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George Gissing

(1857—1903) novelist


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(1857–1903),

educated at Owen's College, Manchester. Caught stealing from school friends to support a prostitute, Nell Harrison, he was sentenced to a month's hard labour. He subsequently worked in America. In 1877, Gissing moved to London, and married Nell; they were separated by 1883.

Gissing's first novel, Workers in the Dawn (1880), was followed by The Unclassed (1884, rev. 1895), Isabel Clarendon (1886), Demos (1886), Thyrza (1887; rev. 1891), A Life's Morning (1888), and The Nether World (1889). After visiting Italy, Gissing turned away from the working‐class subjects of his earlier fiction, writing The Emancipated (1890; rev. 1893) and his best‐known work, New Grub Street (1891). Gissing felt unable to support a middle‐class woman, so in 1890 he married an artisan's daughter, Edith; though they produced two sons, the marriage failed and they parted in 1897. Gissing wrote, in a letter to Morley Roberts in 1895, ‘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.’ The most characteristic of these heroes is Godwin Peak in Born in Exile (1892). In The Odd Women (1893), Gissing wrote about the Woman Question.

Though never highly successful, Gissing gained recognition with Denzil Quarrier (1892), In the Year of Jubilee (1894), Sleeping Fires, Eve's Ransom, The Paying Guest (1895), The Whirlpool (1897), and The Town Traveller (1898); he also published Human Odds and Ends (1897, short stories) and Charles Dickens: A Critical Study (1898). G. Meredith had been an early supporter of Gissing's work; Gissing also met T. Hardy and became friendly with W. H. Hudson and H. G. Wells. In 1897 Gissing met Gabrielle Fleury, but unable to obtain a divorce, he lived with her in France. Subsequent works include The Crown of Life (1899) and Our Friend the Charlatan (1901), both novels; the travel book By the Ionian Sea (1901); an abridgement of J. Forster's Life of Dickens (1903); and The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft (1902), a mock‐autobiography. Troubled by lung disease, Gissing died at St Jean‐Pied‐de‐Port in Southern France. Posthumously published were Veranilda (1904), a classically set romance; Will Warburton (1905); The Immortal Dickens (1925); Notes on Social Democracy (1968); and the short‐story collections The House of Cobwebs (1906), The Sins of the Fathers (1924), A Victim of Circumstances (1927), and Brownie (1931). Gissing's notebooks and diary have been published, also nine volumes of his Letters (completed 1997).

Subjects: Literature.


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