The Clash of Space and Culture: Gissing and the Rise of the ‘New’ Suburban



Far from insignificant sidelines of an urban landscape, suburban spaces have their own place in the body of criticism dedicated to the impact of nineteenth-century urbanization on literature and culture. Books specifically about the Victorian and, later, Edwardian suburb were published through to the end of the Edwardian period, including George and Weedon Grossmith’s Diary of a Nobody (1888–89), two sections of the first volume of Charles Booth’s landmark work, Life and Labour of the People in London (1892), T.W.H. Crosland’s The Suburbans (1905), Howard Keble’s The Smiths of Surbiton (1906), and C.F.G. Masterman’s The Condition of England (1909), which dedicates an entire chapter to ‘The Suburbans.’ Beyond these specifically suburban works, there are also many novels that take the suburban phenomenon at least partially as their subject, such as E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End (1910) and George Gissing’s In the Year of Jubilee (1894). But after about 1880, writing about the suburbs is different from that of the previous 30 years. Overall, the picture of the suburbs that emerges from 1880 through the First World War is the image with which modern readers are more familiar — the suburb as trivial, dull, bourgeois, pretentious; an object of mockery by those who considered themselves above the petty concerns of the world of mid-level clerks and accountants.


Lower Middle Class Modern Reader Aesthetic Sensibility Suburban Development Aesthetic Education 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2006

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