chapter  155
Unsigned review, Athenaeum, February 1903
Pages 2

The interest in Mr Gissing's latest work will largely be due to the natural assumption that a good deal of it is autobiography. The Private Papers ofHenry Ryecroft appeared serially, ifwe mistake not, under the title 'An Author at Grass,' which very pleasantly describes the book. Henry Ryecroft, according to the author's preface, was a struggling literary man who had lived in Grub Street for thirty years; but at the age offifty a small legacy enabled him to retire, and spend his declining years in Devon. Freed from the necessity of hack work, Ryecroft turned to record his impressions in a journal, and these papers are divided into the four seasons by his supposititious editor. Anyone who is acquainted with Mr Gissing's novels will not be surprised to find that the life ofLondon and the struggle for existence there are regarded by him with the distaste and horror due to the drabness of the one and the hopelessness of the other. Mr Gi~sing has always been an authority not only on Grub Street, but also on sundry phases of lower life in the metropolis. He has faithfully represented these in many volumes, but always from one point of view. What lends the special value to these 'Private Papers' is that we are enabled to identify that point of view, and see the reason ofit. They betray a man who is at heart a recluse and a student, and who would have been probably more at home as a don than as a writer of realistic fiction. The sincerity of Mr Gissing's work is merely corresponsive to his nature. He could have been sincere over mathematics or over science, though he expressly informs us that he has no interest in the latter. No; it is quite clear that the man who

treasures rare volumes of the classics, who remembers with a thrill, after twenty years, the purchase of Heyne's Tibullus, and who spends his leisure in versifying the Odyssey, was by nature intended for something else than a novelist. A man ofletters, yes, but not a novelist. One who is blessed and handicapped with such tastes and purposes does not go to the tourney of this rough world very adequately equipped. And Henry Ryecroft, confesses that he was not fit for the struggle. He resigns without an effort, without the least remorse or regret. Indeed, he exhibits even a morbid dislike for the memory ofwhat he has gone through in London.