I don’t suppose the Gissing Journal (a snip at £20 for a two-year subscription) has a particularly extensive circulation. Nonetheless, to anyone beguiled by the work of this most austere of late-Victorian novelists, it is the spiritual equivalent of a copy of Ruff’s Guide to the Turf laid before a prospective backer of the Derby. And so it was with a twitching hand that I turned its sedulous (and occasionally rather combative) pages the other month to discover that an event fondly anticipated these past twenty years, and so often postponed as to provoke grave doubts as to whether it would ever happen at all, is finally about to take place: nothing less than the publication, in three mammoth volumes, at exorbitant cost, by Pickering & Chatto, of Professor Pierre Coustillas’s definitive biography of the great man.
Do I exaggerate? No. For Gissing-fanciers – a select but tenacious band – it is the consummation of a long-cherished dream. Coustillas, you see, is the doyen of Gissing studies, the man who, as long ago as the 1960s, kick-started the Gissing revival with a series of new