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197 SOME UNPUBLISHED LETTERS FROM GISSING TO HARDY* By Pierre Coustillas (University of Paris) The personal relations between Gissing and Hardy have never been systematically investigated, perhaps because it has been feit—»rightly enough—that they would yield nothing of importance, but doubtless also owing to scarcity of information. The three meetings between the novelists are recorded, respectively, in THE EARLY LIFE OF THOMAS HARDY (1928), W, Robertson Nicoll's A BOOKMAN'S LETTERS (1913) and "George Gissing atMax Gate, 1895" (THE YALE UNiVERSiTY LiBRARY GAZETTE, Jan 1943), as well as in THE LETTERS OF GEORGE GISSiNG TO EDUARD 3ERTZ (1961). Recent scholarship has added nothing material to these sources. Yet Sotheby's Catalogue for 21 June 1928 shows that at least four ietters from Hardy to Gissing have survived and I have succeeded in tracing six from Gissing to Hardy, the text of which is given below. If they fail to modify established knowledge they at least help to clarify our notion of Gissing's attitude to his fellow-novelist, as Îμ man and as a writer. Their very respectful tone—sometimes almost embarrassingly so--contrasts with the occasional harsh note about Hardy in Gissing's other correspondence. It is certain that they were to each other hardly more than contemporaries with a warm but by no means uncritical mutual esteem for their works. Their three meetings were friendly, but the seventeen years' difference in age and geographical and emotional distance prevented their friendship from ever becoming intimate. Further, both men were extremely reticent, though for different reasons, where their matrimonial situations are concerned. From the beginning of his career, Gissing read the works of contemporary novelists voraciously, those of George Eliot, Meredith and Hardy in particular. George Eliot died too early for him to try to meet her. Meredith he came to know by chance when he submitted THE UNCLASSED to Chapman and Hall. With Hardy he resolutely took the first step. Emboldened by the success of DEMOS, published anonymously In late March 1886, Gissing asked Hardy, who was then staying in London, if he might call upon him for some advice about novel-writing. His visit took place in the very last days of June. What suggestions Hardy made we do not know. Gissing's correspondence for the year 1886 is rather sparse: his letters to Roberts have been lost, those to Bertz destroyed and Margaret and Ellen were not interested enough inthe technicalities of fiction-writing to invite confidences. At least Algernon, then staying with his brother, must assuredly have received an oral account of the meeting. As to George's Diary, if it recorded its high lights, the relevant page, with many others, has been destroyed. Shortly after his visit. Gissing wrote the following letter. The copy of THE UNCLASSED alluded to is in the Sadleir Collection and that of the "book just published", i.e. ISABEL CLARENDON, in the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library. The latter novel, like the former, had been read in manuscript by Meredith for Chapman and Hall, and its three volumes recast into two on his advice. The fact that Gissing did not send DEMOS may mean that Hardy had already read it. 198 7K, Cornwall Residences Clarence Gate Regent's Park N.W. June 30th 86 My dear Si r, I am annoyed to find that the copy of "The Unclassed" at my disposal is not as I believed it - a new one. Still I venture to send it; you will not care for the outside of the book. Will you forgive me if I add a copy of a book just published - a story as different as well could be from the earlier one? It is possible you will find "The Unclassed" detestable. I myself should not dare to read it now; it is too saturated with by-gone miseries of every kind. Fortunately, you wi11 read it without unworthy prejudice. I suppose it is inferior in most ways to my later book "Demes" - immature, in fact. May I add in one word what very real pleasure it has given me to meet and speak with you? I have not been the least careful of your...


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