George Gissing in Vogue
Midway through New Grub Street (1891), Reardon reunites with his wife Amy. In preparation, he leaves behind his overcoat. This attire, once “fairly good,” is now long past its prime, “the edges of the sleeves were frayed, two buttons were missing, and the original hue of the cloth was indeterminable.” Reardon knows Amy well, but not well enough: her attention at the meeting is quickly directed to “his muddy and shapeless boots,” and her desire for “a renewal of amity” conflicts with her shock over her husband’s appearance: “[S]uch attire degraded him in her eyes; it symbolised the melancholy decline which he had suffered intellectually. On Reardon his wife’s elegance had the same repellent effect, though this would not have been the case but for the expression of her countenance.” Surface appearances, as we see here, take on significant meaning for both characters as they variously under/overread: Amy cannot shake off her initial impressions of Reardon, nor he her. The narrator goes so far as reason: “Had Reardon been practical man enough to procure by hook or by crook a decent suit of clothes for this interview, that ridiculous trifle might have made all the difference in what was to result.”
Fashion is an informing presence in so many works by Gissing. To address this area more directly, we invite contributions for proposed panels on Gissing and his writing in the Annual Literary London Society Conference, held on 9-10 July 2020, at the London College of Fashion. Papers must speak to the conference’s focus: “Fashioning London: Streets, Styles, and Storytelling.” Papers might address:
n Women in private and public
n Woman question
n Speech acts
n Tradition and revolution
Please submit your queries and abstract of up to 250 words and a brief biography of no more than 50 words to Dr Tom Ue (Dalhousie University and University College London) at email@example.com by 25 March. Notice will be given by 27 March and the panel will be submitted for consideration on 30 March in accordance to the CFP (see http://www.literarylondon.org/annual-conference).