Born in exile : the lower-class intellectual in the fiction of William Hale White ('Mark Rutherford'), George Gissing and H.G. Wells, 1880-1911
In both fact and fiction, the lower-class intellectual is a significant figure of the years 1880--1911. I concentrate on the three novelists who have made the most sustained artistic enquiry into the subject. In the process I hope to show how in practice Victorianism developed into modernism. Hale White and his obscure provincials experience loss of faith but are unable to reject certain values that were fundamental to that faith. If they cannot return to old certainties they cannot embrace the new ones of secularism find mass opinion; significantly, White sets his novels early, rather than late, in the nineteenth century. Gissing writes of his own times but he and his characters are poor struggling scholars in a society given to vulgarity and materialism. They can, however, still respond to certain worldly preoccupations---notably gentility. They are perpetual lodgers seeking a real home. Unlike White and Gissing, Wells is consciously committed to the future. However, his ambitious young scientist or utopian is an 'Anachronic Man', a term just as applicable to a White or Gissing protagonist. The Wellsian hero, ostensibly confident, can still suffer a crisis of identity and identification. I emphasise the individual nature of every chosen example of this character-type; each of them, however, suffers from a conflict between the need to find his unconventionally individual bearings and his need to relate to his fellow human beings in the community, however crass or mediocre that community may be. He faces undesirable extremes of isolation and integration. He is in limbo, and even 'unclassed'. If he originates between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, he cannot belong to either. His intellectual qualities cut him off from the class or community of his birth but do not necessarily enable him to place himself in another. I show how the ultimate condition for him is one of isolation, but I end on a positive note.