|Jack the Ripper: A Suspect Guide
|This text is from the E-book Jack the Ripper: A Suspect Guide by Christopher J. Morley (2005). Click here to return to the table of contents. The text is unedited, and any errors or omissions rest with the author. Our thanks go out to Christopher J. Morley for his permission to publish his E-book.
George Robert Gissing
English novelist, born in Wakefield on 22 November 1857 the son of a chemist. He was educated at the Quaker boarding school of Alderley Edge, and at the age of fifteen won a scholarship to Owens college, Manchester, where he was considered a star pupil destined for an academic career. His prospects were ruined however when he was caught stealing money from the students cloakroom. The money was for Nell Harrison, a young prostitute with whom he had become infatuated. After a months imprisonment he went to America and supported himself teaching. Friendless and penniless, he returned to London in 1877 and married Nell. The marriage however was unhappy, his wife been a drunkard, who intermittently returned to prostitution. Eventually he paid her to live apart from him, which she did, and died from drink (and probably venereal disease) in early 1888.
Gissing's first novel Workers In The Dawn, was published in 1880, and was paid for by a small legacy left him. The book, a naturalistic study of the most desperate levels of poverty stricken London life was a complete failure. Gissing never knew wide fame nor prosperity, and was compelled to sell the copyright for most of his novels outright to publishers, which meant that even his occasional successes were often unrewarding. From 1884 he earned a modest and precarious living from his novels and tutoring work. He lived alone during this period, and was often desperately lonely. He had few literary associates, or friends of any kind, and spent punishing hours every day at his desk.
He met his second wife Edith Underwood, in the street, and they married in February 1891 and moved to Exeter. The move to Exeter was Gissing's plan for a deliberate exile from the metropolitan literary world. Once again however this marriage was not a happy one. Edith was a violent and mentally unstable woman, who was eventually committed to an asylum. They returned to London in 1893 and after many fearsome scenes, Gissing parted from his family, notably his two sons in 1897. For the first time he acquired literary and educated acquaintances, including H.G Wells, who became a close friend. Gissing however refused to be seen in public with his wife, or invite people to his home.
Misery seemed to feed Gissing's genius, and the prevailing tone of his novels during the mid 1890's is that of the struggling life of the shabby genteel, and the conflict between education and circumstances. His themes were struggling authors and their financial and marital difficulties, and his masterpiece novel was New Grub Street. Gissing made no attempt at popular writing and for a long time the sincerity of his work was only appreciated by a limited public.
Diagnosed as suffering from emphysema, he moved restlessly from place to place as a semi-invalid, always sure that happiness was to be found elsewhere. He died in a rented villa at Ispoure, near St Jean de Port in South West France on 28 December 1903, and is buried in the English cemetery at St Jean de Luz, on the Bay Of Biscay.
His disastrous marriage to a prostitute, plus the fact that some of his novels were considered rather gloomy, has led some to speculate that he may have been Jack the Ripper. However, this is highly unlikely as he left for Italy on 16 September 1888, and was still there during the period that the Ripper murders occurred.
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