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Walter BesantThe Business of Literature and the Pleasures of Reform$
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Kevin A. Morrison

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781789620351

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781789620351.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use.date: 27 September 2021

Moral Perfectionism, Optatives, and the Inky Line in Besant’s All in a Garden Fair and Gissing’s New Grub Street

Moral Perfectionism, Optatives, and the Inky Line in Besant’s All in a Garden Fair and Gissing’s New Grub Street

Chapter:
(p.205) Chapter Eleven Moral Perfectionism, Optatives, and the Inky Line in Besant’s All in a Garden Fair and Gissing’s New Grub Street
Source:
Walter Besant
Author(s):

Tom Ue

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.3828/liverpool/9781789620351.003.0012

This chapter argues for the importance of moral perfectionism to the life of writing depicted in Besant’s All in a Garden Fair (1883) and Gissing’s New Grub Street (1891). Scholarship by Andrew H. Miller has identified our desire to improve as ‘a defining aspect of modernity’. Miller’s terms explain a good deal about these novels, in both of which characters routinely (aspire to) improve themselves by means of comparing themselves with others. In All in a Garden Fair, for example, Claire rejects Allen by imagining untoward future outcomes, prospects cancelled by their decisions in the present. Meanwhile, New Grub Street opens with Milvain referring to a man who is being executed: his self-conceptualization arises out of an understanding of who he is not, or at least not yet. My aim, in the first half of this essay, is to show how the two works articulate a larger, Victorian conversation regarding moral perfectionism. In the second half, I concentrate on Besant’s and Andrew Lang’s conversation about New Grub Street in the Author, and Gissing’s responses, revealing how they reenact some of the novels’ debates.

Keywords:   George Gissing, Walter Besant, Biography, Life writing, Counterfactual narrative, Victorian publishing, Authorship, Victorian periodicals, New Grub Street, All in a Garden Fair

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