As Richard D. Altick argues, the growth of the “reading habit” in the 19th century is not an isolated phenomenon, but rather the result of many forces—political, religious, economic, and technological. When examining the woman reader, it is important to locate the texts and their writers within the greater context of 19th-century social critique of gender and class as well as debates about reading. In New Grub Street, George Gissing deals with reading and fiction as labor. He uses a novelist, Edwin Reardon, to show the change in the literary marketplace that took place between the 1850s and the 1890s. New Grub Street, set in the 1880s, depicts the evolving literary market in a time when the commercial possibilities of books, fiction and nonfiction, were being exploited. For Gissing, Jasper Milvain and Edwin Reardon are literary opposites—he sets Milvain’s rise to fame and wealth directly against Reardon’s decline to failure.