- New Editions
REaders and Students of Gissing (and the Victorian novel) will find the newest editions of Gissing's New Grub Street and Workers in the Dawn useful in very different ways. Paul Delany's edition of New Grub Street accomplishes a rare feat for a scholarly edition: it is daring. Although Gissing never revised the novel in English, he made many cuts (eliminating about a third of the novel) and some changes for the French translation by Gabrielle Fleury (with whom he later began a relationship). This translation, begun in 1898, serialised in 1901 in the French daily Le Journal des Débats, published as a book in 1902, forms the basis of Delany's edition. Many difficulties, of course, attend the project of translating Fleury's translation back into English, difficulties of which Delany is aware. All correspondence on the translation between Gissing and Fleury appears to be lost, as is any copy of the novel containing Gissing's cuts and changes; the extent, therefore, to which the French edition adheres strictly to Gissing's wishes is unproveable and based largely on the assumption that Gissing would not have spent the rest of his life with Fleury if he had not approved of her changes (which does not mean that all the changes actually originated with him).
In particular, the French edition provides some new text to bridge the excisions to Gissing's original text; it is unclear to what extent these transitions are based on Gissing's instructions or if he even gave any, and Delany notes that his translation of those bridges provides a further layer of distance between readers and Gissing's original words and intentions. Gissing's preference for the French version of his novel, however, provides a powerful imprimatur for this edition: writing to [End Page 548] French critic Henry Davray in 1901, Gissing remarked that "[o]f course you are right about the superfluities.... The fault is partly due to [the novel's] having been written when English fiction was subjected to the three-volume system; but also in a measure to the haste in which all my early work was done.... However, in the case of 'New Grub Street,' this defect is remedied in the French translation; almost a third of the novel has been cut out. If ever I get the opportunity, I shall give all my books a vigorous revision, & cut them down."
While not daring, Debbie Harrison's new edition of Workers in the Dawn is a solid and affordable alternative to other editions of Gissing's first novel. This edition updates its only scholarly predecessor, the 1985 Harvester Press edition (with the aid of that edition's editor, Pierre Coustillas), by changing and adding to the explanatory notes in light of new scholarship and research. These notes are placed in the back of the book, and the text of Gissing's novel is laid out in small but clear type with margins of nearly an inch; while this is the best edition for scholarly purposes thanks to its updated notes and the addition of such apparatus as a map of the novel's location, a bibliography, and a thoughtful introduction, it is also an edition designed for pleasure reading. The first printing was unfortunately marred by typos, but since the volume is a "print on demand" book, anyone ordering this edition will receive a corrected version; errata are also available online on the publisher's website.