Unfortunate alike in his life and in his death, Mr George Gissing, even in his posthumous volume, appears to be an occasion for controversy. Veranilda was to have appeared with an introduction written by Mr H. G. Wells. For reasons with which the public is not concerned, it is published to-day with a preface by Mr Frederic Harrison. Both Mr Wells and Mr Harrison knew George Gissing well, and both are therefore eminently qualified to write about him. It is at least singular, however, that the book on which the author was occupied during the last years of his short and troubled career and which he seems to have recognised as his capital achievement, should have been the corpus vile for experiment or misunderstanding. Mr Wells published his introduction in the August number of the Monthly Review; a generous and sympathetic preface by Mr Harrison is prefixed to Veranilda, as it is now issued by Messrs Constable. The point would be of no public importance if it were not emblematic of much of the curious irony which surrounds George Gissing's life. He was a brilliant boy, a young man full of promise, above all, an obstinate and faithful lover of the classics. But the main part of the work by which we know him is exactly that in which his own classical tastes could fmd no room or opportunity. Such pieces ofwork as Demos, New Grub Street, The Crown of Life, The Unclassed, The Nether World, and The Whirlpool gave the impression of a man who desired to paint the tragi-comedy of an
artist's career in the present age, an author who deliberately painted a dull and squalid canvas in the spirit of those melancholy realists that were once, both in France and in England, a transitory and melancholy fashion. His soul was not in books like these; the real nature of the man escaped into an atmosphere of its own, of which only his friends were aware. In two books-By the Ionian Sea and The Private Papers ofHenry Ryecroft-we obtained some inkling of the real George Gissing, a meditative solitary traveller, a scholar whose mental home was in Italy and the neighbourhood ofRome. To the vast majority of his readers the man himself was practically unknown.