GISSING, GEORGE (1857-1903, novelist) and WELLS, H. G. (1866-1946, novelist and writer)
Material relating to the publication of Gissing's work is uncommon. The joint presence of Gissing and Wells on the document is most unusual.
The Town Traveller, written in five weeks for serialisation specifically to relieve Gissing's financial hardship, was published in 1898. He described it to Wells as 'my vulgar new book...It is a thin book; I couldn't help it', but Wells found it 'amusing'. It was, however, an immediate commercial success, selling 2,500 copies within two weeks and a further thousand by the end of a month. A six-penny edition of 20,000 copies was printed in 1902.
In the present agreement Clause 8 ('That the said George Gissing agrees to give to the said Frederick A. Stokes Co. the first offer of his next new novel after the one above mentioned') has been deleted and has Wells's and Gissing's initials against it in the margin.
Gissing and Wells met in 1896 and remained friends until the former's death. They came from similar backgrounds and experiences, shared the same general attitudes and wrote on similar themes. Their temperaments and fortunes were, however, entirely different. In 1904 Wells wrote a memorable essay about his friend: George Gissing: an Impression. Their extensive correspondence has been published. It was an important friendship bound by a strong affection and enjoyment of one another's company. Wells and his wife arrived in Rome on 8 March 1898. Although the document is dated 22 February 1898 and Gissing gave his place of residence as London, the agreement was actually executed in Italy and signed sometime in March 1898. Gissing had been in Italy since the previous September working on his books Charles Dickens, By the Ionian Sea and Veranilda. He had been told by his agent, Colles, that the serial press was not interested in The Town Traveller so it was a great surprise to learn of the Macmillan/Stokes interest in it as a book. Jointly they offered the largest advance Gissing had ever received.