Winner of the Modern Language Association’s Morton N. Cohen Award for a Distinguished Edition of Letters
Gissing's career, which spanned the period of about 1877 to his death in 1903, was characterized by prodigious output (almost a novel a year in the early days), modest recognition, and modest income. He wrote of poverty, socialism, class differences, social reform, and later on, about the problems of women and industrialization. His best known works are New Grub Street (1891) and Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft (1903), rich sources of social commentary that reflect a literary transition from the Victorian to the modern period.
For many years, the only Gissing letters available to the public were those in the modest selection of letters to his family published in 1927. Now the editors have culled widely scattered sources—private and public collections, journals, newspapers, memoirs, biographies, and sales catalogs—to gather and organize Gissing's correspondence, including letters to him, and to provide an editorial context.
The two and a half years covered in this volume (mid-1895—1897) continued to be professionally productive for Gissing. He completed a number of novels—Sleeping Fires, The Paying Guest, and The Whirlpool. He revised The Unclassed, wrote many short stories, and towards the end of 1897 in Italy he completed a life of Dickens.
During these years Gissing was much sought after by editors and by his fellow literati. He solidified friendships with George Meredith and Thomas Hardy, and he formed a new friendship with H. G. Wells.
But the letters of this period most poignantly depict Gissing's domestic problems and turmoil which eventually led him to break with his second wife, Edith. As the editors write, in the present volume, “which begins at a spiritually low point and steadily verges lower until near the very end, one fancies one can see the beginnings of a permanent frame of mind which was to last or to recur to the end of Gissing's life: a feeling of ineluctable and undeserved defeat. …”
Paul F. Mattheisen is associate professor of English, SUNY, Binghamton.
Arthur C. Young is professor emeritus of English at Russell Sage College.
Pierre Coustillas is professor of English, University of Lille, France.
Save 20% ($64)
Permission to reprint
Permission to photocopy or include in a course pack via Copyright Clearance Center