Our Friend the Charlatan (1901). George Gissing was an English novelist, who wrote twenty-three novels between 1880 and 1903. Lancelot Speed (1860â1931) was a Victorian illustrator of books, usually of a fantastical or romantic nature. He is probably most well known for his illustrations for Andrew Lang's fairy story books. Speed is credited as the designer on the 1916 silent movie version of the novel She by H. Rider Haggard, which he had illustrated. George Gissing he was also the director of a number of early British silent films. Although his early works are naturalistic, he developed into one of the the most accomplished realists of the late-Victorian era. Born in Wakefield, Yorkshire, to lower-middle class parents, Gissing went on to win a scholarship to Owens College, the present day University of Manchester. A brilliant student, he excelled at university, winning many coveted prizes, including the Shakespeare prize in 1875. Between 1891 and 1897 (his so-called middle period) he produced his best works, which include New Grub Street, Born in Exile, The Odd Women, In the Year of Jubilee, and The Whirlpool. The middle years of the decade saw his reputation reach new heights: by some critics he is counted alongside George Meredith and Thomas Hardy as one of the best three novelists of his day. He also enjoyed new friendships with fellow writers such as Henry James, and H.G. Wells, and came into contact with many other up and coming writers such as Joseph Conrad and Stephen Crane Gissing was born on 22 November 1857 in Wakefield, Yorkshire, the eldest of five children of Thomas Waller Gissing, who ran a chemist's shop, and Margaret nÃ©e Bedford. His siblings were: William, who died aged twenty; Algernon, who became a writer; Margaret; and Ellen. His childhood home in Thompson's Yard, Wakefield, is maintained by The Gissing Trust. Gissing was educated at Back Lane School in Wakefield, where he was a diligent and enthusiastic student. His serious interest in books began at the age of ten when he read The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens and subsequently, encouraged by his father and inspired by the family library, his literary interest grew. Juvenilia written at this time was published in 1995 in The Poetry of George Gissing. He was also skilled at drawing. Gissing's father died when he was 12 years old, and he and his brothers were sent to Lindow Grove School at Alderley Edge in Cheshire, where he was a solitary student who studied hard. In 1872, after an exceptional performance in the Oxford Local Examinations, Gissing won a scholarship to Owens College, forerunner of the University of Manchester. There he remained solitary, continued his intense studies, and won many prizes, including the Poem Prize in 1873 and the Shakespeare scholarship in 1875. Gissing's academic career ended in disgrace when he fell in love with a young woman Marianne Helen Harrison, known as Nell. She is often described as a prostitute, but there is no evidence for this. It is reported that he gave her money in an attempt to keep her off the streets, but, again, there is no evidence. What is known, is that when he ran short of money he stole from his fellow students. The college hired a detective to investigate the thefts, and Gissing was prosecuted, found guilty, expelled and sentenced to a month's hard labour in Belle Vue Gaol, Manchester in 1876.