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71 “AVile Way of Publishing”: Gissing and Serials Gr a h a m Law • In an advertisement of a new periodical,“The Minster,” one observes with some surprise the name of Mr. George Gissing as the contributor of a story.With surprise, not because he ought not to be there, but because this powerful writer has never before, so far as I know, appeared in a serial. I hear now of other magazines which have at last found him out. I have never been able to understand the comparative silence with which the very fine work of this writer has been received. It is, perhaps, because his themes have been gloomy… —Besant “Notes and News” 208 These remarks appeared among other items of literary gossip in the January 1895 issue of The Author, the official organ of the Incorporated Society of Authors.They were penned by Walter Besant, one of the most consistently successful English novelists in the last quarter of the nineteenth century; as moving spirit of the society and founding editor of its monthly journal, Besant could also claim to be among the best-informed commentators on the contemporary literary marketplace.Yet, as was quickly noted both by Gissing himself in his private diary1 and, more publicly, by a number of the editors of journals which had recently carried his stories,2 Besant was misinformed on this occasion : in reality, the tale that appeared in the opening issue of The Minster,“The Salt of the Earth,” was at least Gissing’s thirty-eighth short story to appear in a periodical. All the same, Besant’s ignorance of this fact was understandable. The large majority of Gissing’s earlier published short narratives had appeared, either unsigned or under a pseudonym, in American journals during his year of exile from September 1876, while only a handful of his fictional works were published in the London press between his return home and the end of 1892. Among these, the belated appearance of A Life’s Morning in monthly installments in the Cornhill throughout 1888 was much the most visible. By contrast, from 1893 to the end of his life, there were around eighty serial appearances, with the peak coming in 1895, when as many as twenty-seven individual tales and sketches were published, in addition to the serialization of the novella Eve’s Ransom in the weekly Illustrated London News.Thus, compared to most English storytellers then making a living by their pens, Gissing made few contributions to the periodical press throughout the 1880s, while the mid-1890s witnessed a victorian review • Volume 33 Number 1 72 remarkable reversal in this regard. If Besant’s remarks were literally inaccurate, in spirit they were close to the truth. The aim of the present article, however, is not so much to contribute to our specific bibliographical knowledge of Gissing’s writings, a task rendered redundant by the recent appearance of Pierre Coustillas’s comprehensive listing , which is the source of the numerical evidence cited above.3 Rather, the purpose is to map the general development of Gissing’s literary output against the changing print media through which it was made available to the late Victorian reading public and then to consider the material influence of the emerging new publishing formats on dominant literary forms. Such a project ought, of course, to include attention to publication not only in serial but also in volume form, and I will attempt to do this to the extent that space permits. However, the pressures leading by the mid-1890s to the sudden disappearance of the triple-decker first edition, and the gradual marginalization of the circulating libraries that had supported it, have now been analyzed from a range of perspectives and over several decades,4 during which period the insights gained have often been recognized in Gissing studies. In contrast, it is only in recent years that the changing nature of the late Victorian periodical market has become the subject of detailed research.5 In consequence, descriptions of Gissing’s engagements with the journals still typically tend to focus on the personalities of the editors and proprietors concerned, often taking as their model Morley Roberts’s melodramatic...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 71-86
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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