George Gissing was a prolific and influential English novelist of the late Victorian and early Edwardian era. He wrote 23 novels, as well as many short stories, essays, and letters. His works are known for their realistic and often bleak portrayal of the lower middle class in London and elsewhere. He also explored themes such as social reform, women’s rights, literature, and education.
Gissing was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire, to a middle-class family. He showed great promise as a student and won a scholarship to Owens College, Manchester, where he studied classics. However, his academic career was cut short when he was caught stealing from his fellow students to support his relationship with a young woman named Marianne Harrison. He was expelled, imprisoned, and eventually emigrated to America in 1876.
He returned to England in 1877 and began his literary career. He married Harrison, who was a prostitute and an alcoholic, and had two children with her. Their marriage was unhappy and they separated in 1888. Gissing then married Edith Underwood, another working-class woman with whom he had a son. Their marriage was also troubled and they divorced in 1898.
Gissing’s novels reflect his personal experiences and his social criticism. He wrote about the struggles of aspiring writers, the oppression of women, the misery of poverty, and the corruption of urban life. Some of his most acclaimed novels are The Nether World (1889), New Grub Street (1891), and The Odd Women (1893). He also wrote historical novels, such as Veranilda (1904) and By the Ionian Sea (1901), based on his travels to Italy.
Gissing suffered from poor health throughout his life. He died of emphysema in France in 1903, at the age of 46. He was buried in Saint-Jean-de-Luz. His reputation as a novelist declined after his death, but he was rediscovered by critics and readers in the 20th century. He is now regarded as one of the most important writers of his time.