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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, h

"It is because nations tend to stupidity and baseness that mankind moves so slowly; it is because individuals have a capacity for better things that it moves at all.
"In my youth, looking at this man and that, I marvelled that humanity has made a little progress. Now, looking at men in the multitude

A difficult novel to interpret beyond the limits of autobiography – those few sections that diverge in character are so meagre as remark little importance; and other sections only succeed in the knowledge of their origin. The many, many consecutive chapters arguing (vigorously) that English food is

I was looking forward to this as a celebration of books and hominess and nature—and, indeed, all of those parts are good; I myself would choose different books to rhapsodize on, but that’s fine. Unfortunately, most of the other 150 pages are Ryecroft’s (or Gissing’s) reactionary lament for a lost En

In this novel of semi-autobiographical fiction, George Gissing has an unnamed editor publish the diary entries of his deceased friend, an author, the eponymous Henry Ryecroft. Henry, a widower with a married self-sufficient daughter, receives an inheritance. With the money he settles himself in a so

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--boil

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

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. So

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 basis

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 friend’s estate wonders why the hack writer had never written the novel he wanted to, and thinks it might be because ‘Ryecroft’ co

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