George Gissing was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire, in 1857. A brilliant student, he won a scholarship to Owens College and various prizes that distinguished him from his peers - but his glittering academic career was cut short when he stole money from his fellow students in order to keep a young prostitute, Marianne Harrison, from the streets. Expelled from university and having spent a month in prison, he left for America, again falling into financial destitution and also near-starvation in Chicago, an episode that forms one of the best sections in New Grub Street. After a short and ill-fated marriage to Marianne, by now an alcoholic who died five years after their separation, he married Edith Underwood, who five years after their separation was certified insane. From 1899, unable to obtain a divoirce, from Edith, Gissing lived in a bigamous marriage in France with Gabrielle Fleury, who had approached him about translating New Grub Street. Perhaps the greatest English realist novelist, Gissing published over twenty books before his death in 1903.