which sought to have them banned byrnthe public schools, and John O’Hara tornAmericans for Democratic Action. Butrnthe “proletarian” fiction which precededrnhim and which passed for “art” duringrnthe Depression, the wrathful grapes ofrnJohn Steinbeck and the others who dominatedrncritical attention in the 40’s andrn50’s, and the Grub Street novelists ofrnlater decades will be forgotten—as theyrnare now to all but the high school facultiesrnwho offer their fealty only to thernNational Education Association, whilernthey defecate on the learning process. Irnhave more than a suspicion that JohnrnO’Hara’s novels and stories will persist, ifrnonlv because they have something to sayrnabout the commedia that is life andrndeath, and his record of what part ofrnAmerica was like in the 20th century,rneven after we are into the 21st. I stillrnreread him, and so do others who are notrnconcerned with the flim-flam of the LiteraryrnEstablishment or John O’Hara’srnplace in the pantheon of American writers,rnbut in what he wrote.rnRalph de Toledano’s latest book is ThernApocrypha of Limbo, a collection ofrnreligious poems.rnGeorge Gissingrnin Romernby Francesco BadolatornThe Greek and Roman classics had arngreat influence on George Gissing,rnnot least because the literature and historyrnof antiquity provided him with a kindrnof refuge from the grim realities of thernmodern industrial and commercialrnworld. Gissing was a highly cultivatedrnman who was at home in several foreignrnlanguages—French, Italian, Spanish,rnGerman—and was well read in their literatures.rn(He also read the major Russianrnwriters, in translation.) He preferredrnDante and Boccaccio, whom he had readrnwith growing appreciation since he wasrnyoung. In fact, he wrote the poemrn”Ravenna,” a historical evocation of therntown, at the age of 15.rnWhy Gissing was so interested inrnmodern Italy and why he preferred Italyrnover Greece is up for conjecture. Perhapsrnit’s because he was less interested in ancientrnGreece than in ancient Rome. Orrnperhaps Italy attracted him because itrncombined the two classical cultures: Italyrnwas the cradle of the ancient Romanrnworld, and Southern Italy was once partrnof Magna Grecia. The main character inrnThe Unclassed remarks, “Romanus sum,”rnwhich may very well reflect Gissing’srnown sentiments.rnFrom Gissing’s youthful devotion tornclassical studies arose the desire to visitrnItaly, to see the relics of ancient civilizationrnand, through his experiences, tornrecapture something of its spirit. Hisrnpoverty delayed the realization of therndream, but in September 1888, at thernage of 31, he was able at last to visit thernMediterranean. The diary that Gissingrnkept during his three visits (the first inrn1888-89, the second in 1889-90, and thernthird in 1897-98), describes not only hisrnreactions to the remains of the classicalrnpast, but reveals his delight in Italian art,rnhis lively concern with Italian journalismrnand contemporary literature, and hisrnclose interest in Italian customs and therndetails of everyday life.rnGissing not only read intensely aboutrnItaly in preparation for his visits, but evenrncarried with him during his travels severalrnweighty tomes, such as Gautier’s Voyagernen Italic, Stendhal’s Promenade dansrnRome, and Leigh Hunt’s Stories fromrnthe Italian Poets. Lenormand’s threevolumernwork on La Grande Grece alsornaccompanied him throughout his journeysrnin Italy.rnGissing had a lively interest in Italianrnnewspapers as well. At the end ofrnOctober 1888, he wrote that he read thernCorriere di Napoli every morning and IIrnPiccolo every evening, to improve his Italianrnand to be informed about events.rnAnother newspaper that he used to readrnin Rome at breakfast time was the PopolornRomano, and when in Galabria he digestedrnLa Tribuna. In his diary, Gissingrncompares the Roman and Neapolitanrnnewspapers: “The Roman newspapersrnare miserable rags. I find myself fallingrnback on the Gorriere di Napoli, whichrnreally has a lot of interesting matter, andrnit is well conducted. It seems to sellrngreatly in Rome.”rnFrom Gissing’s Diary we learn muchrnabout his literary tastes at that hme. Forrninstance, he bought the Poesie & Prose ofrnGiacomo Leopardi, perhaps being attractedrnto this writer’s pessimistic view ofrnhuman nature, which was combinedrnwith a certain romanticism. He alsornbought Silvio Pellico’s Le Mie Prigioni,rnas well as some novels by the Sardinianrnnovelist Grazia Deledda (who, manyrnyears later, in 1926, was to be awardedrnthe Nobel Prize for Literature). Therntheme of love, often painful and unhappy,rnis conspicuous in most of Deledda’srnnovels, in which the characters oftenrnseem controlled by an inexorablerndestiny.rnwhen Gissing was in Naples the followingrnyear, he read Matilde Serao’s Addio,rnAmore!, which was published in installmentsrnin the Gorriere di Napoli, arnnewspaper edited by Serao herself. It isrnnot surprising that Gissing was attractedrnto her naturalistic fiction, which paidrnmuch attention to the lives of the poor,rntheir loves, their struggles to improvernthemselves, and their dedication torngambling.rnRegarding Serao’s II paese di cuccagnarn(a Neapolitan novel, serialized in thernGorriere di Napoli), Gissing writes tornMiss Edith Sichel that, “The story wasrnmuch better written than most that nowrnappear in Italy (which is so swampedrnwith translations from the French), but itrnshowed so plainly the influence of foreignrnmodels, and was even a little amateurishrnin parts. The Italians can dornnothing, I am afraid, in this direction.rnThey have no imaginative vigour nowa-rndays; all their strength goes to commerce.”rnGissing also showed interest in thernworks of Giovanni Verga, now regardedrnas probably the most important Italianrnnovelist of the late 19th century. At thernend of his third trip to Italy, Gissing attendedrnthe Teatro Nazionale in Rome,rnfor a performance of “Cavalleria Rusticana”rnand “Pagliacci.” Unfortunately, hernwas not impressed: “Bad singers and rowdyrnhouse.”rnHe also read L’Ultima Battaglia dirnPrete Agostino by Salvatore Farina, remarkingrnthat it was “far more interestingrnthan I expected; in fact, excellently written.rnI must see more of the man’s work.”rnIn this case, Gissing discovered literaryrnmerit in a writer most critics have judgedrnmediocre. Thus, Giulio Cattaneo classifiesrnhim as a “fashionable novelist, muchrnloved by lower middle-class readers.”rnCattaneo concedes, however, that thernnovels have a “certain documentary value,rnand they are all based on sound sentiments,rnabove all on a strong defence ofrnthe family.”rnAmong the other books that Gissingrnread were Pietro Giannone’s IstoriarnGivile del Regno di Napoli, and L’Eco delrnVesuvio, a large collection of NeapolitanrnFEBRUARY 1997/49rnrnrn