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Miriam Baske, a young widow, leaves behind the gray stone chapels and flinty hearts of Lancashire for the sun and artistic splendor of Italy -- where she meets a host of her countrymen doing the Grand Tour. To Miriam's surprise, the English abroad are a different breed from those back home: in the bay of Naples, passion rules over reason. But will life change when they return to their own hearthsides? Reminiscent of George Eliot's Middlemarch, The Emancipated tells us as much about Victorian society -- with all its prejudices and rigid conventions -- as it does about one's woman's growth to human understanding. Published in 1890, it was Gissing's last novel before the more embittered view of New Grub Street -- a proclamation of hope, of freedom in the midst of Victorian darkness.