The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft
Here he writes down his reflections ranging from the philosophical meaning of life to comments on simple daily life. There is much about reading, books. There are comments about nature walks in the country, memories of past events in London, visits to special places. There is discussion of English culture, customs and even of culinary arts.
The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft by George Gissing is part novel, part autobiography and partly a book of brief essays or reflections on various subjects. It presents a mellowed cynical author who after a difficult life spent mostly in London is given a legacy of an annual annuity which enables him to retire in solitude to a country cottage in Devon county, England. Here he writes down his reflections ranging from the philosophical meaning of life to comments on simple daily life. There is much about reading, books and authors. There are comments about nature walks in the country, memories of past events in London, visits to special places. There is discussion of English culture, customs and even of culinary arts. Gissing was not a Christian but in this book he shares a generally positive view of the influence of Christianity on England. He had in his own life also found solace in the Stoic philosophers, particularly Marcus Aurelius.
The exquisite quiet of this room! I have been sitting in utter idleness, watching the sky, viewing the shape of golden sunlight upon the carpet, which changes as the minutes pass, letting my eye wander from one framed print to another, and along the ranks of my beloved books. Within the house nothing stirs. In the garden I can hear singing of birds, I can hear the rustle of their wings. And thus, if it pleases me, I may sit all day long, and into the profounder quiet of the night.
My house is perfect. By great good fortune I have found a housekeeper no less to my mind, a low-voiced, light-footed woman of discreet age, strong and deft enough to render me all the service I require, and not afraid of solitude. She rises very early. By my breakfast-time there remains little to be done under the roof save dressing of meals. Very rarely do I hear even a clink of crockery; never the closing of a door or window. Oh, blessed silence!
In The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft, Gissing reflected: "To think I once called myself a socialist, communist, anything you like of the revolutionary kind! Not for long, to be sure, and I suspect there was always something in me that scoffed when my lips uttered such things."