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7 March 1991
The Collected Letters of George Gissing. Vol. I: 1863-1880 
edited by Paul Mattheisen, Arthur Young and Pierre Coustillas.
Ohio, 334 pp., £47.50, September 1990, 0 8214 0955 7
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... My great-aunt Clara and GeorgeGissing were friends during the last ten years of his life. He wrote to her about once a week, always as Miss Collet, and quite often bared his soul to her. She was an expert on women’s work and a civil ...

New Women

Patricia Beer

17 July 1980
The Odd Women 
by George Gissing.
Virago, 336 pp., £2.50, May 1980, 0 86068 140 8
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The Beth Book 
by Sarah Grand.
Virago, 527 pp., £3.50, January 1980, 0 86068 088 6
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... GeorgeGissing was convinced that the year 1900 would make all the difference. Writing his study of Charles Dickens in the late 1890s, he refers to his own generation as those ‘upon whom the new centurys breaking ...

Give us a break

Rosemarie Bodenheimer: Gissing’s Life

9 July 2009
George GissingA Life 
by Paul Delany.
Phoenix, 444 pp., £14.99, February 2009, 978 0 7538 2573 0
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... For Gissing,’ Paul Delany notes, ‘writing was a grim and lonely task, made grimmer by one of the most disastrous family lives of any English writer. At times this misery threatened to become contagious ...


Frank Kermode

3 February 1983
GissingA Life in Books 
by John Halperin.
Oxford, 426 pp., £18.50, September 1982, 0 19 812677 8
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George GissingCritical Essays 
edited by Jean-Pierre Michaux.
Vision/Barnes and Noble, 214 pp., £11.95, March 1981, 0 85478 404 7
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... The books listed below have been my leisure reading for many weeks, and I have a glimmering as to what it is that prompts the converted to claim so much for Gissing. But my own view, which is very commonplace, remains the same: New Grub Street is a novel of extraordinary power, and without it the oeuvre would be no more than the interesting record of a pained ...


Robert Fothergill: Among the Leavisites

12 September 2019
... Leavis party; or explore authors and evaluations that Leavis disparaged, and become, in effect, a traitor to the cause. I took the latter path, pursuing eccentric interests in Arthur Hugh Clough and GeorgeGissing, and developing a critique of fiction based on a very superficial reading of what I took to be Existentialist ethics, mauvaise foi and all that. For Leavis the study of English was intended ...
30 January 1992
Sexual Anarchy: Gender and Culture at the Fin de Siècle 
by Elaine Showalter.
Bloomsbury, 242 pp., £15.99, March 1991, 0 7475 0827 5
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Sister’s Choice: Tradition and Change in American Women’s Writing 
by Elaine Showalter.
Oxford, 193 pp., £22.50, September 1991, 0 19 812383 3
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... Moreau’s drawing depicting the princess as the incarnation of evil. Do both epochs’ versions of Salome share a concern with changing gender values, sexual ‘deviance’ and whatever else allowed GeorgeGissing to describe the late 19th century as a time of sexual anarchy? Or has Showalter merely been able to present similar myths und images by cleverly shuffling the information – and there is ...

Such a Husband

John Bayley

4 September 1997
Selected Letters of George​ Meredith 
edited by Mohammad Shaheen.
Macmillan, 312 pp., £47.50, April 1997, 0 333 56349 2
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... and public, but the bubble eventually burst. Had there ever been anything in his coruscating characters and their sprightly utterance? Even old loyalties turned a bit sceptical. In her Memories of George Meredith one of his fans, Lady Butcher, recalled how he had thrilled her with his first inspiration for One of Our Conquerors, as they walked together on Box Hill. As I listened to his wonderful ...


Jonathan Parry

21 September 1995
The City of London. Vol. II: Golden Years, 1890-1914 
by David Kynaston.
Chatto, 678 pp., £25, June 1995, 0 7011 3385 6
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... age was also a golden age for its left-wing critics, who gained much moral satisfaction from inventing a ‘plutocracy’ and denouncing it as a conspiring and corrupting influence on public life. GeorgeGissing believed that the ‘brute force of money’was blocking more humanising influences and producing mere mechanistic amorality. A.G. Gardiner was shocked at the ‘feverish excitement’ which ...

In Service

Anthony Thwaite

18 May 1989
The Remains of the Day 
by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Faber, 245 pp., £10.99, May 1989, 0 571 15310 0
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I served the King of England 
by Bohumil Hrabal, translated by Paul Wilson.
Chatto, 243 pp., £12.95, May 1989, 0 7011 3462 3
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Beautiful Mutants 
by Deborah Levy.
Cape, 90 pp., £9.95, May 1989, 0 224 02651 8
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When the monster dies 
by Kate Pullinger.
Cape, 173 pp., £10.95, May 1989, 9780224026338
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The Colour of Memory 
by Geoff Dyer.
Cape, 228 pp., £11.95, May 1989, 0 224 02585 6
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Sexual Intercourse 
by Rose Boyt.
Cape, 160 pp., £10.95, May 1989, 0 224 02666 6
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The Children’s Crusade 
by Rebecca Brown.
Picador, 121 pp., £10.95, March 1989, 0 330 30529 8
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... of the sort named in Rose Boyt’s title, and a cycle of birth, marriage and death documented with a curiously impressive and distasteful laconic relish. Possibly Rose Boyt is about to become the GeorgeGissing of our day. Rebecca Brown, looking at family life, is more inclined towards a kind of allegory. The Children’s Crusade presents childhood and families as battlegrounds, campaigns, cold wars ...
11 October 1990
Seductions: Studies in Reading and Culture 
by Jane Miller.
Virago, 194 pp., £14.99, September 1990, 0 86068 943 3
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... a period of hugely increased freedom for women. Family resources enabled her to acquire a university education, and she was financially self-sufficient throughout her long career. A friendship with GeorgeGissing (they corresponded at least once a week for ten years) admitted her to a world of artistic achievement. She embodies the independence of the new woman. Yet she emerges from Jane Miller’s ...

Rachel and Her Race

Patrick Parrinder

18 August 1994
Constructions of ‘the Jew’ in English Literature and Society: Racial Representations, 1875-1945 
by Bryan Cheyette.
Cambridge, 301 pp., £35, November 1993, 0 521 44355 5
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The Jewish Heritage in British History: Englishness and Jewishness 
edited by Tony Kushner.
Cass, 234 pp., £25, January 1992, 0 7146 3464 6
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... who haunted the English literary imagination throughout the 19th century. In James’s The Tragic Muse, the Jewish Cockney actress Miriam Rooth claims to be in the same style as ‘that woman’, and George Eliot’s Gwendolen Harleth foolishly thinks of herself as destined for stardom because she is more beautiful than the ‘thin Jewess’. Rachel not only dominated the Paris stage but performed in ...

Love of His Life

Rosemarie Bodenheimer: Dickens

8 July 2010
Charles Dickens 
by Michael Slater.
Yale, 696 pp., £25, September 2009, 978 0 300 11207 8
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... that Dickens’s audiences read only after his death. His final chapter, entitled ‘Charles Dickens’s Explanations’, links these testaments with the fictional narrator of a late story called ‘George Silverman’s Explanation’, in which Silverman attempts to justify his life but succeeds only in revealing the implacable nature of his resentments. It’s a wry move and characteristic of Slater ...


John Bayley

4 June 1987
The Faber Book of Diaries 
edited by Simon Brett.
Faber, 498 pp., £12.95, March 1987, 0 571 13806 3
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A Lasting Relationship: Parents and Children over Three Centuries 
by Linda Pollock.
Fourth Estate, 319 pp., £14.95, April 1987, 0 947795 25 1
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... Rainy weather. Does the weather matter in a journal? Lunched alone; does that matter? (Grilled turbot and apple pudding, if you want full details.)’ To whom is he talking? His other selves? GeorgeGissing is recording yet another doleful fact, as an aide-mémoire and warning to himself, when he writes: ‘Not quite six pages. Bought some bottled ale, thinking it might help me to sleep if I ...

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Rachel Bowlby: At the Checkout

22 October 2009
Checkout: A Life on the Tills 
by Anna Sam.
175 pp., £6.99, July 2009, 978 1 906040 29 1
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... getting a job done, rather than ‘going shopping’, an open-ended pastime. Food retail is shopping’s everyday background, setting off the styles and surprises of less ordinary purchases. When GeorgeGissing, in New Grub Street, wanted to think of a title for the ultimate unsellably boring book, he came up with Mr Bailey, Grocer. So Anna Sam’s Checkout fills a gap in what was never imagined as ...
19 August 1982
John Buchan: A Memoir 
by William Buchan.
Buchan and Enright, 272 pp., £9.95, May 1982, 0 907675 03 4
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The Best Short Stories of John Buchan. Vol. II 
edited by David Daniell.
Joseph, 240 pp., £8.50, June 1982, 9780718121211
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... was to a large extent the creator, and which must rank in significance with Penguin Books and the Everyman Library. It took some vision, as well as business talent, to bring together A. E. W. Mason, George Douglas, Raffles, Gissing, Henry James and Jack London in the same series, and in the name of pleasure. One sees that the middlebrow had still not quite secured its grasp upon Britain. One’s sense ...

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