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here are two full-length biographies, both very competent: Jacob Korg, George Gissing: A Critical Biography (1965) and John Halperin, George Gissing: A Life in Books (1982). However, neither biographer was able to make use of the nine volumes of the Collected Letters (1990-1996). The long biographical essays which preface each volume, by the editors Paul F. Mattheisen, Arthur C. Young and Pierre Coustillas, are outstanding for their judicious tone and psychological insight.

There is no truly outstanding critical study of Gissing's overall achievement. Gillian Tindall, The Born Exile (1974) is a lively psychological portrait of the man, and of the works insofar as they illuminate the man, but the criticism is sketchy, especially on the major novels. Adrian Poole, Gissing in Context (1975) and John Goode, George Gissing: Ideology and Fiction (1978) are both written in an impenetrable style.

New Grub Street has attracted the most critical attention. There is a short guide devoted entirely to the novel by P.J. Keating, but it's rather mechanically laid out. For the late 19thC literary background which is relevant to the novel (eg the plight of authors in this period; methods of publishing) you can consult The English Common Reader by Richard Altick or (better) John Gross's Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters. The most interesting piece of all is Chapter 6 of Nigel Cross's The Common Writer: Life in Nineteenth Century Grub Street. This chapter, titled "Gissing's New Grub Street, 1880-1900," is a mine of information about writers and publishers of the 3-volume novel, and even more interestingly, it discusses the main characters of New Grub Street in terms of real-life writing careers, some possibly known to Gissing. It's great social and literary history.

Gissing has not yet attracted much attention from the latest generation of literary theoreticians, but one attempt to consider the novel using the tools of structuralism is John Peck, "NGS: Some suggestions for an approach through form" in The Gissing Newsletter, XIV (July 1978).


Victorian Overview George Gissing

Last modified 26 November 2004