The Letters of George Gissing to Eduard Bertz, 1887-1903

The Letters of George Gissing to Eduard Bertz, 1887-1903

The Letters of George Gissing to Eduard Bertz, 1887-1903

The Letters of George Gissing to Eduard Bertz, 1887-1903

Excerpt

On his deathbed George Gissing told his wife: "I have done a work which, I think, will not be entirely forgotten tomorrow." His work has not been forgotten, for since his death there have been successive editions of one or another of his novels, especially, of course, of the durable The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft. Literary histories regularly carry a paragraph or two on his fiction, and doctoral dissertations about him have not been infrequent. Yet only a decade ago, The Western Humanities Review published an article byRussell Kirk called Who Knows George Gissing? in which he pointed out how little accurate information there seemed to be about Gissing's life. According to Mr. Kirk, a major reason for the lack of such knowledge is that

. . . Mrs. Grundy, whom Gissing more than once defied by name and defeated (in Pyrrhic style), exults over him now that he is dead, and fear of what that woman might say has induced people who loved him to lock up letters and choose their phrases.

Since the publication of Mr. Kirk's article, a biography and several studies on aspects of Gissing's life have appeared so that the important events of his career are now known. But neither the biography nor the brief articles reveal the nature of his personality, and they often conceal, by exaggeration or by prejudice, rather than illuminate his character. The student who desires more than a register of statistics about Gissing's life cannot be satisfied, nor can the critic who wants to know how he acquired his literary skill and what he thought about his own work. So much evasiveness and subterfuge have accompanied the biographical accounts of Gissing that one courts frustration trying to sift through error, fact, and ambiguity. Still, one keeps digging for the truth about . . .

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