Welcome to our blog!

It's better than a bat in the eye with a burnt stick!

This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.

And make sure to visit The Arnold Bennett Society for expert information and comment on all aspects of the life and work of AB.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Death of Gissing

Sunday, July 31st., Spade House, Sandgate.

Spade House was the home of the science fiction writer H. G. Wells from 1901 to 1909. It is a large mansion overlooking Sandgate, near Folkestone, in southeast England.

Wells at Sandgate
I had a lot of curious sensations on returning to England after an absence of seven months - especially on waking up in an English house shaking off France, and re-adjusting my perspective of England and finding how fine England was, and how I was full of sympathy for it, and all that sort of thing. But I was too tired and too idle and too busy with Wells to bother about putting them down. nearly all Wells's conversation would make good table talk and one has a notion that it ought not to be wasted; it is so full of ideas and of intellectual radicalism. It seems a pity that it should not be gathered up. But after all there is a constant supply of it. You might as well be afraid of wasting the water from a brook. I read the proofs of "The Food of the Gods" these last two days, and gave him my views on it. He was very keen and restless and nervous to hear them.

Talking of education he said there was a particular time in human growth when each particular thing should be taught - before which it would be too soon and after which it would be too late.

The Rationalist Press Association would have liked to issue a 6d. edition of "Anticipations". However, Watts broke it gently to Wells that "God" was mentioned several times in the book and their subscribers would not like it. "Of course," said Watts, "I know you only use the word figuratively." "Not so figuratively as all that," said Wells.

The Rationalist Press Association (RPA) was founded in 1899 by Charles Albert Watts, the son of the prominent freethinker Charles Watts, to “assist in securing the amendment of the law which sanctions the confiscation of property left for anti-theological purpose, and to promote the issuing, advertising, and circulation of publications devoted to Freethought and Advanced Religious reform.” At the time, bequests of donations to Freethought organizations were confiscated because of the widely held assumption that a morally sound person would not want to donate to them. The RPA became the most significant publishing organization for rationalist and freethought organizations.

Sketch of Gissing by Wells
Mr. and Mrs. Wells gave me between them a history of Gissing's tragedies. Gissing lived connubially with a French woman. Wells gave me an account, full of queer details, of how he went over to St. Jean de Luz when Gissing was dying. Gissing's mouth had to be wiped out with lemon water, and his body sponged over with absolute alcohol. Wells did this. The woman was incompetent and stupid. The alcohol gave out and he had to use methylated spirits. There was only one towel. One corner had to be used for the mouth-washing, another for the methylated spirits business. The corners got mixed up. Gissing, delirious, resisted. Then Wells had to insist, the woman objecting, on handkerchiefs being used; she said the handkerchiefs would get dirty at once - etc. etc. similar incredible stupidities.

According to Pierre Coustillas (The Heroic Life of George Gissing, Part III: 1897-1903), H G Wells was a prime villain in the case. Arriving at Gissing’s sickbed on Christmas Day 1903, Wells force-fed the patient pints of champagne, beef tea and coffee, and more or less killed him on the spot.

No comments:

Post a Comment