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The Heroic Life of George Gissing: 1887-1897
George Gissing (1857-1903) lived a life worthy of the plot from one of his own novels. An exceptionally gifted man, born into relatively genteel comfort, he nonetheless managed to enter into two disastrous marriages with working-class women, got thrown out of university for stealing, spent a month doing hard labour in prison and died before the age of...
George Gissing (1857-1903) lived a life worthy of the plot from one of his own novels. An exceptionally gifted man, born into relatively genteel comfort, he nonetheless managed to enter into two disastrous marriages with working-class women, got thrown out of university for stealing, spent a month doing hard labour in prison and died before the age of fifty. It is all the more surprising then, that he still managed to write twenty-three novels, over a hundred short stories, as well as works of literary criticism and a travelogue. This ambitious three-volume biography on Gissing examines both his life and writing both chronologically and in close detail. Coustillas's exhaustive research is based on all the known surviving Gissing correspondence, Gissing's works and every piece of literary criticism on Gissing from 1880 onwards. Press archives from England, America, the former Colonies, France and Germany have all been consulted. This approach, by the foremost authority on Gissing, allows new insights into his life and work. Part II assesses the period of Gissing's greatest authorial triumphs. His most critically acclaimed works, The Nether World (1889), New Grub Street (1891) and The Odd Women (1893) date from this time. His new-found commercial success even allowed him to give up teaching and concentrate on being a full-time writer. He was also able to spend time travelling and made three journeys to Italy; in 1888-9, in 1889-90 (including a visit to Greece) and in 1897 to Calabria. Always an autobiographical author, Gissing's personal life is here explicitly interwoven with the topics he writes on. Gissing married Edith Underwood in 1891, with whom he had two sons. His books from this period focus on the situation of women and the commercialization of the literary world. He was particularly unconcerned with writing to please his public and found the demands of his publishers to be a constant source of ill-feeling. Indeed, the only criticism that interested Gissing was that which came from the cultural intelligentsia - from those who could distinguish 'between diamond and paste'.
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