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By the Ionian Sea

George Gissing

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .On the rocks below stood fishermen hauling in a great net, whilst a boy splashed the water to drive the fish back until they were safely enveloped in the last meshes; admirable figures, consummate in graceful strength, their bare legs and arms the tone of terra cotta. What slight clothing they wore became them perfectly, as is always the case with a costume well adapted to the natural life of its wearers. Their slow, patient effort speaks of immemorial usage, and it is in harmony with time itself. These fishermen are the primitives of Taranto; who shall say for how many centuries they have hauled their nets upon the rock? When Plato visited the Schools of Taras, he saw the same brown-legged figures, in much the same garb, gathering their sea-harvest. When Hannibal, beset by the Romans, drew his ships across the peninsula and so escaped from the inner sea, fishermen of Tarentum went forth as ever, seeking their daily food. A thousand years passed, and the fury of the Sara. . . Read More

Community Reviews

The title says what it is. An English classicist visits Calabria (and a bit of Puglia) in the late 19th century, searching for the past. He notes both the past and the present, but also perhaps inadvertently finds the future?

I'd heard of this book many years ago as a possible source o...more

Thoroughly enjoyable. I’ve read the book as part of my reading challenge for 2019. This is by a local author, I chose the book randomly by way of it being the cheapest on eBay. I had never read Gissing before, though as a Wakefield lass I knew of him.

A more entertaining book I could n...more

Written at the turn of the century, with the author in declining health, he moves through a region looking for and admiring the fading traces of the Roman and Goth imprints. He writes well and lovingly connects his places to their antecedents in history.

In the late 1890s, the writer George Gissing set off on a trip to Southern Italy, an intensely personal journey into Magna Graecia with its ancient Greek ruins. “The names of Greece and Italy draw me as no others;” he writes; “they make me young again, and restore the keen impressions of that tim...more

A Ramble To Calabria With Gissing

By 1897, the English novelist George Gissing (1857 - 1903) had achieved a degree of financial and critical success after years of writing. He took a vacation to Calabria, the "toe" of the southernmost part of the "boot" of Italy. From his youth, Gissin...more

This is a mostly pleasant little memoir of a mostly pleasant little tour in 1897. Gissing chose his destinations from readings of Latin and Greek, and seems more interested in comparing the real scenery to what he imagined than in getting to know Calabria in his day. And there are distasteful mom...more

A few years before his untimely end during a period of failing health English Novelist George Robert Gissing's travelog "By the Ionian Sea: Notes of a Ramble in Southern Italy" recounts a byway excursion to Magna Grecia the land of Roman, Goth, and Greek (to name a few) which captivated him as a...more

George Gissing was a very 19th century English traveller; he travelled with dreams in his head of how he wanted southern Italy to be and when the reality turned out rather differently, he got into a muddle and retreated to his trunk (a trunk! he travelled with a trunk) of books. Rather similar in...more

I was casting about for something to read on a recent holiday on Kephalonia when I came across this. I've read the odd Gissing novel and always thought it a shame that his name isn't more widely known. Perhaps it's time The Nether World got the BBC costume drama treatment, although I'm not sure how it...more

Pleasant reading - like the idea that it was written so long ago yet we can still ramble along together.

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