The Nether World

  • Adrian Poole


The Nether World (1889) is the last and most successful of Gissing’s early attempts to dramatise on a large scale the problems of energy, need and relationship in the context of extreme urban deprivation. Gissing did some careful research in Clerkenwell for this novel. His Diary shows him going over ‘a die-sinker’s place’, for example, and getting ‘useful ideas’.1 Yet these rarely emerge in physical details in the novel, as they had done to a great extent in Thyrza, and would certainly have done in Zola. The value and stature of this novel is to be found in its articulation of the quality of human desire and suffering beneath the differences of class and individual personality. In this it is more successful than any strictly ‘documentary’ approach could be; Booth’s investigations offer a sharp and pertinent comparison.


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  1. 3.
    Letter to Margaret Harkness, April 1888; Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: Selected Correspondence (1956) p. 480.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Gareth Stedman Jones, Outcast London: A Study in the Relationship between Classes in Victorian Society (Oxford, 1971) p. 14.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Arnold White, Problems of a Great City (1886) p. 13.Google Scholar
  4. 12.
    John Goode, ‘Gissing’s The Nether World’, in D. Howard, J. Lucas and J. Goode, Tradition and Tolerance in Nineteenth-Century Fiction (1966) p. 211.Google Scholar
  5. 22.
    Jacob Korg, George Gissing: A Critical Biography (1965) p. 114.Google Scholar

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© Adrian Poole 1975

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  • Adrian Poole

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