English author George Gissing was known for writing tales of Victorian life that often centred around class struggles and social issues—a literary prowess that led George Orwell to acclaim him as “perhaps the best novelist England has produced.” When he penned this poignant diary entry, Gissing was thirty-one and had lived alone for four years since the end of his disastrous first marriage. A further blow came just three months prior to this entry with the death of his former wife. While Gissing did find love again in 1891, bearing two children, this second marriage also ended in disappointment. Sadly, his lingering concern about his health manifested into reality: Gissing lived only for another 15 years, succumbing to emphysema at the age of 46.
The Diary Entry
Sund. June 3.
… Strange how sternly I am possessed of the idea that I shall not live much longer. Not a personal thought but is coloured with this conviction. I never look forward more than a year at the utmost; it is the habit of my mind, in utter sincerity, to expect no longer tenure of life than that. I don’t know how this has come about; perhaps my absolute loneliness has something to do with it. Then I am haunted with the idea that I am consumptive. I never cough without putting a finger to my tongue, to see if there be a sign of blood. Morbidness—is it? I only know that these forecasts are the most essential feature of my mental and moral life at present. Death, if it came now, would rob me of not one hope, for hopes I simply have not.
George Gissing’s diary was published in 1978 by Harvester Press Ltd, edited by Pierre Coustillas, with the title London and the Life of Literature in Late Victorian England – The Diary of George Gissing, Novelist. Now out of print, second-hand copies are scarce and expensive, but a copy does exist over at the Internet Archive.