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National Amateur Press Association
Monthly Bundle Sample, Leather or Prunella 9, October 1999, p.1

Worth makes the man, and want of it, the fellow.
     The rest is all but leather or prunella.

      —Alexander Pope, Essay on Man, IV, 203-204

Whole No. 9. Published by Ken Faig, Glenview, Illinois, for the NAPA Bundle. This issue dated 10/1999.


I often look for notice of amateur journalists and our hobby in odd places, and now my interest in English author George Gissing (1857-1903), has brought to my attention another such association, or at least I believe it has done so.

My interest in Gissing first arose because his novel The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft (1903) was so beloved by H. P. Lovecraft that he told his wife, fellow amateur journalist Sonia (Greene) Lovecraft Davis (1883-1972), to read the book if she wanted to understand his opinions. Regrettably, I don't know if Lovecraft ever read Gissing's work beyond The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft. He would surely have loved Gissing's posthumously published novel Veranilda (1904), with its setting sixth-century Italy. While I suspect that Lovecraft would not much have esteemed Gissing's social novels, he would probably have appreciated his dark portraits of slum life in novels like Demos (1886) and The Nether World (1889). He shared Gissing's love for antiquity and would doubtless have adored his traveller's account of Greek Italy, By the Ionian Sea (1901).

Gissing's domestic life was deeply troubled. He attended Lindow Grove School at Alderly Edge in Cheshire and won a scholarship to Owens College in Manchester. But he became enamored of a young prostitute named Marianne Helen ("Nell") Harrison (1858-1888) and stole money from the college cloakroom in the attempt to "reform" her. After serving a prison term of one month, he endured a year's exile in America before returning to England, where he married the selfsame Nell Harrison in 1879. They separated permanently by 1882, and Nell died in 1888. But Gissing again married unwisely in 1891, choosing a working class girl named Edith Underwood (1867-1917). She bore him two sons, Walter (1891-1916) and Alfred (1896-1975), but proved to be a shrew. When family life became impossible in 1897, Gissing set Edith and his children up in an apartment and fled to Italy, where he lived in Siena and Rome and toured Greek Italy for his book By the Ionian Sea. Gissing spent the final four years of his life with the Frenchwoman Gabrielle Fleury (1868-1954). His wife Edith was finally placed in an asylum in 1902, where she died fifteen years later.


    Last updated: 04/02/2000