The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft by George Gissing


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The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft, by
George Gissing

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at

Title: The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft

Author: George Gissing

Release Date: March 27, 2005 [eBook #1463]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)


Transcribed from the 1903 Archibald Constable & Co. edition by David
Price, email



The name of Henry Ryecroft never became familiar to what is called the
reading public. A year ago obituary paragraphs in the literary papers
gave such account of him as was thought needful: the date and place of
his birth, the names of certain books he had written, an allusion to his
work in the periodicals, the manner of his death. At the time it
sufficed. Even those few who knew the man, and in a measure understood
him, must have felt that his name called for no further celebration; like
other mortals, he had lived and laboured; like other mortals, he had
entered into his rest. To me, however, fell the duty of examining
Ryecroft's papers; and having, in the exercise of my discretion, decided
to print this little volume, I feel that it requires a word or two of
biographical complement, just so much personal detail as may point the
significance of the self-revelation here made.

When first I knew him, Ryecroft had reached his fortieth year; for twenty
years he had lived by the pen. He was a struggling man, beset by poverty
and other circumstances very unpropitious to mental work. Many forms of
literature had he tried; in none had he been conspicuously successful;
yet now and then he had managed to earn a little more money than his
actual needs demanded, and thus was enabled to see something of foreign
countries. Naturally a man of independent and rather scornful outlook,
he had suffered much from defeated ambition, from disillusions of many
kinds, from subjection to grim necessity; the result of it, at the time
of which I am speaking, was, certainly not a broken spirit, but a mind
and temper so sternly disciplined, that, in ordinary intercourse with
him, one did not know but that he led a calm, contented life. Only after
several years of friendship was I able to form a just idea of what the
man had gone through, or of his actual existence. Little by little
Ryecroft had subdued himself to a modestly industrious routine. He did a
great deal of mere hack-work; he reviewed, he translated, he wrote
articles; at long intervals a volume appeared under his name. There were
times, I have no doubt, when bitterness took hold upon him; not seldom he
suffered in health, and probably as much from moral as from physical over-
strain; but, on the whole, he earned his living very much as other men
do, taking the day's toil as a matter of course, and rarely grumbling
over it.

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