for the Board of Trade, 
submitting detailed statistical reports on economic matters, and she 
wrote a number of articles on her special interest, the social and 
economic position of women. A paper on "The Economic Position of 
Educated Working Women," which she had read before the London 
Ethical Society in February of 1890, might almost have served as a 
text for _The Odd Women_, for it showed by statistical analysis that 
unmarried middle-class women outnumbered middle-class 
bachelors, sometimes by as much as two to one, and that many of 
them must therefore he accepted on the labor market. Gissing was 
hesitant about Miss Collet's suggestion that she come to his home to 
meet Edith, but he ultimately gave way, for in August she came to 
tea in Brixton, and a week later Edith and Miss Collet spent a day 
boating on the Thames. Miss Collet was quick to gain insight into 
Gissing's special problems. About two months after first meeting 
him, she took Edith out of the way one evening by inviting her to 
the theater, and sent Gissing a note saying that

-- 193 --

she was ready to pay for Walter's expenses if Gissing should ever 
find himself unable to continue working. He felt this offer to be "a 
wonderful piece of kindness."

Toward the end of 1892 occurred an incident which led Gissing to 
believe that he could bolster his income by writing short stories. He 
had always had misgivings about them. When Algernon had sent 
one for criticism in 1889, he observed that they required a striking 
central incident or character. He said that he could not do them 
himself, and could not possibly invent the fifteen or twenty a year 
that he would have to write to earn a living by them. The fact 
remains, however, that he had begun his career as a short-story 
writer in America, and had published "The Four Silverpennys" and 
"Phoebe" in _Temple Bar_ in 1883. Two years after writing so 
pessimistically to Algernon about short stories, he tried his hand at 
one again but gave it up, saying he needed a larger canvas. After 
finishing _Denzil Quarrier_ in November, 1891, however, he made 
another attempt, and sent the result, "A Victim of Circumstances," to 
_Blackwood's Magazine_. When nothing was heard from 
_Blackwood's_ for a year, he wrote to inquire and was pleasantly 
surprised to be answered, late in 1892, with a payment of twenty 
pounds and a request for more contributions.

"A Victim of Circumstances," an ironic and artificial contrivance, 
concerns a poor, untalented painter who occupies himself with a 
grandiose picture while his wife supports him by selling little water 
colors of her own, which dealers accept on the understanding that 
they are her husband's work. The painter, blaming his failure on 
"circumstances," gives up his great project. In the second scene, 
twenty years later, we see him boasting to some companions of the 
talent displayed in the water colors, which have gained some 
recognition since his wife's death, and which he has continued to 
claim as his own. It becomes clear, as he complains of the hardships 
that prevented him from fulfilling the promise shown in them, that 
he is a pathetic victim of his delusions.

_Blackwood's_ rejected Gissing's next story, submitted in January, 
1893. Soon after, however, Clement Shorter, editor of no fewer than 
three periodicals, the _English Illustrated Magazine_, the 
_Illustrated London News_, and the _Sketch_, asked Gissing for a 
story of lower-class life. Gissing sent the tale "Lou and Liz." After 
giving up _The Iron Gods_ Gissing devoted himself exclusively to 

-- 194 --

stories for a time. Ultimately he wrote scores of them. His first and
most important market was Shorter, who distributed them between
the _Illustrated London News_ and the _English Illustrated_, paying 
eleven or twelve guineas for each. Trying for a higher price, Gissing 
in September of 1893 took some of the stories he had written 
during the summer to William Morris Colles, the agent of the 
Society of Authors, who proposed to market them at the rate of 
three guineas per thousand words, and succeeded in selling "The 
Day of Silence" to the _National Review_ and "Under an Umbrella" to 
To-Day. Although Gissing's demand of eighteen guineas per story 
instead of twelve had silenced Shorter in September, he was very 
affable when Gissing went to see him a few months later, asking 
him to write a serial for the _Illustrated London News_ and then 
inviting him to submit six more stories at the old price of twelve 
guineas. After receiving the letter containing this proposal on 
December 4, Gissing set vigorously to work, completing all six of the 
stories by December 26. Conscious that his dealings with Shorter 
and Colles were leading him into the "commercial path," Gissing 
wrote to Bertz that he would nevertheless try not to write 

On September 12 he had begun a new novel, "Miss Lord," moving 
his workshop to Camberwell, which he had chosen as its setting. 
After a number of fruitless starts (he had recorded six by October 
16), he put the work aside to devote most of December to the six 
stories promised to Shorter; he began again on January 1. The novel 
moved ahead rapidly this time, being completed by April, 1894. 
During these months his career as a short-story writer prospered, 
while his success as a novelist seemed to decline. When he took his 
stories to Shorter on January 15, he agreed to do the serial the 
latter had requested for a price of £130. The six stories - three 
weeks' work - brought him more than £88. Two stories placed by 
Colles with the _National Review_ brought £25. On the other hand, 
Bullen's account of the sales of _The Odd Women_ and _Denzil 
Quarrier_ reported a loss of exactly £53-12-11. Bullen added, 
however, that he expected to recover this loss eventually, and he 
sent Gissing a check for twenty-five guineas, which the sensitive 
author felt he had no right to accept. In the meantime, Bullen 
bought the copyright of _Born in Exile_, intending to publish a 
cheap edition.

On January 15, 1894, Gissing took a step that was to bring him both 
professional and social advantages; he formally joined the

-- 195 --

Society of Authors. The society, now over ten years old, had about a 
thousand members and was doing much to teach authors their 
rights and to expose the dishonest practices of publishers. Its 
founder, Walter Besant, campaigned vigorously to bring literature 
under the control of generally accepted business principles. By 
brandishing the term "literary property" in the society's periodical, 
_The Author_, he succeeded in promoting the view that authors, 
while they were primarily artists and worked for other than 
financial motives, were entitled to a fair share of whatever money 
their work might earn. Gissing joined the society because he felt 
that the service of its secretary, Colles, in marketing his stories, had 
put him under an obligation, but it was a natural thing for him to 
do. He had to see Colles often, he had dined at the Authors' Club 
more than once with Roberts, and he knew some of the members, 
including Shorter and John Davidson. In addition, he had now 
accepted, though with considerable distaste, the need for the kind 
of help in selling his work that the society could give.

Gissing's work proceeded under difficulties, for Walter, who had a 
bad cold, had to be taken south for the winter, and this involved a 
number of moves. From February until April of 1894 the family 
lived in lodgings in Hastings, St. Leonard's, and Eastbourne. (Miss 
Collet lived near them in Hastings for a week, and Gissing saw her 
every day.) Under these inconvenient conditions Gissing completed 
"Miss Lord," which was soon retitled _In the Year of Jubilee_.

A sprawling story about marriage problems and the corruption of 
values in industrial society, it covers a great deal of ground by 
shifting its attention frequently over a large group of loosely linked 
characters. Its central plot is concerned with Nancy Lord and Lionel 
Tarrant, two young people who find that the marriage they are 
compelled to enter into interferes with their independence. Because 
a provision of her father's will makes it necessary for her to conceal 
her marriage, Nancy has her child in secret, supports herself, and 
endures Tarrant's neglect without losing courage. Tarrant, who likes 
the freedom of a bachelor's life, believes that the best married life 
is a separate one, yet at the same time he is jealous of Nancy's 
affection and her reputation. Ultimately these two strong-willed 
people settle down to a more or less conventional married life, after 
overcoming the barriers of temperament that stand in their way.

-- 196 --

Because _In the Year of Jubilee_ suffers from a lack of tone and 
from the sketchy development of its major characters, its minor 
elements are unusually prominent. Possessing little plot value, they 
are important as illustrations that repeat and augment the book's 
central ideas. Nancy Lord, for example, is surrounded with 
characters who are beset, in different ways, with difficulties arising 
from the changing status of women. The dire results of reforms in 
women's education are illustrated by the French sisters, 
_parvenues_ whose superficial studies and fashionable frocks 
hardly disguise the quarrelsome selfishness characteristic of 
Gissing's slum women, and by Jessica Morgan, whose frantic 
preparation for university examinations, undertaken without any 
real incentive or love of knowledge, results in a pathetic emotional 

A second major concern of _In the Year of Jubilee_ is the influence 
upon society of the lower classes to which mass education and mass 
production had given new power. This new social force is 
symbolized by the idle holidaying crowds that pour through the 
streets (luring the celebration of Victoria's Jubilee. The characters of 
the book drift through this menacing tide of humanity, meeting and 
parting at the random mercy of the crowd. The gross materialistic 
aspirations of the vulgar are expressed by Luckworth Crewe, a 
suitor of Nancy's who is in the process of raising himself by 
unscrupulous means from low social origins. Clever, greedy, and 
obsessed by thoughts of fortune, he exploits the new force used to 
direct the power of mass production and mass thought - 
advertising. Crewe represents the phenomenon that Gissing feared, 
the low risen to places of authority; extremely knowing and 
energetic, he is blind to any but material values and unhampered 
by moral or spiritual convictions, a man capable, in Gissing's view, 
of infinite destruction.

The most abject worshipper of the materialist superstition of 
progress, however, is Samuel Barmby, one of Gissing's most 
savagely satirical character creations. His maiden sisters maintain 
their old-fashioned middle-class ways; they leave home rarely, read 
Evangelical periodicals, and lead a kind of life whose greatest 
events are Chapel functions and headaches. Samuel, on the other 
hand, leads a vigorous, though pointless, social life. His 
memberships in a debating society and an excursion club enable 
him to glory in the achievements of progress and industry, which 
he usu-

-- 197 --

ally describes in overwhelming statistics. The Barmby family is a 
microcosm of the change taking place in middle-class customs. The 
narrow-minded, stubborn, independent bourgeoisie described by 
Matthew Arnold in "My Countrymen" was being superseded by a 
generation born to comfort which combined attitudes of the old 
aristocracy and the new democracy. They were capable of 
amusement, and even of culture, but they still believed, as their 
fathers did, that money was the only' reality, and that civilization 
was primarily a matter of production. The rapaciousness and 
unscrupulousness that Gissing associated with commerce is found in 
the dress-shop scheme of Beatrice French, an enterprise calculated 
to succeed by bilking ignorant women. With the aid of Luckworth 
Crewe, Beatrice plays upon the parsimony and snobbery of 
bourgeois women, and achieves a dazzling financial success that 
Gissing felt to be perfectly typical of the ideals of a materialistic 
society indifferent to moral values.

Whatever is vivid or vigorous in _In the Year of Jubilee_ is the 
product of Gissing's animosities. His experience in writing short 
stories seems to have led him to think in terms of the vignette, for 
while there are excellent patches of characterization or description, 
the novel's larger qualities are unusually weak. The plot, 
unnecessarily intricate and artificial, contains a number of 
anomalies. Nancy writes a novel in order to support herself, but she 
does not publish it and, of course, makes no money from it. A 
peculiar matron named Mrs. Damerel sits behind the scenes, 
wielding an unaccountable influence over the characters; her own 
motives and personality are rather confused, and they are hardly 
clarified by the revelation that she is Nancy's mother.


For two years after completing _In the Year of Jubilee_, Gissing 
occupied himself with shorter tales and stories which enabled him 
to capitalize on his growing reputation. His short stories have 
neither the social idealism nor the earnestness of his earlier work, 
but they are usually interesting nevertheless. Some of them deal 
with the manners of lower-class people like those in _The Nether

-- 198 --

World_. Others exploit the quaintness of character exhibited by 
helpless bibliophiles, underdogs, and social outcasts, often 
displaying sympathy but ending with a cruelly ironic twist.

He wasted all of May, 1894, in unsuccessful beginnings of the serial 
requested by Shorter. Once during this interval he made a trip to 
Halesworth, where his father was born, and found the record of his 
birth in the church register. He greatly enjoyed seeing the place and 
talking to the sexton, whose father had been a schoolmate of 
Thomas Gissing. After buying, at the railway station, a copy of the 
_Illustrated London News_ that carried one of his stories, Gissing 
thought that his father would have been proud to know that his son 
would one day buy his own "literary work" at Halesworth.

Only after giving up the house in Brixton and moving his family to 
lodgings in Clevedon for the summer did Gissing succeed in making 
progress with the serial. _Eve's Ransom_, which was finished on 
June 29 after twenty-five days of actual writing, is primarily a 
story of love and character, with both ingredients present in the 
thinnest amounts. It concerns a young man of humble origin, 
Maurice Hilliard, who, coming unexpectedly into some money, is 
enabled to cultivate his obsession with Eve Madeley, a girl from his 
own town and social class. Although Eve is mysteriously and 
unhappily involved with a married man, Hilliard forces himself 
upon her, buys her company with money, which she seems to need 
badly, and suffers patiently through her indifference. He tells 
himself that her sense of obligation prevents her from loving him, 
but he later finds that she has been interested in another man, 
whom she marries. When the two meet later, Eve thanks him for 
the double ransom: the money he gave her, which enabled her to 
save her old lover, and his forbearance in not forcing her to accept 
himself. Hilliard feels that both sacrifices have been justified by the 
fact that Eve has turned out to be a genuine English lady and has 
overcome her proletarian background, but the real point of the 
story, Gissing told Bertz, was that she was not really worth his 
trouble. The book displays an unaccustomed deftness. However, in 
deliberately avoiding character exposition, Gissing exposed more 
clearly than ever the coincidences and weak motivations that 
always marred his plots.

Shorter was eager to have the manuscript of _Eve's Ransom_ early

-- 199 --

in order to give the illustrator time to work, but the art work itself 
became the cause for the delay of the serial's appearance. The artist 
chosen by Shorter was Frederick Barnard, the brilliant illustrator of 
Dickens' works, who was a heavy drinker. Gissing found some of the 
drawings Barnard submitted in August unsatisfactory. When he 
went to see him about the matter in September, a month before 
_Eve's Ransom_ was scheduled for publication, he found Barnard 
drunk, living in poverty, and hopelessly out of control. Eventually 
the illustrations were done by another artist, and _Eve's Ransom_ 
ran in the _Illustrated London News_ from January to March, 1895. 
It was published as a six-shilling volume by Lawrence and Bullen in 
April, sold well, and went into a second edition before the end of 
the month.

His disturbing home life and his interest in stories and short 
projects that would bring in money prevented Gissing from 
undertaking another novel for some time after _Eve's Ransom_ was 
completed. He spent the end of the summer in desperate house 
hunting, and only after moving Edith and Walter into lodgings for a 
time did he succeed in finding a house in Epsom early in September.

The diary entry of October 10, 1894, marks the point at which 
Gissing began to realize that his marriage might become too great a 
hardship for him to bear. He had given up hope of winning 
affectionate companionship from Edith within two years after their 
marriage. her bad temper and vulgarity made his home life a daily 
ordeal. Now, in addition, after the birth of the child, her 
incompetence as a mother and housekeeper overwhelmed him with 
difficulties. Not long after moving to the new house in Epsom he 
recorded in detail one of her quarrels with the servant and her 
abuse of Walter, saying that he could not continue to live with her if 
it were not necessary for the child's sake. In later years when he 
became intimate with H. G. Wells and his wife, he told them flatly 
that he could not invite them to his home. "Impossible," he is 
quoted as saying, "- quite impossible. I have to dismiss any such 
ideas. I have no home." *7*

Perhaps because of the uncomfortable atmosphere at home, Gissing 
now changed his habits of seclusion, and began to dine out often, to 
make visits, and, somewhat reluctantly, to befriend other writers. 
When he attended his first Society of Authors dinner on October 19, 
1894, he found it to be "a mere gathering of

-- 200 --

tradesmen." He had become known, through _New Grub Street_, as 
a spokesman for the society's aim of improving the economic 
conditions under which writers worked, but he disapproved of it 
nevertheless, and for a characteristic reason; in the manners and 
conversation of its members he found damning evidence in support 
of his book's contention that literature was becoming nothing more 
than a business. Although he was extremely critical of Walter 
Besant, Marion Crawford, and Anthony Hope, whom he met at the 
society's dinner, he accepted an invitation to a second dinner, held 
in November in honor of Hope, whose _Prisoner of Zenda_ had been 
a great success that year; Gissing even bought a dress suit for the 
occasion. This time he sat next to Besant, the leading spirit of the 
society, whom he considered largely responsible for the 
commercialization of literature. His diary comment about Besant is 
unsparing: "Commonplace to the last degree; a respectable draper." 
He was somewhat more charitable, even cordial in fact, toward 
writers he met at private luncheons and gatherings; these included 
John Davidson, who presented him with a copy of his _Ballads and 
Poems_, W. Robertson Nicoll, Sir Edmund Gosse, Grant Allen, Edward 
Clodd, and C. F. Keary.

His letters to Bertz, which had once spoken piercingly of his 
loneliness, now complained that he was deluged with invitations. 
Nevertheless, he accepted a number of them willingly as a refuge 
from his life at home, which had become so troublesome that one 
day in May, l895, Edith's "blackguardism" drove him from the 
house. He was no longer the shy youth of his early twenties, or the 
soured and withdrawn man of his early thirties, but an urbane 
gentleman whose unhappy private life gave him a certain reserve. 
W. Robertson Nicoll, who knew him at this time, said: "He looked 
like the very last man to have cultivated an intimacy with the 
slums. He was well dressed, bland, debonair and communicative. . . 
." *8* The civilized company into which he often went did little to 
meet his need for warm understanding; his deep loneliness 
persisted, so that he created a grave, dignified, and aloof 

In June of l895 Gissing was one of a party of literary men who 
spent a weekend at the home of Edward Clodd in Aldeburgh, 
exchanging the news and gossip of the profession and even doing 
some business. He was pleased with Grant Allen, whom he found 
genial and open, and who must have aroused his envy. Not only

-- 201 --

had Allen made a thousand pounds from his book _The Woman 
Who Did, in royalties that continued to come in at the rate of 
twenty-five pounds a week, but he told Gissing that he was 
genuinely fond of his wife. "Says his wife suits him admirably," 
wrote Gissing in his diary in a mood, one imagines, of quiet wonder, 
"and shares his views of sexual matters. *9* The ubiquitous Shorter 
was as also at Aldeburgh, and Gissing came away from the weekend 
with an agreement to write six short stories and twenty "sketches" 
for him.

Many of the writers he knew belonged to the Omar Khayy‡m Club, 
a dinner club of men active or interested in literature, whose 
dinners he began to attend in l895, being elected a member in 
December of that year. Gissing's first Omar Khayy‡m dinner in July, 
l895, seems to have been the most important social occasion of his 
career. Held in honor of Meredith, it took place at the Burford 
Bridge Hotel near Box Hill, and Gissing attended as a guest of 
Clement Shorter. When Meredith, now a deaf, garrulous, and 
lionized old man of sixty-seven, came in after dinner, the company 
rose and applauded. Meredith went around the table to greet the 
guests, who included Hardy, Henry Norman, W. Robertson Nicoll, 
Max Pemberton, L. F. Austin, George Whale, William Sharp, and 
Theodore Watts. When someone presented Gissing, he said, no 
doubt remembering _The Unclassed_, "Mr. Gissing! Ah, where is Mr. 
Gissing?" before shaking hands with him.

Meredith gave a short speech, and Hardy spoke afterward, referring 
to the time, twenty-six years earlier, when he had first met 
Meredith. Actually, the occasion had not been a very pleasant one, 
for it had fallen to Meredith's lot to advise Hardy that his first 
novel, _The Poor Man and the Lady_, which had been accepted by 
Chapman and Hall, was too radical and had better be withheld from 
publication after all. After Hardy had concluded his talk, Gissing 
was surprised to find himself spontaneously called upon to speak, 
as another novelist who had dealt with Meredith as a young man. 
He rose and told the story of the publication of _The Unclassed_, no 
doubt omitting his grievance over the delayed check. After dinner 
he spoke briefly with both Hardy and Meredith, promising each 
that he would soon come to visit. The report of this dinner in _The 
Chronicle_ grouped Meredith, Hardy, and Gissing as the three most 
important novelists of the day, but Gissing,

-- 202 --

who remembered his speech with embarrassment, feared that this 
exaggeration would harm his career.

His feeling was that he had a firmly established reputation, but only 
with a small, choice reading public. Actually, his public, both in 
England and abroad, had been growing slowly but steadily. Each of 
his novels since _Demos_ had been reprinted for mass distribution 
in inexpensive single-volume form; some had appeared in the 
editions published expressly for the foreign market by Tauchnitz 
and by Heinemann and Balestier; and his more recent novels had 
been published or distributed in America, Australia, and the 
colonies. Translations into French and German had appeared, and in 
1892 Gissing learned that a German translation of _New Grub 
Street_ was running as a serial in a Budapest newspaper.

In watching over the growth of his reputation, Gissing attributed 
importance to references to himself and his books in popular 
periodicals, particularly valuing casual allusions which suggested 
that he was already known to the public. A little entanglement of 
September, l893, had produced some publicity of the sort that he 
considered useful. In reading a review in the _Times_ of a book 
called _The Social Problem_, by the Reverend Osborne Jay, he 
noticed that a passage quoted from the book contained several 
complete sentences from _The Nether World_. Gissing's letter of 
protest to the _Times_, printed under the heading, "Borrowed 
Feathers," elicited a pleasant scattering of comments in other 
publications. The Reverend Mr. Jay wrote to say that he had meant 
to quote the passage, and a letter from the proofreader confessed 
that he had been responsible for omitting quotation marks. The 
difficulty was settled so amicably that Mr. Jay continued to 
correspond with Gissing, and at Christmas, 1894, invited him to pay 
a visit, an invitation which Gissing accepted in March, l895. Early in 
January, l895, he began to find references to himself in the press 
multiply mg. On January 2 he observed that a recent issue of the 
Times had carried a notice about a lecture on him given in Paris by 
a French critic. Within two weeks after _Eve's Ransom_ began its 
run in the _Illustrated London News_ on January 5, he noticed that 
he had been mentioned in four periodicals. At about the same time, 
he was astonished to receive a request for a novel from Smith, 
Elder, who had rejected _Born in Exile_ unread. "I never considered 
it possible,"

-- 203 --

he wrote, "that they would come to me. Times are altered." *10* 
Even his bank balance was prospering; by the end of 1895 it had 
reached the very satisfactory total of £560.

The demand for a second edition of _The Unclassed_ in 1895 
indicated a clearly perceptible growth of interest in Gissing's work 
and career, particularly among literary people. Gissing had heard of 
some inquiries about it in 1893. W. Robertson Nicoll reported that 
Hardy, when asked if there were any young novelist he liked, had 
named Gissing and described _The Unclassed_. When Lawrence and 
Bullen proposed that it be republished, Gissing revised it, 
eliminating whole scenes, descriptions, and episodes, as well as 
altering details of style. The changes seem to have been dictated by 
two motives: making the narrative more swift and direct, in 
accordance with the newer fictional style, and toning down the note 
of social protest.

Gissing's next story after _Eve's Ransom_ was a thirty-thousand 
word novelette, _Sleeping Fires_, written between January and 
March, 1895, for the firm of Fisher, Unwin, who paid £150 for it. A 
weak effort that made use of Gissing's Greek voyage for its setting, 
it tells of a middle-aged Englishman named Edmund Langley, who, 
while staying in Athens, meets attractive young Louis Reed and 
offers to help overcome his guardian's objection to his marriage 
with an older woman. The guardian, Lady Revill, is a sweetheart of 
Langley's youth, and when he returns to England to plead Louis' 
cause, he learns that the boy is his illegitimate son by another 
woman. Louis dies in Greece, and his death has the effect of 
drawing the two former lovers together again.

During the early part of 1895 Gissing considered editing for the 
Muses' Library series, published by Lawrence and Bullen, a volume 
of the works of Crabbe, a poet in whom he found a congenial 
realism. The editor of _To-Day_, Jerome K. Jerome, had approached 
Gissing through Colles, asking him for a series of five hundred-word 
character sketches. Gissing devoted some time to this task in March, 
and the series, entitled "Nobodies at Home," was published in the six 
numbers of _To-Day_ which appeared between May 4 and June 8, 
1895. A short statement on realism for the _Humanitarian Review_, 
a novelette called _The Paying Guest_, a large number of stories for 
Shorter, and the revision of _The Unclassed_ occupied him

-- 204 --

for the rest of the year. While in the midst of this work he wrote to 
Bertz that he intended to refuse future requests for short stories, 
for he needed more space if he were to do good work.

_The Paying Guest_ was written, after a number of false starts, in 
the first two weeks of July, 1895, on commission for Cassell's Pocket 
Library; it is the best of Gissing's heavy attempts at comedy, a little 
intrigue about a girl from the lower section of the middle class who 
seeks to rise into the middle part of it by taking lodgings with a 
suburban family. But the mariners of her own social level are too 
firmly established to be reformed. Instead of profiting from her 
new environment, she gives way to restlessness and temper, 
disrupting the household with unwelcome visitors and, as a climax, 
a fire in the drawing room. She finally returns to her proper sphere, 
to the relief of her hosts, by marrying the sturdy young man who 
has been pursuing her.

In September, accepting the invitations he had received at the Omar 
Khayy‡m dinner, Gissing visited Meredith twice and Hardy once. 
During his talk with Gissing, Meredith made a plea for imagination 
in fiction; also, he annoyed his visitor by his deferential behavior 
toward a titled lady who called while Gissing was there. Gissing's 
visit to Hardy took the form of a weekend spent at Max Gate. Hardy 
talked about his current writing, _Jude the Obscure_, and reported 
that he was finding it difficult to avoid impropriety in narrating the 
scene where Arabella attracts Jude's attention by flinging a pig's 
pizzle at him. Gissing thought hardy inferior to Meredith in intellect, 
culture, and even in knowledge of country things. He sensed a 
"coarseness" in him attributable to his poor parentage, and found 
fault with him for cultivating his social superiors. Gissing's account 
of his conversation with Mrs. Hardy suggests some of the reasons 
for the unhappiness of Hardy's first marriage. She told Gissing, who 
was practically a stranger to her, that she found it hard to live with 
a man "of humble origin," and that their frequent visits in London 
were a nuisance. "Oh, a painful woman!" exclaimed Gissing in his 
diary account of the visit.

Having been elected a member of the Omar Khayy‡m Club, Gissing 
attended the December 6 dinner at Frascati's, thoroughly enjoying 
the conviviality of the occasion and the experience of receiving 
many invitations. In January of 1896 he joined a dinner group of 
writers which included C. F. Keary, John Collier, and

-- 205 --

Shorter; together they abused the new poet laureate, Alfred Austin. 
At this gathering Shorter told the story of the acquisition of the 
Charlotte Bront‘ manuscripts, which were to form the basis of his 
work on her. He said he had paid Charlotte Bront‘'s widower, 
Arthur B. Nicolls, five hundred pounds for them, but Gissing 
suspected that the amount was exaggerated.

Toward the end of December, 1895, Gissing resolved to give up 
short stories, and on the first day of the new year he began to make 
notes for a full-length novel. The work was interrupted, however, 
by difficulties at home. The birth of a second son, Alfred Charles, on 
January 20, disrupted the household; Gissing had to take charge of 
Walter and sleep on the sofa for a few nights. Things had hardly 
settled down when, at the beginning of March, some gasfitters who 
were "laying on" the gas caused an explosion that created a 
considerable amount of damage and made it necessary for the 
family to take shelter elsewhere while the repairs were in progress. 
Another crisis occurred in April, this one caused by Gissing himself. 
lie had been watching Walter's development with proud interest, 
noting such things as his ability to memorize the copy of 
_Struuwelpeter_ given him by Miss Collet, and he now came to the 
conclusion that the boy must be raised away from the quarrelsome 
atmosphere of his home. Taking him on what was supposed to be a 
visit to his two aunts and his grandmother in Wakefield, Gissing left 
the boy in their care. He returned home after a delightful tour in 
Chester and Wales at the end of April, resigned to the necessity of 
facing the inevitable scene with Edith.


Work on his new long novel was slowed by a variety of causes. He 
went out so often that, he wrote to Bertz, he feared he was getting 
to know too many people; he wrote some short stories, one of them, 
"A Yorkshire Lass," for the short-lived periodical, _Cosmopolis_; and 
during the winter he suffered from a serious cough. In June he 
attended a dinner at the Savoy in honor of _Cosmopolis_, at which 
Frederic Harrison spoke. Gissing had not seen Harrison for years, 
although he had written to him in November, 1895. About a month 
after the _Cosmopolis_ dinner, he went to visit the Harrisons

-- 206 --

in the country, where he met his two former students. Austin was 
preparing to enter the Foreign Office, and Bernard had spent five 
years studying art in Paris, had just sold his first picture, and had 
become a Catholic, a step which Gissing attributed to his 
nervousness of temperament.

Gissing made some interesting new acquaintances in 1896. At a 
National Club luncheon Edmund Gosse introduced him to Austin 
Dobson, Andrew Lang, and Israel Zangwill. At an Omar Khayy‡m 
dinner in November, he met a young writer named H. G. Wells, who 
told him that _New Grub Street_ was an exact picture of his own life 
at one time, for he had lived in a fiat near Regents Park as a 
struggling author with a wife named Amy. Wells had written 
agreeable reviews of _Eve's Ransom_ and _The Paying Guest_, while 
Gissing had been following Wells's work. Gissing accepted an 
invitation to visit Wells and his wife in December, writing in his 
diary the comment, "He seems the right kind of man." *11* This was 
the beginning of a warm friendship, which lasted until Gissing's 
death. Though there were certain reservations on both sides, 
Gissing's relationship with Wells stimulated and comforted him and 
did much to break down his solitary habits.

Wells's origins were somewhat similar to Gissing's (his father had 
been a shopkeeper in Bromley), but he was very different in 
intellect and temperament. He was cheerful, aggressive, resilient 
and insensitive to adversity. After an embattled adolescence as an 
apprentice in drapers' shops and an assistant at a grammar school, 
he won a scholarship in 1884 to the Normal School of Science in 
London, where he studied under Huxley. Here he acquired a 
scientific education, but his boredom with the work eventually led 
to academic failure. There followed a period of miscellaneous 
educational work and poverty in London lodginghouses while he 
absorbed socialism and enlightenment and composed literary 
efforts of all sorts, which were (with a single chance exception) 
rejected by editors. His resemblance to Gissing and Gissing's early 
heroes was only superficial, however, for he was made of durable 
stuff, and took adversity in stride. Poor health and an 
uncomfortable marriage and divorce hardly interfered with his 
development. Through a combination of persistence and ingenuity 
he sold an article to the _Fortnightly Review_, caught the attention 
of some editors, and eventually placed a revision of a youthful 
fantasy, _The Time Ma-

-- 207 --

chine_, as a serial in 1894. It was the beginning of a swift success. 
By the time he met Gissing in 1896, Wells was fairly begun on a 
lucrative career as a writer of science-fiction novels and stories. His 
income had already gone up to over a thousand pounds, he was 
vigorously courting gentility and literary friends, and was soon to 
branch out into other kinds of writing.

It is surprising that the friendship prospered as well as it did. To 
Gissing, Wells's speech and manner must have seemed unbearably 
proletarian. His education was a vast assemblage of scientific lore 
assimilated by a retentive mind in preparation for endless 
examinations; he was ignorant of languages, living or dead, and had 
never been out of England. Wells, on his side, considered Gissing 
confused, ineffectual, and repressed, and blamed his old-fashioned 
education for the preoccupation with classical learning that had 
made him a misfit in the dynamic society Wells himself fell in with 
so successfully. Nevertheless, the two felt a strong affection for each 
other and enjoyed each other's company. Gissing admired Wells for 
his success in educating himself, and thought him a talented man. 
Even more important, he felt able to confide his marital difficulties 
to him, and to turn to him for advice and sympathy.

The novel Gissing was working on in 1896, _Benedict's Household_, 
apparently incorporated some of his unhappy family experiences, 
but it was laid aside before the end of summer when he turned to a 
new novel, completed on the eighteenth of December, 1896, which 
was ultimately titled _The Whirlpool_. It was difficult work, 
requiring much rewriting. "I often marvel," he wrote to Bertz, "at 
my own stubborn patience." *12* _The Whirlpool_ is both a subtle 
psychological study of marriage and a criticism of the 
commercialism and libertinism of the nineties. Its protagonist, 
Harvey Rolfe, a bookish middle-aged bachelor, sees modern life as a 
whirlpool of uncontrollable and irrational forces that sweep 
individuals to their doom. When the Britannia Loan Company fails 
through irresponsible speculation, spreading hardship far and wide 
among innocent families and causing two suicides, Rolfe is divided 
between acceptance of the inevitable and sympathy for the victims 
of the crash. He is grateful "that no theological or scientific dogma 
constrained him to a justification of the laws of life."  *13* All the 
activity and energy of modern life seem to Rolfe to be aimed at 
"artificial necessities" and to contradict natural human feelings and

-- 208 --

desires; he congratulates himself on having avoided "the whirlpool" 
by remaining single.

But it is not long before he involves himself in it by marrying the 
talented and ambitious Alma Frothingham. Eager to succeed as a 
concert violinist, and to be recognized socially, Alma cultivates the 
company of poseurs, dilettantes, and opportunists, allowing herself 
to be flattered and cheated by them and engaging in illogical 
rivalries and irresponsible flirtations. All this leads Rolfe to realize 
that he has lost the quiet, peaceful life he loved. As Alma, deeply 
troubled by neurotic fears and cravings, grows away from him, 
Rolfe comes to feel that his life is bleak and empty, and that his 
only happiness comes from his little son. Eventually, Alma is 
trapped in one of her own intrigues. She is discovered in the house 
of a predatory bachelor by a jealous husband who mistakes her for 
his own wife and kills the man he takes to be her seducer. Feeling 
that she is responsible for this crime, Alma hysterically protests her 
innocence to Rolfe, but his assurances that he believes her are not 
enough, and she kills herself with an overdose of sedative. 
Afterward Rolfe lives in the country with his little boy, feeling 
himself to be freer than he was while his wife was living.

_The Whirlpool_ is Gissing's most perceptive study of the 
psychology of marriage. The Rolfes agree, in marrying, that 
marriage is a state of freedom, and at first Alma freely chooses to 
give up her musical and social activities and to move to the country 
in order to lead the kind of quiet life her husband prefers. But Rolfe 
senses her subconscious resentment at this sacrifice, and insists that 
she follow her real desires. Alma cannot do this, however, without 
experiencing feelings of guilt which she tries to ease by telling 
herself that her husband is unfaithful to her. When Rolfe clears 
himself she finds no comfort in the truth, for she is left to bear the 
burden of remorse for her own selfishness; she grows preoccupied 
and ill, and finally collapses altogether.

Like Hardy's novels, _The Whirlpool_ gives the impression that life 
is ruled by a malevolent determinism. In social affairs, as in 
business, trivial causes produce grotesquely disproportionate 
effects. Alma goes to her fatal rendezvous only to frustrate a friend 
of whom she is jealous, not because she cares for the man; yet this 
frivolous and innocent action sets off a train of events that includes 
murder, imprisonment, and her own suicide. That Gissing pat-

-- 209 --

terned Rolfe upon himself is obvious; he too withdrew from a 
hostile wife to find comfort in his child. But Rolfe learns a lesson in 
middle life that Gissing had known since his youth. At first he 
considers the merchant virtues of competitiveness and self-seeking 
to be necessary evils in a world governed by the cruel laws of 
evolution, but he sees, in reading Kipling's _Barrack Room Ballads_, 
that they may lead to war. His only way of meeting this threat is to 
go for a quiet walk with his son, so that the moral of the book 
becomes something like Ryecroft's observation that".    most of the 
wrong and folly which darken earth is due to those who cannot 
possess their souls in quiet." *14*

Miss Collet, writing to Roberts after Gissing's death, said that _The 
Whirlpool_ reflected his anxieties about Walter, and that the weak 
Rolfe was a remorseful self-portrait. In its revelation of Rolfe's 
thoughts and its depiction of the brittle society surrounding Alma, 
she thought it might he called his truest book. It was a greater 
success, both with the public and the critics, than any of his earlier 
books. The first edition of two thousand copies was sold out in a 
month. The puzzled critics now sought to account for the fact that a 
novelist of Gissing's talent had failed to win much attention in his 
years of work. The _Spectator_ reviewer thought it might he due to 
his "uncompromising" study of character and his interest in 
ordinary people. The _Athenaeum_ attributed it to his pessimism. 
An enthusiastic article by C. White in the _Sewanee Review_ called 
the novel "startlingly modern" in its objectivity and freedom from 
obvious pathos. It praised the book's realism and the clarity with 
which the psychology of the characters was revealed in their 

"Modern" was a word that had long been used by Gissing's 
reviewers to refer to his realism, pessimism, and preoccupation 
with problems peculiar to industrial society. However, his new 
friend, H. G. Wells, gave the word a somewhat different application 
in an article on Gissing published in the _Contemporary Review_, 
which carefully examined the whole sequence of his novels as a 
background to a consideration of _The Whirlpool_. Gissing, he said, 
wrote a new kind of novel primarily concerned, not with individual 
character, but with general social forces studied through their 
effects on individuals. While the operation of such forces could be 
discerned in Dickens and in some of Turgenev's works, said Wells, 
they dominated Gissing's novels, with the result that the latter

-- 210 --

could be called "deliberate attempts to present in typical groupings 
distinct phases of our social order." *15* This gave them a 
"contemporary" quality. As might be expected, Wells objected to the 
"hopeless ideal of scholarly refinement" that appeared in some of 
the novels. He tactfully referred to such weaknesses of Gissing's 
work as "the exponent character" and the tone of personal bias as 
faults that showed signs of disappearing as the novelist developed, 
but Gissing, giving his reaction to Wells's article, wrote that he was 
afraid he lacked the energy for the improvements Wells expected to 


On February 10, 1897, about two months after _The Whirlpool_ had 
been completed, Gissing's situation at home, which he had borne 
with a patience that Roberts considered superhuman, exploded in a 
scene that drove him from the house. Roberts was not present, of 
course, but he said, on the basis of "Maitland's" information: "The 
wife behaved like a maniac; she shrieked, and struck him. She 
abused him in the vilest terms, such as he could not or would not 
repeat to me. It was with the greatest difficulty that I at last got 
him calm enough to meet anyone else." *16*

He went to New Romney, to stay with Harry Hick, an old friend he 
had known at school. Hick, who was a doctor, examined him, and 
recommended that he consult a specialist. Gissing had already been 
warned that the respiratory disorders that had first attacked him 
seriously at Naples in 1890 were now developing into a definite 
disease, and that he had a weak spot in his right lung which might 
prove to be serious. Accordingly, after seeing a physician named 
Philip Pye-Smith, who recommended the air of South Devon, Gissing 
spent the next few months at the little seaside town of Budleigh 
Salterton, which he had discovered in February, 1891, when he was 
living in Exeter.

There followed a pleasant and fruitful interlude of about three 
months and two weeks. Margaret came to stay with him, and Wells 
and his wife joined them for a fortnight; the visit, in Gissing's words, 
"did me a great deal of good." *17* Toward the end of March the 
unsettled Algernon proposed that he solve his occupational

-- 211 --

problem by becoming a clergyman. Interestingly, the author of 
_Born in Exile_ raised no doctrinal objections but approved of the 
plan if the practical obstacles could be overcome, saying that 
Algernon would be a great improvement over the usual clergyman, 
and could do useful work in the church. Reverting to a general 
consideration of his brother's situation from the detached point of 
view that his retreat at Budleigh Salterton gave him, he wrote, with 
characteristic pessimism, that he was glad most of his life was over. 
"It is nothing less than a miracle that we, with our total lack of 
practical strength, have escaped sheer beggary. I wonder, often and 
often, whether this family curse will show itself in the next 
generation. I shall do my best to bring up my boys in a spirit of 
savage egotism." *18*

He seems to have recovered his spirits, however, for it was at 
Budleigh Salterton, while reading a book by Ferdinand Gregorovius 
(no doubt his _Geschichte der Stadt Rom im Mittelalter_), that 
Gissing conceived the idea of writing the historical novel about 
sixth-century Rome that was to become _Veranilda_. His 
preparations for this project were long and thorough; he began by 
reading Cassiodorus' _Variae_, sought out information about St. 
Benedict and the daily life of the period, and laid plans for 
returning to Italy to gather material. He discussed his novel with 
Wells when he came to Budleigh Salterton in April, and it was 
agreed that Wells and his wife should join him in Rome the 
following year. The novel, he wrote to Bertz, was to be the 
fulfillment of an old ambition.

Peace with Edith was established through the intervention of Eliza 
Orme, a friend Gissing had met at dinner with Lawrence and Bullen 
in 1894, and a person who was to play a significant part in his 
family affairs. On May 31, somewhat pacified, no doubt, by the 
recent success of _The Whirlpool_, he returned home, where Edith 
soon joined him.

His main occupation now was serious research into Roman history 
of the sixth century in connection with his historical novel, and he 
persuaded the London Library to purchase some of the books he 
needed. At the same time he was working casually at another 
congenial undertaking, a book-length study of Dickens. On 
December 27, 1896, he had received a note from an old Owens 
College friend, John Holland Rose, asking him to write a book on 
Dickens to be published as part of a Victorian Era Series, and he 
-- 212 --

the assignment as a change from fiction. Lie gathered notes for this 
book throughout the summer and began to reread John Forster's 
_Life of Dickens_ in the early part of August. As a third project lie 
began, on June 8, the humorous novelette, _The Town Traveller_, 
which was written, as he told Bertz, expressly to make money. 
Gissing committed little of his talent to this story. A comic intrigue 
having to do with the search for the rich uncle of a spirited London 
girl named Polly Sparkes, it is notable only for its good-humored, 
though still faintly patronizing, treatment of lodginghouse life, and 
it is hardly recognizable as Gissing's work. The first half was sent to 
Colles before the end of June with the request that he make as 
much as he could from it.

On July 24 Gissing took Edith and the baby to Castle Bolton in 
Yorkshire where Walter later joined them for what proved to be a 
turbulent month's holiday. The chaotic journey was made more 
troublesome by Edith's grumbling and scolding, but Gissing had 
learned that "stern silence" was the best policy for him to follow. 
Her constant ill humor now seemed to be strengthening a half-
formed resolution in his mind to make the earlier separation 
permanent. In the past he had generally kept the misery Edith 
caused him to himself, but on August 17, a day when her behavior 
was worse than usual, he sent Margaret a letter containing a 
detailed account of her actions, telling her the letter was to be kept 
for possible use as evidence. In the next few days Edith's ill temper 
spoiled an excursion to a picturesque mountain torrent and caused 
a disagreement with the landlady's daughter. Determined to escape 
from her, Gissing wrote to Miss Orme that be had decided to spend 
the winter in Italy.

On August 25 Edith's behavior reached a climax, which Gissing 
recorded in his diary as a "crucial instance." Angry at being unable 
to find a small object which had rolled out of the hands of one of 
the children into the room where Gissing was sitting, she imagined 
that Gissing was hiding it to annoy her, and accused him at tea, in 
Walter's presence, of lying to her about it. During the ensuing 
argument she threatened to throw a plate at him. Gissing, grown 
suddenly calm, asked Walter to repeat the words and recorded 
them in his pocketbook to confront her with when she denied 
having said them, as he knew she would. The scene ended as she 
told Walter

-- 213 --

she pitied him for having such an ill-tempered father. "There it is," 
wrote Gissing. "Decisive, I should think, forever." *19*

While his family was on its way home from this holiday toward the 
end of August, Gissing stayed behind at King's Cross Station to meet 
Algernon and turn Walter over to him. As a result, he was alone 
when he met James B. Pinker, the literary agent, in Waterloo 
Station. Gissing rode with Pinker as far as Epsom, and then wrote to 
ask him to handle the American rights of his forthcoming book, 
_Human Odds and Ends_, a collection of his short stories to be 
published by Lawrence and Bullen. Eventually, Gissing was to put 
all his business into Pinker's hands.

At home, Gissing prepared secretly for his Italian trip by reading 
the work of the archeologist Franois Lenormant and making a start 
on the Dickens book, which was to be completed abroad. The 
purpose of his trip, he wrote to Bertz, was to examine the scenes of 
his Roman novel; he thought he might also make use of his 
experiences for a book of "travel-sketches." On September 6 he 
revealed his intention to Edith, who reacted with anger, as he 
expected her to. The household was to be broken up, the furniture 
put into storage, and lodgings were to be found for Edith and the 
child; at the last moment, however, Miss Orme earned Gissing's 
profound gratitude by offering to take Edith in to live with her at a 
reasonable rent. A resentful parting took place on September 17; it 
was the end of a miserable marriage that had lasted nearly seven 
years, for Gissing and Edith were never to live together again.

Gissing suffered one serious disappointment before he left England. 
Early in September his friend Henry Norman had suggested that it 
was time for a collected edition of his novels. Aroused to 
enthusiasm by the idea, Gissing wrote to Bullen about it, saying he 
did not want his work to pass out of circulation. However, when he 
dined with Bullen in London on the evening before his departure, 
the publisher, who had been so helpful about his work a few years 
earlier, met his proposal of a collected edition with pessimism.

-- 214 --




LEAVING London on September 22, 1897, Gissing traveled by way 
of Basle and Florence to Siena, where he soon found a room that 
pleased him at Via delle Belle Arti 18, with a family named 
Gabrielli. At first the intoxication of being in Italy again allowed 
him to take pleasure in small things; a _festa_ was in progress, his 
room commanded a view of the Duomo, the landlady and her sister 
promised to give him good practice in Italian, for they did not speak 
English, and he made the acquaintance of a congenial young 
American lodger named Dunne, who played the zither. He was able 
to work long hours on the Dickens book, in spite of ominous 
indications about his health; a cough that had started in Florence 
left stains of blood on his handkerchief, and he noticed that he was 
losing weight but told himself that he would get more fresh air 
after finishing his book.

Two weeks later, in the middle of October, he was feeling, as he 
wandered about Siena and read an English newspaper, that he had 
been away from home for months. But new developments began to 
trouble him. A gloomy atmosphere prevailed in the boardinghouse, 
for Signor Gabrielli, a bedridden paralytic, was now approaching his 
end. Gissing and Dunne tried to dissipate the sadness with a little 
party held to celebrate another lodger's completion of his military 
service, but weeping could be heard from other parts of the house. 
On October 17 Signor Gabrielli died in strikingly dramatic 
circumstances; a thunderstorm was raging, and Gissing could hear, 
between the loud peals of thunder, Gabrielli's wife crying

-- 215 --

"_Addio_" as she was led from his bedside. Not long afterward the 
entire household, together with its boarders, moved, and Gissing 
was assigned to a pleasant room in the new house.

Here he brought his work on Dickens to a close on November 5, not 
without some weariness and impatience. Although few of its ideas 
are original, _Charles Dickens: A Critical Study_ is a workmanlike 
and engaging book. In spite of his great popularity, Dickens did not 
fare well at the hands of the most discriminating critics of his time, 
partly because his novels lacked realism, partly because the 
philosophy they expressed seemed superficial and naive. Toward 
the end of the century, however, realism was coming to seem less 
inevitable as a canon of excellence in fiction, and this made it 
possible for Gissing to admit Dickens' limitations and express 
admiration for him without seeming inconsistent. Adopting a tone 
of broad tolerance, he examined Dickens' talent on its own terms, 
without applying any external critical standards to it. Essentially, 
his book is an act of homage whose sincerity is deepened by its 
conscientious recognition of Dickens' shortcomings and deficiencies.

The most striking contribution to Dickens criticism Gissing made 
was that of putting the novelist and his work into their appropriate 
sociological setting. He began by attributing two social motivations 
to Dickens: avenging himself on the middle class in retaliation for 
his suffering as a child, and winning the status of a middle-class 
gentleman himself. Then, in a brief review of labor conditions and 
reform legislation between 1812 and 1834, Gissing mentioned the 
historical facts most relevant to the early social novels, adding that 
Dickens' interest in the poor arose from his sympathy with the 
neglected and exploited children described in Parliamentary reports 
on factories and mines.

Most responsible critics had said that Dickens could not properly be 
called a realist, and Gissing agreed with this view, but while others 
had been content to cite flagrant examples of Dickens' distortions 
and exaggerations, Gissing offered some reasons for them. He felt 
that a good deal about Dickens could be explained by his 
wholehearted acceptance of middle-class tastes and feelings. His 
primary aims were not to imitate reality but to please his readers, 
softening and suppressing the facts of life when necessary, and to 
express a simple and familiar moral code. Gissing's discussion of

-- 216 --

this point seems to be indebted to the astute analysis of the 
morality of Dickens' novels in an article by George Stott appearing 
in the _Contemporary Review_ in 1869. Observing that Dickens' 
novels originated in his moral convictions and were embodiments of 
his doctrines, Stott termed him an "Idealist" rather than a "Realist." 
He explained that he was using the term "Idealism" to mean the 
process of locating the types or essences of things, not that of 
ennobling them. Their abundance of details lends Dickens' novels a 
superficially realistic air, but a closer examination, says Stott, 
reveals that the details are usually improbable, and have been 
chosen for their expressive qualities rather than their reflection of 
Adopting some of the distinctions and terms used by Stott, Gissing 
described Dickens' usual method of character portrayal as a process 
of careful selection intended to achieve an "essence" rather than an 
authentic impression of a personage. Mrs. Camp, one of its finest 
products, is constructed of perfectly recognizable materials drawn 
from actuality, but she is not realistic, for she does not make the 
impression that her real-life counterpart would make; she does not 
disgust, but amuses. She is no more than "the Platonic _idea_ of 
London's hired nurse early in Victoria's reign." *1* The difference 
between this method and true realism is the difference between 
Dickens and Hogarth. Dickens idealizes, but Hogarth, says Gissing, ". . 
. gives us life - and we cannot bear it." *2* Gissing thought that 
Dickens was willing to depict life with faithful realism, but that the 
desire to entertain and to support a moral view were far stronger 
motives with him, even if they often led him to falsify actuality. To 
some, Gissing added, this practice would make Dickens unacceptable 
as a serious artist. Indeed, Andrew Lang rejected Gissing's term 
"idealist" as an unjustifiable condemnation of Dickens (though it was 
not intended to condemn) and irritably waved aside such critical 
distinctions as valueless.
In generally approving of Dickens' powers of characterization, 
Gissing dissented from most respectable critics. He said that most of 
Dickens' characters were true to life, but their human nature was 
distorted by the implausible motivations required by Dickens' 
sensational plots. It was no more than a critical commonplace to 
admit, as Gissing did, that Dickens was weakest in depicting normal 
or virtuous characters. An anonymous critic writing in the 
_Westminster Review_ of October, 1864, had pointed out that 

-- 217 --

could not create people who were genuinely admirable or fearful; 
and the author of an article in the June, 1871, number of 
_Blackwood's Magazine_ had said that his inability to portray noble 
individuals debarred him from ranking with the greatest writers. 
Like the _Westminster_ critic, Gissing found the sudden conversions 
Dickens' people sometimes experienced unconvincing. In the 
evaluation of Dickens' grotesque and lower-class characters, 
however, critical opinion was divided. It was common to dismiss 
them as caricatures," and Tame, G. H. Lewes, and Stott all agreed in 
using this word. Stott, in fact, defined Dickens' failure as the use of 
the methods of caricature in fields where they were not 
appropriate. In defending Dickens, Gissing pointed out that he must 
have found much oddity about him in real life, and that 
exaggeration of this quality was a natural result of his "idealism." 
But he denied that Dickens' method was caricature, for he was not 
"broad and simple," but complex and richly detailed; indeed, he 
considered the portrayal of such eccentrics as Micawber to be 
Dickens' great and distinctive power.

Dickens' humor was universally recognized, of course, but Gissing 
was almost alone in feeling that it contained thought as well as wit. 
"The humorist . . . implies more than he can possibly have thought 
out; and therefore it is that we find the best humour inexhaustible, 
ever fresh when we return to it, ever, as our knowledge of life 
increases, more suggestive of wisdom." *3*

The values of Dickens' humor, Gissing said, were that it depicted 
manners vividly, mocked stupidity, and led people to take an 
interest in the serious social questions he treated. Tame had 
remarked on the punitive element in Dickens' satire; but Gissing 
insisted that his satire was never strong enough to alienate readers, 
even when it was directed against "national character." Of all the 
critics, only Tame and Gissing pointed out the English quality of 
Dickens' work, and they disagreed about its significance. Tame held 
up Dickens' narrow-minded, grasping businessmen as embodiments 
of a national fault of character; Gissing, however, felt that Dickens' 
"_Englishness_" and his love of "the homely English race" formed 
the ultimate source of his strength.

Gissing's study of Dickens reflects many of his most characteristic 
attitudes. Unwilling to face the fact that Dickens had unmercifully 
satirized the classical learning he loved, Gissing explained his gibes

-- 218 --

at scholarship as a result of his feeling that his education had been 
inadequate, and he observed that Dickens was willing enough to 
have his sons given the conventional classical education. Stott, who 
shows that Dickens was unable to appreciate the value of any of the 
learned professions, including politics and the law, is more 
convincing. Gissing's prejudice against the theater led him to 
pronounce Dickens' love of the drama "assuredly a misfortune to 
him as author and as man," *4* and to ascribe the melodramatic 
effects and improbable plots of his novels to it. He betrayed envy 
and admiration in describing Dickens' gift for fluent composition 
and in telling of his irresponsibility in beginning a serial story 
without a fixed plan. Thinking, no doubt, of his own very different 
treatment of the subject in _New Grub Street_, he insisted that 
Dickens had not intended _David Copperfield_ to be an honest 
portrayal of the profession of authorship. "The attempt," said 
Gissing, "would have cost him half his public." *5*

In Dickens' treatment of women, especially vulgar and ignorant 
women, Gissing, guided by his own generous knowledge of irate 
landladies, recalcitrant servants, and difficult wives, found 
"incontestable fidelity." Unable to resist a digression on one of his 
favorite grievances, he predicted that, when women won social and 
educational equality, they would see in Dickens' vast gallery of 
scolds, coquettes, and giddy girls a force moving toward the reform 
of "the ancient deformity of their sex.

As might be expected, Gissing did not admire Dickens' sympathetic 
treatment of the poor as a class. He felt that Dickens was not 
entirely successful in dealing with the poor because he was 
reluctant to criticize them. He was skeptical of such lower-class 
"gentlemen" as Tom Pinch and Joe Cargery, though he was forced to 
admit the charm of these characterizations. In evaluating Dickens' 
political position, he passed over the sympathy for the poor and the 
hostility toward the aristocracy, so obvious in his novels, to one of 
his public speeches in which he found a dubious justification for 
arguing that Dickens was no democrat and was unwilling to allow 
the majority to exercise political power. He preferred, says Gissing, 
to put his hope in the sort of private philanthropy personified by 
the Cheeryble brothers and the converted Scrooge; this is the 
attitude that Stott contemptuously called "an expansion of the idea 
of Christmas," and that appeared in Gissing's own novels as a weak-

-- 219 --

substitute for genuine reform. Nevertheless, said Gissing, Dickens' 
feeling that the poor deserved succor, though it may have seemed 
old-fashioned and tame in the days of the Marxists and Fabians, 
was sufficiently extreme to make him a Radical in his own time.

_Charles Dickens_ was successful enough to be reissued in an 
elaborate Imperial Edition, with topographical illustrations and 
notes by George Kitton, after Gissing's death. It also resulted in 
Gissing's becoming involved in a number of other Dickens projects. 
At the request of the publisher Methuen, he wrote prefaces to some 
of the novels for publication in the Rochester Edition of Dickens' 
works. Only nine of the novels were published in this set, and 
Gissing's prefaces to these were later collected in a separate volume 
entitled _The Immortal Dickens_. He also wrote some articles on 
Dickens for magazines and in 1901 was approached by Chapman 
and Hall to do a new biography of Dickens based on Forster's _Life_. 
This was one of the most familiar and beloved of all books to 
Gissing; he had first read it when he was a schoolboy of sixteen at 
Lindow Grove, and he referred to it from time to time in his letters 
and other writings throughout his life. He was too ill to write a new 
biography, but agreed instead to do an abridgment of Forster's 


Soon after finishing the Dickens book in the early part of November, 
1897, Gissing left Siena for Rome and Naples to begin the Calabrian 
journey described in _By the Ionian Sea_. The poor and backward 
province at the toe of the Italian hoot has attracted few sightseers. 
Gissing's book is one of a short line of modest descriptive accounts 
by intrepid English travelers. The others are Henry Swinburne's 
_Travels in Two Sicilies_ (1783), Edward Lear's _Journal of a 
Landscape Painter in Southern Calabria_ (l852), and Norman 
Douglas' _Old Calabria_ (1915). The Neapolitans warned Gissing 
before he left that the country was unpleasant, and at one town he 
visited he was told that they had a traveler only once in a hundred 
years. But Gissing persisted in his aim of seeing the country that 
had once been "_Magna Graecia_," because, as he explained in _By 
the Ionian Sea_, it combined the two cultures that he loved most,

-- 220 --

those of Greece and Rome. Before entering it, however, he took the 
precaution of executing his will at the British Consulate in Naples.

Actually, only an imagination saturated with the past could feel in 
the poverty and squalor of nineteenth-century Calabria any of its 
former historical interest. The only facilities available for Gissing's 
landing at the coastal town of Paola were the arms of two strong 
men who carried him through the surf. After a scenic carriage ride 
inland he found that the inn he had planned to stay at in Cosenza, 
the _Due Lionetti_, was "really alarming." Dilapidated, dirty, and 
smelly, it seemed to have as its only staff a man, either a waiter or 
the proprietor, who wore the shabbiest clothes Gissing had ever 
seen. Cosenza interested him because as the ancient town of 
Cosentia it had marked the furthest point of the Gothic invasion of 
Italy, and it contained the grave of Alaric, the Gothic conqueror. 
While exploring the town's geography in detail, Gissing came to the 
conclusion that the story about the prisoners who had been killed 
after digging Alaric's grave to prevent their divulging the secret of 
its situation was illogical, for the river Busento, which had been 
diverted to cover the grave, was in full view of the town.

After a few days at Cosenza, Gissing traveled by rail to Taranto. 
There he made the acquaintance of the museum director and, in 
spite of his warnings that he was wasting his time, sought out the 
river Galesus, a place mentioned lovingly by Horace. He was 
disappointed, after all, to find that it was less than half a mile long 
and entirely uninteresting. In the same way, his eagerness to see 
Fontanella, a spot near Taranto whose murex shells had been 
famous in antiquity for their purple dye, was turned to disgust 
when he discovered that the spot was occupied by a modern 
arsenal. On November 25 he began to retrace his journey along the 
coast that faced Greece, stopping first at the town of Metaponto, 
which had been a thriving place in antiquity but now seemed to 
consist solely of a railway station. Nevertheless, Gissing, enlisting a 
boy as a guide, made his way to some ancient temples and, 
remembering that Pythagoras had died there in 497 B.C., tried to 
imagine the barren countryside as a fertile and flourishing Greek 

On the evening of the same day he arrived at Cotrone, the ancient 
city of Croton, from whose shore he could see the single sur-

-- 221 --

viving column of a temple of Hera that had once stood on the coast 
nearby. He had planned to visit these remains, but since a fresh 
gale prevented the boat trip, he spent a few days wandering about 
the ugly and depressing town, sketching what he saw. On November 
28 a sudden feebleness and loss of appetite sent him to bed. The 
doctor who came to the Albergo Concordia to see him diagnosed 
"rheumatism" caught from exposure to the wind and recommended 
strong doses of quinine. Confined to bed for several days, Gissing 
was forced to give up his visit to the temple and to find some 
interest instead in observing the people of the inn who attended 
him. The average Englishman, he wrote, would have taken them for 
ragged ruffians, but, through the closer acquaintance forced by his 
illness, Gissing found in his landlady, the kitchen maid, a newspaper 
seller, and the boy who cleaned his room a good deal of kindness, 
pathos, and cheerfulness.

Gissing had often had curiously vivid dreams, which he took some 
care to record, and he found that the quinine he took improved 
them. It seemed to liberate remote subconscious imaginings, so that 
he saw splendid visions of ancient life, street scenes, and armies, 
which astonished him by their unfamiliarity and wealth of color 
and detail. Dr. Sculco, sympathizing with his patient's frustrated 
yearning to see the temple of Hera, did his best to satisfy his 
curiosity by describing the spot and relating some of the customs of 
Cotrone. Norman Douglas, who wrote his book about Calabria some 
eighteen years later, retraced Gissing's steps through Cotrone, using 
_By the Ionian Sea_ as a guide. He sought out some of the local 
people mentioned by Gissing and even talked about Gissing with Dr. 
Sculco, who, however, was rather uncommunicative. As soon as he 
was well enough to leave his bed, Gissing moved on to Catanzaro, 
the next stop on his itinerary, where letters were awaiting him.

He arrived on December 6 and found the air of the mountain town 
invigorating. The English vice-consul there, to whom he had a letter 
of introduction, turned out to be an Italian who spoke no English 
but was overwhelmingly kind and attentive. While sitting in a cafŽ 
in Catanzaro Gissing was struck by the superiority of the 
conversation he heard around him to the sort of talk that would 
have been its counterpart in England. The casual talk of poor

-- 222 --

Italians, he noted, was not profound or closely reasoned, but it 
accorded respect to reason and often dealt, however superficially, 
with abstract subjects.

Gissing's enthusiasm for antiquity plunged him into a last disaster 
before he left Calabria. He was determined to visit Squillace, the 
town where Cassiodorus, the founder of the medieval scribal 
tradition, had set up his two monasteries with their scriptoria. He 
made a carriage trip there through the rain only to find modern 
Squillace "a filthy ruin." The inn was too squalid even for him, who 
had braved the _Due Lionetti_ at Cosenza; it served the only wine 
he had ever found undrinkable. Unable to stay over, he visited 
some of the places mentioned by Cassiodorus and learned from 
some laborers he befriended that the historian's name was still 
associated with local landmarks. Then he left for his last stopping 
place, Reggio di Calabria. While musing on his trip at Reggio, in view 
of Mount Etna, he felt anger at the modern Italians, who were 
destroying the old associations. "These countries," he wrote with 
unreasonable fervor, "ought to he desolate." *6* Just before going 
back to Naples, he was pleased and touched to note, on the first 
page of the museum's registry book, the signature of Franois 
Lenormant, whose book _La Grande grce_ had guided him through 
"_Magna Graecia_."

On his way from Naples to Rome, Gissing spent a night at the Abbey 
of Cassino, which he planned to use for some scenes in _Veranilda_. 
Going up to the monastery in the afternoon on the back of a donkey, 
he was received by the prior, to whom he explained the plan for his 
novel. As he took a frugal supper with the monks and three other 
visitors, he absorbed the medieval atmosphere of the place. After 
sleeping in a comfortable room with an excellent view he explored 
the monastery's grounds in the morning, then took the train to 

In Rome his main employments were gathering material for 
_Veranilda_, by reading historical works at the Biblioteca Vittorio 
Emanuele, and exploring the city minutely. He spent a great deal of 
time with English friends and was curious enough to attend some 
Church ceremonies, including a Requiem Mass for Pius IX held in 
the Sistine Chapel, where he had to wear a dress suit and stand 
throughout the proceedings. When Wells wrote in January to say 
that he meant to come to Rome in accordance with the plans they

-- 223 --

had made the year before at Budleigh Salterton, Gissing busied 
himself to make arrangements, ultimately reserving a room for the 
Wellses at the I:otel Alibert. He himself was still in ill health after 
an attack of influenza and, deciding that life in lodgings was now 
too hard for him, moved into the hotel on February 14, in spite of 
the expense. When Wells and his wife arrived on March 9, the three 
toured Rome vigorously together. A lively group was formed and 
gradually extended as they were joined by Dunne, Gissing's 
American acquaintance from Siena, F. W. Hornung, the future 
author of _The Amateur Cracksman_ and creator of Raffles, and 
Conan Doyle, who was Hornung's brother-in-law. Touring, visits, 
dinners, and conversations brought them together often in the next 
couple of weeks; a kind of climax was reached on April 8 when 
several of these friends dined together at a _trattoria_ and spent 
the rest of the evening at the Hornungs' quarters.

Gissing did little writing in Rome. Soon after arriving he corrected 
the proofs of _Charles Dickens_, which had caught up with him at 
Catanzaro, and in March met a commitment for a short story by 
writing "The Ring Finger." On March 7 he learned from Colles that 
an agreement reached with Methuen about _The Town Traveller_ 
would bring him an advance of £350 for British and American 
rights, more than any of his other books had earned! Disquieting 
news about Edith made it hard for him to concentrate on his work 
at the library. Miss Orme wrote to him regularly, and, while her 
reports had been satisfactory at first, he now began to hear that 
Edith was quarreling with the neighbors and disrupting the 
household. Gissing now began to write to Algernon about various 
places where they might share a house together; it would have to 
be away from London, possibly in the Midlands, with Edith settled 
elsewhere. "What I want," he wrote, "is a _home_ in England, where 
I can know that my books and papers are safe." *7* Toward the end 
of February, Miss Orme wrote that she had found separate lodgings 
for Edith. In a frantic series of notes to Algernon, Gissing asked him 
to spend two days in London at the end of March, moving the 
furniture from the warehouse to the four-room house Edith was to 
occupy, and sent him a list of the furniture together with detailed 
instructions. The complicated arrangements, all directed by letters 
from Rome, were completed by April 1, and on April 4 Gissing 
heard that Edith was settled.

-- 224 --

In the meantime, a legal separation was being planned with the 
help of Miss Orme. In the middle of March Gissing had received 
from an attorney named Brewster a document fixing the separation 
agreement. Miss Orme had suggested that Edith be allowed a pound 
a week for expenses, but Gissing changed this to twenty-five 
shillings, and Brewster continued to negotiate with Edith.

On April 12 the Wellses left Rome for Naples and Gissing entrained 
for Berlin, where he was to see Bertz for the first time since they 
had parted in London fifteen years before. He had taken the 
precaution of writing that he wanted to see no one but Bertz 
himself, for he felt himself "a wretched invalid, weak in body and 
mind." *8* When Bertz met him at the station in Berlin, Gissing 
found that his old friend had aged but was apparently in good 
health. Although he had once planned to come to Germany to live, 
Gissing found much to complain of during the two days he spent 
living in Bertz's house in Potsdam and touring Berlin. He was 
disstressed by the "rampant militarism" he saw about him, and 
complained of "the sheer _commonness_ of it all, after Italy." *9* 
There were many signs of wealth and ambition, but there was little 
beauty. On the whole, he must have been glad to leave Berlin on 
April 18, going, via Cologne, Ostend, and Dover, to Harry Hick's 
house in New Romney, where he arrived at eleven in the evening.


Re-establishing himself in England occupied Gissing for a month. 
After taking a room in London at the Hotel Previtali, he began a 
busy round of business and social visits. First he learned that his 
bank balance was two hundred pounds; then he saw two publishers, 
an old one, Bullen, and a new one, Grant Richards. Then, after visits 
with Roberts, Miss Collet, and Henry Norman, he went up to spend a 
week at Wakefield, where Walter was still living with his mother 
and sisters. On May 6 he rented a house at 7 Clifton Terrace, 
Dorking, and, on a day spent in London to buy furnishings, dined 
with a party that included Clodd, Shorter, Barrie, and G. W. Cable. 
The last two joined him the following evening when they dined at 
Meredith's. On May 20 Gissing moved into his new house, which 
was by now equipped with furnishings and a housekeeper.

-- 225 --

It is significant that he asked the Wellses to come to dinner there 
two days later, for he had never felt able to invite them to his home 
when he was living with Edith. Finding that he had spent seventy 
pounds in setting up his household, he thought it was time to go to 
work, and by June 3 he had written three short stories, which he 
sent to Colles.

Having insured some income in this way, Gissing now for the second 
time in his life tried to write a play. For more than a month he 
worked on a dramatic project called "The Golden Trust." Then, after 
an interlude of a few days spent on a three-act comedy to be called 
"Clare's Engagement," he went back to a new plan for "The Golden 
Trust." After some indecision and such complaints in his diary as 
"Desperate struggle, this," he finished the first act, but got no 

Not long after his arrival in England, Gissing received a novel and 
interesting proposal from the publisher Grant Richards, who offered 
to buy the rights to all of his work for the next five years at a price 
higher than the sum it would ordinarily bring. After considering the 
offer for a month, Gissing accepted it, but on terms that he must 
have known would be refused. Although he had never earned more 
than five hundred pounds a year through his writing (and that only 
in the very best years), he asked Richards for a thousand pounds a 
year, assuring him that he would receive "a fair return in work." He 
described his plans in this way:

     I want to write (I think you know that I write to please 
     myself) two kinds of novel: one running to about 150,000 
     words, the other to some 80,000. I want also to write short 
     pieces of between 3,000 and 10,000 words. As to character 
     of work, that must be entirely my own affair. For twenty 
     years I have written what I thought good in spite of every 
     difficulty, and I cannot Imagine myself being induced by 
     any circumstances to do otherwise. *10*

Richards kept the question open by replying that he was 
considering Gissing's proposal.

Edith was actively seeking Gissing, who was terrified that she might 
find him; he maintained his only contact with her through Miss 
Orme. He asked Roberts to spread the rumor that he was planning 
to live in Worcestershire, near Algernon. "It is not strictly true," he 
wrote, "- but a very great deal depends on my real abode being 
protected from invasion." *11* Early in June he learned from Miss 
Orme that Edith's landlord, grown impatient at her trouble-

-- 226 --

some behavior, had given her notice, and that she had disappeared 
from her lodgings. Later he heard that, acting upon the rumor he 
had planted, she had appeared at Algernon's house in 
Worcestershire. Faced with the necessity of moving her again, 
Gissing urged Miss Orme to prod Brewster into working out a 
separation agreement. His only condition was that Edith was to give 
up Alfred, the younger child. Early in August he learned that she 
had attacked her landlady with a stick and had almost been 
arrested. Half blaming himself for not facing his responsibilities 
with respect to Edith, he wrote to Roberts: "My behaviour is bestial, 
but I am so hard driven that it is perhaps excusable. All work 
impossible, owing to ceaseless reports of mad behaviour in London." 
*12* Before the end of August, Edith, in the first of a long series of 
moves caused by her inability to get along with her neighbors, was 
installed in a new house. Consulting with Brewster, Gissing learned 
that her terms for agreeing to a separation included possession of 
both children. Negotiations were stalemated. One dreadful day in 
September, 1898, the scene Gissing had feared actually took place 
Learning his address from an employee at a warehouse where he 
had stored some furniture, Edith came to sec him, bringing little 
Alfred with her. Gissing told her firmly that they could never live 
together again, and she went away quietly, without arguing. Gissing 
remembered afterward that he had been too agitated to speak to 
Alfred, and that the boy had not paid any attention to him. This was 
the last time he saw Edith or his younger son.

Now that a divorce seemed finally to have become impossible, 
Gissing had a stronger reason than ever for wanting one. In the 
summer of 1898 he had met the woman who was to give him some 
years of happiness, although he was never able to marry her. On 
June 23, the day after he had completed the first and only act of 
"The Golden Trust," Gissing received a letter from "a French-
woman," who asked permission to translate _New Grub Street_.

At first he replied that another translator, Georges Art, was 
interested in the book. However, he agreed to see the French lady 
and asked Wells who was giving him bicycle lessons at this time, to 
invite both of them to lunch at Worcester Park, so that they could 
meet without violating the proprieties. There Gissing and Gabrielle 
Fleury saw each other for the first time, and walked in the garden 
together after lunch. He gave her permission to do the trans-

-- 227 --

lation, though Georges Art later protested at his displacement, and 
Mlle. Fleury soon reached an agreement with the novel's copyright 
holders, Smith, Elder. She came to Dorking on July 26 to report to 
Gissing that her translation would appear serially in either the 
_Journal des DŽhats_ or _Le Temps_. "As explanation of this rather 
extraordinary state of things," he wrote to Bertz, "you must 
remember that I am at present almost as well known in Paris as in 
London - that French papers have abounded in flattering 
paragraphs about me. . . ." *13* Gissing noted in his diary that 
Gabrielle had arrived on the 11:28 and left on the 8:35. The day he 
spent with her convinced him that she was "a sweet and intelligent 
creature." *14* After receiving a letter from her, written in a style 
he greatly admired, he wrote to Wells that "Mile. Fleury has a mind 
of rare delicacy, emotional without emotionalism, sensitive to every 
appeal of art, and rich in womanly perceptiveness." *15* He added 
that he was looking forward to her probable return to England in 

During August and September he wrote introductions for Methuen's 
Rochester Edition of _Pickwick Papers_, _David Copperfield_, and 
_Nicholas Nickleby_. Richards did not accept his offer to sell the 
rights in his production for a five-year period, but he did write 
early in September to inquire about Gissing's next book. Although a 
new novel had not yet been begun, and was hardly thought of at 
this time, Richards promptly accepted Gissing's offer to sell him an 
option on it for twenty-five pounds. At about the same time 
Methuen reported that _The Town Traveller_ had sold 1,400 copies 
in England and 1,000 in the colonies and asked Gissing to send his 
next book when it was ready. This demand for his work was, of 
course, a new experience for Gissing, and he was determined to take 
full advantage of it. Recording the letter from Methuen's 
representative in his diary, he wrote, "I shall make him and 
Richards bid against each other." *16*

Gabrielle Fleury and Gissing continued to write to each other after 
she had returned to Paris to work on her translation. Through these 
letters their relationship changed and deepened; they had met only 
twice, but after a summer of correspondence they were in love. 
Gabrielle returned to England early in October, and after meeting 
her at East Croydon, Gissing took her to Dorking, where they spent a 
week together. Their coming union was by now a settled

-- 228 --

thing. They had many long talks and walks in the neighborhood, 
and read favorite poems to each other, Gissing choosing Browning 
and Tennyson and Gabrielle, Victor Hugo. When they parted, Gissing 
accompanied her for part of the trip home; the lovers were so 
engrossed in each other that they took the wrong train at Dorking, 
and found themselves at the London Bridge station instead of East 
Croydon. Eventually however, Gabrielle took a channel steamer at 
Newhaven. "We have decided," wrote Gissing in his diary, "that our 
life together will begin in the spring." *17*

In reporting these developments to Bertz, Gissing wrote, "The thing 
is a miracle, nothing less." *18* Eight years earlier, in telling the 
same friend that he could not bear his loneliness, he had said that 
he must find some "work-girl" to live with. "Marriage, in the best 
sense, is impossible," he wrote at that time, "owing to my 
insufficient income; educated English girls _will_ not face poverty in 
marriage. . . ." He said that he knew the danger of befriending a 
lower-class girl. "But then, reflect: there is no real hope of my ever 
marrying any one of a better kind - no _real_ hope whatever! I say 
it with the gravest conviction." *19* His marriage with Edith had 
been the outcome of these feelings.

Gabrielle Fleury was precisely the sort of woman Gissing had 
always admired from afar but felt he could never hope to marry. 
Twenty-nine years old at the time she met Gissing, she was 
described by Roberts as a refined, intelligent, charming woman of 
good family. She had an especially melodious voice: "It was perhaps 
the most beautiful human voice for speaking that I ever heard." 
*20* The daughter of a chief of customs at the port of Marseilles, 
where she grew up, Gabrielle had, like Gissing, been an ardent 
student, and had advanced as far as the Brevet SupŽrieur, an 
accomplishment unusual in those days for a girl who was not 
preparing herself as a teacher. She spoke English fluently, knew 
German and Italian, had had a thorough musical education, and was 
an accomplished pianist. She betrayed a certain independence of 
mind, after her family moved to Paris, by going unescorted to call 
on well-known writers and asking for their autographs, a practice 
her family naturally disapproved, but one that led to a number of 
friendships and acquaintances among literary people. At one time 
she had been engaged to the Parnassian poet Sully Prudhomme, 
who was thirty years her senior. Prudhomme wrote some verses to

-- 229 --

her and gave her a valuable collection of holographs, but the 
intended marriage was prevented by a member of the poet's 
family. In spite of her general cultivation and the gift for expression 
revealed in her letters, she apparently never thought of doing any 
literary work until her enthusiasm was aroused by New Grub 

The fact that Gabrielle was his superior socially and had been born 
to a standard of manners he had had to acquire was not lost on 
Gissing. Her parents, "people in comfortable circumstances," lived in 
Passy; she had some "semi-aristocratic" relatives; and she was 
acquainted with intellectual people of several nationalities, 
including a sister of Alfred de Musset, the widow of the German 
poet George Herwegh, and the first wife of the Austrian author 
Leopold von Sacher-Masoch.

Edith's refusal to agree to a divorce presented no obstacle to the 
lovers, for neither Gissing nor Gabrielle had any moral reservations 
about the step they were about to take. Gabrielle was sure of her 
feelings toward Gissing, and her parents made no objections; her 
father was an invalid who was to die before their union took place, 
and her mother approved wholeheartedly of their plans, writing to 
Gissing to tell him so soon after the decision had been made. But 
Gissing, who seems to have been troubled both by his timidity in 
social matters and by his usual reserve in dealing with women, had 
some doubts. The death of Gabrielle's father in January, 1899, 
created a new difficulty, for her new status would have to be 
reflected in the signatures she used on legal documents connected 
with the transfer of his property. Gissing continued to entertain 
futile thoughts about a divorce. He made some inquiries about 
obtaining an American divorce, which could be granted without 
Edith's agreement, and, hearing from Gabrielle that Von Sacher-
Masoch had remarried in Heligoland without divorcing his first 
wife, he urged Bertz to learn the details; but it turned out that he 
had simply concealed his first marriage. After these frustrations, 
Gissing wrote to Roberts, "We have discussed the possibility of 
braving the world with the simple truth. But it is a tremendous step 
for G., whose mother would suffer terribly from the results, I fear. 
She has all sorts of semi-aristocratic relatives; it would be a terrific 
scandal. And, upon my word, I feel that I should be taking a very 
grave responsibility." *21*

Gabrielle, less timorous than Gissing, reassured him by writing:

-- 230 --

"Nous nous marions parce que nous nous aimons, parce que nous 
sommes surs l'un de l'autre, non par convenance mondaine." *22* 
Nevertheless, Gissing told Roberts, they would have to present the 
appearance of being formally married for the sake of Gabrielle's 
relatives. He would have to give up the idea of ever obtaining a 
divorce and would have to live abroad and conceal his whereabouts. 
"You will be the only man in England who knows this story. 
Absolute silence! - it goes without saying," he told Roberts. *23*

After his week with Gabrielle, Gissing's creative powers asserted 
themselves, lust as they had after he had been accepted by Edith. 
Three days after Gabrielle returned to Paris, he began working on 
_The Crown of Life_, noting that he could now keep at his writing 
for hours at a time, and had returned to his old schedule of writing 
from nine to one and five to eight. In spite of his concern about the 
ambiguities of his relationship to Gabrielle and a harassing attack of 
eczema which sent him to see a doctor, he worked quickly, finishing 
the novel by the middle of January, 1899.


_The Grown of Life_ is a love story without a genuine love affair. Its 
hero, Piers Otway, experiences a number of feelings toward women, 
but they are attenuated so far beyond the requirements even of 
Victorian gentility that they arouse suspicions about Gissing's own 
emotions. Piers begins by worshiping some pictures of ideal women, 
displayed in a shop window, which arouse vague and troubling 
aspirations in him. He experiences a stronger form of the same 
emotion when he falls in love with a girl named Irene Derwent. He 
idealizes her as "a pearl of women, the prize of wealth, distinction 
and high manliness." He is, in fact, less in love with Irene than 
dazzled by the manners, refinement, and position he associates with 
her. This thoroughly social passion is brought to a temporary end 
by a social _gaffe_. After being reproached by Irene for coming to a 
soiree' slightly drunk and in inelegant company, Piers gives up his 
hopes of becoming a civil servant, and goes to Russia to work for an 
English importing firm. Having in this way spent a few years 
growing up, he returns to win Irene after all.

Gissing's inability to tell a love story was probably due to the

-- 231 --

fact that his relations with women had always been substitutes for 
love. He could admire refined and educated women intensely from 
a distance, and he could make use of women he did not respect to 
satisfy his sexual needs, but until his meeting with Gabrielle he 
seems to have been unable to commit himself to any other 
relationship. The lovers of _The Crown of Life_ are brought together 
for the happy ending by a common interest in Russian language and 
culture; apparently, Gissing did not think of a more fundamental 
motivation. Worst of all, he took Otway's "passion" quite seriously, 
failing to see that, as H. G. Wells unkindly said, it amounted to little 
more than "love - in a frock coat."

In spite of its insipid love story, _The Grown of Life_ has some 
interest as an expression of Gissing's pacifism. Imperial interests 
had kept Britain on the brink of war almost continuously between 
l895 and 1899, the year of the Boer War. A protracted 
disagreement with France, first over possessions in West Africa and 
then over territories adjacent to the Sudan, had filled the 
newspapers with Empire propaganda and threats of war. Gissing, 
who blamed Imperialism on "the syndicates," hated and feared it as 
a mingling of greed and violence. He had often written to Bertz, 
while the nations of Europe were energetically building up their 
colonies, that it was the mission of men like themselves to keep 
apart from the new barbarism. His letters of the time frequently 
criticize Kipling and the historical tendency he represented; to 
Roberts, who thought that Gissing's pacifism was unrealistic and 
cowardly, he wrote that he detested Imperialism and felt India and 
Africa to be "an abomination."

In _The Crown of Life_ Gissing made some attempt to characterize 
Imperialism and to suggest a remedy for it. Its best representative 
in the novel is Arnold Jacks, a handsome young businessman who 
displays in his personal life, as well as in his attitude toward 
international problems, what Gissing considered typical English 
arrogance. He is an admirer of Lee Hannaford, an ingenious and 
cold-blooded chemist whose specialty is inventing explosives to be 
used in warfare. Otway's brother Alexander, one of the more vivid 
people in the novel, represents the common people who support 
Imperialism. An improvident journalist, he entertains Piers in the 
single shabby room he shares with his wife and child, praising the 
Empire while he grows drunk on ale and chauvinism. In contrast

-- 232 --

with these characters, Jerome Otway, Piers's old father, a vigorous 
mid-century socialist of the school of Herzen and Bakunin, appears 
as a gentle libertarian.

The sympathetic characters in the novel who are opposed to 
Imperialism, draw their inspiration from Russia. The knowledge 
Gissing had about Russia, based, no doubt, on his reading of 
Turgenev, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy, had made him feel that Russian 
spirituality could serve as an antidote to British Imperialism. He 
thought he saw his own opposition to militarism crystallized in its 
purest form in the beliefs of the Dukhobors, who embraced a 
militant pacifism and resisted army service in the name of a mystic 
ideal. Otway is much impressed by the sacrifice of a Russian friend 
who gives up his ambitions to join the Dukhobors. Such actions, he 
says, are the hope of the future, "peace made a religion." Probably 
because he felt they might be interested in his criticism of the 
warlike spirit of the times, Gissing sent copies of _The Crown of 
Life_ to Ibsen and Tolstoy. By coincidence, Tsar Nicholas' "Peace 
Crusade" was reported in the London newspapers in the same week 
that Gissing finished his novel and turned it over to Pinker. It was 
not the first time, he wrote to Bertz, that his writings had 
anticipated such developments.

During his last few months in England Gissing seems to have made 
an effort to see nearly all of his acquaintances. Clodd came to spend 
the night with him on November 12, and on the next day the two 
paid a visit to Meredith at Box Hill and went to meet Roberts, who 
had just returned from South Africa. Gissing went to his last Omar 
Khayy‡m dinner on December 16. At this dinner, or shortly 
afterward, he learned of the situation that had come to light 
following the recent death of Harold Frederic, the London 
correspondent for the New York _Times_, who had been living in 
Europe since 1884. Frederic had done a great deal of distinguished 
reporting in France, Italy, and Russia, and was the author of a 
number of novels about American and English life. He had been a 
hard drinker who turned to Christian Science, and, when he died at 
Henley-on-Thames on October 19 after refusing medical aid, he left, 
in addition to his wife and children, an illegitimate family consisting 
of a mistress and four children. This woman and her children, who 
had, of course, no legal claim upon Frederic's estate, must have 
seemed to Gissing to be innocent victims of the marriage convention 

-- 233 --

himself was wrestling with so bitterly. He contributed two guineas 
to a fund for them and was interested to learn from the fund's 
executor that Frederic's mistress, herself a Christian Scientist, had 
saved him from alcoholism, and that the children were being cared 
for temporarily by the American novelist Stephen Crane, who was 
then living in England.

Another demand on Gissing's resources came toward the end of 
January when, as part of his farewell tour, he visited his family in 
Wakefield. Algernon paid him a visit there, and Gissing, alarmed to 
find his brother in poor health, committed himself to giving him 
£l50 in the next few months in order to enable him to rest. At the 
beginning of February Gissing himself fell seriously ill. It was, he 
wrote to Bertz, "an 'attack of influenza, followed by lung-congestion, 
pleurisy, and all sorts of things." *24* The illness lasted for six 
weeks, leaving him in a weakened condition. By March 22, however, 
he was strong enough to pay a last visit to Algernon in 
Worcestershire, where Margaret and Walter were staying on a 
holiday. He said nothing of Gabrielle. Probably because he knew 
they would disapprove, he kept his family ignorant of his real 
reason for moving to France, so that they did not learn of his 
relationship with Gabrielle until some time later. By May 1 he was 
staying at Lewes, where he awaited Gabrielle's message summoning 
him to Rouen.

-- 234 --




ON THE evening of May 7, at the H™tel de Paris in Rouen, Gabrielle 
and Gissing solemnized their relationship in a private ceremony. 
Mme. Fleury was present at this scene, and in all probability she 
was the only witness. She notified her circle of Gabrielle's new 
status by sending out Gabrielle's visiting card with her maiden 
name canceled and "Gissing" substituted for it in her own writing. 
The day after this ceremony, Mme. Fleury returned to Paris while 
Gissing and Gabrielle stayed at a hotel near FŽcamp. They remained 
on the Normandy coast for nearly a month and went to their 
permanent residence in Paris at the beginning of June.
They lived with Mme. Fleury in her flat at 13 Rue de Siam, a large 
modern apartment house in Passy not far from the Bois de 
Boulogne. Although he was now living under the most pleasant 
physical conditions he had ever known, Gissing had no relief from 
financial pressures. In addition to the sum he had guaranteed 
Algernon, he had to put Walter through school and send Edith two 
pounds a week. Accordingly, he set seriously to work soon after 
arriving in Paris and, after writing three more Dickens prefaces, 
turned to the notes of his Calabrian trip and began By the Ionian 
Sea. The work went wonderfully well. On July 11, after less than 
two weeks of writing, he sent the first nine chapters of the placid 
little travel book to Pinker. The book was completed about a month 
later in the course of a long Swiss holiday, while he, Gabrielle, and 
Mme. Fleury were at Trient. Proofs of _The Crown of Life_ which

-- 235 --

reached him there convinced him that it was "my best book yet for 
style." He had not written short stories for a long time, but in the 
middle of this holiday the striking little tale "Humplebee" suggested 
itself to him. In the first weeks of September they traveled through 
a number of Swiss cities, and at Airolo Gissing enjoyed the chance of 
speaking Italian to the local people.
Soon after returning to the Rue de Siam late in September, 1899, he 
began another novel, "The Coming Man." Although _The Crown of 
Life_ was to meet with a poor reception from reviewers when it 
was published, it brought him £254 at this time for English and 
American rights. The new novel went badly; in addition to his old 
uncertainties, Gissing was depressed by the Boer War, which had 
broken out in June, and the servant's illness disrupted the 
household for a few days. After working at "The Coming Man" for 
about six weeks, Gissing turned to a new project, a novel about 
people who sought inward peace through Spiritualism, Theosophy, 
and "things still more foolish." This book, first called "Oracles," then 
"Among the Prophets," was begun optimistically, for Gissing wrote 
to Bertz that he thought he could make something "exciting" of it. 
But his enthusiasm faded by the time it was completed in February 
of 1900; he complained that financial pressures and the war had 
distracted him. After reading it, Pinker advised him to lay it aside 
for a time before sending it out. "Among the Prophets" was never 
published and never submitted to a publisher. In March, 1901, 
Gissing asked Pinker to burn both of the typewritten copies in his 
possession. In the meantime, in the spring of 1900, he wrote more 
of the Dickens prefaces, spent a few weeks on short stories, and 
ultimately returned to "The Coming Man."
Gissing spent most of April, 1900, in England, where he stayed with 
his family in Wakefield, with Clodd in London, and with Wells at 
Sandgate. The secret behind his residence in Paris was divulged to 
Wells and very probably to Clodd as well. Gissing was now able to 
use Wells as an intermediary with English correspondents, so that 
when Stephen Crane died that summer Gissing sent his note of 
condolence through Wells.
After Gissing's return to France, he, Gabrielle, and Mme. Fleury 
moved to a villa with a large garden in St. HonorŽ les Bains where, 
in spite of periods of hot weather that reduced him to writing in his 
underclothes, he worked steadily at "The Coming Man," complet-

-- 236 --

mg it on August 29. He wrote to Pinker that he considered it the 
best book he had written for some time. It was vital, he thought, 
that "The Coming Man" be published as quickly as possible for all 
sorts of reasons. He needed the money, his public had not had a 
novel from him for years, and in addition: "I am in good working 
trim, and have a novel on hand greatly more important than 'The 
Coming Man,' and decks must be clear for autumn. . . ." *1* The new 
novel could only have been his historical project, first called "The 
Vanquished Roman" and finally, _Veranilda_. In spite of Gissing's 
eagerness for speed, however, the publication of his novel was 
delayed as Pinker negotiated with a number of American firms, 
hoping to secure simultaneous publication in England and America. 
By January, 1901, Gissing was writing with desperate and almost 
pathetic insistence that it must be published no later than the 
spring of that year. Soon afterward there were two favorable bids. 
Chapman and Hall offered £350, and the American firm of Henry 
Holt offered £150. This was excellent news to Gissing, whose 
original price had been £150, but the arrangement caused more 
delay, for the English and American companies could not agree on a 
date of publication. While these transactions were going on, 
Gissing's old difficulty with titles reasserted itself. Holt disapproved 
of "The Coming Man." Desperately, Gissing bombarded Pinker with a 
succession of infelicitous suggestions until, at almost the last 
minute, while he was correcting the proofs in March, he hit upon 
the final title, _Our Friend the Charlatan_.
This book, which was finally published in May, 1901, is a reworking 
of the problem of _Born in Exile_ on a far lower level. Its 
protagonist, Dyce Lashmar, is a poor young man who uses his 
eloquence and personal magnetism to court the favor of an 
eccentric old invalid, Lady Ogram. She is sufficiently impressed by 
Lashmar and the pseudoscientific social theory he has cribbed from 
a French treatise to arrange for him to run as a candidate for 
Parliament against an old enemy of hers. Lashmar, bent on making 
the most of his good luck, falls out of Lady Ogram's favor by 
courting her niece, who is her heiress, instead of following the old 
lady's dictates by marrying her secretary. When Lady Ogram dies, 
Lashmar is caught in the web of his intrigues, for it turns out that 
the secretary is the real heiress. After losing the election, Lashmar 
resigns himself to marrying the unattractive mother of a boy he has

-- 237 --

been tutoring. The book ends as he finds, just after the marriage, 
that his bride's modest fortune has been stolen by its dishonest 
trustee, and that, in spite of his strenuous pursuit of the main 
chance, he has been left penniless.
Unlike Godwin Peak, Lashmar is a wholehearted opportunist, 
incapable of moral conflict or remorse. _Our Friend the Charlatan_ 
does not address itself to a moral problem, as _Born in Exile_ did, 
but is concerned with the simpler satisfaction of showing a villain 
defeated by his own schemes. The ironies of the plot often verge on 
comedy; however, the fact that their victim, the frustrated and 
often ridiculous Lashmar, resembles Gissing in surface particulars 
lends the novel a touch of pathos. Lashmar is bookish and fastidious 
in speech and manner; he believes in aristocracy, supports a 
matter-of-fact feminism, and cannot tolerate the vulgarity of the 
London poor. Accordingly, it seems that this dexterous and farcical 
novel is also an exercise in self-criticism of a particularly 
masochistic kind.
The most interesting aspect of _Our Friend the Charlatan_ is its 
criticism of the application of evolutionary theory to government. 
Capitalists held up evolution as a justification for economic 
competition, which was defended as an inevitable and ultimately 
beneficent variant of the Darwinian struggle. Socialists made a 
somewhat different use of biological theory. Sidney Webb praised 
the collective state as an advanced development in the evolution of 
government, which is precisely the point of view attacked by 
Gissing in _Our Friend the Charlatan_. He clearly saw the pernicious 
implications of this idea, for he had previously put into Denzil 
Quarrier's mouth the words: "Nature gives no rights; she will 
produce an infinite number of creatures only to torture and 
eventually destroy them. But civilization is at war with nature, and 
as civilized beings we _have_ rights." *2*
Two contemporary works stand behind the issue of social evolution 
as it is presented in _Our Friend the Charlatan_. The book to which 
Lashmar owes his "bio-sociological" theory of the state is identified 
in a prefatory note as Jean Izoulet's _La CitŽ moderne_. This work, 
after observing that evolution results in the association of cells, and 
examining the principle of association with its corollary of 
specialization in chemistry and biology, applies it to human affairs. 
"Comme l'animal est une association de cellules, ainsi la citŽ

-- 238 --

sera une association d'animaux. . . ." Izoulet then pursues the 
familiar "body politic" analogy to quaint extremes, comparing the 
different sensory organs of a dog to administrative departments in 
a government, and arguing that the corpus of a state must have as 
its brain an aristocracy. In _Our Friend the Charlatan_ Lashmar 
parades as his own the principle of association. He argues:

     Just as cells combine to form the physiological unit, so do 
     human beings combine to form the social-political unit - 
     the State. . . . A cell in itself is blind motion; an aggregate 
     of cells is a living creature. A man by himself is only an 
     animal with superior possibilities; men associated produce 
     reason, civilization, the body politic. *3*

Gissing opposed to this acceptance of the laws of evolution in 
human affairs the doctrines of Huxley's "Evolution and Ethics," a 
work he had read in l895. Huxley had warned that ". . . cosmic 
nature is no school of virtue, but the headquarters of the enemy of 
ethical nature." *4* Evolutionary principles cannot he applied to 
government, he argued, for the standards of the breeder and 
gardener are completely opposed to those of an ethical, civilized 
society. Organized society is like a garden in which the plants live in 
a "state of Art" created by man as protection against the "state of 
Nature." Both society and the garden exist as defenses against the
competitive and selective forces of the evolutionary process. "Let us 
understand, once for dl, that the ethical progress of society depends, 
not on imitating the cosmic process, still less on running away from 
it, but on combating it." *5*
In the novel Huxley's view is represented by Lord Dymchurch, an 
impoverished young nobleman n in search of a vocation. One day he 
meets a pathetic old man of the kind Wordsworth liked to use in his 
poems, who has grown unable to care for his garden. Dymchurch 
lends him a hand, and while digging, experiences the revelation that 
man's livelihood depends on the conflict with nature. Thus, in the 
very garden of Huxley's analogy he sees that his friend Lashmar's 
acceptance of the system of nature as a principle in human affairs is 
wrong. While Lashmar goes on to tumble disastrously from the 
height of his pretentious theory, Dymchurch sees that it is his duty 
to return quietly to his small farm and learn to cultivate it. Thus, 
the organization of society on scientific principles is made the 
dominant fallacy of _Our Friend the Charlatan_, just as the reconcili-

-- 239 --

ation of science and religion was the dominant fallacy of _Born in 

While working on _Our Friend the Charlatan_, Gissing had returned 
to the problem of bringing out a collected edition of his novels. He 
wrote to Pinker in August, 1900, that Lawrence and Bullen had 
failed to reply to a letter of his, and that he understood they were 
no longer publishing. Lamenting that the books of his to which they 
owned the rights were "lost property," he tried to arrange for these 
rights to be sold to some other firm which would be willing to 
publish a collected edition. His motivation was not his need for 
money, but a fear that his life's work would be forgotten. "Naturally 
enough," he wrote, "I have a certain faith in the vitality of what I 
have written. . . ." *6* Both Methuen and Heinemann displayed 
some interest in the proposal, but Gissing hoped that a "better" 
publisher would eventually make an offer.
in spite of his anxiety over matters of business, which sometimes 
prompted him to write to Pinker twice a day, Gissing continued to 
work steadily. Just two days after finishing _Our Friend the 
Charlatan_, he began what was to he his most successful book, _The 
Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft_. Although most of it was actually 
written in less than two months, between September 1 and October 
24, 1900, while he was living at the Villa des Roses in St. HonorŽ, 
the book had had a long genesis in Gissing's mind. His own 
commonplace book contains some of the ideas which were later 
developed into passages in the  Ryecroft papers, and the thought of 
writing a book of essays with the title "Thoughts and Reveries" is 
recorded in an entry made some time before July, 1887. In 
September of 1900 he wrote to Pinker that he was working on "a 
queer little book - not a novel - which will amuse you some day," 
and in the following month he assured him that he felt it was his 
best work stylistically. Gissing continued to revise and add to the 
manuscript for nearly a year until it appeared as a serial in the 
_Fortnightly Review_, under the title "An Author at Grass." It was 
published as a volume in 1903, and Gissing had the satisfaction of 
seeing it go through three editions before he died. The clearest and 
most direct expression of his temperament, it has been fre-

-- 240 --

quently reprinted after his death and has achieved the status of a 
minor classic.
_The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft_ is a more or less 
disconnected series of meditations supposedly drawn by Gissing 
from the private journal of a middle-aged writer who has inherited 
an unexpected competence and has retired to a cottage near Exeter. 
Ryecroft, as he is described in Gissing's "Preface," is and is not an 
autobiographical device. The personality and opinions of these 
"private papers" are close to Gissing's own; the placid, mellow 
contentment that pervades the book, on the other hand, is a mood 
Gissing aspired to but did not achieve. Like Gissing, Ryecroft 
experienced poverty in London as a young writer, and he shares his 
author's love of Italy and England, his need for quiet and his 
bookishness. Ryecroft's "solitary friend," as Gissing wrote to Roberts, 
was Roberts himself, and Bertz, Henry Norman, and Grant Allen are 
referred to by their initials. Unlike Gissing, he is a widower, but he 
lives with a housekeeper under conditions like those at Gissing's 
house in Dorking. He seems to have been a writer of magazine 
articles, translations, and reviews rather than a novelist. The most 
important difference of all is that Ryecroft wrote for money and not 
as an artist, so that when he became financially independent he 
stopped writing altogether. He is less like Reardon (who resembles 
Gissing) than like one of the minor _New Grub Street_ writers who 
haunt the British Museum.
According to the "Preface," Gissing purports to feel, while reading 
his friend's diary, that Ryecroft might have intended to publish 
parts of it as a book written for its own sake rather than for money, 
and ultimately decides to publish it for its "human interest." It 
consists of fragments of prose on all sorts of subjects suggested to 
Ryecroft by the weather, the newspapers, his walks, his memories, 
and the atmosphere of his quiet and comfortable cottage. For lack of 
a better organization, says Gissing, he has grouped the fragments 
according to the season of the year in which they were written, 
without regard to their actual chronology.
In some respects the character of Ryecroft is a sort of confession. 
The old writer describes himself as a man who does not inspire 
affection; yet he regrets that his insistence on independence has led 
him to reject help and friendship throughout his life, so that he is 
still lonely and cannot regard himself as "part of the so-

-- 241 --

cial order." He lives alone, enjoying the utter silence of his house; 
even his housekeeper is praised because she makes no noise and 
performs her tasks unobtrusively. He is a constant reader but 
cannot be a genuine scholar because care has made him forgetful. 
Sensitive and fastidious, he is easily upset by small incidents and 
deeply thrilled by the small, intense experiences of beautiful 
flowers or sunsets. He takes his pleasure sparingly. There is no 
music in his house, but the music he sometimes overhears in the 
street provides him with an overwhelming esthetic experience. His 
life consists of thinking, reading, walking, and observing nature in 
solitude and quiet. Convinced that most of the world's ills are 
caused by noisy and combative people "who cannot possess their 
souls in quiet," he feels that the quiet life he leads for his own 
satisfaction is a positive social good. ". . . Most of the good which 
saves mankind from destruction comes of life that is led in 
thoughtful stillness. . . . How well would the revenues of a country 
be expended, if, by mere pensioning, one-fifth of its population 
could be induced to live as I do!" *7*
One of the old man's most appealing qualities is his willingness to 
face bitter personal truths with candor.

     . . . never a page of my writing deserved to live. I can say 
     that now without bitterness. . . . The world has done me 
     no injustice; thank Heaven I have grown wise enough not 
     to rail at it for this! *8*

     For me Nature has comforts, raptures but no more 
     invigoration. *9*

     I read much less than I used to do; I think much more. Yet 
     what is the use of thought which can no longer serve to 
     direct life? *10*

     . . . for me there is no more activity, no ambition. I have 
     had my chance and see what I made of it. *11*

Thoughts like these do not torment him, for he realizes that his life 
is not supremely important, but "a little thing." ". . . That is best, to 
smile, not in scorn, but in all forbearance, without too much self-
compassion. . . . Better to see the truth now, and accept it, than to 
fall into dread surprise on some day of weakness, and foolishly to 
cry against fate." *12* Gissing did not, like Ryecroft, feel that his life 
had been wasted on useless work; but he did understand the 
wisdom of calm resignation.
Ryecroft bitterly acknowledges the power of money, both for good 
and evil. The terrible thing about his youthful poverty, he says,

-- 242 --

was not that it forced him to live under squalid conditions, for he 
was happy enough in the slums, but that it drove him to waste his 
energy in desperate labor. On the other hand, he feels that his past 
struggles enable him to appreciate his present security and to be 
grateful to the unknown working people whose labor makes his 
quiet life possible. The reverse truism, "Money is time," expresses 
the real value of money for Ryecroft; it enables him to spend his 
time reading and meditating instead of drudging.
Ryecroft confesses that he is innately undemocratic. He does not 
love everyone and is glad to be free of the obligation of pretending 
that he does. Although he made the youthful error of allying 
himself with the poor, he now understands that their aims are very 
different from his. Once a socialist, he understands himself now to 
he a man who loves privacy and his possessions passionately. On 
the other hand, he is more capable than before of real sympathy 
with the common people, for, while he valued only intellect when 
he was young, he has now learned to respect "the intelligence of the 
heart" often manifested by the rude and ignorant. Lie recognizes 
that learning does not necessarily civilize, and that it is possible for 
a man to remain a lettered barbarian. Wondering how many 
households are as peaceful as his own, he is led to the reflection 
that men are naturally selfish and aggressive rather than sociable 
and cooperative. Peace is less natural to man than war.
Ryecroft's pacifism is based in part at least on his hatred of military 
discipline. While he was drilled at school, he recalls, his 
individualism rebelled violently at the mechanical conformity of the 
parade ground. lie feels that a combination of democratic brutality 
and greed for profit make war inevitable, and he turns his thoughts 
from it. There is, of course, no doubt, that in his hatred of war 
Ryecroft speaks for Gissing, who had once written to Walter:
     . . . War is a horrible thing which ought to be left to 
     savages - a thing to be ashamed of and not to glory in. 
     It is wicked and dreadful for the people of one country 
     to go and kill those of another. . . . What we ought to be 
     proud of is peace and kindness - not fighting and hatred. 
With his pacifism and hatred of chauvinism, Gissing was far from 
patriotic in the commonest sense of the term. Yet the Ryecroft 
papers, written from the distance of St. HonorŽ, comprise a genuine 
and candid tribute to England. Ryecroft says that in spite of his 
pleasure in travel, he will never leave England again. lie

-- 243 --

muses lovingly on the peculiarities of English manners, English 
cookery, and English government. It is a characteristic English trait, 
he feels, to admire and preserve the concept of nobility; in England 
democracy is unnatural and destructive. The future poses the 
problem of whether nobility in manners and mores can be retained 
while the social class itself disappears. The English, he feels, are 
fundamentally generous and free; what is mistaken for prudery is a 
form of Puritan spirituality whose motives are excellent. Giving 
more praise than blame, the expatriate Gissing describes his 
countrymen with a calm objectivity very different from the feelings 
of a time when, returning from Italy on an English steamer, he 
_suffered_ from the presence of English people.
Although his inability to tolerate the pain of a headache with 
detachment leads Ryecroft to repudiate Marcus Aurelius, the 
essential quality of the _Ryecroft Papers_ is Stoicism with, perhaps, 
an infusion of detached Oriental mysticism. Ryecroft cannot master 
the self-discipline recommended by the Stoics, and be does not 
share Marcus Aurelius' pious belief that evils must be borne 
because the world is ultimately just, but his conviction that the 
good life consists of study and meditation pursued in spite of the 
turmoil of the outside world is a Stoic ideal. Ryecroft's self-
improvement does not have the strenuous earnestness 
recommended by Arnold and Carlyle. It is enough, he feels, to be 
fully oneself and to have one's own thoughts, even if they are not 
particularly wise or constructive. Wisdom comes, not from striving 
for it, but from revery.

     For not, surely, by deliberate effort of thought does a 
     man grow wise. The truths of life are not discovered by 
     us. At moments unforeseen, some gracious influence 
     descends upon the soul, touching it to an emotion which, 
     we know not how, the mind transmutes into thought. 
     This can happen only in a calm of the senses, a surrender 
     of the whole being to passionless contemplation. *14*

_Ryecroft_ includes Gissing's only direct discussion of the problem 
of belief, and it is significant as an expression of the despairing 
agnosticism that gives his novels their pessimistic temper. In his 
meditations about God, immortality, and other ultimate problems he 
is impressed with the pathetic fact of human ignorance. Although it 
is a mistake to take this ignorance for knowledge, Gissing does feel 
that beyond the physical world is some "Reason of the All" which he 
will never begin to understand. The sense that man

-- 244 --

is doomed to loneliness in a harsh and inexplicable universe leads 
Gissing to the lamentation

     The most tragic aspect of such a tragedy is that it is 
     not unthinkable. The soul revolts, but dare not see in this 
     revolt the assurance of its higher destiny. Viewing our 
     life thus, is it not easier to believe that the tragedy is 
     played with no spectator? And of a truth, of a truth, 
     what spectator can there be? *15*

When he was young, Gissing felt that agnosticism implied that man 
was the self-sufficient master of his destiny; in the pages of 
_Ryecroft_ the "insoluble problem" of man's existence gives rise to a 
despair which can only be alleviated by the necessary "self-
deception" of turning away from it. Still, adds Ryecroft, reasserting, 
but in infinitely tentative language, the hopes of the youthful 
Gissing, an era of positivism based on scientific methods may come 
when "everything will be as lucid and serene as a geometric 
While many of Ryecroft's opinions and experiences are Gissing's 
own, it would be a mistake to regard the _Ryecroft Papers_ as an 
occasion taken by Gissing to lay aside his fictional mask. Ryecroft's 
affection for England and his pacifism come directly from Gissing's 
heart. Whether his balanced, if not precisely warm attitude toward 
the common people is one Gissing himself had finally achieved is 
questionable. It is certain that Gissing was not indifferent to 
recognition, as _Ryecroft_ is, for he continued to lament his poor 
sales, and when _Ryecroft_ itself proved successful his triumph was 
embittered by the fact that he did not profit proportionately.
"I hope too much will not be made of the few autobiographical 
pages in this book," Gissing wrote to Harrison. "The thing is much 
more an aspiration than a memory." *16* Yet this mistake was 
made even by Roberts, who was irritated by Gissing's apparent 
profession of attitudes he did not hold. Gissing himself, according to 
a letter written after his death by Gabrielle, was angry with the 
_Athenaeum_ review that took Ryecroft's preference for 
scholarship as a bit of autobiography. He felt that it implied that he 
ought not to have written his novels at all. His letters make it 
obvious that Ryecroft's gentle resignation did not represent a 
change in his own character, for in his last years he continued to 
fume and fret as impatiently as ever. Though it is often difficult to 
tell where the character, Ryecroft, ends, and the real Gissing begins 
in these

-- 245 --

pages, the important fact remains that Ryecroft is a fiction distinct 
from his author.
Gissing was undoubtedly right in considering the _Ryecroft Papers_ 
his best book stylistically. Its sentences, generally short and 
uncomplicated, have a certain quiet steadiness that appears only 
occasionally in his novels, in descriptive passages. Except when he 
uses it to secure an effect of gentle irony, the language is free of the 
verbosity that is one of Gissing's worst stylistic faults. It is a gray, 
reserved prose with a touch of bookish stiffness. It can summon 
vigor for such subjects as militarism and English cooking, but when 
it ponders cosmic dilemmas, it melts into a preoccupied indecision 
which recalls the inconclusiveness of Gissing's social novels. 
Ryecroft's thought seems to slip into and through issues without 
resolving them, leaving behind, instead of a verdict, some hint of 
his mood or personality.

Gissing and his family left St. HonorŽ on November 1 to stay with 
cousins of Gabrielle at the Ch‰teaux de Chasnay and Tazires at 
Fourchambault in Nivre. After visits lasting about six weeks, they 
returned to Paris, where, on Christmas Day of 1900, in the "dreary 
flat," as he called it, on the Rue de Siam, Gissing began the historical 
novel he had been planning since his stay at Budleigh Salterton in 
the spring of 1897. His recent Italian trip, his research at the 
Biblioteca Vittorio Emanuele in Rome in 1898, and much of his 
occasional reading had been preparations for this novel. He had 
gathered a thick sheaf of notes under such headings as 
"Topography," "Religion," "Daily Customs," and "Senate," and a sketch 
of the history of the years 532 to 553.
His interests went well while he worked on "A Vanquished Roman" 
through the early months of 1901. Gabrielle's translation of _New 
Grub Street_ was serialized in the Journal des DŽbats beginning in 
February, under the title _La Rue des Meurt-de-faim_, and the _de 
luxe_ edition of _By the Ionian Sea_ with illustrations based on 
Gissing's sketches was going through the press. He enjoyed a visit 
from Wells and his wife, who passed through Paris on their way 
from Italy in March, and felt himself in good health but later had a 

-- 246 --

ous attack of influenza which left him weakened; he also had a 
troublesome skin condition on his face and forehead. A French 
doctor whom he consulted diagnosed his ailments as "emphysema, 
chronic bronchitis, and moist spot on right lung." *17* He was 
ordered to stop working and had to put "A Vanquished Roman" 
aside. However, instead of seeking mountain air, as the doctor had 
suggested, he gave way to his longing for the English countryside 
and English food, and made a trip across the Channel. His pretext 
was that he had been asked to pose for a photograph to be 
published in the periodical _Literature_, and did not feel that he 
could decline this chance for publicity. Wells agreed to put him up, 
and at the last minute Gabrielle was included in his travel plans. 
Accordingly, the two went to England the last week in May, staying 
first with the Wellses at Sandgate, and then with the Pinkers in 
London, where Gissing had business to transact. Wells arranged for 
Gissing to pay a visit to Henry James, who lived at Rye, and who 
had once written an article praising Gissing's feeling for "the general 
gray grim comedy" of vulgar life.
Instead of returning to Paris after a week, Gissing stayed behind, 
while Gabrielle went home alone, angered at the decision, reached 
without her consent, to keep Gissing in England for his health. It 
seems that the meagre meals customary in his French household 
had lowered Gissing's resistance and led him to lose weight, so that 
the moment he began to live at the homes of his English friends, he 
began to grow heavier, and his health improved. The passages 
about food in the _Ryecroft Papers_ and the letters written from 
France certainly suggest that Gissing lived in a state of continual 
yearning for hearty English meals. Apparently the Wellses, 
probably with the advice of harry Hick, decided that Gissing must 
stay in England to consult Pye-Smith, who seconded the French 
doctor's pessimistic diagnosis and told Gissing that he needed a rest 
in a sanatorium.
Unfortunately, Gabrielle took the view that these steps implied a 
criticism of her ability to care for Gissing and also reflected on the 
effect the French climate had on his health. Unstrung by the illness 
of her mother and by the fear that Edith might discover Gissing's 
presence in England, she wrote to Mrs. Wells to protest the 
separation. It was a step a French doctor would not have approved, 
she said. Feeling that she had an insufficient hold upon Gis-

-- 247 --

sing's affection, she reviewed their relationship, revealing that it 
had been marked by painful disagreements. She declared that the 
Wakefield family had always been her rivals for Gissing's love, that 
the desire to see them had drawn him to England the year before 
and might well be keeping him there now, and that he kept his 
relationship with her from them because he was afraid of offending 
them. Mrs. Wells expressed a justifiable skepticism about this 
attachment, for Gissing invariably found the company of his mother 
and sisters tiresome, even unbearable; but Gabrielle insisted that it 
was unconscious, and stronger than his conscious will - "the voice of 
the blood." Unless all other indications are wrong, Gabrielle 
seriously misinterpreted Gissing's attitude toward his family. 
Walter, who was still living with them, seems to have caused some 
difficulties, and Gissing's preoccupation with Wakefield was 
probably due, not to his emotional dependence upon the people 
there, but to his feeling of guilt at imposing his responsibility for 
the boy upon others. His unwillingness to tell them about Gabrielle 
was an aspect of his exaggerated regard for gentility, not the result 
of his respect for them.
These misunderstandings are a study in national differences; they 
show that Gabrielle, in spite of her sensitivity, failed to read some 
of Gissing's characteristic English qualities correctly. But she could 
hardly fail to grasp the essential element of his nature, which was 
suspected by everyone who knew him. She said she never felt 
secure about him, because he was the victim of "an extraordinary, 
terrible, perhaps morbid _unstability_ in mind, views, decisions, 
feelings," which made him dissatisfied, sooner or later, with any one 
way of life. He suffered from the "delusion" that the practical 
problems with which he was so unable to deal were not natural and 
inevitable but were due to his particular situation, and could be 
eliminated if only everything were changed. In addition, she wrote, 
he demonstrated a querulous dissatisfaction with the management 
of the household, and objected when Gabrielle refused to give up 
her friends in order to share his solitary habits. "He _can't_ be 
unreservedly happy," she wrote; "it is not in his nature. . . ." *18*
Toward the end of June, after spending a month with Wells, Gissing 
went to Dr. Jane Walker's East Anglian Sanatorium at Nayland in 
Suffolk, where for a month he took an "open air and over-feeding 
cure." He was unhappy at being separated from Ga-

-- 248 --

brielle, aware of her dissatisfaction, and conscious that "as always in 
things practical, I bungled this affair from the first." *19* But he 
gained weight and improved in health at the sanatorium. The 
windows were never closed and food was served in quantities so 
huge that even Gissing found it somewhat sickening. When he 
proposed making a visit to Wakefield late in August before 
returning to France, Gabrielle objected strenuously, saying that the 
climate of the town would be harmful; and he seems to have gone 
directly to France, where they stayed in Autun until October 12, 
and then paid a long visit to Gabrielle's cousin at the Ch‰teau de 
Tazires. A warning by a French doctor who examined Gissing sent 
them further south early in December to spend the winter in the 
supposedly beneficial warm air at Arcachon. Here, at a _pension_ 
occupied mainly by invalids, Gissing passed most of his day in the 
open air on a _chaise longue_ in the garden, as did many of the 
In December Gissing wrote to Ellen that he had at last learned the 
truth of his condition. His lungs, he wrote, were undergoing a 
"gradual hardening of all the surface." *20* This seems to be a 
layman's description of cirrhosis of the lungs, a condition in which 
the lungs are gradually overgrown with fibrous tissue. Gissing 
certainly had one of the symptoms, labored breathing, for he 
reported his "snoring" or "wheezing" as an old peculiarity. The 
doctor who told him of his disease said that improvement was 
possible. It is still considered incurable, although the patient may 
live for ten or twenty years, appearing to enjoy good health.
Naturally, Gissing was hardly able to work during most of this time. 
Apart from some additions to "An Author at Grass" and an essay 
called "Dickens in Memory" he wrote nothing. Even his diary, left 
behind in Paris, was neglected for a whole year. He had begun his 
abridgment of Forster's _Life of Dickens_ after returning from 
England in the spring, and he continued this project, working an 
hour or two a day while sitting in his _chaise longue_ in Arcachon, 
but attempting no writing of his own. "Who could write on a _chaise 
longue_?" he wrote irritably to Roberts. *21*
Early in February, 1902, a serious piece of news came from England. 
Miss Orme informed him that Edith had been taken in charge, found 
to be insane, and committed to an asylum. Little Alfred was to live 
with a farmer's family under the supervision of a sister of Miss 
Orme. On the whole, said Gissing, he was relieved

-- 249 --

at this development, for it meant that Edith would no longer cause 
trouble for everyone around her, and that the child would be well 
cared for. Only one more allusion to Edith occurs in Gissing's letters 
after this time. When _The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft_ was 
published, her name appeared on Gissing's list of those who were to 
receive author's copies.
When he felt that his health had improved, Gissing returned to his 
preparations for "A Vanquished Roman" by reading Gregorovius 
again. However, he did not work on it at this time, but turned 
instead to the last novel he was to complete before his death, _Will 
Warburton_. He also had to find a new home, for he had grown to 
hate Paris, and its climate was had for him. He and Gabrielle 
decided on St. Jean de Luz, which had moderate temperatures, an 
excellent view, and, unlike Arcachon, some claim to beauty. 
Accordingly, Gissing left Arcachon on April 24 and after some 
searching rented an apartment on the Place de la Mairie in St. Jean 
de Luz. A week after the move from the Rue de Siam was made, on 
July 10, he began _Will Warburton_.
In the autumn, Gabrielle's translation of _New Grub Street_ was 
published in book form in a series put out by the _Revue Blanche_, 
and the first part of "An Author at Grass" appeared in a May 
number of the _Fortnightly Review_, after Gissing had waited long 
and impatiently for it to begin. In June, Constable accepted it for 
book publication, changing the original title, which was felt to be a 
little facetious, to _The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft_.
The remainder of 1902 passed as Gissing, in ill health, studied 
Spanish, read _Don Quixote_ in the original with enjoyment, and 
worked at his novel at the rate of a page a day, ". . . a poor account," 
he wrote to Bertz, "for a man who used to write his 8 or 10 hours 
daily. .   " *22* After three months' work the novel had to be begun 
over, amid many complaints of poverty. Since he lived only a few 
miles from Roncesvalles, he crossed over to Spain early in 
November for a sight-seeing tour. Thus, toward the end of his life, 
he visited the scene of the historic battle he had described in a 
poem of his boyhood. The entry of November 8, 1902, mentioning 
this excursion is the last in the three-volume diary that Gissing had 
kept, with few interruptions, for fifteen years.
Early in 1903 he suffered from a new and uncomfortable disorder, 
sciatica, but was cheered by the success of the _Ryecroft Papers_,

-- 250 --

which appeared as a volume in January. It was the only one of his 
books that could be called a decided success. The reviews were 
enthusiastic, a third edition was published in March, the book 
became a frequent topic of conversation in London, and in the 
English colony of St. Jean de Luz it was being read by everyone. 
Gissing received many letters about it, including one from a 
clergyman who asked whether Ryecroft's exemplary housekeeper 
was now free and enclosed a stamped envelope for Gissing's reply. 
These admirers of his would find it hard to believe, grumbled 
Gissing, that in spite of the recognition it had won, the book brought 
him very little money. He wrote to Edward Clodd that it had earned 
him less than two hundred pounds.
Roberts paid a visit to Gissing while he was at St. Jean de Luz, 
meeting Gabrielle for the first time, and for the first time approving 
of a woman his friend loved. During his week-long stay he found 
that Gissing was unhappy with the food and bare furnishings of his 
home and thought longingly of returning to England with Gabrielle, 
but the poor health of Mme. Fleury made any such move 
impossible. He mused over his historical novel but wrote little, and 
Roberts was impatient to see that he had grown so timorous about 
his health that he was reluctant to go out of the house, even in good 
When he finished _Will Warburton_ in March, Gissing sent it to 
Pinker, asking that it be placed as a serial, even if that delayed its 
appearance. In April, 1903, he was approached for the first time by 
an American publisher, McClure's, who wanted to publish a new 
edition of _New Grub Street_. Gissing agreed to shorten the novel 
and write an introduction for it, plans he never carried out. He 
returned to his work on "A Vanquished Roman" after he had 
moved, at the end of June, to the neighboring town of St. Jean Pied 
de Port in order to be away from the seaside, which his doctor felt 
was injurious to his health. The name of the novel had been 
changed to _Veranilda_ by October, and by November he wrote to 
Ellen that it was "two-thirds" finished.
But _Veranilda_ was never actually completed. A few days before 
Christmas, 1903, Gissing, who was recovering from a case of 
pneumonia, made an excursion in bad weather with some friends 
who were staying with him, and the next day fell seriously ill. A 
consultation was held, and his condition was diagnosed as 

-- 251 --

He was not expected to live through the night of December 21, but 
he lingered, suffering severely, and lapsing into periods of delirium 
and unconsciousness. On the twenty-fourth, at Gissing's request, 
Gabrielle sent a telegram to Wells, asking him to come to the dying 
man's bedside; thinking it would encourage Gissing to speak to an 
Englishman, she sent for the Reverend Theodore Cooper, the English 
chaplain at St. Jean de Luz, who had been friendly with Gissing and 
had given him copies of English periodicals.
Mr. Cooper arrived at three in the afternoon and found Gissing well 
enough to chat for a couple of hours. Almost as soon as they began 
to talk, Gissing told Mr. Cooper that he knew he was dying. He asked 
him to persuade Wells, whose arrival was expected, to take him 
back to England so that he could see an English doctor. When Mr. 
Cooper offered to send for an English doctor who lived in nearby 
Biarritz, the patient was satisfied. Mr. Cooper returned after dinner 
to relieve Gabrielle at the bedside and continued a relaxed 
conversation with Gissing. He stayed at St. Jean Pied de Port 
overnight, going up to see the sick man again on the morning of 
Christmas Day.
Meanwhile, Wells had received Gabrielle's summons but, because he 
was busy with his own affairs and was suffering from a cold, sent a 
telegram to Roberts, telling him of Gissing's condition and saying he 
could not go. Roberts was convalescent himself, and telegraphed 
both Wells and Gabrielle to say that he could come only if it was 
necessary. But Wells had already taken a steamer at Folkestone, 
and, after traveling all night, he reached St. Jean Pied de Port at 
three o'clock on Christmas Day. He and the English doctor for whom 
Mr. Cooper had sent arrived on the same train. The doctor left, after 
reporting that Gissing was in grave condition and might die that 
night. Wells was not permitted to go into the sickroom at first, but 
Mr. Cooper returned to see Gissing in the evening. He reported, in a 
letter to Gissing's sisters, "After a few minutes he opened his eyes 
suddenly, thrust out his hand and grasped mine firmly, murmuring 
'Patience, patience' (with the French accent). I leaned over him and 
said 'My friend, you are going home.' Distinct and clear came the 
words 'God's will be done.'" *23*
Wells found Gissing delirious when he came up to see him the next 
day. In a moment of clarity, the sick man begged Wells to

-- 252 --

take him back to England. At other times he sat up in bed, thinking 
himself in the Rome of his imaginings, raved disconnectedly of his 
visions, and spoke and chanted in Latin. The antagonism between 
Wells and Gabrielle was renewed at the bedside. Wells disapproved 
of what he saw in the sickroom, including Gabrielle's 
ineffectiveness, the light diet that had been prescribed for the 
patient, and even the handkerchief Gabrielle was using to wipe his 
mouth. According to Gabrielle, Wells took advantage of the night of 
the twenty-sixth, when he was alone with the sick man, to feed him 
beef-tea, wine, coffee, and milk in quantity, in order to build up his 
strength. The result was a rise in temperature, and when the doctor 
heard of this treatment, Gabrielle reported, he exclaimed that it 
would kill the patient. Wells obtained the services of a nun, who 
nursed Gissing until an English nurse arrived to take charge. On the 
twenty-seventh, he and Mr. Cooper left together, the former going 
to the nearby town of Cambo and Wells returning to England.
By this time Roberts, who had received an urgent telegram from 
Wells, was on his way south, so that he and Wells passed each other 
_en route_. At Bayonne, Roberts found that he had missed the last 
train for St. Jean Pied de Port and had to spend the night in a hotel. 
Because of this delay, he failed to see Gissing again before his death. 
He describes his arrival at Gissing's house in this way:
"On entering the hall I found a servant washing down the stone 
flooring. I said to her, 'Comment Monsieur se porte-t-il?' and she 
replied, 'Monsieur est mort.'" *24* Gissing had died at 1:15 P.M. on 
December 28; the immediate cause of death was myocarditis.
Roberts comforted the distraught Gabrielle and her mother as well 
as he could and, because Gabrielle did not want to have Gissing 
buried at St. Jean Pied de Port, conferred with Mr. Cooper, who 
made arrangements for the burial to take place in the English 
cemetery at St. Jean de Luz. The next day Roberts and the nurse 
who had cared for Gissing went with the body to St. Jean de Luz, 
where they were met by Mr. Cooper. Gabrielle and her mother had 
requested that Gissing be buried according to the Anglican ritual. 
The body rested in the English chapel before the altar for the night 
and was interred with the usual ceremony in the morning in the 
presence of a number of English people who had gathered for the 

-- 253 --




THE helpful and well-intentioned Mr. Cooper was the cause of an 
unfortunate sequel to Gissing's death. He gathered the impression 
during his hours at the dying man's bedside that Gissing had 
returned to religious faith, and he sent a letter containing this 
information to the _Church Times_. When a paragraph appeared in 
the _Church Times_ announcing that Gissing had died in "the 
Catholic faith," both Roberts and Edward Clodd were outraged. 
Roberts wrote a strong note to the _Church Times_ in January of 
1904, declaring that Gissing had been steadfastly hostile to 
theological dogmas throughout his life, and that no importance 
should be attributed to what he might have said in his dying 
delirium. With characteristic vigor, he pursued information about 
the point by writing to Gabrielle and to the nurse who had attended 
Gissing during his last twenty-four hours. Gabrielle explained the 
mutterings of prayers and visions of hell in Gissing's last hours as 
the effects of the ecclesiastical works he had been reading in 
connection with _Veranilda_. The nurse, Miss E. Robertson Bayman, 
repeated this explanation, given to her by Gabrielle, for the 
chanting of the _Te Deum_ and references to "the holy Father" she 
had heard from her patient, and agreed that he was not in a 
responsible condition.
The information from Miss Bayman and Gabrielle raises some 
serious doubts about the accuracy of Mr. Cooper's reports of 
Gissing's death. It was perhaps natural that, in replying to an 
inquiry from Margaret Gissing as to whether her brother had 
emerged from

-- 254 --

"his darkness" before death, he should have tried to offer her 
comfort. But there is little doubt that he strained the facts. 
According to Mr. Cooper, Gissing was capable of taking part in long 
conversations, yet he said nothing more about spiritual matters 
than "God's will be done." Gissing, who was discriminating in speech, 
would not have used the conventional religious phrase attributed to 
him as a matter of habit, and he certainly cannot be imagined as 
resorting to such language to express a spiritual illumination. Mr. 
Cooper wrote to Margaret that he felt that he and Gissing were in 
sympathy," but a startling ellipsis follows the published version of 
this very general comment. He had taken it upon himself to 
pronounce a blessing while holding the dying man's hand, and he 
had then felt Gissing's grip relax as he grew unconscious. In telling 
Miss Bayman that he intended to telegraph a short report of 
Gissing's death to England, he said (with, apparently, some 
disingenuousness) that it was intended for "the _Times_," and it had 
not occurred to her, until Roberts wrote his letter of inquiry, that he 
meant the _Church Times_.
The _Church Times_ took Roberts' denial seriously enough to write 
to Mr. Cooper upbraiding him for the misinformation he had 
supplied, but it did not follow Roberts' request to publish his letter, 
printing instead, a short acknowledgment of it. Mr. Cooper hurriedly 
telegraphed to deny that he had written the report of Gissing's 
conversion. When Roberts wrote to Miss Bayman to ask about this, 
she replied that it was true only in the most literal sense, for Mr. 
Cooper, who was weak and ill, had asked a friend to take care of his 
correspondence for him. She added that he seemed to regret the 
whole affair, and Roberts, after sending the facts about Gissing's 
religious belief to a London newspaper, dropped the matter until he 
reviewed it in detail in _The Private Life of Henry Maitland_.

Gissing left two novels of considerable interest which were 
published posthumously. _Will Warburton_ is a study of a man who 
moves down the social ladder into a lower class. Its hero is a hearty, 
generous young businessman, a gentleman but no artist, whose

-- 255 --

modest funds are lost through the business ventures of an 
unreliable friend. Faced with the need of providing for his mother 
and sister, Warburton secretly becomes a grocer, subjecting himself 
to the ignominy of wearing the professional apron and serving 
customers behind the counter. He experiences firsthand the truth of 
Gissing's axiom that poverty deadens the soul, for he is forced to 
compete ruthlessly, both with his poor customers and with a 
hapless rival grocer, and he finds that his feelings of sympathy and 
kindness are melting away. His adoption of the grocer's trade, at 
first intended to be temporary, becomes permanent. Warburton's 
resignation to his lot is capped by the outcome of his love affairs. He 
loses the woman who objects to marrying a grocer, but gains the 
one who feels the claims of love more strongly than those of class. 
Warburton's humble resignation contrasts with the meretricious 
success of a friend who exploits his superficial gifts as a painter to 
make his way. The implication is that it is better to surrender 
honestly and fully to "an age of trade" than to seek a corrupting 
compromise. At the end of the novel Warburton is moving away 
from his upper-class friends, and there is the clear suggestion 
(somewhat surprising in Gissing) that he is well rid of them.
In spite of the sense of novelty with which Gissing approached 
_Veranilda_, it resembles his other novels in essential elements. Its 
central interest is in following the perplexed thoughts of the hero, 
Basil, as he pursues his beloved through a net of subtle intrigue. As 
usual, there is little action, though the novel is set in the time of the 
Gothic wars, a period of great turmoil and many battles. The plot is 
carried forward steadily but slowly through conversations and 
journeys; many of its important developments take place off stage. 
A certain interest is supplied by minor characters and the 
atmosphere and mood of decadent Rome, cunningly but 
unobtrusively woven of the details gleaned in Gissing's patient 
researches. _Veranilda_ has no lesson or ideological point; its place 
is taken by another interest extraneous to the esthetic 
requirements of fiction, the historical one.
Basil is a young nobleman of only moderate intelligence, the scion of 
a decadent aristocracy and a member of a disintegrating culture. 
Though capable of fiery anger at times, he is generally melancholy 
and introspective. The lassitude and impotence that have overtaken 
the old Roman nobility give him a marked resemblance, in

-- 256 --

fact, to Gissing's moody English heroes. Basil is not learned; he 
hardly reads, the ideas of literature he has derived from his 
education are petty and artificial, and he is easily tempted and 
terrorized by the Huns, Byzantines, and other foreigners who have 
come to govern Italy.
The story of _Veranilda_ opens in the year 544, a time when the 
Ostrogothic king, Totila, was gradually moving upon Rome from the 
south, undoing the conquests of the Greek general, Belisarius. At the 
home of his uncle near Naples Basil woos and wins Veranilda, a 
Gothic princess related by marriage to a member of his family. 
When Veranilda is mysteriously kidnapped, Basil goes with his 
friend Marcian to Rome to seek her, but it is a whole year before 
Marcian, who is practiced in intrigue, succeeds in finding and 
freeing her. However, he falls in love with her himself, and betrays 
Basil by telling Veranilda that her lover has been unfaithful. Basil, 
hearing of Veranilda's liberation, travels across a countryside made 
restive by war and kills Marcian in a fit of jealousy. lie takes refuge 
at the Abbey of Cassino, where his inner turmoil is somewhat 
soothed by the spiritual guidance of St. Benedict, and where he 
meets Totila and agrees to serve him in fighting the Greeks. After 
leaving Cassino and accomplishing some missions in the Gothic 
cause, he is briefly reunited with Veranilda. The unfinished 
narrative stops in the middle of a minor plot development, five 
chapters short of the ending Gissing had planned, as the Goths 
besiege Rome and the city grows restless with hunger. If, as Wells 
said, Gissing meant to end the story at the moment after the Greek 
garrison had fled and before the Gothic army entered the city, when 
Rome, for a dramatic moment in its history, stood deserted, he 
might have had a happy ending in mind. It is easy to imagine Basil 
and Veranilda together again and rejoicing in Totila's victory and 
the delivery of Rome from the tyranny of the Byzantines. It was 
only a temporary victory, of course, for the city was retaken within 
a year by Belisarius.
_Veranilda_ resembles Scott's historical novels in having actual 
historical figures as minor characters and protagonists who are 
fictional. However, Gissing made no attempt to rival the color and 
excitement of Scott or Bulwer-Lytton. His intention seems to have 
been closer to the effect achieved by George Eliot in _Romola_ and 
Jacobsen in _Marie Grubbe_, that of a mature study of character,

-- 257 --

foregoing nearly entirely the more obvious and attractive trappings 
of historical fiction, while ensuring the thorough authenticity of 
physical details. In place of color and action there is an impression 
of smoothly-modeled narrative and a play of incident that hardly 
ripples the placid atmosphere. Apart from its success in presenting 
the feelings and moods of sixth-century Romans, _Veranilda_ is not 
very notable as a study of character, partly because its plot is more 
suited to melodrama, partly because Basil is a fundamentally 
uninteresting personality.
As usual, Gissing's friends disagreed about the merits of his novel.
H. G. Wells, at the request of Gissing's family, wrote a preface for it 
that combined honesty and generosity in moderate amounts, 
admiring its "comprehensive design" and skillful integration of 
details. In this preface Wells included a biographical sketch, 
describing Gissing as impractical and self-defeating and addicted to 
joyless drudgery, and giving some excellent characterizing facts 
about him. However, the family, obtaining proofs of this preface in 
advance of printing, refused to allow it to appear. They had always 
disapproved of Gissing's moral and religious views, and they must 
have been alarmed, on learning for the first time of his life with 
Gabrielle, to find that his posthumous reputation was likely to be 
that of a libertine as well as an atheist. They seem to have rejected 
Wells's preface because it made some references, tactful and 
obscure enough, to the episode at Owens College and to his early 
marriage, and they turned to Frederic Harrison for an introduction 
to _Veranilda_.
Harrison wrote a preface, accurately described by Roberts as a 
"frigid performance," praising _Veranilda_ at the expense of 
Gissing's other work, and saying that it represented Gissing's real 
ability, in contrast to his novels of social realism. Roberts, however, 
thought that _Veranilda_ was a tragic failure, and that it did not 
justify the enthusiasm and faith Gissing brought to it. It lacked the 
strong feeling of his social novels; on the other hand, since it was 
not a direct treatment of the classical antiquity he loved, it did not, 
in Roberts' opinion, have the quality of _By the Ionian Sea_.
Wells's rejected preface was published as an article in the _Monthly 
Review_Êof August, 1904. Although Wells seems to have made 
some changes in his essay before publishing it in an effort to satisfy 
Gissing's family, he satisfied no one. The muted references

-- 258 --

to Gissing's private life aroused general indignation, though nothing 
whatever was said about Edith or Gabrielle. Gabrielle heard of the 
reaction to the article, but asked Roberts not to send her a copy, for 
it would upset her. Miss Collet, while admitting that Wells had been 
"badly treated," opposed the publication of the article, and wrote to 
Roberts that it would shock Gabrielle deeply, for Gissing had never 
been able to bring himself to tell her about the Owens College 
incident or his first marriage. Wells was mistaken, she wrote, in 
describing Gissing's aim as the creation of an English "_GomŽdie 
Humaine_," for she knew that after 1893 he had no such plan. Both 
Gabrielle and Miss Collet urged Roberts to write on Gissing in order 
to offset the effect of Wells's article. Gabrielle added that Gissing 
had distrusted Wells as a critic and felt that Wells had not 
understood his work.

It is generally acknowledged that Gissing was handicapped by his 
loyalty to the traditions of the Victorian novel. The intricate plotting 
typical of Victorian novels was due to the requirements of the serial 
or the three-volume form, but it was a necessity of which important 
virtues could be made. Dickens, who has often been wrongly 
regarded as the most important influence on Gissing, filled his 
novels with a multiplicity of plots and characters, achieving 
interesting effects of balance and counterpoint, and ranged widely 
over the scale of social classes, tracing the small, firm tendrils that 
linked them. Gissing followed the form used by Dickens, throwing 
together many plots to produce a richness of episode, but not all of 
his events carry the action forward; many are merely illustrative or 
irrelevant altogether. Furthermore, Gissing lacked Dickens' ability to 
make an incident unnecessary to the plot vivid and entertaining 
enough to justify itself. As the coincidences, trite situations and 
unintegrated subplots of Gissing's novels suggest, the necessity for 
devising a number of interlocking actions and keeping them in 
motion put considerable strain upon his powers of invention. He 
lacked the talents necessary for a follower of Dickens, but, even 
more important, he did not wish to be anything of the kind. The

-- 259 --

admiration for Dickens expressed in _Charles Dickens_ is qualified 
by an awareness of his limitations, which Gissing would have 
considered fatal to any other author, including himself.
The fact is that, as Frank Swinnerton shrewdly observed, he began 
by modeling himself upon another novelist. In 1892 Gissing wrote 
to Bertz of Mrs. Humphry Ward, whose _David Grieve_ had just 
been published, that she was a follower of George Eliot, adding 
parenthetically that he had been one himself many years earlier. 
This clue, revealing as it does the source of Gissing's conception of 
the novel, is illuminating. There are many points of resemblance 
between Gissing's and George Eliot's novels. His books were 
essentially the expressions of an enlightened didacticism directed to 
an ideological end. Like George Eliot, he devoted great attention to 
the intellectual and emotional development of mature characters. 
He felt the need for clearly realizing and explaining subtle shifts of 
feeling or attitude, and for providing sound motivations for the 
actions of his characters. Every incident of the plot justified its 
occurrence, ideally, by some important effect, often a psychological 
one. The cause-effect relationships in the minds of the characters 
are often analyzed at length and evaluated by instructive 
references to general experience. The fullness of description and 
detail, the elaborate compound plots, the passages of authorial 
commentary, and the slow and sometimes ponderous thoroughness 
of the narration in Gissing's novels are all imitations of George Eliot. 
As he strove for greater directness and economy of style, Gissing 
eliminated some of these characteristics from his work, but he 
continued to think of the novel as a form suited to the serious 
treatment of ideas through the narration of psychological 
In following the example of George Eliot, Gissing had adopted a 
fictional method inappropriate to his own views and temperament. 
The closely woven fabric of a George Eliot novel is calculated to 
exhibit the subtle progression of moral and social forces to a just 
and inevitable conclusion. In seeing life as "the stealthy 
convergence of human lots . . . a slow preparation of effects from 
one life on another," as she puts it in _Middlemarch_, she pursued a 
mission comparable to the one nineteenth century scientists had set 
for themselves: that of formulating reality as a system of 
relationships governed by intelligible principles. This was not 

-- 260 --

view of reality, and his adaptation of George Eliot's techniques to his 
own use fails to achieve the satisfying sense of logical process that 
is felt in her best work. His was a divided mind, for while he had 
discarded the Comtism of his youth, he did not doubt that the 
scientific method was, as Huxley explained, the natural mode of all 
practical thought. However, he discounted entirely the optimistic 
implication that the natural processes revealed by science were 
forces for improvement. The real meaning of Gissing's attitude 
toward science has been pointed out by Mme. Cazamian:
"Presque partout G. Gissing dŽnonce les effets nuisibles de la 
science; mais cela ne signifie pas qu'il n'en ait point senti la force, au 
contraire. Ces idŽes, ces doctrines qu'il a montrŽes nŽfastes, il les 
croyait justifiŽs ou inŽvitables. Et c'est lˆ un des aspects les plus 
profonds de son pessimisme." *1* Thus, the underlying orderliness 
of events, which represents ultimate justice in George Eliot's 
universe, becomes, in Gissing's, the embodiment of a sinister 
Like all novelists influenced by the example of George Eliot, Gissing 
brought to fiction a new conception of its responsibilities. The 
development of the English novel can be expressed in terms of two 
gradual tendencies: a turning from motives of entertainment and 
propaganda to the illumination of genuinely controversial moral 
issues, and an expansion of the social and psychological areas in 
which it could feel at home. Both of these developments arrived at 
new thresholds with George Eliot. After her, the novel could act, in 
the phrase borrowed by Mrs. Humphry Ward from Arnold, as a 
criticism of life." Established tastes, which preferred the 
entertaining and edifying novels of Dickens and Thackeray, were 
repelled by the new novelists for two reasons. It was felt that some 
subjects necessary to a serious treatment of life, such as sex, 
violence, and the honest portrayal of certain emotions, were out of 
place in fiction. Secondly, many of those who had been brought up 
to think of Dickens as the representative novelist could not believe 
that the novel was a form suited to the treatment of profound 
intellectual or spiritual issues.
Against these views the new novelists prevailed only with 
difficulty. Hardy, who had had his share of troubles after _Tess of 
the D'Urbervilles_, expressed the ambition of the modern novelist in 
this way:

-- 261 --

     . . . conscientious fiction alone it is which can excite a 
     reflecting and abiding interest in the minds of thoughtful 
     readers of mature age, who are weary of puerile inventions 
     and famishing for accuracy; who consider that in 
     representations of the world, the passions ought to be 
     proportioned as in the world itself. This is the interest 
     which was excited in the minds of the Athenians by their 
     immortal tragedies, and in the minds of Londoners at the 
     first performances of the finer plays of three hundred 
     years ago. They reflected life, revealed life, criticized life. 

Because he shared this view of the novel's mission, Gissing extended 
his concern with authenticity beyond the presentation of social 
problems themselves to the thoughts of the characters who faced 
them. His people are not mere bundles of traits floating in a social 
and economic vacuum but persons belonging to particular classes 
and occupations who have clear parts to play in the historical 
developments of their time. They are well realized both as spiritual 
and sociological beings. Exemplifying the effects of social changes, 
they in turn illuminate these social changes by their actions and 
their destinies. Even their private meditations take place in a 
loneliness where history seems always present, for each personal 
situation is a microcosm of some general one.
If Gissing's novels can be said to have a dominant theme, it is the 
destruction of human character in the crushing mill of social evils. 
He found that the social institutions men worked so hard to create 
and to maintain were, after all, hostile to dignity, honor, intellect, 
and sensibility. His opinions were varied and even inconsistent, but 
he felt clearly that the remedy for the evils he described lay in a 
change of the spirit of society rather than its form, and that the 
most advanced reform theories of his time missed that fact. His 
novels are indecisive because he was denied a vision of life as a 
well-ordered whole. He had convictions and perceptions, but they 
were isolated, disjointed, baffling even to himself. Instead of 
enabling him to arrive at coherent conclusions about the problems 
that troubled him, they delivered him into a nightmare of 
conflicting aims. His sympathy with the poor and oppressed was 
contradicted by his hatred of the barbarism their living conditions 
produced in them. He was jealous of the purity and independence of 
his art, but was also eager to accomplish a moral mission through 
his novels. He could not advocate the radical remedy of sweeping 
away the classes that lived on the labor of the poor because every-

-- 262 --

thing he felt to be of importance in man's intellectual life seemed 
possible only in the kind of environment produced by wealth and 
Paradoxically, Gissing's inability to make up his mind about social 
issues was an advantage to him as a novelist. He used this failing as 
one of his literary talents. His active dislike of the poor sharpened 
his eye for details of their lives and manners; his doubts about 
cosmic problems gave him insight into crises of the soul; and his 
indecision about the civilization of his day led him to present it as a 
complex entity rich in minor characteristics. A wordy passage from 
_Workers in the Dawn_ explains how skepticism can be an asset to 
the artist:

     The man who convinces himself that he has ever at his 
     elbow the key to the mystery of the universe . . . who 
     conceives that the great laws of duty have long ago been 
     written down in black and white for the use of man, and 
     are not capable of discovery otherwise; such a man _cannot_ 
     but regard the world in a more or less prosaic light, 
     compared with the point of view of one who recognises 
     no patent key as in existence, for whom the mystery of 
     life and death begins and ends with a vast doubt, whose 
     very thought is the fruit of, and leads to, boundless 
     conjecture. . . . *3*

Frank Swinnerton, arguing that Gissing's attempts at objectivity 
were foreign to his talent, says that he did his best work when he 
was confident of his point of view and was writing on some theme 
which aroused his partisanship. But Gissing's fictional powers were 
disabled by certainty, while doubt and curiosity seemed to liberate 
them. He firmly believed that great art and literature enriched 
character, yet his attempts to show this happening in his novels are 
unsuccessful. On the other hand, his attitude toward such men as 
Peak and Reardon was unsettled and ambiguous, yet his depiction 
of this type is one of his strong points. "Boundless conjecture" is 
perhaps not enough in itself to serve as an artistic principle, but it 
seemed to disarm Gissing's preconceptions and prejudices and give 
him access to a more authentic realism.

Gissing's death was the occasion for some critical estimates which 
carried to extremes the growing recognition of his work. In an

-- 263 --

obituary notice in the _Athenaeum_, C. F. Keary described his work 
as the "almost unique" English expression of a spirit represented on 
the Continent by Zola and Hauptmann. Arthur Waugh mistakenly 
insisted in the _Fortnightly Review_ that Gissing had never given in 
to the temptation to write for money. Both of these critics agreed in 
calling him "sincere" or "conscientious" and in attributing his 
relative unpopularity to the unpalatable truths he revealed.
It was not long, however, before the "sincerity" of Gissing's work 
was given another evaluation. Critics like Frank Swinnerton and 
Edmund Gosse pointed out that there was in Gissing's criticism of 
society an element of self-justification and revenge. "His books were 
ground out of him by the contemplation of his own misery," said 
Gosse, "and nothing but his fine artistic conscientiousness kept them 
from being openly egocentric." *4* Gissing would have argued that 
this relation of his novels to his own experiences insured their 
authenticity. He saw nothing wrong in the fact that his poor young 
intellectual heroes were obviously autobiographical; he regarded his 
treatment of this type as his most important achievement. In l895, 
while complaining to Roberts of the obtuseness of reviewers, he 
wrote, ". . . the most characteristic, the most important, part of my 
work is that which deals with a class of young men distinctive of 
our time - well-educated, fairly bred, _but without money_. . . . This 
side of my work, to me the most important, I have never yet seen 
recognised." *5*
He wrote about rootless young intellectuals, not merely to plead his 
own cause, but to present instances of the problem they 
represented. He saw that new developments in Victorian civilization 
had conspired to isolate such men as Waymark, Peak, and Reardon 
between an old system that was going out and a new one not yet 
brought into being. He had knowledge of the spiritual ordeals such 
men suffered from his own experiences, and he was willing to 
expose his own conflicts for the sake of illuminating a general moral 
The subjective quality that sometimes makes Gissing's readers 
uneasy can be accounted for by the conservative principles he 
brought forward in _Charles Dickens_ to defend Dickens' veracity 
against critics who found him to be unrealistic. Like most 
Victorians, Gissing felt that "truth to life" was the most important 
single standard for fiction; the common terms of critical approba-

-- 264 --

tion among the Victorians, such as "genuine," "convincing," and 
"authentic," show that they considered it essential for a novel to 
prove itself a close representation of actuality. When an unlettered 
neighbor who was reading _Robinson Crusoe_ observed, "Some of it 
seems like fiction," Gissing noted the remark as a tribute to Defoe's 
power. Having written, in his school essay on Milton that "truth" 
was one of the attributes of great poetry, he never had any reason 
to alter an opinion which agreed so well with the taste and theory 
of his time.
His difference with the critics of Dickens arose, however, from the 
fact that he adhered to the mid-Victorian concept of "truth" as the 
honest expression of the writer's reactions, and not to the naturalist 
view, then gaining currency, that nothing short of objective 
reporting could qualify as realism. Gissing's views are well 
represented in G. H. Lewes' _Principles of Success in Literature_ 
(l865), which put "truth" under the general heading of "The 
Principle of Sincerity," and discussed accuracy in literature as if it 
were analogous to honesty in everyday behavior. The Victorians did 
not feel that the novels of Dickens and Thackeray were less realistic 
or less accurate because they reflected personal attitudes; on the 
contrary, it was precisely the presence of a strong and responsible 
individuality that guaranteed their authenticity. "Whatever is 
sincerely felt or believed," said Lewes, ". . . may fitly be given to the 
world. . . ." *6* Only with Flaubert, Zola, and Moore did "realism" 
come to mean the impersonal photographic accuracy which 
Baudelaire (who did not approve of it) formulated as "_L'univers 
sans l'homme_," and whose purpose he phrased as follows: "Je veux 
reprŽsenter les choses telles qu'elles sont ou bien qu'elles seraient, 
en supposant que je n'existe pas." *7*
Distrusting science, Gissing also distrusted such adaptations of its 
aims to fiction as Zola had attempted in _Le Roman expŽrimental_, 
and he declared flatly in two short critical essays written a few 
years before his book on Dickens that objectivity is impossible:
"There is no science of fiction." *8* In _Charles Dickens_ he 
concludes that "that very idle word 'realism'" is useless as a critical 
standard, and contends that even the realist, if he is wise, 
acknowledges the essentially subjective quality of fiction and is 
satisfied with the view ". . . that truth, for the artist, is the 
impression produced on _him_, and that to convey this impression 
with entire sincerity is his

-- 265 --
sole reason for existing." *9* Writing to Bertz in 1892 he said that 
he would never try to suppress his own spirit for the sake of 
achieving an "impersonal" effect. In fact, he considered the personal 
tone to be the element that distinguished the novelist from the 
playwright, and observed in a later letter that a successful book 
must be strong]y marked by its author's personality.
Thus, the writer is to be judged, not by his accuracy as an imitator 
of actuality, but by his fidelity to his own perceptions. Dickens, 
Gissing found, generally followed this principle, and the many 
instances where the truthfulness of his work fails to convince can 
be traced to a conscious refusal, usually on moral grounds, to give a 
faithful representation of his own impressions. Comparing the two 
charity boys, Oliver Twist and Rob the Grinder, Gissing points out 
that the latter showed how accurately Dickens could observe, while 
the former showed how far he was willing to go in distorting his 
observations. Dickens might heighten his effects or omit unpleasant 
facts of life or character in the name of morality, but to Gissing the 
novelist's supreme morality was the principle of truth to his own 
knowledge of life, however limited it might be. If he feared the 
barbarism of the poor, disapproved of progress and democracy, 
experienced a profound pessimism when he considered civilization 
as a whole, and failed to see in the human drama the intention of a 
benevolent divine power, he was bound to convey these feelings 
without regard to public taste or the advice of publishers' readers. 
"After all," he once wrote to Algernon, *10* in defending the poor 
judgment he had shown in one of his early novels, "one must write 
what is in one to write. . . ."

-- 266 --


Sources of factual information are given in informal statements 
easily associated with the material they account for. Quotations are 
footnoted in the conventional manner. In referring to manuscripts I 
have consulted that have subsequently been published, I have 
generally cited the original document. The only significant instances 
of this kind are the letters to Bertz, published as _The Letters of 
George Gissing to Eduard Bertz, 1887-1903_, edited by Arthur C. 
Young (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1961) and 
the Commonplace Book, published as _George Gissing's 
Commonplace Book_, edited by Jacob Korg (New York: New York 
Public Library, 1962). The latter has also been published in parts in 
the _Bulletin of the New York Public Library_, LXV, Nos. 7-9 
(September, October, November, 1961).



For impressions about Gissing's appearance and his relations with 
the Harrison family, see _Frederic Harrison: Thoughts and 
Memories_, by Austin Harrison (London: W. Heinemann, Ltd., 1926), 
pp. 80-84; and "George Gissing," by Austin Harrison, _Nineteenth 
Century and After_, LX (September, 1906), 45-63. For Frederic 
Harrison's career and opinions, see his _Autobiographic Memoirs_ 
(London: Macmillan & Co.; Ltd., 1911) and _Early Victorian 
Literature_ (London: E. Arnold, 1894-95), as well as Austin 
Harrison's _Thoughts and Memories_. The informative schoolfellow 
is mentioned in a letter from Harrison to
H. G. Wells, January 27, 1904, found in _George Gissing and H. G. 
Wells_, edited by Royal A. Gettmann (Urbana, Ill.: University of 
Illinois Press, 1961), p. 230.

-- 267 --

     1. _Letters of George Gissing to Members of His Family_, 
Collected and Arranged by Algernon and Ellen Gissing (London: 
Constable, 1927), pp. 77-78. This book is hereafter referred to as 
     2. A. Harrison, _Thoughts and Memories_, p. 83.
     3. F. Harrison, _Autobiographic Memoirs_, I, 238.


Thomas Gissing is described in the unpublished manuscript, 
"Reminscences [sic] of My Father," which is in the Yale University 
Library (hereafter abbreviated as YUL). Gissing's "List of Books" and 
"John Milton" are in the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of 
the New York Public Library. His reading of _The Old Curiosity 
Shop_ is from Gissing's _The Immortal Dickens_ (London: Cecil 
Palmer, 1925), p. 1. Harrison's Back Lane School is mentioned in 
_Letters_, p. 259. Gissing's caricatures and the Roncesvalles and 
Fingal manuscripts are in YUL. "The English Novel of the Eighteenth 
Century" is a manuscript in the Carl H. Pforzheimer Library. The 
school and college prizes are listed in "The Adams-Gissing 
Collection," _Yale University Library Gazette_, XVIII, No. 3 (1944), 
49. The letters to Bowes are in YUL.

For details of Gissing's career at Owens College, see _The Private 
Life of Henry Maitland_, by Morley Roberts (New and Revised 
Edition; London: Eveleigh, Nash and Grayson, 1923), pp. 21-22; 
Austin Harrison's "George Gissing"; and Robert Shafer's introduction 
to the Doubleday, Doran edition of _Workers in the Dawn_ (Garden 
City, 1935). Gissing's first wife is identified in _George Gissing: 
Grave Comedian_, by Mabel Collins Donnelly (Cambridge, Mass.: 
Harvard University Press, 1954), p.22.

     4. Ellen Gissing, "Some Personal Recollections of George Gissing," 
_Blackwood's Magazine_, CCXXV (May, 1929), 658.
     5. The sentence from Lecky is transcribed on p. 35 of the 
Commonplace Book kept by Gissing between 1887 and 1903 (Berg 
     6. Winwood Reade, _The Martyrdom of Man_ (24th ed.; New 
E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1926), pp. 479-80.
     7. Chapter 31. Though not published until 1903, _The Way of All 
Flesh_ was written between 1872 and 1885 and so belongs to the 
period of Gissing's youth.
     8. Henry Maudsley, "Materialism and Its Lessons," _Fortnightly 
Review_, XXXII (1879), 260.
     9. Letter to Eduard Bertz, May 20, 1892. (All correspondence 
with Bertz referred to is in YUL.)

-- 268 --


For Gissing's reactions to America, see _Letters_, pp. 12-21. His 
"sketches" are mentioned in a letter to Algernon dated November 
13, 1876 (Berg Collection). Gissing's characteristic comment on 
matter is from Roberts' _Maitland_, p. 51. For the Chicago stories 
and information about them, see _Sins of the Fathers and Other 
Tales_ (Chicago: Covici, 1924), Brownie (New York: Columbia 
University Press, 1931), and the appendix to _Maitland_. Details 
about Gissing's New England travels are from the American 
notebook (YUL); Roberts, Maitland, pp. 36-37; Shafer's introduction 
to _Workers in the Dawn_, pp. xiv-xv, and Donnelly, _Gissing_, p. 29. 
The mistake about the trip to Germany was made by Thomas 
Seccombe in his article on Gissing for the _Dictionary of National 
Biography_, Second Supplement, arid by Frank Swinnerton. Bertz's 
help with the chapter about Germany is mentioned in "George 
Gissing's Friendship with Eduard Bertz," by Arthur C. Young, 
_Nineteenth Century Fiction_, XIII, No. 3 (December, 1958), 227-37.

     10. _Letters_, p.17.
     11. _New Grub Street_ (New York: Modern Library, 1926) p.419.
     12. _Sins of the Fathers and Other Tales_, p.13.


Among the sources of information about poor London lodgings in 
the last quarter of the nineteenth century, see Gissing's novels, 
especially _The Nether World_ (London: Murray, 1903); Charles 
Booth's _Life and Labour of the People in London_ (London: 
Macmillan & Co., Ltd., 1889); Reverend Andrew Mearns's _The 
Bitter Cry of Outcast London_ (London: James Clarke & Co., 1883); 
Beatrice Webb's _My Apprenticeship_ (New York and London: 
Longmans, Green & Co., Inc., 1926), pp. 228-29; and H. G. Wells's 
_Experiment in Autobiography_ (New York: The Macmillan Co., 
1934) pp. 217-27. For details of Gissing's first year in London, see 
_Letters_, pp. 22-50. The Colville Place address appears in a letter 
to Algernon dated January 12, 1878 (Berg Collection). Other facts 
about this period are from the following letters to Algernon (Berg 
Collection): February 28, 1878; March 14, 1878; September 9, 1878; 
September 26, 1878; December 17, 1878; March 2, 1879; March 23, 
1879; and June 16, 1879.

Information about Bertz is from Young's introduction to _The 
Letters of George Gissing to Eduard Bertz_, and Young's "George 
Gissing's Friendship with Eduard Bertz." The unpublished letter of 
November 9, 1878, dealing with Comte, is in the Berg Collection. The 
letter to Har-

-- 269 --

rison dated July 9, 1880, which accompanied a copy of _Workers in 
the Dawn_, is No. 20 in the Gissing collection of the Pforzheimer 
Library. Readings for the lecture are listed in letters to Algernon of 
March 9 and March 15, 1879 (Berg Collection).
Letters guiding Algernon in his studies are all omitted from the 
published letters. They are dated February 28, 1878; March 14, 
1878; April 15, 1878; May 22, 1878; September 9, 1878 (Berg 
Collection). Helen is first mentioned by name in a letter to Algernon, 
March 2, 1879 (Berg Collection). The date of the marriage is given in 
Donnelly, _Gissing_, p. 35. Information about their married life is 
found in Roberts, _Maitland_, pp. 38-42, and in the following letters 
to Algernon: March 23, 1879, June 16, 1879 (Berg Collection); April 
23, 1880, October 13, 1880, November 3, 1880, and February 25, 
1881 (YUL).

     13. Commonplace Book, p. 16 (Berg Collection).
     14. _Letters_, p. 28.
     15. _Ibid._, p. 32.
     16. Letter to Algernon, September 26, 1878 (YUL).
     17. Roberts, _Maitland_, p. 39.
     18. _Letters_, p. 69.
     19. Poem dated August 10, 1872, in MS notebook, "Verses" 
     20. _Letters_, p. 53.
     21. _Ibid._, pp. 73-74.


Most of the facts in the survey of social conditions are from 
_England in the Eighteen-Eighties_, by Helen Merrell Lynd (New 
York: Oxford University Press, 1945), and _A Short History of the 
British Working-Class Movement_, by G. D. H. Cole (New York: The 
Macmillan Co., 1930-37), Vol. 11. The social novels of the 
midcentury are treated in Louis Cazamian's _Le Roman social en 
Angleterre_ (Paris: SociŽtŽ nouvelle de librairie et d'Ždition, 1904). 
Bertz's help with _Workers in the Dawn_ is mentioned in a letter by 
him published in Young's "George Gissing's Friendship with Eduard 
Bertz," p. 30. Rejections of the novel are mentioned in _Letters_, pp. 
50-57. The contract for the publication of the novel is in YUL. 
James's remarks on Gissing are in "London Notes, July, 1897," Notes 
_On Novelists with Some Other Notes_ (New York: Scribner's, 1914), 
pp. 437-43. Mrs. Harrison's comment, transmitted in her husband's 
letter, appears in _Letters_, p. 79.

     22. Webb, _My Apprenticeship_, p. 126.
     23. _Letters_, p. 57.
     24. _Ibid._, p. 73.

-- 270 --

     25. _Workers in the Dawn_, I, 158.
     26. _Ibid._, I, 131.


     27. Robert Owen, _A New View of Society_ (London: Cadell and 
Davies, 1813), p. 37.
     28. Cazamian, _Le Roman social en Angleterre_, p. 555.
     29. John Ruskin, _Fors Clavigera, in Works_, ed. Cook and 
Wedderburn (London: Longmans, Roberts and Green, 1903-12), 
XXVII, 13.
     30. Percy Bysshe Shelley, "A Defence of Poetry," _Prose Works_ 
(London: Chatto and Windus, 1888), I, 11-12.
     31. _Workers in the Dawn_, II, 269.
     32. Letter to Algernon, May 9, 1880 (YUL).
     33. Letter to Bertz, November 4, 1889.



Gissing's comments about the sale, advertising, and proceeds of 
_Workers in the Dawn_ are from _Letters of George Gissing to 
Members of His Family_, ed. Algernon and Ellen Gissing (London: 
Constable, 1927), p. 94, and a letter of June 30, 1880, to Algernon 
(YUL). The letter of July 9, 1880, to Harrison is No. 20 in the 
Pforzheimer Library's Gissing collection. Harrison's 
recommendations are mentioned in a letter of July 29, 1880, to 
Algernon (Pforzheimer Library No. 43). Gissing's work for John 
Morley is mentioned in letters to Algernon of September 10, 1880 
(Pforzheimer Library No. 44) and September 15, 1880 (YUL). For 
the contents of the _Pall Mall Gazette_ articles on socialism, see 
Mabel C. Donnelly, _George Gissing: Grave Comedian_ (Cambridge, 
Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1954), pp. 40-41. Gissing's 
relations with the Positivist Society are described in _Letters_, pp. 
84 and 96, and in letters to Algernon of November 3 and November 
15, 1880 (YUL).
The Wornington Road flat and the novel written there are first 
mentioned in a letter to Algernon of February 25, 1881 (YUL). 
Bertz's trip to America is from Arthur C. Young's "George Gissing's 
Friendship with Eduard Bertz," _Nineteenth Century Fiction_, XIII, 
No. 3, (December, 1958) 227-37. Gissing's work for the _Messager 
de l'Europe_ is mentioned in _Letters_, p. 85, and in letters to 
Algernon of November 15, 1880, April 20, 1881, and October 6, 
1882 (YUL). Gissing wrote eight of these articles, which appeared in 
_Vestnik Evropy_ at quarterly intervals from February, 1881, to 
November, 1882, under the

-- 271 --

heading "Correspondence from London." Morchard Bishop's new 
edition of Roberts' _Maitland_ (London: Richards Press, 1958) has 
informative footnotes and an introduction defending Roberts' 
biographical methods. It also contains an index of characters that 
agrees, in most respects, with the less complete key written into a 
copy in the Berg Collection, probably by Clement Shorter.
Gissing's money troubles are mentioned in a letter to Algernon of 
February 25, 1881 (YUL). The information about Helen's illness and 
behavior is from letters to Algernon dated April 9, 1881; June 19, 
1881; June 24, 1881; January 16, 1882; January 19, 1882; October 
6, 1882; and October 31, 1882 (YUL). Gissing describes his cat in 
_Letters_, pp. 105-6, and in a letter to Margaret, June 18, 1881 
(Berg Collection). For Jumbo, see _Letters_, pp. 108-9; for Sarah 
Bernhardt, _Letters_, p. 117; and for Gissing's meals with Roberts, 
see Morley Roberts, _The Private Life of Henry Maitland_ (New and 
Revised Edition; London: Eveleigh, Nash and Grayson, 1923), p. 47. 
Helen's June disturbance is described in a letter to Algernon, June 
17, 1882 (YUL). The facts about _Mrs. Grundy's Enemies_ are from 
_Letters_, pp. 119, 121-23; _George Gissing: 1857-1903_, by John D. 
Gordan (Catalogue for an exhibition of materials from the Berg 
Collection of the New York Public Library [New York: New York 
Public Library, 1954]), p. 10; Donnelly, _Gissing_, p. 80; and _A 
Victorian Publisher_, by Royal A. Gettmann (Cambridge, Engl.: 
Cambridge University Press, 1960), pp. 215-20. Helen's eye 
operation and its sequel are described in a letter to Algernon, 
October 6, 1882 (YUL).
The manuscript of "Hope of Pessimism" is No. 15 in the Gissing 
collection of the Pforzheimer Library. Gissing's feelings about 
crowds and the theater are expressed, among other places, in 
_Letters_, p. 116, a letter to Bertz, March 5, 1891, and _Charles 
Dickens: A Critical Study_ (London: Gresham Publishing Company, 

     1. _Athenaeum_, June 12, 1880.
     2. Letter to Harrison, July 23, 1880 (Pforzheimer Library No. 21).
     3. _Ibid._
     4. _Letters_, p. 97.
     5. Letter to Algernon, October 6, 1882 (YUL).
     6. _Letters_, p. 103.
     7. _Ibid._, p. 87.
     8. The poem, in "Verses" (YUL), dated 1869, reads, in part:

     Attend all ye who love the play, and to the theatre go,
     I sing a theatre's history that stands in Bunkum row,
     How on one famous boxing night, to suffocation cramm'd
     The people paying for the pit were in the boxes ramm'd

-- 272 --

     'Tis getting near to eight a'clock, a thick crowd outside roar
     And with increased impatience waits the opening of the door.
     At last, the doors are open flung and through the people rush
     And some are almost squeezed to death, tremendous is the           
          crush. . . .
     At last the curtain rises up and "Hats off" is the cry
     And at the sight the actors turn and whisper "Oh my eye"
     But still they stamp and shout hurrah as loud as they can bawl
     And half the people didn't know the play'd begun at all.
     In vain the actors raise their voice in hope of being heard
     In vain the orchestra struck up "I would I were a bird"
     But still they stamp and shout behind, the blackguards of the 
     And the thunder of the audience nearly brought the gallery 
          down. . . .

     9. _Letters_, p. 116.
     10. _Ibid._


Gissing's comments on newspaper stories are from _Letters_, pp. 86 
and 91, and a letter to Algernon, June 19, 1881 (YUL). For his 
reaction to the death of Carlyle, see _Letters_, pp. 92-93. For the 
Rossetti pictures and Gilbert and Sullivan operas, see _Letters_, pp. 
121, 123-24. For his opinion of Ruskin, see _Letters_, p. 126. For 
John Ruskin's economic theories see his _Unto This Last_, in 
_Works_, ed. Cook and Wedderburn (London: Longmans, Roberts 
and Green, 1903-12), XVII, 25-114. Bertz's conversion is mentioned 
in a letter to Algernon, September 2, 1883 (YUL). Helen's new 
difficulties and Gissing's attempt to find evidence for a divorce are 
narrated in the following letters to Algernon (YUL): September 24, 
1883; September 29, 1883; October 1, 1883; October 10, 1883; 
October 30, 1883; November 24, 1883.

     11. _Letters_, p. 86.
     12. _Ibid._, p. 126.
     13. _Ibid._, p. 132.


"The Four Silverpennys" appeared anonymously in _Temple Bar_, 
January, 1884, pp. 120-28. "Phoebe" appeared in the number of 
March, 1884, pp. 391-406. It was originally set up to be published 
anonymously, but Gissing added his name to the proofs, as he told 
Algernon in a letter of January 11, 1884 (YUL). "Song" led Gissing 
into a foolish situation, for when the "Literary Gossip" column of the 
_Athenaeum_ reported, on November 10, 1883, that "a very pretty 
song" had been

-- 273 --

contributed to a recent number of _Temple Bar_ under a 
pseudonym by Leonard Huxley, the son of Thomas Henry Huxley, 
Gissing took this for a reference to his own poem and wrote to the 
editor demanding an explanation. There was no reply, but a letter 
to Bentley brought forth the explanation that the remark referred 
to a previous number of _Temple Bar_. Although Gissing wrote to 
Algernon that he was dissatisfied with this, there was really no 
cause for confusion. The previous edition of the magazine had 
carried a "Birthday Ballade of September 21st," signed with the 
initials N.O.E.L.; it was a poem addressed to his sister, Jessie, which 
Leonard Huxley had signed with the name of the brother who had 
died before he was born.
The outline of "Pastures New" is in a letter to Algernon dated 
October 21, 1883 (YUL). Remarks about Scott and George Eliot as 
models are in a letter of November 11, 1883 (YUL). The phrases 
about literature as a profession are from a letter of January 9, 1895 
(YUL). Gissing mentions his writing difficulties in _Letters_, p. 137, 
a letter to Bertz of October 21, 1889, and entries in his Holograph 
Diary of December 27, 1887, January 6, 1888, and February 7, 
1888. This diary, which is in the Berg Collection, is an important 
source of information about Gissing's daily activities, personal 
feelings, and private thoughts; it also supplies the biographer with 
much factual material. A number of pages in the first of the three 
notebooks appear to have been cut out; the first surviving entry is 
that of December 27, 1887.
The negotiations over the publication and revision of _The 
Unclassed_ are mentioned in _Letters_, p. 135, in letters to 
Algernon dated February 28, 1884, March 13, 1884, and April 10, 
1884 (YUL), and in Gordan, _George Gissing_, pp. 10-11. A letter 
from George Bentley rejecting the novel, dated January 4,1884, is to 
be found in Gettmann's _A Victorian Publisher_, p. 220. For the 
discovery of Meredith's identity, see _Letters_, p. 138. Repeated 
references to Bentley's silence about _Mrs. Grundy's Enemies_ are 
in letters to Algernon dated October 10, 1883, October 30, 1883, 
and February 28, 1884 (YUL). Details about Bertz's book and 
departure from England are from Young's "George Gissing's 
Friendship with Eduard Bertz" and a letter to Algernon of March 21, 
1884 (YUL). The recommendation that Algernon write essays is in a 
letter of May 15, 1884 (YUL).

     14. Letter to Algernon, July 25, 1891 (YUL).
     15. Holograph Diary, entry of July 8, 1888 (Berg Collection).
     16. _The Bookman_, IV (September, 1896), 18. This note was 
probably based on information Gissing gave in a speech made at a 
dinner in honor of Meredith in November, 1895.

-- 274 --


Gissing had once commented on the problem of landlordism, which 
is treated in _The Unclassed_, in a letter of June 19, 1881 to 
Algernon (YUL): "Someone owns all these slums and alleys," he 
wrote, "and draws endless rents from them." Gissing's reference to 
his typical young man is in a letter to Roberts, February 10, 1895 
(Berg Collection). The letter to Harrison following the discussion of 
_The Unclassed_ is No. 57 in the Gissing collection of the 
Pforzheimer Library. The remarks about irony and indirectness 
relative to "Sewage Farm" are in a letter to Algernon dated 
September 7, 1884 (Berg Collection).

     17. _The Unclassed_ (London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1911), pp.           
     18. _Ibid._, p. 212
     19. _Letters_, p. 135.
     20. _Ibid._, p.141.
     21. _Athenaeum_, July 27, 1889, p.126.


The summer holiday of 1884 is described in _Letters_, pp. 143-47. 
Gissing's relations with Mrs. Gaussen and her family are mentioned 
in _Letters_, pp. 147-48, and a letter to Algernon, September 1, 
1884 (YUL). His wider social activities are mentioned in _Letters_, 
pp. 149-50.
His letters to Ellen about her visit to Mrs. Gaussen are published in
Jacqueline Steiner, "George Gissing to His Sister: Letters of George
Gissing," _More Books_ (Bulletin of the Boston Public Library), XXII
(November, December, 1947), 323-36, 376-86. They were written 
in May, 1885.

     22. _Letters_, p.167.
     23. Dated August 10, 1872, in "Verses" (YUL).
     24. _Letters_, pp. 128-29.
     25. _Ibid._, pp. 138-39.



Various observations about 7K are found in _Letters of George 
Gissing to Members of His Family_, ed. Algernon and Ellen Gissing 
(London: Constable, 1927), pp. 150-51; a letter to Algernon, 
December 20, 1884 (YUL); Austin Harrison, "George Gissing," 
_Nineteenth Century and After_, LX (September, 1906), 453-63; 
Morley Roberts, _The Private Life of Henry Maitland_ (New and 
Revised Edition; London: Eveleigh,

-- 275 --

Nash and Grayson, 1923), p.43; and a letter to Ellen of March 14, 
1888, _Letters_, p. 210. For "The Graven Image" and "Madcaps," see 
John D. Gordan, _George Gissing: 1857-1903_ (Catalogue for an 
exhibition of materials from the Berg Collection of the New York 
Public Library [New York: New York Public Library, 1954]), p. 11. 
For his change of writing habits in 1885, see _Letters_, p. 157. His 
manuscript copies are exemplified by holographs of his novels in 
the Berg Collection and the Huntington Library.
For Roberts on Gissing's learning, see Roberts, _Maitland_, pp. 49-
50, 79-80, 81-82, and 97. "He knew by heart a hundred choruses of 
the Greek tragedies. . . ." For H. G. Wells on this subject, see his 
_Experiment in Autobiography_ (New York: The Macmillan Co., 
1934), pp. 483-84. For Gissing on Gibbon see _The Private Papers of 
Henry Ryecroft_ (New York: Modern Library, n.d.), pp. 33-35. For 
his interest in the early Christian sects, see _Letters_, pp. 165-66. 
For his interest in the dissolution of the Roman Empire, see 
_Letters_, p. 351. His diary _passim_ gives evidence of his grasp of 
French and German. For his purchase of Turgenev's novels, see 
_Letters_, p. 136; for his interest in Turgenev, _Letters_, p.138. The 
suggestion that Turgenev influenced _A Life's Morning_ is Roberts'; 
see Roberts, _Maitland_, p. 162. For Gissing's difficulty with titles, 
see _Letters_, pp. 49-5O, 53, 65. For the change of _Isabel 
Clarendon_'s title, see _Letters_, pp. 150, 160.

     1. Quoted in _Punch_, January 3, 1885, p. .l.
     2. _Ibid._
     3. _Letters_, p. 157.
     4. Holograph Diary (Berg Collection).
     5. _Letters_, pp. 16O-61.
     6. _Ibid._, pp. 163-64.


For the revision of _Isabel Clarendon_, see _Letters_, p. 157. On the 
question of payment for it, see Gordan, _George Gissing_, pp. 12-13. 
For Gissing's opinion of "Emily," see _Letters_, p.173. For Payn's 
reaction, see _Letters_, p.174. For the enforced revision, see 
Roberts, _Maitland_, p. 88.

     7. John Ruskin, _Time and Tide_, in _Works_, ed. Cook and 
Wedderburn (London: Longmans, Roberts and Green, 1903-12), 
XVII, 348.


Gissing describes his work as a "consolation" in a letter to Algernon, 
September, 1885 (YUL). For his confidence in _Demos_, see 
_Letters_, pp.

-- 276 --

174-75. For information about socialism, see Max Beer, _A History 
of British Socialism_ (2 vols.; London: G. Bell and Sons, Ltd., 1919); 
Sidney Webb, "Socialism in England," _Publications of the American 
Economic Association_, Vol. II, No. 2 (April, 1889); and John Stuart 
Mill, "Chapters on Socialism," _Fortnightly Review_, Vols. CXLVI-
CXLVIII, New Series (February-April, 1879). For Gissing's visit to 
Hammersmith, see _Letters_, p.174.

     8. _Letters_, p.174.
     9. _The Nether World_ (London: Murray, 1903) chap. xxiv, p. 
     10. Friedrich Engels, _Condition of the Working Class in England 
in 1844_, trans. Florence Kelley Wischnewetzky (London: G. Allen & 
Unwin, Ltd., 1926), p.115.
     11. _Demos: A Story of English Socialism_ (New York: E. P. Dutton 
& Co., Inc., n.d.), chap. xxxv, pp. 453-54.


For W. H. Mallock on the poor, see "Social Equality," _Saturday 
Review_, LIV, 380 ff. For ThŽodule Ribot on the inheritance of 
moral characteristics, see _L'HŽrŽditŽ psychologique_ (Paris: F. 
Alean, 1914), particularly pp. 320 ff. 

For the class war, see Benjamin Disraeli's _Sybil_ (Bradenham 
edition; London: Peter Davies, 1927), IX, 190; and Engels, _Condition 
of the Working Class_, p.298: ". . . the war of the poor against the 
rich now carried on in detail and indirectly will become direct and 
universal. It is too late now for a peaceful solution."

     12. _Demos_, chap. xxvi, pp. 350-51. (There are two chapters 
numbered xxvi; this reference is to the second one.)
     13. _Ibid._, chap. viii, p. 89.
     14. Letter to Algernon, June 21, 1884 (YUL).
     15. Letter to Algernon, December 21, 1880 (YUL).
     16. _Demos_, chap. x, p. 136.
     17. _Letters_, p. 169.
     18. Commonplace Book, p.40 (Berg Collection).


For Arnold on "aliens" and "the saving remnant," see chapter iii of
_Culture and Anarchy, Culture and Anarchy and Friendship's 
Garland_ (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1913), pp. 1-206; and the 
essay, "Numbers," _Discourses in America_ (New York: The 
Macmillan Co., 1912), pp. 158-64. For ethical implications in Pater, 
see Ruth C. Child's _The Aesthetic of Walter Pater_ (New York: The 

-- 277 --

Co., 1940), particularly p. 41, where a parallel with Shelley is 
pointed out, and pp. 102-3.

     19. Arnold, _Culture and Anarchy_, p. 85.
     20. _Ibid._, p. 41.
     21. _Ibid._, pp. 150-51.
     22. _A Life's Morning_ (London: Home and Van Thai, 1947), 
chap. v, p.93.
     23. _Demos_, chap. xxix, p. 376.
     24. _Ibid._, chap. xxvi, p. 339.
     25. _Ibid._, chap. xxix, p. 385.


Gissing's comment about Payn and his own comparison with George 
Eliot are in letters to Ellen of November 26, 1885, and March 6, 
1886 (Berg Collection). Details about his position in March of 1886 
are from _Letters_, pp. 175-76.

     26. Letter to Ellen, March 14, 1886 (Berg Collection).
     27. "Ethics and Art in Recent Novels," _Scottish Review_, April, 
1886, pp. 328-29.
     28. _Letters_, p. 177.



For Chapman and Hall's promise to publish _Isabel Clarendon_, see 
_Letters of George Gissing to Members of His Family_, ed. Algernon 
and Ellen Gissing (London: Constable, 1927), pp. 174, 175. Gissing's 
annoyance at the way it was advertised is expressed in a letter to 
Ellen, May 8, 1886 (Berg Collection). For the sale of _Demos_, see 
_Letters_, p. 180, and for signs of Gissing's "emancipation," 
_Letters_, p. 182. Morley's comment is on p. 185 of _Letters_. For 
his frequenting of Lambeth, see _Letters_, pp. 182, 183. For the 
remark about Hellas and Lambeth, see _Letters_, p. 184. For the 
new beginning in July, _Letters_, p. 183. For Gissing's debt to French 
and Russian rather than English writers, see _Letters_, p. 183. The 
final agreement on _Thyrza_ is described in a letter to Algernon, 
January, 1887 (YUL). For the copies of _Thyrza_ taken by Mudie's, 
see _Letters_, p. 196. The fact that it sold fewer than 500 is in an 
undated letter to Algernon (1887?) (YUL).

     1. _Letters_, p. 184.
     2. _Ibid._, p. 188.
     3. _Ibid._, p. 183.

-- 278 --

     4. _Thyrza_ (London: Eveleigh, Nash and Grayson, 1928), p. 111.
     5. John Ruskin, _Unto This Last_, in _Works_, ed. Cook and 
Wedderburn (London: Longmans, Roberts and Green, 1903-12), 
XVII, 48, note.
     6. Graham Wallas, "Property Under Socialism," _Fabian Essays_ 
(London: G. Allen & Unwin, Ltd., 1948), pp. 137-38.
     7. _Thyrza_, pp. 12-13.
     8. Friedrich Engels, _Condition of the Working Class in England in 
1844_, trans. Florence Kelley Wischnewetzky (London: G. Allen & 
Unwin, Ltd., 1926), p. 115.
     9. _Letters_, p. 193.
     10. This sentence, omitted from the published version, appears 
in a letter to Ellen, July 8, 1887 (YUL).
     11. _Letters_, p. 196.
     12. _Ibid._


Gissing's planned reorganization, _Clement Dorricott_, and _Sandray 
the Sophist_ are mentioned in a letter to Algernon dated April 24, 
1887 (YUL). For _Dust and Dew_, see _Letters_, pp. 196, 201; for 
_The Insurgents_, _Letters_, p. 204. _Clement Dorricott_ is also 
mentioned in a letter without salutation dated 1887 (Berg 
Collection); its final fate is described in the diary entry of June 7, 
1888. For Gissing's visit to Smith, see _Letters_, p. 197; for his visit 
to the Deanery and his glimpse of Oscar Wilde, see _Letters_, p. 205. 
The five pounds are requested from Algernon in a letter dated Good 
Friday, 1887 (YUL). His good health is insisted upon in _Letters_, p. 
201, and a letter to Ellen, October 16, 1887 (Berg Collection). For 
speeches at Clerkenwell, see _Letters_, p. 199; diary entries of 
March, 1888, mention repeated visits to the district. London 
disturbances are mentioned in _Letters_, p. 203, and a letter to 
Algernon, October 19, 1887 (YUL). For the difficulty with the title of 
_A Life's Morning_, see _Letters_, p. 2O2; his distaste for the novel 
is from _Letters_, p. 205, and his change of mind from the same, p. 
212. Visits to Worcestershire and Eastbourne are in _Letters_, pp. 
207-8. Details of the death of Helen and the wording of the 
telegram are from the diary. Gissing's reaction and other particulars 
are given by Morley Roberts in _The Private Life of Henry 
Maitland_ (New and Revised Edition; London:
Eveleigh, Nash and Grayson, 1923), pp. 54-59. Roberts' account is 
not entirely clear or complete, but he was with Gissing at this time.
Gissing's visit to Helen's room is in the diary entry of March 1, 
1888. See John D. Gordan, _George Gissing: 1857-1903_ (Catalogue 
for an exhibition of materials from the Berg Collection of the New 
York Pub-

-- 279 --

lic Library [New York: New York Public Library, 1954]), p. 16, for 
some details of it. The creative impulse this experience stimulated 
is mentioned in the diary, and in letters to Algernon of March 1 and 
March 3 (Berg Collection).

     13. _Letters_, p. 192.
     14. Letters to Algernon, March 1 and 3, 1888 (Berg Collection).


Some information about Gissing's family life in boyhood is given in 
Ellen Gissing's "George Gissing: A Character-Sketch," _Nineteenth 
Century and After_, CII (September, 1927), 419-20. The story of 
Miss Curtis is suggested in brief diary entries of May 8 and 9, 1888. 
For his visit to Wakefield, see _Letters_, p. 221; the copies of the 
new edition of _Demos_ are mentioned in a letter to Algernon, 
August 4, 1888 (YUL); for Gissing's reading of Crabbe, Hawthorne, 
and the _Odyssey_, see _Letters_, p. 222. The departure for Paris is 
mentioned in a diary entry of September 26, 1888. For Gissing's 
contribution to the Reverend Mr. Bainton's book, see _Letters_, p. 

     15. _The Nether World_ (London: Murray, 1903), chap. vi, p. 57.
     16. Beatrice Webb, _My Apprenticeship_ (New York and London:
Longmans, Green and Co., 1926), pp. 196-97.
     17. _Workers in the Dawn_, ed. Robert Shafer (2 vols.; New York:
Doubleday, Doran, 1935), p. 161.
     18. _The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft_ (New York: Modern 
Library, n.d.), p. 157.
     19. Engels, _Condition of the Working Class_, p. 116.
     20. _The Nether World_, chap. xii, p. 109.
     21. George Bainton, _The Art of Authorship_ (London: J. Clarke & 
Co., 1890), p. 82.



Information about Gissing's Paris trip and details about Plitt are in 
diary entries from September 26 to October 26, 1888. Terms for 
_The Nether World_ and Smith, Elder's explanation are from 
L_etters of George Gissing to Members of His Family_, ed. Algernon 
and Ellen Gissing (London: Constable, 1927), p. 225, and the diary 
entry of October 3, 1888. For Gissing's self-analysis, see _Letters_, p. 
227. His impatience with "idealism" is from the diary, June 13, 
1888; readings of Ibsen are recorded in the diary, June 10 to 13, 
1888. See also _Letters_,

-- 280 --

p. 217. For his change of feeling on crossing the Channel, see 
_Letters_, p. 228; the explanation of the change is somewhat fuller 
in the diary entry of October 19, 1888.
Mlle. Le Breton is mentioned in diary entries of March 14, October 
10, and October 13, 1888. Her translation, not published until the 
spring of 1890, was a source of intense dissatisfaction to Gissing, as 
he says in a letter to Bertz of May 25, 1890; it was a summary 
rather than a translation. His sympathy with Goethe's feelings is 
from _Letters_, p. 228. The conversation with the young American 
is described in the diary entry of October 29, 1888. Gissing's 
impressions of Naples are from _Letters_, pp. 232-39, and the 
diary, November 2, 1888. Publication of _A Life's Morning_ is noted, 
November 15, 1888, in the diary.
For his meetings with Shortridge, see _Letters_, p. 245; the full 
name is given in the diary, November 20, 1888. For the ascent of 
Vesuvius, see _Letters_, pp. 245-46. The Shortridge household is 
described in the diary entry of November 23, 1888. For Gissing's 
trip to Rome, see _Letters_, p. 248; his parting from Plitt is in the 
diary, November 29, 1888. For Gissing's experiences in Rome, see 
_Letters_, pp. 249-67. The Sistine Chapel diagram is in the diary, 
December 12, 1888. For Florence see _Letters_, pp. 267-74.
Proofs of _The Nether World_ are mentioned in the diary, January 
5, 1889. His thoughts of a new novel are recorded in diary entries 
of January 15 and February 9, 1889. For Gissing's journey to Venice 
see _Letters_, pp. 276-78. The lecture on Zola and Gissing's reaction 
are described in the diary, February 11, 1889, and in a letter to 
Bertz dated February 13, 1889. For English opinion of Zola, see _The 
Victorian Conscience_, by Clarence R. Decker (New York: Twayne 
Publishers, Inc., 1952), chap. v. Gissing followed Zola's work closely, 
as the references in the dialogue of chap. x of _New Grub Street_ 
(New York: Modern Library, 1926) suggest. In a letter to Bertz 
dated September 29, 1893, he wrote that Zola was universally 
respected in England, in spite of the arrest of Vizetelly a year or so 
earlier. In a letter to Bertz of February 23, 1896, he praised _La 
DŽbacle_; in letters to the same correspondent dated January 13, 
1898, and March 8, 1898, Gissing expressed admiration for Zola and 
the part he was playing in the Dreyfus case. The return to England 
is from diary entries of February 26 to March 1, 1889. For the 
thoughts of Charlotte Bront‘, see _Letters_, p. 281.

     1. _Letters_, p. 227.
     2. _Ibid._, p. 228.
     3. _Ibid._, p. 229.
     4. _Ibid._, pp. 229-30.

-- 281 --

     5. _Ibid._, p. 233.
     6. _Ibid._, p. 258.
     7. _Ibid._, p. 262.
     8. _Ibid._, p. 269.
     9. _Ibid._, p. 264.
     10. Diary, February 24, 1888.


Favorable reactions to the poor of Europe are recorded in diary 
entries of December 9, 1888, in Rome; January 20, 1889, in 
Florence; and February 2, 1889, in Venice. Indifference to Christian 
art is expressed in a letter to Bertz, February 14, 1889. Information 
about Gissing's activities in London after his return is from the 
diary, March 1 to 19, 1889. The planning and actual start of _The 
Emancipated_ are from the diary, March 20 to 28, 1889. 
Intercourse with the Harrison family is mentioned in the diary, 
April 1, 6, and 9, 1889. Roberts' arrest and Gissing's part in it are 
described in a letter to Algernon, April 14, 1889 (YUL); a diary 
entry of April 9, 1889; and Morley Roberts' _The Private Life of 
Henry Maitland_ (New and Revised Edition; London: Eveleigh, Nash 
and Grayson, 1923), pp. 90-92. The verses, "The Humble 
Aspirations of H. M., Novelist," as Roberts called them, are in his 
_Maitland_, pp. 158-60. Gissing's meetings with Hartley and Hudson 
are mentioned in diary entries of March 23, April 13, April 27, and 
May 11, 1889. Plitt's reappearance and the letter from Frau Steinitz 
are mentioned in the diary, April 18 and May 14, 1889. Gissing's 
removal to Wakefield is from the diary, May 25, 1889. The 
complaint about family conversation is from the diary, May 30, 
1889. The completion of Volume I of _The Emancipated_ is from the 
diary, June 25, 1889.

     11. _Letters_, p. 269.
     12. _Ibid._, p. 266.
     13. _Ibid._, p. 273.


For observations about the middle class, see Friedrich Engels, 
_Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844_, trans. Florence 
Kelley Wischnewetzky (London: G. Allen & Unwin, Ltd., 1926), 
particularly pp. 276-98; Matthew Arnold, "My Countrymen," 
_Culture and Anarchy and Friendship's Garland_ (New York: The 
Macmillan Co., 1913), pp. 317-57; Charles Booth, _Life and Labour 
of the People in London_ (London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1889), 
Vol. VIII, Part II; Helen Merrell Lynd, _England in the Eighteen-
Eighties_ (New York: Oxford

-- 282 --

University Press, 1945), Part II, chap. viii; and John Stuart Mill, 
_Principles of Political Economy_ (London: Longmans, Roberts and 
Green, 1940), Vol. I.

     14. Engels, _Condition of the Working Class_, p. 276.
     15. _Ibid._, pp. 23-24.


The incident involving the baby is from the diary entry of January 
2, 1890.

     16. _The Emancipated_ (London: Bentley and Son, 1890), I, 190-
     17. _Ibid._, I, 25-26.
     18. _Ibid._, II, 94-95.
     19. _Ibid._, III, 243-44.


Algernon's removal to Harbottle is mentioned in a letter to 
Algernon, May 21, 1889 (YUL). Among the references to Algernon's 
novels and dealings with publishers are the following letters to 
Algernon (YUL): January 20, 1888; July 15, 1888; November 13, 
1888; January 22,1889; April (no date), 1889; April 14, 1889; April 
21, 1889; July 27, 1889; June 6, 1890. See also _Letters_, p. 215. 
Gissing described his reaction to _Niels Lyhne_ in a letter to Bertz, 
October 21, 1889 (YUL). His opinion of _Some Elements of Religion_ 
is in the diary, July 21, 1889.
The painter's wife is described in the diary entry of August 26, 
1889. His observations about Margaret's piety are from the diary 
entry of September 1, 1889. His reading of Hugo is recorded in the 
diary, July 21, August 31, and September 12, 1889. Gissing's 
remarks about his early novels are in a letter to Bertz of September 
11, 1889. Receipt of Bertz's letter about Farrar's article is recorded 
in the diary on September 11, 1889. His reading of and reaction to 
it are from the diary, September 16, 1889, and a letter to Bertz, 
October 21, 1889. Gissing recorded the receipt of a letter from Edith 
Sichel in the diary on June 8, 1889. His visits to her are in diary 
entries of September 28, 1889, and November 9, 1889, and in a 
letter to Ellen, September 29, 1889 (Berg Collection). For 
biographical information about Edith Sichel, see F. W. Cornish, "Edith 
Sichel, A Study in Friendship," _Cornhill Magazine_, August, 1915, 
pp. 217-30. Gissing's reading is recorded in the diary, September 22 
to November 9, 1889. _The Headmistress_ is mentioned in the 
diary, October 17, 1889.

     20. F. W. Farrar, "_The Nether World_," _Contemporary Review_, 
LVI (September, 1889), 371.

-- 283 --

     21. From Edith Sichel, "Two Philanthropic Novelists: Mr. Walter 
Besant and Mr. George Gissing," _Murray's Magazine_, III (April, 
1888), 506-18.


The dinner of "The Quadrilateral" is described in the diary entry of 
October 5, 1889. See also Roberts' biography, _W. H. Hudson, a 
Portrait_ (New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1924). The terms for _The 
Emancipated_ are given in the diary entry of September 27, 1889. 
Gissing's Mediterranean voyage is described in the diary, November 
11 to 19, 1889. His reaction to Athens and his Greek friend are 
mentioned in the diary from November 19 to 24, 1889. See also 
_Letters_, pp. 294-301. His visit to the university is from the diary, 
December 14, 1889. The trip to Naples is recorded in the diary, 
December 17 to 22, 1889, and in a letter to Bertz, January 8, 1890. 
The visit to the Shortridge household is from the diary, December 
31, 1889, to January 5, 1890. Gissing's illness is mentioned in diary 
entries of January 23 and January 31. He expressed his reaction to 
English people and customs in the diary entry of February 22, 1890, 
and a letter to Bertz, February 22, 1890.
For reactions to _The Emancipated_, see letters to Ellen of April 1, 3, 
and 15, 1890, in Jacqueline Steiner, "George Gissing to His Sister: 
Letters of George Gissing," _More Books_ (Bulletin of the Boston 
Public Library), XXII (November, December, 1947), 323-36; also, 
diary, April 3, 1890. "A Man of Letters" is first mentioned in the 
diary, April 8, 1890. The title _New Grub Street_ first appears in 
the diary, October 1, 1890. The trip to Paris is recorded in the diary, 
April 16,1890, to May 1, 1890. Gissing's loneliness at this time and 
his thoughts about marrying in Germany are expressed in letters to 
Bertz of June 22 and August 15, 1890. Edith Sichel's invitations are 
mentioned in the diary, June 20 and 22, 1890. The remark about 
the connection between good work and marriage is from the diary, 
September 16, 1890. The explanation of the impossibility of his 
marrying is in a letter to Bertz of September 6, 1890.
For his meeting with Edith Underwood, see Roberts, _Maitland_, pp. 
139-46; Mabel Collins Donnelly, _George Gissing: Grave Comedian_ 
(Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1954), p. 136; and 
John D. Gordan, _George Gissing: 1857-1903_ (Catalogue for an 
exhibition of materials from the Berg Collection of the New York 
Public Library [New York: New York Public Library, 1954]), pp. 20-
21. For Roberts' opinion of her, see his _Maitland_, pp. 151-52; for 
H. G. Wells's opinion, his _Experiment in Autobiography_ (New York: 
The Macmillan Co., 1934), pp. 487-88. Visits and excursions with 
Edith are mentioned

-- 284 --

in the diary, September 28, 1890, October 15, 1890, November 2, 5, 
16, etc., 1890. His opinion of Edith and the nature of his relationship 
with her are from letters to Bertz of October 25, 1890, and January 
23-24, 1891. Roberts gives an account of his visit to his cousins in 
_Maitland_, pp. 148-50. The acceptance of _New Grub Street_ is 
from the diary, January 7, 1891. The removal to Exeter is 
mentioned in the diary, January 10, 1891. The uncomfortable 
marriage negotiations can be traced through diary entries of 
January 13, February 3, 5, 9, and 13, 1891. The marriage is 
recorded in the diary on February 25, 1891. The letter to Mrs. 
Harrison dated April 21, 1891, is No. 55 in the Pforzheimer 
Library's Gissing collection.

     22. _Letters_, p. 293.
     23. _Ibid._, p. 294.
     24. _Ibid._, pp. 308-9.
     25. _The House of Cobwebs_ (London: Constable, 1926), pp. 257-
     26. Roberts, _Maitland_, p. 140.

For Q. D. Leavis' opinion of _New Grub Street_, see "Gissing and the 
English Novel," _Scrutiny_, VII (June, 1938), 73-81. For Smith, 
Elder's rejection of _Mrs. Grundy's Enemies_, see _Letters of George 
Gissing to Members of His Family_, ed. Algernon and Ellen Gissing 
(London: Constable, 1927), p. 119. For the dishonesty of publishers, 
see Samuel Squire Sprigge, _Methods of Publishing_ (London: H. 
Glaisher, 1891). Information about the relations of authors and 
publishers may be found in _Publishing and Bookselling_ by Frank 
Arthur Mumby (New and Revised Edition; London: Jonathan Cape, 
1949) and Royal A. Gettmann's _A Victorian Publisher_ (Cambridge, 
Engl.: Cambridge University Press, 1960), chap. iv and v. Gissing's 
small profit from _Workers in the Dawn_ is mentioned in _Letters_, 
p.94. For the Society of Authors, see Walter Besant's 
_Autobiography_ (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1902). In spite of 
his disapproval of outright sale, Besant seems to have disposed of 
his own books on these terms; see Mumby, p.188. Gissing's 
reference to the supposed income from _David Grieve_ is in a letter 
to Bertz of August 7, 1892. The earnings of Trollope's novels are 
from his _Autobiography_ (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California 
Press, 1948). Gissing's calculations of profits are mentioned in a 
letter to Algernon of January 19, 1891 (YUL). His "Account Book" 
covering 1880-98 appears in facsimile in "How and Why I Collect 
George Gissing," by George Matthew Adams, _The Colophon_, Part 

-- 285 --

(1934). Another document of this kind, "Account of Literary Work," 
covering the years 1899-1902, is No. 89 in the Pforzheimer Gissing 

     1. _New Grub Street_ (New York: Modern Library, 1926), pp. 50-
     2. _Ibid._, p. 51.
     3. _Ibid._, pp. l28-29.
     4. _Ibid._, pp. 129-30.
     5. _Ibid._, p. 131.
     6. _Ibid._, p. 492.
     7. _Ibid._, pp. 150-51.



For reactions of Gissing's friends and relations to _New Grub Street_, 
as well as press references to it, see _Letters of George Gissing to 
Members of His Family_, ed. Algernon and Ellen Gissing (London: 
Constable, 1927), pp. 317-19. The reaction of Roberts is recorded in 
the diary, April 30, 1891; of Grahame, in the diary, May 6, 1891. 
Gissing replied to Bertz's criticism in a letter dated April 26, 1891. 
Gissing's complaint about the ironic relationship between fame and 
starvation is from the diary, May 27, 1891; his membership in the 
library is recorded in the diary, June 2, 1891. His price for "Godwin 
Peak" is from the diary, July 20, 1891. Payn's holiday and Gissing's 
retreat to £150 are from the diary, August 7, 1891. In this entry, 
Gissing recorded an objection to Payn's penmanship: "His 
handwriting alone is an insult." The return of the manuscript of 
"Godwin Peak" and Gissing's approach to Watt are from the diary, 
August 9, 1891. Watt's reports on the publishers' offers for "Godwin 
Peak" are from the diary, August 29 and December 29, 1891. 
Gissing's explanation of his difficulty in placing it is in a letter to 
Bertz, December 16, 1891. The revision of the book is described in 
the diary, January 12 to February 5, 1892.

     1. The quotation, in a letter to Bertz dated May 15, 1891, is from 
the _Saturday Review_, LXXI, No. 1854 (May 9, 1891), 572.
     2. _The Author_, Vol. 11, No. 1 (June 1, 1891). The next number, 
dated July 1, 1891, contains Lang's reply, and the rejoinders to it 
are in the August number.
     3. Diary, May 23, 1891.
     4. Postcard to Bertz, April 9, 1891.
     5. Diary, May 27, 1891.
     6. Letter to Bertz, May 20, 1892.

-- 286 --


Gissing refers to his frequent rereading of _VŠter und Sšhne_ in the 
diary, March 16, 1890. He once wrote to Ellen of "Bazaroff": "It is 
the purely _negative_ mind, common enough now-a-days in men of 
thought" - Letter of June 17, 1888 (Berg Collection). References to 
_Niels Lyhne_ are from the diary, March 18, 1890, and a letter to 
Bertz, March 26, 1890. Bourget is praised in a letter to Bertz, 
September 6, 1890. For Samuel Butler's views, see _God the Known 
and God the Unknown_ (London: A. C. Fifield, 1909), pp. 82 ff. For 
Herbert Spencer on the reconciliation of science and religion, see 
_First Principles_ (New York: D. Appleton, 1894), p. 46. For his 
reaction to the agnostic dilemma, see _First Principles_, pp. 29 ff; 
for John Stuart Mill's views on the question, see _Three Essays on 
Religion_ (3rd ed.; London: Longmans, Roberts and Green, 1923). 
Reviews of _Born in Exile_ are from the Spectator, June 25, 1892, 
p.883, and _Athenaeum_, May 28, 1892, p. 693. The _Pall Mall 
Gazette_ observation and Gissing's reaction are from the diary, July 
2, 1892.
     7. G. H. Lewes, _Comte's Philosophy of the Sciences_ (London: 
Bell and Daldy, 1871), p. 9.
     8. ƒmile Zola, _Le Roman expŽrimental_ (Paris: Charpentier, 
1893), p. 15.
     9. Letter to Bertz, May 7, 1900.
     10. Ivan Turgenev, _Fathers and Children_, trans. Constance 
Garnett (London: Heinemann, 1915), p. 226.
     11. _Ibid._, p. 222.
     12. Jens Peter Jacobsen, _Niels Lyhne_, trans. Hanna Astrup 
Larsen (New York: The American-Scandinavian Foundation, 1919), 
pp. 278-79
     13. _Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley_ (New York: D. 
Appleton & Co., 1900), I, 236.
     14. _Born in Exile_ (London: T. Nelson and Sons, 1913), p.377.
     15. Edward Clodd, _Memories_ (London: Chapman and Hall, 
1916), pp. 180-81.
     16. Diary, July 2, 1892.


The removal to St. Leonard's Terrace is from the diary, August 19, 
1891. The letter from Lawrence and Bullen is from the diary, 
September 26, 1891. The title "The Radical Candidate" is from the 
diary, September 29, 1891. Bullen's visit is from the diary, 
November 6, 1891. Lawrence and Bullen's acceptance of _Denzil 
Quarrier_ is from the diary,

-- 287 --

November 25, 1891. Gissing's comments on the shorter and more 
dramatic mode in fiction are from the _Letters_, p. 166, and letters 
to Bertz of May 25, 1890, and October 18, 1891. He revised 
_Thyrza_ in March, 1891, and _The Unclassed_ in September, 1895. 
Joseph J. Wolff's "Gissing's Revision of _The Unclassed_," 
_Nineteenth Century Fiction_, VIII (June, 1953), 42-52, and Robert 
Shafer's edition of _Workers in the Dawn_ (New York: Doubleday, 
Doran, 1935), give information about the new forms of these novels. 
See also the discussion of Gissing and the three-volume novel in 
Royal A. Gettmann's _A Victorian Publisher_ (Cambridge, Engl.: 
Cambridge University Press, 1960), pp. 252-56. In this passage, he 
is quoted as saying, in a letter written to a French critic in 1901: "If 
ever I get the opportunity, I shall give all my books a vigorous 
revision, and cut them down." Gissing's description of _Denzil 
Quarrier_ as a "defence of conventionality" is in _Letters_, p. 326.

     17. Letter to Algernon, July 25, 1891 (Berg Collection).



Gissing's choice of his son's names is from a letter to Algernon, 
December 10, 1891 (YUL), and the diary entry of December 29, 
1891. Domestic difficulties are described in diary entries of 
December 16, 1891, and January 4, 12, and 14, 1892. The Penzance 
trip is from the diary, February 8-15, 1892. Gissing's plan of dealing 
with people placed too high is expressed in letters to Bertz, 
February 16 and May 1, 1892. The same idea and the title "Jacks in 
Office" are found in a letter to Algernon, December 17, 1891. The 
baby's return home and the difficult period that followed are from 
the diary, April 13-23, 1892. Gissing's difficulties in making 
progress in 1892 are recorded in the diary, June 9, July 1, July 31, 
and September 2, 1892, and in a letter to Bertz, December 2, 1892. 
Observations about Edith's ignorance are recorded in the 
Commonplace Book, pp. 28, 33, and 37. The completion of _The Odd 
Women_ is from the diary, October 4, 1892.
Gissing expressed his views on "female equality" in a letter to Bertz, 
June 2, 1893. For the usual Victorian view of woman's role, see 
Coventry Patmore, _Angel in the House_ in _The Poems of Coventry 
Patmore_ (London: Oxford University Press, 1949), pp. 61-210; and 
John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies in Works, ed. Cook and Wedderburn 
(London: Longmans, Roberts and Green, 1903-12), XVIII, 21-127. 
For criticism of it, see Annie Besant, _Marriage As It Is, As It Was, 
As It Should Be_ (London: Freethought Publishing Co., [1879]); 

-- 288 --

Shaw, _Quintessence of Ibsenism_ (New York: Brentano's, 1928); 
John Stuart Mill, Subjection of Women (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott 
Co., 1869); and the volume entitled _Ideas and Beliefs of the 
Victorians_ (London: British Broadcasting Corp., 1949), by various 
contributors. For the history of women's emancipation, see _The 
Woman Question in Europe_, by Theodore Stanton (New York: G. P. 
Putnam's Sons, 1884), and _The Cause_, by Ray Strachey (London: G. 
Bell and Sons, Ltd., 1928). For a vivid description of the kind of 
shop Monica Widdowson was employed in, see H. G. Wells, 
_Experiment in Autobiography_ (New York: The Macmillan Co., 
1934), pp. 88-95, 115-21. Gissing's revision of _The Odd Women_ is 
recorded in the diary, October 22 and December 1, 1892. Lawrence 
and Bullen's terms are from the diary, October 22, 1892. Their offer 
to republish _The Emancipated_ and the ensuing complications are 
from the diary, October 22, November 17, and November 29, 1892. 
The publisher's account, giving somewhat different figures, appears 
in "Bentley and Gissing" by Royal A. Gettmann, _Nineteenth Century 
Fiction_, XI, No. 4 (March, 1957), 306-14.

     1. Diary, December 10, 1891.
     2. Diary, January 24, 1893.
     3. Letter to Bertz, June 2, 1893.
     4. Dickens, _Oliver Twist_, chap. li.
     5. Annie Besant, _Marriage_, p. 29.


Gissing's visit to Birmingham and its neighborhood is from the 
diary, November 3-24, 1892. The projected Birmingham novel is 
described in letters to Bertz of December 2, 1892, January 15, 1893, 
and March 11, 1893, and in a letter to Algernon of February 28, 
1893 (YUL). His abandonment of it is noted in the diary, April 22, 
1893. For his move to Brixton, see _Letters of George Gissing to 
Members of His Family_, ed. Algernon and Ellen Gissing (London: 
Constable, 1927), p. 334. Miss Collet's first letter to him is noted in 
the diary, May 10, 1893. Her lecture was reported in _The Queen_, 
March 5, 1892, p. 395. Gissing recorded the receipt of her articles in 
the diary, May 13 and 14, 1893. In 1902, Miss Collet published 
some of her articles in a volume entitled _Educated Working 
Women_ (London: D. S. King and Son, 1902). Gissing's first meeting 
with her is recorded in the diary, July 18, 1893. her offer to support 
Walter is recorded in the entry of September 16, 1893. Information 
about her and her relations with Gissing are found in "George 
Gissing and Clara Collet," by Ruth M. Adams, _Nineteenth Century 
Fiction_, XI (June, 1956), 72-77.

-- 289 --

Gissing's original opinion about short stories is in a letter to 
Algernon, April 9, 1889 (YUL). The composition of "A Victim of 
Circumstances" is recorded in the diary, November 19-20, 1891. Its 
acceptance is noted in the diary, November 19, 1892. Blackwood's 
request for more contributions is from the diary, December 29, 
1892. Another early short story, "Letty Coe," was published in 
_Temple Bar_ in August, 1891, though it had been accepted years 
before. For Gissing's first relations with Shorter, see John D. Gordan, 
_George Gissing: 1857-1903_ (Catalogue for an exhibition of 
materials from the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library 
[New York: New York Public Library, 1954]), p. 25.
"Lou and Liz" is recorded in the diary April 17, 1893. His attempt to 
get a higher price from Shorter is noted in the diary, September 15, 
1893. His approach to Colles is from the diary, September 19 and 
22, 1893. The re-establishment of his relations with Shorter is from 
the diary, December 4, 1893; the completion of the six stories is 
noted December 26, 1893. His letter to Bertz about the "commercial 
path" is dated September 29, 1893. "Miss Lord" can be traced 
through diary entries of September 12, October 16, 1893, and 
January 1 and April 13, 1894. The serial agreement with Shorter 
that resulted in _Eve's Ransom_ is recorded in the diary, January 
15, 1894. Payment for the six stories is noted February 24, 1894. 
Bullen's account of sales is recorded in the diary, January 25, 1894. 
Gissing's membership in the Society of Authors is recorded January 
15, 1894.

     6. Letter to Bertz, December 2, 1892.


His difficulty with the beginning of _Eve's Ransom_ is from the 
diary, May 10-18 and May 26, 1894. The visit to Halesworth is 
described in the diary, May 26, 1894. The move to Clevedon is from 
the diary, June 2, 1894. The completion of _Eve's Ransom_ is from 
the diary, June 29, 1894. Gissing's dealings with Barnard are 
mentioned in the diary, August 4, 1894, September 17, 1894, and 
November 22, 1894, and in a letter to Bertz, November 24, 1894. 
The sale of _Eve's Ransom_ is recorded in the diary, April 3 and 29, 
1895. Gissing's first Society of Authors dinner is recorded in the 
diary, October 19, 1894. The second, with his comment on Besant, is 
from the diary, November 19, 1894. His letter of complaint to Bertz 
is dated June 23, 1895. Other complaints about writers - especially 
Besant-are in a letter to Bertz, August 27, 1895.
The weekend at Clodd's is from the diary, June 6, 1895. The Omar

-- 290 --

Khayy‡m dinner is from the diary, July 13, 1895. The meeting 
between Meredith and Gissing is also described in _A Bookman's 
Letters_, by Sir W. Robertson Nicoll (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 
1913), pp. 5-6. This meeting between Hardy and Gissing was not 
the first. A letter to Margaret in March, 1887, speaks of an earlier 
acquaintance (_Letters_, p. 190), and the copy of _Isabel Clarendon_ 
in the Berg Collection was inscribed to Hardy on June 30, 1886 
(Gordan, _George Gissing_, p. 13). The appearance of _New Grub 
Street_ in the Budapest paper _Pester Lloyd_, is mentioned in a 
letter to Bertz, February 16, 1892. The matter of the Reverend 
Osborne Jay is in diary entries of September 8, 9, 11, and 13, 1893, 
and a letter to Bertz, September 29, 1893. The Reverend Mr. Jay's 
invitation and Gissing's visit are from the diary, December 21, 1894, 
and March 31, 1895. The French critic was Blaze de Bury, who had 
asked Gissing for permission to translate _The Odd Women_ in a 
letter mentioned in the diary, November 30, 1894. He had allowed 
translations of his earlier books for nothing, but now, on the advice 
of Lawrence and Bullen, he asked twenty guineas. The periodical 
references are noted in a diary entry of January 16, 1895. The 
figures of his bank balance are in a diary entry of January 4, 1896. 
Hardy's remark to Nicoll is from W. Robertson Nicoll, _People and 
Books_ (London: Hodder & Stoughton, Ltd., 1926), pp. 190-91. His 
recommendation was so strong that Nicoll read all of Gissing's work.
The beginning of the revision of _The Unclassed_ is mentioned in 
the diary, September 8, 1895, and in a letter to Bertz, September 
22, 1895. For a study of this revision, see "Gissing's Revision of _The 
Unclassed_," by Joseph J. Wolff, _Nineteenth Century Fiction_, VIII 
(June, 1953), 42-52. The sale of _Sleeping Fires_ is recorded in the 
diary, March 27, 1895. The possibility of editing Crabbe is 
mentioned in the diary, February 4, 1895, and Crabbe is discussed 
in _Letters_, p.222. Jerome's approach to Gissing is from the diary, 
March 14, 1895. The visits to Meredith are recorded September 3 
and 12, 1895. The visit to Hardy is from the diary, September 15-
16, 1895, and from a letter to Algernon, September 22, 1895, 
published in "George Gissing at Max Gate, 1895," by Richard L. 
Purdy, _Yale University Library Gazette_, XVII, No. 3 (January, 
1943), 51-52. The winter Omar Khayy‡m dinner is from the diary, 
December 6, 1895. The lunch with Shorter and others is from the 
diary, January 11, 1896. The beginning of notes for a new novel is 
from the diary, January 1, 1896. The birth of Alfred and attendant 
complications are from the diary, January 20-25, 1896. Gissing's 
decision to leave Walter in Wakefield is recorded, April 10 and 22, 
1896, in the diary. His motives and the situation at home are 
described in a letter to Algernon of April 22, 1896 (YUL)

-- 291 --

     7. Wells, _Experiment in Autobiography_, p. 483.
     8. Nicoll, _A Bookman's Letters_, p. 291.
     9. Diary, June 6, 1895.
     10. Diary, January 12, 1895.


Gissing's visit to the Harrisons in 1896 is in the diary, August 24, 
1896. His meeting with Wells is from the diary, November 20, 1896. 
Biographical information about Wells is from his _Experiment in 
Autobiography_. His comments on Gissing are on pp. 481-94. 
"Benedict's Household" is mentioned in a letter to Bertz, May 9, 
1896. The completion of _The Whirlpool_ is recorded in the diary, 
December 18, 1896. Miss Collet contended that Gissing identified 
himself with Harvey Rolfe as a form of self-reproach; she explains 
this in a letter to Roberts dated November 23, 1904 (Berg 
Collection). Though its ironic tone is not unmistakable, Rolfe's 
dialogue about Kipling is intended to be hostile. By this time Gissing 
detested Kipling as a spokesman for imperialism ("That fellow has 
done terrible harm" - Letter to Bertz, January 17, 1899); but he 
thought very highly of him before jingoism became an important 
issue in his mind. In letters to Bertz of May 20, 1892, and October 2, 
1894, he praised _Barrack-Room Ballads_ and Kipling's short 
stories. For the success of _The Whirlpool_, see a letter to Bertz, 
May 9, 1897.

     11. Diary, November 26, 1896.
     12. Letter to Bertz, September 27, 1896.
     13. _The Whirlpool_ (London: Lawrence and Bullen, 1897), p. 45.
     14. _The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft_ (New York: Modern 
Library, n.d.), p. 10.
     15. H. G. Wells, "The Novels of Mr. George Gissing," 
_Contemporary Review_, LXII (August, 1897), p. 193. Gissing's 
reaction appears in a letter to Wells of August 7, 1897; see _George 
Gissing and H. G. Wells_, ed. Royal A. Gettmann (Urbana, Ill.: 
University of Illinois Press, 1961), p.47.


References to Gissing's flight from home and the events between 
February and June, when he was separated from his diary, are 
recorded in the entry of June 2, 1897. His earlier visit to Budleigh 
Salterton is mentioned in a letter to Algernon of February 9, 1891 
(in the Huntington Library). His plan to write a historical novel is in 
a letter to Bertz, June 15, 1897. Miss Orme is mentioned in the diary 
entry of June 4,

-- 292 --

1897. A conference with the librarian of the London Library is from 
the diary entry of July 10, 1897. The letter from Rose proposing the 
Dickens book is noted in the diary entry of December 27, 1896. 
_The Town Traveller_ is mentioned in diary entries of June 8 and 
28, 1897, and a letter to Bertz of June 15, 1897.
The unhappy summer holiday of 1897 is from the diary entries of 
July and August. His letter to Margaret is recorded in the diary, 
August 17, 1897. His meeting with Pinker is described in the diary, 
August 27, 1897. His decision to go to Italy is from the diary, 
August 28, 1897, and a letter to Bertz, September 13, 1897. Miss 
Orme's helpful intervention is described in the diary, September 10 
and 14, 1897, and in letters to Roberts of March 12 and July 19, 
1897 (Berg Collection). Norman's suggestion is recorded in the diary, 
September 9, 1897; Bullen's reaction is from the diary, September 
21, 1897.

     16. Morley Roberts, _The Private Life of Henry Maitland_ (New 
and Revised Edition; London: Eveleigh, Nash and Grayson, 1923), p. 
     17. Diary, June 2, 1897.
     18. Letter to Algernon, March 26 (?), 1897 (YUL).
     19. Diary, August 25, 1897.



Gissing's trip to Siena and his activities there are from the diary,
September 22 to October 20, 1897. The completion of _Charles 
Dickens: A Critical Study_ is recorded in the diary, November 5, 
1897. The fellow lodger whom Gissing called "O'Donne" was actually 
Brian Borœ Dunne. See _George Gissing and H. G. Wells_, ed. Royal A. 
Gettmann (Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1951), p. 108. 
The article by George Stott referred to here is "Charles Dickens," 
_Contemporary Review_, X (1869), 203-25. Andrew Lang's 
observations are from the _Fortnightly Review_, December, 1898. 
The references to Tame are from Hippolyte A. Tame, _History of 
English Literature_, trans. H. van Laun (New York: Henry Holt & Co., 
1886), pp. 339-66.
Information about the prefaces to the Rochester Edition and 
magazine articles on Dickens is from John D. Gordan, _George 
Gissing: 1857-1903_ (Catalogue for an exhibition of materials from 
the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library [New York: New 
York Public Library, 1954]), pp. 34-35. A series of letters to George 
Kitton about his work on the Imperial Edition of _Charles Dickens_ 
and related matters is Nos. 27-38 in the Gissing collection of the 
Pforzheimer Library. Information about the abridgment of Forster's 
_Life of Dickens_ is in

-- 293 --

a letter to J. B. Pinker, October 13, 1901 (Berg Collection). Gissing's 
first reading of Forster is described in a letter to Bowes, February 
21 [1873] (YUL).

     1. _Charles Dickens: A Critical Study_ (London: Gresham 
Publishing Co., 1904), p. 106.
     2. _Ibid._, p. 103.
     3. _Ibid._, p. 202.
     4. _Ibid._, p. 48.
     5. _Ibid._, p. 117.


The beginning of the Calabrian trip is from the diary, November 
1017, 1897. His conclusions about Alaric's grave are from the diary, 
November 18, 1897. The events at Taranto are from the diary, 
November 21, 1897, and _By the Ionian Sea_ (London: Chapman 
and Hall, 1921). The visits to Metaponto and Cotrone are from the 
diary, November 25, 1897. Gissing's illness at Cotrone is described 
in _By the Ionian Sea_. The quinine dreams are described in the 
diary, November 29, 1897. Norman Douglas in _Old Calabria_ 
(Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1915) described again the 
Cotrone scenes associated with Gissing, discussing them in the 
chapter "Memories of Gissing," pp. 296-302. The visit to Catanzaro is 
from the diary, December 6-7, 1897. The visit to Squillace and the 
arrival at Reggio are from the diary, December 10, 1897. The visit 
to Cassino is from the diary, December 14-15, 1897. Gissing's visit 
to Rome and his activities there are from the diary, December 19, 
1897, to April 11, 1898. His somewhat hysterical preparations for 
the arrival of the Wellses may be followed in the letters in 
Gettmann's _Gissing and Wells_, pp. 76-95. The agreement for _The 
Town Traveller_ is from the diary, February 12, 1898. Miss Orme's 
reports about Edith are recorded in the diary, January 6, February 
24, and March 25, 1898, and in a letter to Algernon, December 28, 
1897 (YUL). The letters about Edith's removal are all to Algernon, 
February 22, March 13, and March 17, 1898 (YUL). The negotiations 
through Brewster are mentioned in the diary, March 14, 1898. 
Gissing's visit to Germany and his return to England are from the 
diary, April 14-18, 1898.

     6. Diary, December 11, 1897.
     7. Letter to Algernon, January 27, 1898 (YUL).
     8. Letter to Bertz, February 10, 1898.
     9. Diary, April 15, 1898.

-- 294 --


Gissing's activities on his return to England in the spring are from 
the diary, April 18 to June 3, 1898. His invitation to the Wellses is 
in Gettmann's _Gissing and Wells_, p.101. His attempt at drama is 
chronicled in the diary, June 3-17, 1898. His reply to Richards' 
proposal is recorded in the diary, June 24, 1898; the letter itself, 
dated from Wakefield, is in the Berg Collection. Richards had 
recently entered publishing, and was engaged in aggressive 
"author-hunting." Details about Edith's behavior are from a letter to 
Roberts, August 14, 1898 (Berg Collection); diary entries of June 6, 
11, and 17, August 4 and 23, 1898; and from a letter to Bertz, 
September 4, 1898. Edith's terms are noted in the diary, August 27, 
1898. Her visit is from the diary, September 7, 1898. "In mild 
intervals," Gissing wrote to Roberts in a letter dated February 6, 
1899 (Berg Collection), "she spread the rumour that she refused to 
live with me because _I was a disciple of Oscar Wilde!_"
His first letter from Gabrielle Fleury is noted in the diary, June 23, 
1898. Their first meeting at Wells's house is described in 
_Experiment in Autobiography_, by H. G. Wells (New York: The 
Macmillan Co.; 1934), p.489, and the diary, July 6, 1898. Gabrielle's 
visit to Dorking is from the diary, July 26, 1898. The composition of 
the first Dickens preface is from the diary, August 10-13, 1898. 
Richards' inquiry about his next book is from the diary, September 
6, 1898; his acceptance of the option offered by Gissing is from the 
diary, September 10, 1898. The same entry records Methuen's 
report on _The Town Traveller_.
Gabrielle's return to England is from the diary, October 5 and 8, 
1898. The visit is recorded in the diary, October 9-15, 1898. Details 
about Gabrielle are from Morley Roberts, _The Private Life of Henry 
Maitland_ (New and Revised Edition; London: Eveleigh, Nash and 
Grayson, 1923), pp. 222-25; Wells, _Experiment in Autobiography_, 
p. 489; and a letter to Bertz of November 1, 1898. I am indebted for 
further information about Gabrielle to Mme. Denise Le Mallier. A 
letter received by Gissing from Mme. Fleury is recorded in the 
diary, October 17, 1898. Gissing's attempts to obtain a divorce are 
mentioned in letters to Bertz of February 1 and 11, 1899, and July 
23, 1899. The beginning of _The Crown of Life_ is from the diary, 
October 18, 1898; its completion is recorded January 16, 1899.

     10. Letter to Grant Richards, June 24, 1898 (Berg Collection).
     11. Letter to Roberts, May 7, 1898 (Berg Collection).
     12. Letter to Roberts, August 14, 1898 (Berg Collection).
     13. Letter to Bertz, November 1, 1898.
     14. Diary, July 26, 1898.

-- 295 --

     15. July 30, 1898 (Gettmann, _Gissing and Wells_, p. 110).
     16. Diary, September 10, 1898.
     17. Diary, October 15, 1898.
     18. Letter to Bertz, November 1, 1898.
     19. Letter to Bertz, September 6, 1890.
     20. Roberts, _Maitland_, p. 222.
     21. Letter to Roberts, February 3, 1899 (Berg Collection).
     22. Quoted in a letter to Roberts, February 6, 1899 (Berg 
     23. _Ibid._


For Roberts' opinion of Gissing as a lover, see his _Maitland_, pp. 
l41-45. Gissing's ideas on war and imperialism are found in a letter 
to Roberts, April 5, 1899 (Berg Collection), and letters to Bertz of 
January 17, and December 11 and 31, 1899. Gissing observed that 
his novel coincided with the "peace crusade" in a letter to Bertz of 
January 17, 1899. Visits with Clodd, Meredith, and Roberts are from 
the diary, November 12 and 13, 1898. Entries relating to Harold 
Frederic are dated December 29, 1898, and January 1, 2, and 7, 
1899. Gissing's anger about the ostracism of Frederic's mistress and 
her children is plain from his letter to Wells of January 2, 1899 
(Gettmann's _Gissing and Wells_, p. 132). His commitment to 
Algernon is from the diary, January 20 and 26, 1899. His last visit 
to Worcestershire is recorded in the diary, March 22, 1899; his stay 
at Lewes is from the diary, May 1, 1899.
24.	Letter to Bertz, March 31, 1899.



The ceremony at Rouen is recorded in the diary, May 7,1899. See 
also H. G. Wells, _Experiment in Autobiography_ (New York: The 
Macmillan Co., 1934), p. 489. The beginning of _By the Ionian Sea_ 
is from the diary, June 29, 1899. The trip to Switzerland is 
mentioned in the diary, July 28 to September 25, 1899. The 
beginning of "The Coming Man" is from the diary, October 1, 1899. 
Payment for _The Crown of Life_ is from the diary, September 27, 
1899. His intentions in "Among the Prophets" are from a letter to 
Bertz, December 11, 1899. The ultimate fate of this novel is from a 
letter to Pinker, March 13, 1901 (Berg Collection). His return to 
work on "The Coming Man" is from the diary, May 28, 1900. He was 
not as skeptical of Izoulet's ideas as his use of them in his book 
would suggest. He recommended Izoulet's

-- 296 --

work enthusiastically to Bertz in a letter of January 22, 1900. 
Gabrielle met Izoulet in the summer of 1901; the latter had heard 
of Gissing's use of his book, and was both puzzled and mildly 
resentful about it. See Gabrielle's letter to Mrs. Wells, July 12 
[1901], _George Gissing and H. G. Wells_, ed. Royal A. Gettmann 
(Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1951), p. 189.
Gissing's visit to England is from the diary, April 21, 1900, and May 
1, 1900. The letter to Crane's widow is mentioned in the diary, June 
9, 1900. The removal to St. HonorŽ les Bains is from the diary, May 
25, 1900. Gissing's opinion of "The Coming Man" is from a letter to 
Pinker, August 29, 1900. His anxiety over Pinker's efforts to place it 
is evident from letters to Pinker of November 6, 11, and 29, 1900, 
which also contain suggestions for titles. These letters are in the 
Berg Collection.

     1. Letter to Pinker, January 3, 1901 (Berg Collection).
     2. _Denzil Quarrier_ (London: Lawrence and Bullen, 1892), pp. 
     3. _Our Friend the Charlatan_ (London: Chapman and Hall, 1901),
     4. Thomas Henry Huxley, "Evolution and Ethics," _Selected 
Works_ (Westminster Edition; New York and London: D. Appleton, 
1896-1902), IX, 75. See also John Stuart Mill, "On Nature," _Three 
Essays on Religion_ (3rd ed.; London: Longmans, Roberts and Green, 
     5. Huxley, "Evolution and Ethics," p. 83.


Gissing's letters to Pinker about the proposed collected edition are 
dated August 12, September 14, and October 6, 1900 (there are two 
letters on this date), in the Berg Collection. The composition of _The 
Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft_ is recorded in the diary, 
September 1 to October 28, 1900. An early intention to write a book 
of essays is suggested on page two of the Commonplace Book, where 
Gissing makes a note of the title "Thought & Reverie" for such a 
book. The note cannot be dated exactly, but it was probably made 
not long before July, 1887. The identification of the "solitary friend" 
as Roberts is in a letter to Roberts, May 7, 1902 (Berg Collection). 
His complaint about the "circumfluence" of English people was 
written, after a visit to Italy, in a letter to Bertz, February 22, 1890. 
Gissing's lack of resignation to poverty and obscurity is obvious 
from letters to Roberts, December 15, 1901 (Berg Collection), and to 
Bertz, October 25, 1902. The letter from Gabrielle describing 
Gissing's indignation at the _Athenaeum_ review is dated 
September 21-22, 1904 (Berg Collection).

-- 297 --

     6. Letter to Pinker, October 6, 1900 (Berg Collection). (One of two 
letters with this date.)
     7. _The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft_ (New York: Modern 
Library, n.d.), pp. 10-11.
     8. _Ibid._, p. 2.
     9. _Ibid._, p. 82.
     10. _Ibid._, p. 83.
     11. _Ibid._, p. 183.
     12. _Ibid._, pp. 184-85.
     13. _Letters of George Gissing to Members of His Family_, ed. 
Algernon and Ellen Gissing (London: Constable, 1927), p. 367. 
Ironically, Walter Gissing was killed in combat in World War I while 
fighting in France.
     14. _Ryecroft Papers_, p.138.
     15. _Ibid._, p. 151.
     16. Letter to Harrison, February 11, 1903 (Pforzheimer Gissing 
collection, No. 60).


The beginning of "A Vanquished Roman" is from the diary, 
December 25, 1900. The visit of Wells and his wife is recorded 
March 8, 1901. The influenza is mentioned in the diary, March 22 to 
April 3, 1901. Gissing's trip to England is from the diary, April 7, 
1902, and from letters to the Wellses of May 21 and 24, 1901 
(Gettmann, Gissing and Wells, pp. 157-62). Information about the 
sanatorium is from the diary, April 7, 1902, and from letters to the 
Wellses, both June 25, 1901 (Gettmann, _Gissing and Wells_, pp. 
l78-81). The visit with James is from _Letters_, p.377. For opinions 
about food in Gissing's French household, see Morley Roberts, _The 
Private Life of Henry Maitland_ (New and Revised Edition; London: 
Eveleigh, Nash and Grayson, 1923), pp. 247-48; and Wells, 
_Experiment in Autobiography_, p.490. Gabrielle's views of her 
difficulties with Gissing are expressed in letters to the Wellses of 
June 10 and 24, and July 12, 1901 (Gettmann, _Gissing and Wells_, 
pp. 162-77, 182-90). Villa Souvenir, the pension at Arcachon, is 
mentioned in a letter to Roberts, December 15, 1901 (Berg 
Collection). Gissing described his labored breathing in a letter to 
Roberts quoted in Roberts, _Maitland_, pp. 241-42.
The work done toward the end of 1901 is from the diary, April 7, 
1902. Discussion of the Forster abridgment is from letters to Pinker, 
October 13 and 20, 1901 (Berg Collection). Edith's insanity and 
Gissing's reaction to it are from a letter to Bertz, February 24, 1902. 
The list of presentation copies containing her name is in a letter to 

-- 298 --

January 26, 1903 (Berg Collection). The decision to leave Paris is re   
7 corded in the diary, April 14, 1902. His house-seeking in St. Jean 
de Luz is in the diary, April 28 to May 12, 1902. The beginning of 
_Will Warburton_ is from the diary, July 10, 1902. The change of 
title for the _Ryecroft Papers_ is mentioned in a letter to Pinker, 
July 27, 1902 (Berg Collection). The new beginning of _Will 
Warburton_ is from the diary, November 1, 1902. For Gissing's 
sciatica, see _Letters_, p.392; it is also mentioned in a letter to 
Roberts, February 22, 1903 (Berg Collection). For the popularity of 
the _Ryecroft Papers_, see _Letters_, p. 393. The clergyman's letter 
is mentioned in a letter to Bertz, April 5, 1903.
For Roberts' account of his last visit to Gissing, see his _Maitland_, 
pp. 252-55. The interest shown by McClure's in _New Grub Street_ 
is from a letter to Pinker, April 14, 1903 (Berg Collection). The 
move to St. Jean Pied de Port is from _Letters_, p. 393. Progress on 
_Veranilda_ can be traced through a letter to Pinker, July 10, 1903 
(Berg Collection), and _Letters_, pp. 393 and 395. Details of Gissing's 
last illness and the circumstances surrounding it are from the 
following sources: Roberts, _Maitland_, p.271 ff., Mr. Cooper's 
account in _Letters_, pp. 397-99, Wells, Experiment in 
Autobiography, pp. 491-93, and "The Death of Gissing: A Fourth 
Report" by Arthur C. Young, _Essays in Literary History_ edited by 
Rudolf Kirk and C. F. Main (New Brunswick: Rutgers University 
Press, 1960), pp. 217-28. Mr. Young's essay gives Gabrielle's views 
as they are expressed in five letters to Bertz. There are a number of 
factual discrepancies among these accounts. Roberts does not say 
that he received a telegram from Gabrielle, though Wells thought he 
did. He also says he arrived on the morning of the twenty-eighth to 
find that Gissing had already died, but the time of death was the 
afternoon of the twenty-eighth. The consultation is mentioned in a 
letter from the English nurse, Miss E. Robertson Bayman, written to 
Roberts on January 14, 1904 (Berg Collection). For a description of 
the sickroom, see Wells, _ibid._, pp. 491-92. For the time and date 
of Gissing's death, I am indebted to M. Pierre Coustillas, who has 
consulted the official death certificate. A postcard from Gabrielle to 
Bertz postmarked St. Jean Pied de Port, December 28 (YUL), was 
written to say that Gissing was dying, but it ends with the added 
words "Monday. Died today 1 h. afternoon." The fact that the 
immediate cause of death was a "miocardite" resulting from 
bronchial pneumonia is given in a letter from Gabrielle to Roberts, 
January 17, 1904 (Berg Collection).

     17. Diary, April 18, 1901. The French doctor, Chauffard, was 
called "Piffard" by Roberts.
Notes to Chapter XI * 299
     18. Letter from Gabrielle to Mrs. Wells, July 12, 1901 (Gettmann, 
_Gissing and Wells_, p. 185).
     19. Letter to Wells, June 25, 1901 (Gettmann, _Gissing and 
Wells_, p. 181).
     20. _Letters_, p.378.
     21. Letter to Roberts, December 15, 1901 (Berg Collection).
     22. Letter to Bertz, July 27, 1902.
     23. _Letters_, pp. 398-99.
     24. Roberts, _Maitland_, p. 270.



The matter of the _Church Times_ announcement and Roberts' reply 
to it is from Morley Roberts, _The Private Life of Henry Maitland_ 
(New and Revised Edition; London: Eveleigh, Nash and Grayson, 
1923), pp. 276-81. Letters on this subject to Roberts from Gabrielle, 
January 17, 1904, and from the nurse, Miss Bayman, January 14, 
1904, are in the Berg Collection. A portion of Mr. Cooper's letter to 
Margaret is in _Letters of George Gissing to Members of His Family_, 
ed. Algernon and Ellen Gissing (London: Constable, 1927), pp. 397-


The Wells preface is mentioned by Miss Collet in letters to Roberts 
of September 30, 1904, and October 1, 1904 (Berg Collection). For 
Roberts' opinion, see his _Maitland_, pp. 292-93. Gabrielle's letter 
referring to the Wells article is dated September 21-22, 1904 (Berg 
Collection). The H. G. Wells article, "George Gissing: An Impression," 
appeared in the _Monthly Review_, XVI (August, 1904), 159-72, 
and has been republished in Gettmann's _Gissing and Wells_, pp. 


For two observations about Gissing and the Victorian novel, see Q. D. 
Leavis, "Gissing and the English Novel," _Scrutiny_, VII (June, 1938), 
73-81; and Frank Swinnerton, _George Gissing: A Critical Study_ 
(London: M. Seeker, 1912), pp. 165-68. Swinnerton's remark about 
Gissing's debt to George Eliot is on p. 51. Gissing's letter to Bertz 
identifying himself as a disciple of George Eliot "some ten years ago" 
is dated February 16, 1892 (Berg Collection).

     1. Madeleine L. Cazamian, _Le Roman et les idŽes en Angleterre_ 
(Strasbourg and Paris: Librairie Istra, 1923), p. 3O9.

-- 300 --

     2. Thomas Hardy, "Candour in English Fiction," _Life and Art_ 
(New York: Greenberg, 1925), pp. 77-78.
     3. _Workers in the Dawn_, ed. Robert Shafer (New York: 
Doubleday, Doran, 1935), I, 282.


Keary's article is from the _Athenaeum_, January 16, 1904, p. 82. 
Waugh's article is from the _Fortnightly Review_, February, 1904, 
pp. 244 ff. 

Gissing's reaction to the man who read _Robinson Crusoe_ is from 
the Commonplace Book, p.29 (Berg Collection). For G. H. Lewes on 
"truth" and "The Principle of Sincerity," see _The Principles of 
Success in Literature_ (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1891), pp. 86-91. 
Gissing's two critical essays were: "Why I Don't Write Plays," _Pall 
Mall Gazette_, September 10, 1892, and "Realism in Fiction," _The 
Humanitarian_, July, 1895. The comment on "impersonal" writing is 
from a letter to Bertz, March 17, 1892, and the letter stressing 
personality is also to Bertz, December 6, 1896.

     4. Edmund Gosse, _Leaves and Fruit_ (London: W. Heinemann, 
Ltd., 1927), p.277.
     5. Letter to Roberts, February 10, 1895 (Berg Collection); printed 
in part in Roberts, _Maitland_, p. 301, and in Morley Roberts, "The 
Letters of George Gissing," _Virginia Quarterly Review_, VII (July, 
     6. Lewes, _Principles of Success in Literature_, p. 102.
     7. Charles Baudelaire, "Le gouvernement de l'imagination," in 
Oeuvres Compltes (Brussels: Editions "La Boetie," 1948), II, 170.
     8. "Realism in Fiction," _Selections Autobiographical and 
Imaginative from the Works of George Gissing_, ed. A. C. Gissing 
(London: Jonathan Cape, 1929), p.220.
     9. _Charles Dickens: A Critical Study_ (London: Gresham 
Publishing Co., 1904), p.85.
     10. _Letters_, p.141.

-- 301 --



Listed in order of original publication. The dates in parentheses are 
those of the first editions.

(1880) _Workers in the Dawn_, ed. Robert Shafer. 2 vols. New 
            York: Doubleday, Doran, 1935.
(1884) _The Unclassed_. London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1911.
(1886) _Isabel Clarendon_. 2 vols. London: Chapman and Hall, 
(1886) _Demos_: A Story of English Socialism. New York: E. P. 
            Dutton & Co., Inc., n.d.
(1887) _Thyrza_. London: Eveleigh, Nash and Grayson, 1928.
(1888) _A Life's Morning_. London: Home and Van Thai, 1947.
(1889) _The Nether World_. London: Murray, 1903.
(1890) _The Emancipated_. London: Bentley and Son, 1890.
(1891) _New Grub Street_. New York: Modern Library, 1926.
(1892) _Denzil Quarrier_. London: Lawrence and Bullen, 1892.
(1892) _Born in Exile_. London: T. Nelson and Sons, 1913.
(1893) _The Odd Women_. New York and London: Macmillan, 
(1894) _In the Year of Jubilee_. New York: D. Appleton and 
            Company, 1895.
(1895) _Eve's Ransom_. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 
(1895) _The Paying Guest_. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company,
(1895) _Sleeping Fires_. London: Fisher, Unwin, 1895.
(1897) _The Whirlpool_. London: Lawrence and Bullen, 1897.
(1898) _Human Odds and Ends_. London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 
(1898) _Charles Dickens: A Critical Study_. London: Gresham             
            Publishing Company, 1904.

-- 302 --

(1898) _The Town Traveller_. New York: F. A. Stokes, 1898.
(1899) _The Crown of Life_. London: Methuen, 1899.
(1901) _Our Friend the Charlatan_. London: Chapman and Hall, 
(1901) _By the Ionian Sea_. London: Chapman and Hall, 1921.
(1903) _The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft_. New York: 
            Modern Library, n.d.
(1904) _Veranilda_. New York: Dutton, 1905.
(1905) _Will Warburton_. London: Constable, 1915.
(1906) _The House of Cobwebs_. London: Constable, 1926.
(1924) _Sins of the Fathers and Other Tales_. Chicago: Covici, 
(1924) _Critical Studies of the Works of Charles Dickens_. New 
            York: Greenberg, 1924.
(1925) _The Immortal Dickens_. London: Cecil Palmer, 1925.
(1927) _A Victim of Circumstances_. London: Constable, 1927.
(1929) _Selections, Autobiographical and Imaginative from 
            the Works of George Gissing_, ed. A. C. Gissing. 
            Introduction by Virginia Woolf. London: Jonathan 
            Cape, 1929.
(1931) _Brownie_. New York: Columbia University Press, 
(1938) _Stories and Sketches_. London: Michael Joseph, 
(1962) _George Gissing's Commonplace Book_, ed. Jacob Korg. 
            New York: New York Public Library, 1962.


_Letters of George Gissing to Members of His Family_, ed. 
     Algernon and Ellen Gissing. London: Constable, 1927.
_George Gissing and H. G. Wells, Their Friendship and 
     Correspondence_, ed. Royal A. Gettmann. Urbana: 
     University of Illinois Press, 1961.
_The Letters of George Gissing to Eduard Bertz, 1887-
     1903_, ed. Arthur C. Young. New Brunswick, N.J.: 
     Rutgers University Press, 1961.


_Berg Collection, New York Public Library_

Holograph Diary, 1887-1902, 3 volumes.
Commonplace Book, 1887-1903.
Miscellaneous Notes of Childhood, 12 leaves.
"John Milton," dated Lindow Grove, 1871.
Letters to Algernon Gissing, January 12, 1878 - March 14, 1902.
Letters to Ellen Gissing, February 27, 1883 - November 5, 1889.
Letters to Margaret Gissing, October 26, 1879 - June 16, 1902.
Letters to Morley Roberts, December 6, 1894 - November 6, 1903.

-- 303 --

Letters to James B. Pinker, August 12, 1900 - December 20, 1903. 
Letters of Gabrielle Gissing to Mr. and Mrs. Morley Roberts, 
November 4, 1904 - June 1,1912 (?).

_Yale University Library_

"Verses," 1869 to 1882 (?), a notebook of 93 pages.
17 letters to Bowes, 1870 (?) - December, 1873.
Notebook kept by Gissing in America, 1877.
189 letters to Eduard Bertz, 1887-1903.
86 letters and postcards to Algernon Gissing, 1878-1891.
20 letters to Ellen Gissing.
8 letters to Harry Hick.

_Carl H. Pforzheimer Library (Gissing Collection)_

No. 15 "Hope of Pessimism," 28 leaves.
No. 20 Letter to Frederic Harrison, July 9, 1880.
No. 57 Letter to Frederic Harrison, June 24, 1884.
No. 58 Letter to Frederic Harrison, August 17, 1884.
No. 59 Letter to Frederic Harrison, November 7, 1895.
No. 83 "The English Novel of the Eighteenth Century," 18 
     folio sheets.
No. 89 "Account of Literary Work, 1902."
Miscellaneous letters to Algernon and Ellen Gissing, Mr. 
     and Mrs. Frederic Harrison, F. G. Kitton, Edward Clodd 
     and C. K. Shorter.


Adams, George Matthew. "How and Why I Collect George 
     Gissing," _The Colophon_, Part XVIII (1934), no pagination.
Adams, Ruth M. "George Gissing and Clara Collet," 
     _Nineteenth Century Fiction_, XI (June, 1956), 72-77
Bergonzi, Bernard. "The Novelist as Hero," Twentieth Century, 
     CLXIV (November, 1958), 444-55.
Brewster, Dorothy, and Angus Burrell. _Adventure or 
     Experience_. New York: Columbia University Press, 1930.
Cazamian, Madeleine L. _Le Roman et les idŽes en Angleterre_. 
     Strasbourg and Paris: Librairie Istra, 1923.
Clodd, Edward. _Memories_. London: Chapman and Hall, 1916. 
Donnelly, Mabel Collins. _George Gissing: Grave Comedian_. 
     Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1954.
Farrar, F. W. "_The Nether World_," _Contemporary Review_, 
     LVI (September, 1889), 370-80.
Gapp, Samuel Vogt. _George Gissing, Classicist_. Philadelphia: 
     University of Pennsylvania Press, 1936.

-- 304 --

Gettmann, Royal A. "Bentley and Gissing," _Nineteenth 
     Century Fiction_, XI (March, 1957), 306-14.
Gissing, Alfred C. "George Gissing-Some Aspects of His Life 
     and Work," _National Review_, XCIII (August, 1929), 
---. "Gissing's Unfinished Romance," _National Review_, CVII 
     (January, 1937), 82-91.
Gissing, Ellen. "George Gissing: A Character Sketch," 
     _Nineteenth Century and After_, CII (September, 1927), 
---. "Some Personal Recollections of George Gissing," 
     _Blackwood's Magazine_, CCXXV (May, 1929), 653-60.
Gordan, John D. _George Gissing: 1857-1903_ (Catalogue for 
     an exhibition of materials from the Berg Collection of the 
     New York Public Library). New York: New York Public 
     Library, 1954.
Gosse, Edmund. _Leaves and Fruit_. London: W. Heinemann, 
     Ltd., 1927.
Harrison, Austin. _Frederic Harrison: Thoughts and 
     Memories_. London: W. Heinemann, Ltd., 1926.
---. "George Gissing," _Nineteenth Century and After_, LX 
     (September, 1906), 453-63.
James, Henry. _Notes on Novelists with Some Other Notes_. 
     New York: Scribner's, 1914.
Kirk, Russell. "Who Knows George Gissing?" _Western 
     Humanities Review_, IV (Summer, 1950), 213-22.
Korg, Jacob. "George Gissing's Outcast Intellectuals," 
     _American Scholar_, XIX (Spring, 1950), 194-202.
---. "Division of Purpose in George Gissing," _PMLA_, LXX 
     (June, 1955), 323-36.
---. "The Spiritual Theme of George Gissing's _Born in Exile_," 
     in _From Jane Austen to Joseph Conrad_, ed. Robert C. 
     Rathburn and Martin Steinmann. Minneapolis: University 
     of Minnesota Press, 1958.
Leavis, Q. D. "Gissing and the English Novel," _Scrutiny_, VII 
     (June, 1938), 73-81.
Maurois, AndrŽ. "George Gissing," _Revue de Paris_, LXV 
     (February, 1958), 1-13.
McKay, Ruth Capers. _George Gissing and His Critic Frank 
     Swinnerton._ Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 
More, Paul Elmer. _Shelburne Essays_. 5th Ser. New York: 
     G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1908.
Murry, J. Middleton. "George Gissing," in _Katherine Mansfield 
     and Other Literary Studies_. London: Constable, 1959.

-- 305 --

Nicoll, Sir William Robertson. _A Bookman's Letters_. London: 
     Hodder and Stoughton, 1913.
Roberts, Morley. _The Private Life of Henry Maitland_. New 
     and Revised Edition. London: Eveleigh, Nash and Grayson, 
---. "The Letters of George Gissing," _Virginia Quarterly 
     Review_, VII (July, 1931), 409-26.
Shafer, Robert. "Introduction" to _Workers in the Dawn_. 
     New York: Doubleday Doran, 1935.
Sichel, Edith. "Two Philanthropic Novelists: Mr. Walter 
     Besant and Mr. George Gissing," _Murray's Magazine_, 
     III (April, 1888), 506-18.
Steiner, Jacqueline. "George Gissing to His Sister: Letters 
     of George Gissing," _More Books_ (Bulletin of the Boston 
     Public Library), XXII (November, December, 1947), 
     323-36, 376-86.
Swinnerton, Frank. _George Gissing, A Critical Study_. London: 
     M. Secker, 1912.
_Times Literary Supplement_ (London), No. 2,402 (February 
     14, 1948), p.92 ("The Permanent Stranger").
---. No. 2,861 (December 28, 1956), p. 780 (Gissing's 
Weber, Anton. _George Gissing und die Soziale Frage_. 
     (BeitrŠge zur Englischen Philologie, 20 Heft.) Leipzig: B. 
     Tauchnitz, 1932. 
Wells, H. G. "The Novels of Mr. George Gissing," 
     _Contemporary Review_, LXXII (August, 1897), 192-201.
---. "George Gissing, An Impression," _Monthly Review_, XVI 
     (August, 1904), 160-72.
---. _Experiment in Autobiography_. New York: Macmillan, 
Wolff, Joseph J. "Gissing's Revision of _The Unclassed_," 
     _Nineteenth Century Fiction_, VIII (June, 1953), 42-52.
Woolf, Virginia. "George Gissing," in _The Common Reader, 
     Second Series_. London: Hogarth Press, 1932.
Yates, May. _George Gissing, An Appreciation_. (Publications 
     of the University of Manchester, English Series No. XII.) 
     Manchester, Engl.: The University Press, 1922.
Young, Arthur C. "George Gissing's Friendship with Eduard 
     Bertz," _Nineteenth Century Fiction_, XIII (December, 1958), 

-- 306 --

-- 307 --


Abbott, Evelyn, 53-54 
Agnosticism, 13-14, 171-72, 175-76
Allen, Grant, 200-201, 240
Arnold, Matthew, 6, 19, 39, 93-94, 243
Art, Georges, 226-27
Athens, 146-47
_Author, The_, 166-67, 194, 195
"Author at Crass, An," 239. See also _Private Papers of 
     Henry Ryecroft, The_

Bainton, Reverend George, 117-18 
Ballantyne, Robert Michael: _Martin Rattler_, 8-9 
Barnard, Frederick, 199 
Baudelaire, Charles: "Le gouvernement de l'imagination," 264
Bayman, Miss E. Robertson, 253, 254
Beesly, Edward Spencer, 46
Bellamy, Edward: _Looking Backward_, 41
Bennett, Arnold: _The Truth About an Author_, 156
Bentham, Jeremy: _Principles of Morals and Legislation_, 36
Bentley, George, 190, 273
Bentley, Richard, and Son, 53, 107-8
Bertz, Eduard, 48-49, 57, 63, 75-76, 224, 240; helps Gissing 
     with _Workers in the Dawn_, 20, 32; personality and career, 
Besant, Sir Walter, 142-43, 156, 195 
Booth, Charles: _Life and Labour of the People in London_, 
_Born in Exile_ (manuscript title, "Godwin Peak"), 167, 168-70, 
     174-78; criticism, 178
Boston, 15, 19, 20
Bourget, Paul, 173-74
Browning, Elizabeth Barrett: "The Cry of the Children," 30
Bullen, A. H., 178-79, 213, 224 
Butler, Samuel: _The Way of All Flesh_, 14, 94; _God the Known 
     and God the Unknown_, 175
_By the Ionian Sea_, 219, 221, 234-35, 257

Carlyle, Thomas, 30, 41, 243; _Past and Present_, 29; _Sartor 
     Resartus_, 57
Cassino, Abbey of, 222
Cassiodorus, 222; _Variae_, 211
Catanzaro, 221-22
Cazamian, Madeleine, 260
Chapman and Hall, 62, 219, 236
_Charles Dickens: A Critical Study_, 211, 215-19, 223, 264-65
_Chicago Tribune_, 17-18
Child, Francis J., 16
_Church Times_, 253, 254
Clodd, Edward, 224, 232, 235, 253
Colles, William Morris, 194, 212, 225
Collet, Clara E., 192-93, 209, 224, 258
"Coming Man, The." See _Our Friend the Charlatan_
Comte, Auguste, 14, 30, 44; _Cours de philosophie positive_, 24
Conan Doyle, Sir Arthur, 223

-- 308 --

Cooper, Reverend Theodore, 251, 252, 253, 254
Cornwall Residences, 73
Cosenza, 220
Cotrone, 220-21
Crane, Stephen, 233, 235
_Crown of Life, The_, 230-32, 235

_Demos_, 32, 75, 82, 83-95, 96, 99, 101, 106, 132; criticism, 
_Denzil Quarrier_, 179-81
Diary, Gissing's, 249, 273
Dickens, Charles, 8, 32, 209, 265; _Oliver Twist_, 29, 186; 
     _Hard Times_, 30; _Our Mutual Friend_, 30; influence on 
     Gissing, 34, 258-59; Gissing's book on, 215-19
Disraeli, Benjamin, 84; Sybil, 30
Dostoevsky, Fyodor: _Crime and Punishment_, 173; influence 
     on Gissing, 232
Douglas, Norman: _Old Calabria_, 219, 221
Dreyfus case, 280
Dukhobors, 232
Dunne, Brian Borœ, 214, 223

Eliot, George, 6, 19, 256-57; influence on Gissing, 34, 259-60
_Emancipated, The_, 128, 130, 132-33, 136-40, 146; criticism, 
"Emily." See _Life's Morning, A_
Engels, Friedrich, 84; _Condition of the Working Class in 
     England in 1844_, 29, 105-6, 134-35
_Eve's Ransom_, 198-99 
Evolution, 237, 238

Fabian Society, 31, 86
Farrar, Frederick W., 142
Flaubert, Gustave, 264
Fleury, Gabrielle, 251, 252. See also Gissing, Gabrielle Fleury
Fleury, Madame, 229, 234, 235, 250
Forster, John: _Life of Dickens_, 212, 219, 248
Frederic, Harold, 232-33

Gabrielli family, 214-15
Garrison, William Lloyd, 16
Gaskell, Elizabeth Cleghorn: _North and South_, 13, 30; _Mary 
     Barton_, 30
Gaussen, Mrs., 69-70
George, Henry: _Progress and Poverty_, 31
Gilbert, W. S., 55-56
Gissing, Alfred Charles (son), 205, 226, 248
Gissing, Algernon (brother), 8, 25, 50, 57-58, 59-61, 63, 
     140-41, 210-11, 213, 223, 233
Gissing,  Edith  Underwood  (second wife), 151, 152-53, 
     183, 210, 211, 212-13, 223-24, 225-26, 227-30, 248-49
Gissing, Ellen (sister), 8 
Gissing, Gabrielle Fleury (third wife), 226-27, 228-29, 233, 
     234, 235, 246-48, 250-51, 253, 258. See also Fleury, 
Gissing, George: personal characteristics, 3-4, 9-10, 13, 48, 
     61-62, 70-71, 75-77, 153, 200, 211, 228, 247; as 
     journalist, 6, 45; income from literature, 43, 101, 157-58, 
     194, 203, 223, 235, 250; reading, range of, 76-77
     _life_: childhood, 7-9; career as a student, 10-11; meets 
          Helen (first wife), 12; steals from Owens College 
          common room, 12-13; in America, 12-19;  publishes  
          first story, 17; returns to England, 1920; early years 
          in London, 20-26; begins first novel (unpublished), 22; 
          marries  Helen, 22;  meets Bertz, 23; publishes first 
          novel, _Workers in the Dawn_, 32; earns living by 
          tutoring, 45-46; relations with Helen, 49-50; first trip 
          to Continent, 97-98; hears of Helen's death, 110; travel 
          in 1888-89,119-30; second Mediterranean trip, 146; 
          moves to Exeter, 153; marries Edith Underwood, 153; 
          writes short stories, 179, 181; marriage difficulties, 
          184-85; moves to London, 191; growth of reputation, 
          202; meets H. G. Wells, 206-7; begins Calabrian journey, 
          219; returns to England, 224; marries Gabrielle Fleury, 
          234; moves to France, 234; enters sanatorium, 247; 
          moves to St. Jean de Lux, 249; death, 251-52; burial, 252
     _opinions_: agnosticism, 14-15, 243-44; art, 68, 71-72, 91-92, 
          129-30; class differences, 89-90, 94-95; contradictions 
          in, 177; democracy, 183-84; education, 105-6; England  
          and Englishmen, 148-49, 242-43; fiction, 6, 60, 69, 
          100-101, 179-80, 259, 261,263-64, 264-65; heredity 
          and environment, 88-89;

-- 309 --

Gissing, George, opinions (_cont._): 
          immortality, 27; literature, 10; machine civilization, 191; 
          marriage, l50-51; Mediterranean countries, 123-24, 146; 
          morality, 81-82; Positivism, 40, 51-53; religion, 24, 37, 
          44-45, 57; science, 259-60; socialism, 92; social problems, 
          28, 36-37, 41-42, 44, 54-55, 56-57, 68-69, 115-16, 
          121-22, 129, 218, 261-62; Society of Authors, 199-200;           
          women, 152-53, 185-86, 218 
     _novels_: theme of, 261-62; subjective quality of, 263-64; 
          unpublished, _Among the Prophets_, 235, _Clement           
          Dorricott_, 107-8, _Mrs. Crundy's Enemies_, 50-51, 53, 54, 
          59, 63, 75. See also under individual titles. 
     _short stories_: typical qualities of, 197-98; "Brownie," 18; 
          "Day of Silence, The," 194; "English Coast-Picture, An," 19; 
          "Four Silverpennys, The," 59; _Human Odds and Ends_ 
          (collection), 213; "Humplebee," 235; "Joseph Yates' 
          Temptation," 18; "Letty Coe," 289; "Lodger in Maze Pond, 
          A," 152; "Lou and Liz," 193; "Phoebe," 59; "Ring Finger, 
          The," 223; "Sins of the Fathers, The," 17; "Under an 
          Umbrella," 194; "Victim of Circumstances, A," 193; 
          "Yorkshire Lass, A," 205 
     _essays_: "Dickens in Memory," 248; "Hope of Pessimism" 
          (unpublished) , 51-53; "On Battersea Bridge," 41; "Realism 
          in Fiction," 264, 300; "Why I Don't Write Plays," 264, 300. 
          See also _Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft, The_ 
     _verse_: "Attend, all ye who love the play . . ." (unpublished), 
          271-72; "Battle of Hastings, The" (unpublished), 71; 
          "Humble Aspirations of H. M., Novelist, The," 131-32; 
          "On Leaving England" (unpublished), 27-28; "Ravenna," 11; 
          "Song," 59 
     _other writings_: "Nobodies at Home," 203; abridgment of 
          Forster's _Life of Dickens_, 219, 248; introductions to 
          Rochester Edition of Dickens, 227, 234. See also _By the 
          Ionian Sea_; _Charles Dickens: A Critical Study_ 
Gissing, Margaret (sister), 8, 141, 210, 253-54 

-- 309 --

Gissing, Marianne Helen Harrison (first wife, called "Helen" 
     or "Nell"), 12, 22, 26, 34-35, 47-48. 49-50, 58-59. 66, 
     1l0-1 l 
Gissing, Thomas Waller (father) , 7 
Gissing, Walter Leonard (son), 183, 205, 212-13, 297 
Gissing, William (brother), 8, 8-9, 25, 26-27 
"Godwin Peak." See _Born in Exile_ 
Godwin, William: _Political Justice_, 36 
Gosse, Edmund, 263 
Grahame, Walter, 75, 108 
Gregorovius, Ferdinand: _Geschichte der Stadt Rom im 
     Mittelalter_, 21 l 

Hardy, Thomas, 167, 201, 204, 260-61 
Hardy, Mrs. Thomas, 204 
Harrison, Austin, 4, 20, 206 
Harrison, Bernard, 4, 206 
Harrison, Frederic, 3, 4-5, 6-7, 42, 44, 45, 53, 58, 63-64, 
     67, 93, 205-6, 257 
Harrison, Mrs. Frederic, 3 5, 153 
Harrison, Marianne Helen. See Gissing, Marianne Helen 
Hartley, Alfred, 131, 145 
Hick, Harry, 210, 246 
Hogarth, William, 9, 38, 216 
Holt, Henry, and Company, 236 
Hornung, E. W., 223 
Hudson, W. H., 131, 145 
Huxley, Leonard, 273 
Huxley, Thomas Henry, 175-76; "Evolution and Ethics," 238 

Ibsen, Henrik, 232; influence on Gissing, 121 
_Immortal Dickens, The_, 219 
_In the Year of Jubilee_, 194-97 
_Isabel Clarendon_ (manuscript title, "The Lady of 
     Knightswell"), 75. 77-80, 99 
Izoulet, Jean, 295-96; _La CitŽ moderne_, 237-38 

Jacobsen, Jens Peter: _Niels Lyhne_, 141, 172-73, 256-57 
James, Henry, 33, 246 
Jay, Reverend Osborne, 202 

Keary, C. F., 263 
Kingsley, Charles, 30 
Kipling, 231; _Barrack Room Ballads_, 209 
Kitton, George, 219, 292 

-- 310 --

"Lady of Knightswell, The." See _Isabel Clarendon_
Lang, Andrew, 216
Lawrence and Bullen, 178-79, 190-91, 213,239
Lear, Edward: _Journal Of a Landscape Painter in Southern 
     Calabria_, 219
Le Breton, Fanny, 122
Lenormant, Franois: _La Grande grce_, 213,222
Lewes, George Henry, 217; _Principles of Success in 
     Literature_, 264
_Life's Morning, A_, 75, 8O-83, 109 London, 20-21

"Man of Letters, A." See _New Grub Street_
Maudsley, Henry: "Materialism and Its Lessons," 14
Mayhew, Henry: _London Labour and the London Poor_, 
Mearns, Andrew: _The Bitter Cry of Outcast London_, 31
Meredith, George, 62-63, 78, 201, 204, 224, 232; 
     influence on Gissing, 34
_Messager de l'Europe, La_ (_Vestnik Evropy_), 46, 270-71
Methuen and Company, 219, 223, 227
Middle class, the, 133-35, 196-97
Mill, John Stuart, 36-37; _Principles of Political Economy_, 
"Miss Lord." See _In the Year of Jubilee_
Moore, George, 264
Morley, George, 4, 45, 99
Morris, William, 39, 86, 87, 92
_Mrs. Grundy's Enemies_, 53-54
Mudie's Select Library, 43, 51, 106, 154-55

_Nether World, The_, 62, 84, 111-16, 120; criticism, 142
_New Grub Street_, 16-17, 47, 149-50, 151, 154-65, 202, 
     226, 250; criticism, 166-67; French translation of, 
     245, 249
Norman, Henry, 213, 224, 240
Novel, the 209; social protest in, 29-30; publication and 
     sale of, 155-57; Victorian, 258; development of, 260

_Odd Women, The_, 20, 185, 188-90
Omar Khayy‡m Club, 201, 204, 206
Orme, Eliza, 211, 213, 223-24, 225-26, 248
_Our Friend the Charlatan_ (manuscript title, "The Coming 
     Man"), 235-36, 236-39
Owen, Robert, 30, 36 
Owens College, 6, 11

_Pall Mall Gazette_, 4, 6, 45, 74
_Paying Guest, The_, 204
Payn, James, 80, 81, 95, 168
Pinker, James B., 213, 232, 234, 236, 256
Plitt, 117, 119-21, 122-23, 132
Positivism, 5, 13-14, 24, 35-36, 40
Positivist Society, 5, 45
_Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft, The_ (original title, "An 
     Author at Grass"), 20, 21, 239, 240-45, 249-50
Prudhomme, Sully, 228-29
_Punch_, 74-75
Pye-Smith, Philip, 210, 246

"Radical Candidate, The." See _Denzil Quarrier_
Reade, Winwood: _The Martyrdom of Man_, 14
Remington and Company, 32, 43 
Ribot, ThŽodule, 88-89; L'hŽrŽditŽ psychologique, 145 
Richards, Grant, 224, 225, 227
Roberts, Morley, 12, 26, 46-47, 50, 110, 131, 145-46, 
     152-53, 225, 232, 240, 244, 250, 251, 252, 253, 
     254, 257, 258; _The Private Life of Henry Maitland_, 47
Rose, John Holland, 211
Ruskin, John, 38, 56-57, 138; _Praeterita_, 140

Sacher-Masoch, Madame Leopold von, 229
Sand, George, 15, 19
Sculco, Dr., 221
Shand, Alexander Innes, 155, 158
Shelley, Percy Bysshe, 19, 39
Shorter, Clement K., 193-94, 198-99, 201, 204-5, 224, 271
Shortridge, Herbert, 125-26, 147-48
Shortridge, John Wood, 125-26, 147-48
Sichel, Edith, 144-45, 150; "Two Philanthropic Novelists," 142
_Sleeping Fires_, 203
Smith, Elder, and Company, 32, 50-51, 97, 101
Smith, George, 99, 108-9

-- 311 --

Social Democratic Federation, 85-86
Socialism, 84-87
Socialist League, 86, 92
Society of Authors, 156, 194-95, 199-200
Spencer, Herbert, 30, 92; _First Principles_, 175
Sprigge, Samuel Squire: _Methods of Publishing_, 156
Steinitz, Frau Clara, 132
Stott, George: "Charles Dickens," 216, 217, 218
Swinburne, Henry: _Travels in Two Sicilies_, 219
Swinnerton, Frank: _George Gissing: a Critical Study_, 259, 
     262, 263

Tame, Hippolyte, 217
Tauchnitz Collection, 99
_Temple Bar_, 59
Tennyson, Alfred, Lord, 23; "The Palace of Art," 38
Thackeray, William Makepeace, 74 
_Thyrza_, 45, 59, 99-100,101-7; criticism, 106-7
Tolstoy, Leo: influence on Gissing, 232
_Town Traveller, The_, 212, 223, 227
Trollope, Anthony, 157
Turgenev, Ivan, 46, 209; influence on Gissing,  78-79, 232; 
     _Fathers and Sons_, 172

_Unclassed, The_, 23, 61, 62-63, 64-69, 203; criticism, 67
Underwood, Edith. See Gissing, Edith Underwood

"Vanquished Roman, A." See _Veranilda_ 
_Veranilda_ (manuscript title, "A Vanquished Roman"), 211, 
     213, 222, 236, 245, 249, 250, 253, 255-57; 
     criticism, 257

Wakefield, 7
Ward, Mrs. Humphry, 259; _Robert Elsmere_, 13
Watt, A. P., 61, 168
Waugh, Arthur, 263
Webb, Beatrice, 30, 31, 38
Webb, Sidney, 237
Wells, H. G., 206, 210, 211, 222-23, 224, 225, 226, 231, 
     235, 245, 246, 251-52, 257; _Experiment in 
     Autobiography_, 16; early life, 206-7; on Gissing's work, 
     209-10; on _Veranilda_, 258
Wells, Mrs. H. G., 222-23, 225, 246-47 
_Whirlpool, The_, 207-9; criticism, 209-10
_Will Warburton_, 249, 250, 254-55
Women, social position of, 186-87
_Workers in the Dawn_, 5,12, 20, 22, 28, 33-41, 82, 155, 262; 
     terms of publication, 32; criticism, 43-44

Zola, ƒmile, 3,100, 263, 264, 280; influence on Gissing, 
     44; Gissing's attitude toward, 128; _La Roman 
     experimental_, 264