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 a handful written 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.
Before 1898, Gissing's life could not be called happy or content, but during the years that this volume covers—December 1897-December 1899—his life took another radical turn. Still emotionally vulnerable from his wretched marriage, he met the most genuine love of his life, Gabrielle Fleury, a French woman familiar with his writings. Through his passionate letters to her, he ecstatically welcomed her into his life, and in a private ceremony of union in France he “married” her in May, 1899 (though illegally—he was still married to his second wife who was in England.)
Gabrielle's love supported Gissing the rest of his life, until his early death in 1903. Earlier defeats that he felt were his doom were temporarily overcome at this time by his intimacy with Gabrielle. And he continued to write as actively as he could, producing at this time The Crown of Life, a celebration of his rediscovery of the power of love.
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.
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