The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

November 22, 2011

Nov. 22, 1857

George Gissing, ( November 22, 1857 to December 28, 1903), the English novelist, is classified by the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, specifically by Pierre Coustillas ...

as an intellectual who rose to be the conscience of his time. An apt analyst of the female mind, Gissing was perhaps at his strongest, as he himself declared in 1895, when he described 'a class of young men distinctive of our time-well educated, fairly bred, but without money' ... His unremitting cultural commitment has endeared him to successive generations of discerning readers. However unpalatable a particular truth was, he courageously voiced it, and his lucid, if pessimistic, judgements on human affairs, as well as the sterling originality of his art, have secured his place in the history of the English novel.

I include the above since perhaps others, will, like myself, find Gissing hard to place. Here is an excerpt from an early novel, The Unclassed, (1884). The setup is a woman, who has been falsely accused of theft, and her good friend checks on her cat while she is in prison.

From the porter he learned that the police had made that afternoon an inspection of Ida's rooms, though with what result was not known. The couple had clearly formed their own opinion as to Waymark's interest in the accused girl, but took the position in a very matter-of-fact way, and were eager to hear more than they succeeded in getting out of the police.
"My main object in coming," Waymark explained, "was to look after her cat. I see you have been good enough to anticipate me."
"The poor thing takes on sadly," said the woman. "Of course I shouldn't have known nothing if the hofficers hadn't come, and it 'ud just have starved to death. It seems to know you, sir?"
"Yes, yes, I dare say. Do you think you could make it convenient to keep the cat for the present, if I paid you for its food?"
"Well, I don't see why not, sir; we ain't got none of our own."
"And you would promise me to be kind to it? I don't mind the expense; keep it well, and let me know what you spend . And of course I should consider your trouble."
So that matter was satisfactorily arranged, and Waymark went home.
The stories Gissing tells are interesting in their picture of urban society after agnosticism became a respectable option. He is an excellent writer, and fond of cats. I suspect he will be remembered for his portrait of an historical era rather than his insight into psychology.

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