These four letters, from Gissing's friend John George Black, shed some light on the events leading to his expulsion from Owens College, Manchester, in 1876 and on the nature of the relationship of both parties with Marianne Harrison (1858-1888), otherwise known as Nell, later Gissing's first wife. Gissing was caught stealing money from the cloakroom of the College on 31 May 1876. Gissing was convicted and sentenced to one month's imprisonment on 6 June and expelled from Owens the next day. According to the Minutes of the Proceedings of the Senate of Owens College, June 1876 (ref. RA/1/2) , the letters were recovered from Gissing's effects and used to give a fuller understanding of the circumstances leading to his expulsion. They also led to the suspension of Black from the College. "It appeared from them beyond question - (1) that Black had been privy to, and an abetter of the profligate courses of Gissing, and (2) that he had himself been guilty of profligate conduct of a kind and under circumstances such as to render it necessary that he should not continue a student of the college." (23 June, p. 271).
The letters have been published in full in P.F. Mattheisen, et al., The collected letters of George Gissing, volume one, 1863-1880 (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1990), pp. 40-4, and Coustillas, P., Gissing à Manchester in Études Anglaises, July-September 1963.