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George Gissing

George Gissing

Was born at Wakefield, Yorkshire on 22 November 1857, the son of a chemist who died young leaving five children in fairly straitened circumstances. He was a brilliant student who at the age of 15 won a scholarship to Owens College, Manchester. However, On the eve of his success, however, his life and prospects collapsed in ruins when he was caught stealing money from the students’ cloakroom. The money was for Nell Harrison, a young prostitute with whom Gissing was infatuated. He married her afterword – Gissing’s marriage was desperately unhappy: his wife was a drunkard and intermittently returned to prostitution; eventually he paid her to live apart from him. Gissing never knew wide fame or considerable prosperity. He was compelled to sell the copyright of his novels outright to publishers, which meant that even his occasional successes did him no good. Nevertheless, from 1884 onwards, he earned a modest if precarious living from novels and tutoring. For six years he lived alone, drawing inspiration, as he said sardonically, from his apartment’s proximity to the Marylebone workhouse. Domestic and other kinds of miseries seemed to feed Gissing’s genius. The novels of his middle period in the 1890s, some of which have been severely underrated, deal with the various levels of English middle class life (usually the lowest levels) and the social problems of the day. Gissing died at St Jean Pied de Port, on the Bay of Biscay, on 28 December 1903, leaving unfinished Veranilda, a feeble if scholarly story set in the Rome of the Dark Ages.

 

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