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James, Henry - Novels 1886–1890

Henry James

Novels 1886–1890

The Princess Casamassima • The Reverberator • The Tragic Muse

"Reminds us of how James can surprise us by speaking directly to our present concerns."
—Chicago Tribune
Overview  |  Note on the Texts  |  Reviews  |  Table of Contents

This volume prints the texts of the three novels published in book form by Henry James between 1886 and 1890: The Princess Casamassima (1886), The Reverberator (1888), and The Tragic Muse (1890). Each was first published serially and then appeared in book form almost simultaneously in England and the United States. James later included these novels in the 1907-09 New York Edition of his collected works, extensively revised to reflect his later style.

When Thomas Bailey Aldrich, editor of The Atlantic Monthly, asked James if he had a new novel that could be serialized in the magazine beginning in January 1885, James replied on February 13, 1884, that he "had for a year or two, a very good sujet de roman of which I should make use, and that he had tentatively decided to call it The Princess Casamassima. He added that he would need twelve installments of about 25 pages each, but that the first installment would not be available for publication before the July 1885 issue. Aldrich agreed to this schedule and offered to pay James $15 a page. At this time James still thought that The Bostonians, scheduled to begin serialization in The Century in February 1885, would need only six installments for completion. By December 30, 1884, after he had finished writing several installments, he realized that The Bostonians would be much longer and asked Aldrich for a two-month extension. Problems over the publication of The Bostonians caused James further to delay beginning The Princess Casamassima. After completing the second installment of The Princess Casamassima, he recorded in his notebook on August 10, 1885, that he had "never yet become engaged in a novel in which, after I had begun to write and send off my MS., the details had remained so vague. This is partly--or indeed wholly--owing to the fact that I have been so terribly preoccupied--up to so lately with the unhappy Bostonians." The Princess Casamassima, which also ran longer in serial form than originally planned, appeared in fourteen installments between September 1885 and October 1886. James completed each installment only a few months before its publication in The Atlantic Monthly; the last one was sent early in July 1886.

James made arrangements with Macmillan and Co. to publish the novel in both England and America, receiving ıı400 (just under $2,000) as an advance against a royalty of 15%. Because James was then living in England, he was unable to read the magazine proofs of the installments, but instead had to wait for their appearance in The Atlantic Monthly before revising and correcting them in preparation for book publication.

Collation of the serial text with that of the Macmillan edition reveals many differences between the two. The American periodical had changed James's English spelling to American spelling (for example, "parlour" to "parlor"); the English spelling is restored in the book. The Atlantic Monthly editors also inserted commas into James's text, many of which he removed when revising the magazine copy. (The manuscript of The Princess Casamassima, missing only the final installment, is one of the few manuscripts of a novel by James known to be extant; it is in the Aldrich papers in the Houghton Library at Harvard University.) He also made numerous stylistic revisions throughout the novel, sometimes simply changing one word or phrase to another, such as "twitching" to "patting" (4.30), "afraid" to "frightened" (6.13), "a good deal of" to "much of" (267.6). Other revisions were more extensive, such as the expansion of "She had told him so, from the earliest age," to "She had, from his earliest age, made him feel that there was a grandeur in his past" (8.22), or the recasting of "backs looked down upon the discerning youth whose trade was the handling of books, challenging him in every direction" to "backs returned his discriminating professorial gaze" (259.35). James did not revise the book again until he prepared it for the 1907-09 New York Edition of his collected works.

The Princess Casamassima was printed for Macmillan and Co. by the respected Edinburgh firm of R. & R. Clark. At this time English publishers often brought out their books in at least two different forms. A three-volume printing, intended for libraries and affluent readers, would appear first, to be followed by a less expensive single-volume version (and sometimes an even cheaper version would be issued later) . Usually the three-volume version would be set in type and printed first; then the spaces between the lines of standing type would be reduced and a larger number of copies of a single-volume version printed. This procedure was reversed in the case of The Princess Casamassima. In order to obtain copyright protection it appeared necessary to publish the novel in America nearly simultaneously with its publication in England, so the single-volume copies were printed first in a press run of 3,000, most of which were meant for America, and the others, with a title page bearing the date of 1887, for later distribution in England. Spacing was then added between the lines and 750 three-volume copies were printed for sale in England. Pagination and chapter numbers were changed in the three-volume form: there are fewer lines per page and each volume begins with chapter one, page one. In this process a few lines were adjusted to improve the appearance of the page, some errors were corrected, and more new ones were introduced, but the basic setting of both forms is the same. Publication dates do not reflect the order of printings: the English three-volume printing was officially published October 22, 1886; the American single-volume printing was published November 2, 1886; and the single-volume English version (part of the same printing) was published August 1887. The present volume prints the text of the first single-volume printing of The Princess Casamassima.

James began writing The Reverberator very soon after he had sketched the story in a notebook entry on November 17, 1887. He sold the story two weeks later for serialization in Macmillan's Magazine at $12 a page (ıı2 10s.; the total amounted to almost $1,000). The novel ran in the magazine from February through July 1888. James was in England during this time and probably read proofs of the serial version before publication.

Macmillan contracted to publish the novel in both America and England. (James received ıı125, a little over $600, as an advance against a royalty of 15% for both The Reverberator and Partial Portraits, a collection of essays that Macmillan also published at this time.) Richard Clay and Sons, London and Bungay, set and printed the book. Two separate editions were printed, a one-volume edition of 3,000 copies for export to America, and a two-volume edition of 500 copies for the English market. It is likely that the American edition was printed first in order to be shipped in time for copyright registration. Macmillan's official date for publication of the English edition was June 5, 1888; the American edition was copyrighted June 14, 1888.

Collation of the two editions against the serial version shows that James made fewer revisions in preparing The Reverberator for book publication than he had made in The Princess Casamassima (perhaps because he had read magazine proofs) . Occasional verbal revisions were made in both editions, such as the change from "she seemed engaged in vague contemplation" to "she seemed to be doing nothing as hard as she could" (558.3-4), and the alteration of the description of Mr. Flack from "--moderately tall, moderately short, moderately everything, moderately definite" to "-- reminding one of certain 'goods' for which there is a steady popular demand" (564.32-33). Most of James's revisions were in punctuation, particularly the removal of commas. Both book editions retain James's English spelling and have fewer commas than the serial version, but the American edition seems to have been revised more carefully. It also contains fewer typographical errors. James did not revise the book again until he prepared it for his 1907-09 New York Edition. This volume prints the text of the first American edition of The Reverberator.

James began thinking about The Tragic Muse before he started work on The Reverberator. As early as June 19, 1884, he recorded in his notebook that Mrs. Humphry Ward had mentioned to him an idea of hers for a story about an actress, which he thought "might be made interesting--as a study of the histrionic character." In a July 23, 1887, letter to his friend Grace Norton, dated before his notebook entry on The Reverberator, he wrote: "I am beginning a novel about half as long (thank God!) as the Princess--and which will probably appear, at no very great distant day, as a volume, without preliminary publication in a magazine. It will be called (probably) The Tragic Muse." How long James worked on The Tragic Muse at this time has not been determined. He apparently changed his mind about "preliminary publication" and offered The Tragic Muse to Aldrich for The Atlantic Monthly, but Aldrich asked if James could provide a longer serial. James accepted the proposal, replying on March 3, 1888, that he would "probably run two stories (i.e. two subjects I have had in my head) together, interweaving their threads. . . . the thing will bear the name I gave you: 'The Tragic Muse.' " He also later agreed to have Houghton, Mifflin and Company publish the book in America on the condition that he would receive his $15-a-page payment immediately on receipt of each installment rather than after its publication in the magazine. The serial was to begin in January 1889 and run through the year. In October 1888, after James had sent in the first installment, Aldrich wrote to suggest further lengthening the novel to fourteen or fifteen installments so that it could be published in book form in spring 1890, a more favorable time than after Christmas 1889. James readily assented. The projected fifteen installments expanded to seventeen, and the serial ran from January 1889 through May 1890, making it the longest novel James had written so far. His earnings from The Atlantic Monthly amounted to almost $5,000.

James gave the corrected copy of the novel to Macmillan on March 25, 1890, for possible publication in England, but was dissatisfied with their offer of two-thirds of the profit with no advance. When Macmillan then offered him ıı70 against profits he again refused, writing that "in spite of what you tell me of the poor success of my recent books, I still do desire to get a larger sum, and have determined to take what steps I can in this direction." He had earlier decided to employ the literary agent A. P. Watt to handle the serial publication of his work in England, and though not much seems to have come of this arrangement, he now placed the novel with him. Watt quickly arranged to lease the novel for five years to Macmillan for ıı250. The Tragic Muse was published in Boston by Houghton, Mifflin on June 7, 1890, in a two-volume edition of 1,000 copies, printed at the Riverside Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Macmillan published the novel in a three-volume edition of 500 copies, printed by Richard Clay and Sons, on June 28, 1890. Both publishers brought out later printings, Macmillan bringing out a one-volume version for its domestic market (reducing the spaces between the lines of the three-volume version), but James made no revisions in these later printings.

Because he had not been able to see magazine proofs earlier, James followed his usual practice of revising many passages in the serial version of The Tragic Muse for book publication. He changed phrasing and emphasis, cut authorial explanation, and refined colloquial dialogue. For example, in the first sentence of the first chapter, James revised his description of the way the French view the English from "unaddicted to modifying the bareness of juxtaposition by verbal or other concessions" to "unaddicted to enriching any bareness of contact with verbal or other embroidery" (703.6-7). An example of James's elimination of authorial intrusion comes a little later in the chapter. After the sentence "The sister, who was not pretty, was also straight and slender and gray-eyed," the periodical version had read "Therefore it would be difficult to say why, with so much similarity of cause, there was such difference of effect. Perhaps, after all, she may have had her admirers, and the safest form of my assertion would be that she was not so pretty as the other. Her eyes were dull, and for a part of the impression of length that she produced, her face, in which the cheeks were flat, was excessively responsible." Both book versions were changed, but not exactly in the same way. The passage in the Macmillan edition became: "But the grey, in this case, was not so pure, nor were the slenderness and the straightness so maidenly" (705.11-13); in the Houghton, Mifflin version "straightness" and "slenderness" are transposed. As James had corrected two sets of periodical proofs, it is probable that his corrections were not uniform. He also had time to make further revisions in the English proofs after sending the American proofs back to Houghton, Mifflin. Most of the substantive revisions were made in both the American and English editions, but there remain many differences between the two, in addition to those between English and American spelling. (James's own spelling preference at this time is known to have been English.) The punctuation, particularly the use of commas, is heaviest in The Atlantic Monthly; many commas are removed from the Houghton, Mifflin edition, and still more from the Macmillan edition. (James's manuscript of The Princess Casamassima shows that he used commas sparingly, suggesting that the Macmillan edition is closest to James's own style during this period.) James made no further revisions in the text until he prepared it for the 1907-09 New York Edition of his collected works. The text of the three-volume Macmillan edition of The Tragic Muse is printed here.

This volume presents the texts of the original editions chosen for inclusion here but does not attempt to reproduce features of their typographic design, such as the display capitalization of chapter openings. The texts are printed without change except for the correction of typographical errors. Spelling, punctuation, and capitalization are often expressive features, and they are not altered, even when inconsistent or irregular.

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