George Gissing, 1857-1903, English novelist, was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire, and was educated at Owens College, Manchester. Following an unsuccessful marriage in 1875, he went to London, where he observed and experienced the extremes of poverty and distress which were to be the theme of his novels.
In 1876 he was in America, continuing his apprenticeship in misery and contributing occasional short stories to the Chicago Tribune. Concluding his vagabond years with a period of study at Jena, he settled in London and in 1880 published his first novel, Workers in the Dawn. This novel and most of his succeeding work— The Unclassed (1884), Demos (1886), A Life's Morning (1888), The Nether World (1889), Born in Exile (1892) and The Whirlpool (1897)—received slight but favorable attention. New Grub Street (1891), however, was widely read and remains his best-
known novel. His semi-autobiographical Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft (1903) has also enjoyed an enduring popularity. Gissing was one of the first English novelists to deal realistically with sex and the psychology of sex. In this and in his preoccupation with the most sordid and squalid aspects of poverty, he closely resembles his naturalist contemporaries in France. The tragic destiny of his characters, however, is not determined by scientific theories or the injustice of society but stems from his own pessimistic view of life.