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The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft

George Gissing

Book Overview: 

This novel consists of selections from the diary of an author, starting soon after his retirement and continuing until just before his death. There is very little in the way of plot, but a great deal of quiet musing about art, nature, society, and the things that make life worth living. Although this is a work of fiction, there are clear parallels between the narrator's life and Gissing's own life. This leads many commenters to view it as semi-autobiographical.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .On the whole, it seems to me something to be rather proud of; I smile approvingly at that thin, white-faced youth.  Me?  My very self?  No, no!  He has been dead these thirty years.

Scholarship in the high sense was denied me, and now it is too late.  Yet here am I gloating over Pausanias, and promising myself to read every word of him.  Who that has any tincture of old letters would not like to read Pausanias, instead of mere quotations from him and references to him?  Here are the volumes of Dahn’s Die Könige der Germanen: who would not like to know all he can about the Teutonic conquerors of Rome?  And so on, and so on.  To the end I shall be reading—and forgetting.  Ah, that’s the worst of it!  Had I at command all the knowledge I have at any time possessed, I might call myself a learned man.  Nothing surely is so bad for the memory as long-enduring worry, agitation, fear.  . . . Read More

Community Reviews

This is definitely fiction, but the line between George Gissing and his Henry Ryecroft is perhaps a bit blurred. Ryecroft was a writer, but is now retired, having received an unexpected small inheritance. Gissing opens the volume with a preface outlining how, upon the death of his friend Ryecroft...more

I've read most of George Gissing's books and this is the only one I've not enjoyed.

It's a self indulgent exercise, a fictional memoir of the not very interesting Henry Ryecroft. Nothing happens. Thankfully the book is short.

The philosophical musings you'd put up with from a drunken friend. Hey,...more

I have read nothing else by George Gissing, so I don't know if some of this is meant as parody or if "Ryecroft" is simply Gissing's surrogate. Some parts of this book--especially in the Winter section--made me laugh out loud at the ridiculousness (e.g., English cooking is the best in the world--b...more

Really enjoyable and lighter than some of the other novels by this writer. Very heavy on irony - close to sarcasm. Sometimes it seemed like a cross between The Diary of a Nobody and Ed Reardons Week ( The radio comedy inspired by New Grub Street). At other times it was a collection of essays. Eit...more

Actually ***1/2: someone remembering Trollope can't write worse than that. Still I have to understand what he finds in British Cusine!!!!

I have just finished reading "The private papers of Henry Ryecroft" (1903). Delightful use of language. Poor old Gissing was profoundly depressed; he is at his best when he describes how miserable he has been. And even when hes happy he worries that it probably wont last. He also had no use for o...more

This is an interesting read on many levels. Is it a epistolary recap of the aging George Gissing? is it purely a work of fiction by Gissing? or is a combination of both, akin to Goethe's "Young Werther"?
Gissing's other novel "New Grub Street" (on my to-read list) was not as popular as this work....more

Henry Ryecroft

"The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft" (1903) was once the most widely-read work of the English novelist George Gissing (1857 - 1903). It was Gissing's own favorite among his works. The book appeared in the year of Gissing's death. Gissing lived a difficult life which became the bas...more

The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft purports to be the papers of a recently-deceased writer; aspects of it are autobiographical. The narrator who is tidying up his dead friends estate wonders why the hack writer had never written the novel he wanted to, and thinks it might be because Ryecroft co...more

Don't think of this as a novel but as a collection of personal essays by a fictional character. I really liked the first half of the book and then it got dull. Though I found the pieces on English cooking funny (if the food is good, he says, it doesn't need sauce).
Still, all through I copied pas...more

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