"THE MOST SIGNIFICANT WORK OF FICTION ABOUT THE BUSINESS OF WRITING FICTION": FIRST EDITION OF NEW GRUB STREET, 1891— "GISSING'S MASTERPIECE" (ORWELL)
GISSING, George. New Grub Street. A Novel. London: Smith, Elder, 1891. Three volumes. Octavo, original gilt- and black-stamped green cloth. $5200.
First edition of the most famous and "best work" by Gissing, whose singular perspective on the work of writing and "the sterling originality of his art, have secured his place in the history of the English novel," in original cloth.
New Grub Street, Gissing's "finest novel," is widely seen as the "most significant work of fiction about the business of writing fiction. Q.D. Leavis… singled out New Grub Street as his 'best work'… [and] in an unpublished piece written in 1948, Orwell called it 'Gissing's masterpiece'" (Matz, George Gissing's Ambivalent Realism). "The continued relevance of Gissing's work… is undoubted, and his finest interpreters now tend to view him as an intellectual who rose to be the conscience of his time… his lucid, if pessimistic, judgments on human affairs, as well as the sterling originality of his art, have secured his place in the history of the English novel" (ODNB). The novel's title "refers to London's Grub Street, which, Gissing noted, became known in the 18th century as the 'abode, not merely of poor, but of insignificant, writers.'" Gissing was "fully awake to the conflicts and illusions of his own age… New Grub Street acts as a mirror that distorts and simultaneously reveals… the features of a writer—of anyone—struggling to maintain integrity" in his work and life (New York Times). The novel "remains to this day the most devastating fictive portrayal of the conflict between materialism and idealism in the literary and journalistic worlds" (Washington Post). First edition, first printing. With half titles; rear leaf of publisher's ads (I). As issued without dust jackets. One of reportedly only 500-750 copies printed. Sadleir 971. Wolff 2552. Collie IXa. Owner signatures to title page in each volume.
Text very fresh with mild rubbing, light edge-wear to cloth. A desirable near-fine copy.