Childhood and education
After the early death of their father, the novelist George Gissing, on 28 December 1903, his sons, Walter Leonard (born at Exeter on 10 December 1891) and Alfred Charles, benefited from a small government pension. The following report was published in The Times newspaper for 24 June 1904:
- "A pension of £74 a year has been granted to Mr. Walter Gissing and Mr. Alfred Gissing during the minority of either and in recognition of the literary merits of their late father, Mr. George Gissing and of their straitened circumstances."
At the time, Walter was a boarder at school in Norfolk, and Alfred had moved in 1902 to live with foster parents, a Mr and Mrs Smith who were farmers at Treverva Farm, Mabe, near Falmouth, Cornwall. Alfred lived with them until he left school.
Whilst at Gresham's School, Alfred had been in the Junior Division of the Officers' Training Corps from January 1910 to August 1914, when, with war apparent, he joined the British Army. On 10 December 1915, he filed an "application for appointment to a temporary commission in the regular army for the period of the war". As he was under 21 years of age, the application had to be signed by his guardian, Clara Collet, who was taking care of him since his father's death. Alfred was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Royal Garrison Artillery a few days later, on 16 December 1915, and promoted to lieutenant on 7 July 1917. He was in India when the news reached him of his brother Walter's death at Gommecourt during the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916.
After the end of the war, Alfred Gissing remained in the army, serving in Iraq and then working for the Inter-Allied Press Censorship Committee in Constantinople between May 1919 and February 1920. He was demobilised on 5 March 1919 and resigned his commission in the Special Reserve on 28 April 1920, leaving the service with the rank of lieutenant.
Despite his military experience and while he was still in his early forties at the beginning of the Second World War, Alfred Gissing did not seem to have joined the Army or the Home Guard and nothing is known of his activities during that time.
At about the time he left the army, Alfred Gissing assumed his father's posthumous interests from Algernon Gissing, and he went to live at Fernleigh, St Mark's Avenue, Leeds, Yorkshire, which had been Margaret and Ellen Gissing's home. He began to develop a collected edition of his father's works and to correspond with publishers and collectors as literary executor.
From 1924 until 1927, he lived in Richmond, Surrey. He wrote a preface for A Victim of Circumstances by George Gissing (Constable and Dutton, 1927), a collection of his father's short stories, and he edited a compendium of his father's work, Selections Autobiographical and Imaginative from the Works of George Gissing (Jonathan Cape, 1929). He later moved with his sole surviving aunt Ellen to Croft Cottage, Barbon, where he lived until the end of the Second World War.
In his own right, Alfred Gissing wrote biographies.
- Letters to members of his family by George Gissing, collected and arranged by Algernon and Ellen Gissing, with a preface by his son, Ellen Gissing, Alfred C. Gissing & Algernon Gissing
- A Victim of Circumstances and other stories by George Gissing, ed. Alfred C Gissing (Constable, London, 1927, and Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, 1927)
- Selections autobiographical and imaginative from the works of George Gissing ed. Alfred C. Gissing, with an introduction by Virginia Woolf (Cape, London, 1929, and J. Cape & H. Smith, New York, 1929)
- William Holman Hunt, a biography by Alfred Charles Gissing (Duckworth, London, 1936)
- Stories and Sketches by George Gissing, with preface by Alfred C. Gissing (London, Michael Joseph, 1938)
- George Gissing, a biography, by Alfred C. Gissing
Marriage and children
On 26 July 1938, he married Frances Muriel Smith, a 32 years old widow whose maiden name was Braham, in Broadway, Gloucestershire. They had three children, Michael, Charles William (who died in infancy), and Jane, the last of whom became a British Olympic skier.
After the Second World War, Alfred Gissing settled at Salvan in the Swiss canton of Valais, an area well known to George Gissing, where Alfred founded and ran an English school for children displaced by the war.
The Gissing family moved to Les Marécottes, near Salvan, where they purchased a hotel in 1951, and remained there for the rest of Alfred Gissing's life. He died and was buried at Salvan in 1975.
- Pierre Coustillas, Walter Leonard Gissing (1891-1916) An Anniversary in The Gissing Journal, vol. XXXII, no. 3 (1996), p.13
- Supplement to The London Gazette, 1 October 1917, p. 10142
- CWGC entry
- George Gissing and War: An Unpublished Essay by A.C. Gissing, in The Gissing Journal, vol. XXVIII, no. 1 (January 1992), p. 5
- Supplement to The London Gazette, 18 May 1920, p. 5680
- By 1942, under the 1939 National Service (Armed Forces) Act, all male British subjects between 18 and 51 years old were subject to conscription in the United Kingdom
- Coustillas, Pierre, & Price, Russell, The Man is a Born Artist: the Relationship between George Gissing and John Wood Shortridge in The Gissing Journal, vol. XXXV, no. 3 (July, 1999), p. 2.