Classic of the Week: New Grub Street by George Gissing


‘To write – was not that the joy and the privilege of one who had an urgent message for the world?’

Well this is an inspiring tale for us young journos. New Grub Street is a story about the daily lives and broken dreams of men and women forced to try and earn a living by the pen. Good luck to us.

It is though a fascinating and vivid portrayal of a group of writers, journalists and scholars caught in the literary and cultural crisis of the nineteenth-century. New Grub Street was synonymous in the previous century as the site of hack-literature; rushed, low-quality writing churned out in order to meet short deadlines, and Gissing’s two central characters represent the contrast in emerging styles of contemporary writing. Edward Reardon is a shy but talented novelist who enjoys little financial success due to the uncommerical nature of his work. Jasper Milvain on the other hand is an ambitious but cynical young journalist who accepts that he will undoubtedly loathe everyone he has to write for. He is described by Gissing as an ‘alarmingly modern young man’ and is scrupulous about the purpose of writing is an increasingly-modern world.

As the writers struggle through financial instability, Gissing depicts their social and commercial sacrifice in the backdrop of a vividly real London- the spirit of alienation that was soon to spark the beginning of modernism is already beginning to stir.


words: Peter Perkins

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