Critical Evaluation

In the course of a twenty-seven-year career of ferocious literary labor, George Gissing published twenty-two novels; volumes of literary criticism, travel writing, and fictionalized autobiography; and 115 short stories. Although the fame, sales, and wealth he would have so much appreciated and deserved eluded him to the end, in the last years of his life he was widely acknowledged as one of the three leading English novelists of the day, along with George Meredith and Thomas Hardy.

After his death, Gissing’s reputation declined somewhat, but starting in the 1960’s, a Gissing revival took place. Led by French scholar Pierre Coustillas, students of Gissing’s work in Great Britain, continental Europe, North America, and Japan have published biographical and critical articles and books, edited editions of Gissing’s novels, and contributed to a thriving quarterly, The Gissing Journal (formerly The Gissing Newsletter).

Despite the vicissitudes of Gissing’s reputation, New Grub Street has almost invariably been regarded as a masterpiece. Gissing himself was pleased with the book, writing to his brother as he went through the proofs that “I am astonished to find how well it reads. There are savage truths in it.” John Goode, editor of the World’s Classics edition (1993), calls the work “the most eminent nineteenth-century novel dealing directly with the position of writing in the social context of its time” and compares Gissing’s work with William Makepeace Thackeray’s The History of Pendennis: His Fortunes and Misfortunes, His...

(The entire section is 653 words.)