George Gissing Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Though George Gissing will be remembered primarily as a novelist, he tried his hand at a variety of literary projects. In the 1890’s especially, he found it profitable to write short stories; these were generally published in periodicals, but one volume—Human Odds and Ends (1897)—was published during his lifetime. Many of his other short stories, some from his early contributions to Chicago newspapers, have since been collected: The House of Cobwebs (1906), Sins of the Fathers (1924), A Victim of Circumstances (1927), and Brownie (1931). Gissing also wrote essays for a number of periodicals. Notes on Social Democracy (1968, with an introduction by Jacob Korg), reprints three articles he wrote for the Pall Mall Gazette in 1880. George Gissing: Essays and Fiction (1970) prints nine prose works published for the first time. Late in his life, Gissing published Charles Dickens: A Critical Study (1898) and By the Ionian Sea (1901), his “notes of a ramble in southern Italy.”


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

During his lifetime, George Gissing achieved neither the fame nor the fortune that he would have liked. His reputation, though it grew steadily, especially in the 1890’s, was always overshadowed by the powerhouse writers of the late Victorian era. Gissing was nevertheless seriously reviewed and often applauded by the critics for his objective treatment of social conditions in England. After his death, his reputation was eclipsed for many years, and it was only in the late twentieth century that Gissing began to receive the reevaluation needed to determine his place in English literary history. The renewed academic attention, manifested by numerous new editions of his novels, critical biographies, full-length studies of his novels, and several volumes of his correspondence, suggested that Gissing’s niche would become more firmly established.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Connelly, Mark. Orwell and Gissing. New York: Peter Lang, 1997. Compares New Grub Street to George Orwell’s Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936). Also, a chapter on “Doomed Utopias: Animal Farm and Demos.”

Coustillas, Pierre, and Colin Partridge, eds. Gissing: The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1972. A very important research tool for the study of Gissing, containing a large selection of reviews dating from his own time to the late 1960’s.

Grylls, David. The Paradox of Gissing. London: Allen and Unwin, 1986. Maintains that paradox is the key to reading Gissing properly. He was attracted to conflicting points of view on various topics, including women, social reform, poverty, and art. His novels express these contradictions, often by a sharp break in the middle. In New Grub Street, Gissing achieved an integration of diverse opinions.

Halperin, John. Gissing: A Life in Books. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1982. The most comprehensive work on the life of Gissing. Its dominant theme is that he wrote about his own life in his novels, and much of the book discusses Gissing’s fiction from this point of view.

Michaux, Jean-Pierre, ed. George Gissing: Critical Essays. New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 1981. This valuable anthology gives a good selection of twentieth century critics’ discussions of Gissing. Includes an influential essay by Q. D. Leavis, who praised Gissing’s portrayal of the misery of the Victorian world.

Moore, Lewis D. The Fiction of George Gissing: A Critical Analysis. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2008. This book analyzes Gissing’s fiction, exploring its themes and characters. Moore also differs with many critics by taking the stance that Gissing’s works are not autobiographical.

Selig, Robert L. George Gissing. Rev. ed. New York: Twayne, 1995. An excellent introduction, with chapters on Gissing’s major works, his career as a man of letters, and his biography. Includes chronology, notes, and annotated bibliography.

Sloan, John. George Gissing: The Cultural Challenge. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989. Chapters on Gissing’s “Hogarthian beginnings,” his working-class novels, his career from The Emancipated to New Grub Street, and The Odd Women. Includes detailed notes and bibliography.