texts

The better sort / by Henry James. – London : Methuen, 1903. – 312 p. ; 20 cm.pages 228–312

The better sort / by Henry James. – New York : Scribner, 1903. – viii, 432 p. ; 20 cm.pages 312–429

contents: Broken wings; The Beldonald Holbein; The two faces; The tone of time; The special type; Mrs Medwin; Flickerbridge; The story in it; The beast in the jungle; The birthplace; The papers

containing the first publication of this tale, which didn’t appear in a magazine; the book was issued simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic on 1903-02-26 – 3500 copies for UK and colonies (priced at 6/‒) and, probably, a similar number in America (at $1·50)


The altar of the dead ; The beast in the jungle ; The birthplace ; [etc.] / by Henry James. – New York : Scribner ; London : Macmillan, 1909. – xxviii, 541 p. ; 22 cm. (The novels and tales of Henry James : New York edition ; v. 17) — pages 61–127

contents: The altar of the dead; The beast in the jungle; The birthplace; The private life; Owen Wingrave; The friends of the friends; Sir Edmund Orme; The real right thing; The jolly corner; Julia Bride

James made minor revisions to the text and placed the tale in this rather ‘ghostly’ volume of his definitive edition, which was sold on subscription only: in America an initial 1000 copies of each volume were available at $2, $4 or $8 per volume (depending on the binding chosen); one hundred sets of the same sheets were bound in Britain for Macmillan’s first, 8/6 per volume issue; this volume appeared early in 1909 and an unknown quantity of additional copies, in both territories, were produced later


for subsequent reprints of this tale see the relevant page
of my index to Henry James’s tales in collections


commentaries and discussions

this is one of the most commented upon of James’s tales: a search of the MLA Bibliography returns 18, 27, 21, 25+ references respectively for the decades from the 1970s to the 2000s (excluding dissertations); it is also a popular subject for discussion in books on James (some of which I might attempt to add here eventually)

in addition to the selected recent criticism listed below, this tale is discussed (in greater or lesser detail) in the general works on James’s tales and fiction, which I have listed on a separate page; those works are annotated here only when I’ve tracked them down and they offer significant insights


‘Preface’ by Henry James
in : The altar of the dead ; etc. and other tales (New York edition), see above;
reprinted in : The art of the novel : critical prefaces / by Henry James, with an introduction by Richard P. Blackmur. – New York ; London : Scribner, 1934. – xli, 348 p. ; 22 cm.pages 241–266

text available on this website


‘The cold world of London in The beast in the jungleby O. P. Jones
in : Studies in American fiction, vol. 6 (1978), pages 227–235

looks at the circumstances impinging on Marcher’s consciousness, to counteract the overemphasis on point of view in James studies; sees London as the beast stalking Marcher and relates this to James’s own reactions to London collected in English hours (1905)

(notes: [1] the MLA Bibliography database has the title wrong, citing ‘cool’ instead of the printed ‘cold’; [2] the article as printed has two ‘superscript-5’s, the second of which, in reference to Raymond Williams, should read ‘superscript-6’


‘Naming and knowing in Henry James’s The beast in the jungle : the hermeneutics of a sacred text’ by Rachel Salmon
in : Orbis Litterarum, vol. 36 no. 4 (1981), pages 302–322

identifies two basic structures for a fictional text: profane, which interprets itself and invites ever more definitive interpretations, and sacred, which refuses to interpret itself, demanding simple repetition; finds that this tale dramatizes its own hermeneutical position and that James has superimposed a sacred text upon a profane one [quoting from the abstract]


‘The beast in the closet : James and the writing of homosexual panic’ by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick
in :

(1) Sex, politics, and science in the nineteenth century novel : selected papers from the English Institute / edited by Ruth Bernard Yeazell. – Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986. – xii, 195 p. ; 21 cm. (Selected papers from the English Institute : new ser. ; no. 10). – ISBN 0-8018-3059-1pages 147–186

(2) Speaking of gender / edited by Elaine Showalter. – New York : Routledge, 1989. – viii, 335 p. ; 23 cm. ISBN 0-415-90026-3 (hbk); ISBN 0-415-90027-1 (pbk) — pages 243–268

(3a) chapter 4 in :
Epistemology of the closet / by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. – London : Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991. – xi, 258 p. ; 24 cm. ISBN 0-7450-0990-5pages 182–212

(3b) chapter 4 in :
Epistemology of the closet / by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. – London : Penguin, 1994. – xi, 258 p. ; 20 cm. ISBN 0-14-023732-1pages 182–212

(4) Homosexual themes in literary studies / edited by Wayne R. Dynes and Stephen Donaldson. – New York : Garland, 1992. – xxii, 389 p. ; H cm. ISBN 0-8153-0553-2pages 300–338

(5) in a German translation by Hans Dieter Gondek asDas Tier in der Kammer : Henry James und das Schreiben homosexueller Angst
in : Dekonstruktiver Feminismus : Literaturwissenschaft in Amerika / hrsg. von Barbara Vinken. – Frankfurt am Main : Suhrkamp, 1992. – 483 p. ; 18 cm. ISBN 3-518-11678-9pages 247–278

as one can tell by the number of reprints, and by the rare honour of a published translation, this is a celebrated and influential paper; in it Sedgwick uses the notion of late-nineteenth-century, Euro-American ‘male homosexual panic’, introduced in her book Between men (1985): this idea highlights the feelings of fear in a non-homosexual-declaring man caused by the tension between the absolute prohibition on homosexual behaviour and the close homosocial bonds necessary in the masculinity-defining spheres of school/university, business/work and sport

after analysing examples from Thackeray and Barrie, Sedgwick concentrates on the James tale, reading Marcher as a victim of this panic; note that this does not necessarily identify Marcher as a homosexual man himself, but as someone who is blighted by the problem, and the resolution to whose problems would be to find a way to work through his feelings; May Bartram sees the problem and attempts, unsuccessfully, to rescue him by offering a love interest: to have loved May would have been one of Marcher’s escapes, but not the only possible one, he could for example have loved a man instead, but was unable to get past the panic in any way at all


The beast in the jungle and The jungle books
in : The pop world of Henry James : from fairy tales to science fiction / by Adeline R. Tintner. – Ann Arbor, MI; London : U.M.I. Research Press, 1989. – [xxv], 317 p. : ill. ; 24 cm. (Studies in modern literature ; no. 89). – ISBN 0-8357-1855-7pages 251–252

as part of her chapter 6, ‘The footprints of Kipling’, Tintner finds the jungle metaphors in the tale, not just the beasts but the ‘law of the jungle’


‘Pragmatism and The beast in the jungleby Paul J. Lindholdt
in : Studies in Short Fiction, vol. 25 no. 3 (Spring 1989), pages 587–605

seeks sources for the tale in the work of William James, particularly The varieties of religious experience, and in a letter from Minny Temple (mis-)quoted by Henry James in Notes of a son and brother (1914)


‘John Marcher’s journey for knowledge : the heroic background of The beast in the jungleby Bruce Fogelman
in : Henry James review, vol. 10 no. 1 (Winter 1989), pages 68–73

a short but stimulating intertextual study of the tale in comparison with the relationship of Dido and Æneas in Virgil’s Æneid


‘A possible lair : The tigers in India and The beast in the jungleby H. Lewis Ulman
in : Henry James review, vol. 12 no. 1 (Winter 1991), pages 1–8

relates the tale to William James’s earlier essay on two ways of knowing, the intuitive and the representative, which introduces a beast motif, identifying the two ways as characteristic of Marcher and Bartram


‘The dramatics of the unspoken and unspeakable in James’s The beast in the jungleby Herbert Perluck
in : Henry James review, vol. 12 no. 3 (Fall 1991), pages 231–254

strikes out against the (previously) prevalent allegorical reading of the tale, and its emphasis only on the later scenes; claims that the tale ‘confronts us with … an inevasible ambiguity that possibly inheres in all efforts to explain or close’ (page 233): Marcher is ‘wrong’ all along


‘Filtering Rimmon-Kenan, Chatman, Black, Freud, and James : focalization and the divided self in The beast in the jungleby Barry Stampfl
in : Style, vol. 26 no. 3 (Fall 1992), pages 388–399

a meditation of the metaphor of the filter, using James’s tale as a touchstone; invokes Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan’s call for narratology to deal more with language (1988), Seymour Chatman’s essay on characters and narrators (1986), Max Black’s ‘filters’ (1962) and Freud on ‘negation’ (1925, “no” means “yes”)


‘Bodily movement as narrative strategy in The beast in the jungleby Ilana Bar’am
in : Henry James review, vol. 15 no. 2 (Spring 1994), pages 170–178

an unusual approach to a James’s fiction, centred on nineteenth-century attitudes to the body, movement and the way they are represented in narrative discourse


‘The double narrative of The beast in the jungle : ethical plot, ironical plot, and the play of power’ by Michiel W. Heyns
chapter 6 in : Enacting history in Henry James : narrative, power, and ethics / edited by Gert Buelens. – Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 1997. – xv, 215 p. ; 24 cm. ISBN 0-521-57089-1 (hbk); ISBN 978-0-521-12145-3 (pbk) — pages 109–125

follows the multiple stories in the tale, finding that ‘[t]he Beast in the Jungle is as much a creature of her story as an enactment of his story’ (page 111), recognizing the power of May Bartram but without going so far as to give her ‘control’ of (parts of) the story as in the later lamia/sphinx readings of Izzo or Montgomery


‘In possession of a secret : rhythms of mastery and surrender in The beast in the jungleby Gert Buelens
in : Henry James review, vol. 19 no. 1 (Winter 1998), pages 17–35

in a reading attentive to Leo Bersani’s phrase ‘a rhythm of mastery and surrender in the human psyche’, Buelens shows how ‘both Marcher and May at times strive to master their environment by constructing a (secret) narrative that asserts their own heroism and power’ (page 18)


‘Henry James’s inward aches’ by Kristin Boudreau
in : Henry James review, vol. 20 no. 1 (Winter 1999), pages 69–80

argues that in The beast in the jungle and A round of visits (1910) James dramatizes the difficulties of keeping the path open to human contact; the main discussion of The beast is on pages 72–75


‘The silence of the sphinx : The beast in the jungle
Epilogue 3 in : Portraying the lady : technologies of gender in the short stories of Henry James / Donatella Izzo. – Lincoln, NB ; London : University of Nebraska Press, 2001. – viii, 312 p. ; 24 cm. ISBN 0-8032-2503-2pages 226–243

this ‘concentrate[s] on those elements that relate The beast in the jungle to the issue of feminine silence and its narrative representation’ (page 226); it includes discussion of the gender structure and stereotypes, the crucial part played by May’s silence (placing May as a protagonist of Marcher’s story too), the sphinx rôle (particularly in æstheticism, where the creature is questioned rather questioning); moves on to separate the effects of the narrative voice from those of Marcher and Bartram, explaining the ambiguity of the ending of the tale (contra even Sedgwick); concludes that ‘catachresis, that is, a metaphoric expression that makes up for a lack in natural language … dominates the tale from its very title’ (239)


‘The lady is the tiger : looking at May Bartram in The beast in the jungle from the “other side” by Lomeda Montgomery
in : ‘The finer thread, the tighter weave’ : essays on the short fiction of Henry James / edited by Joseph Dewey and Brooke Horvath. – West Lafayette, IN : Purdue University Press, 2001. – x, 291 p. ; 24 cm. ISBN 1-55753-207-9pages 139–148

a stimulating reading of May Bartram as a lamia figure who, in effect, latches on to Marcher and sucks the life out of him; with close reading of the text, particularly of May’s ‘riddle of the sphinx’-style questioning, Montgomery makes a convincing case, which will change your view of the tale (only slightly marred by her citing Sedgwick’s paper as ‘The beast in the corner’!); from the publication dates this must have been written at the same time as Izzo’s paper (immediately above) and the two form a useful pendant pair


‘What May knew in The beast in the jungleby Eugene Goodheart
in : Sewanee review, vol. 111 no. 1 (Winter 2003), pages 116–127

starting from the observations that May’s love for Marcher implies that he is not a blank character and that May is not merely a device to drive the narrative like Iago in Othello, Goodheart re-visions Marcher, as far as possible, from Bartram’s point of view; formulating his position as ‘May is in love with the story’ (page 123) he concludes that, for Marcher, ‘the artistic consciousness appropriates [the erotic] as a power’ (126) rather than panicking at it; not, in my opinion, as useful on this topic as the slightly earlier Izzo and Montgomery


‘Death and the reader : James’s The beast in the jungleby Arthur A. Brown
in : Postmodern approaches to the short story / edited by Farhat Iftekharrudin … [et al.]. – Westport, CT : Praeger, 2003. – xi, 156 p. ; 24 cm. (Contributions to the study of world literature ; no. 118). – ISBN 0-313-32374-7pages 39–50

[not (yet) available to me]


‘Baffling doom : dialogue, laughter, and comic perception in Henry James’ by John Bruns
in : Texas studies in literature and language, vol. 47 no. 1 (Spring 2005), pages 1–30

uses Mikhail Bakhtin’s concepts of ‘reduced laughter’ (in Dostoevskiĭ) and the carnivalistic in novels, together with his analysis of dialogic interaction, to analyse aspects of the series of dialogues between John Marcher and May Bartram in the tale, showing how Marcher, the monologist, fails to achieve understanding; Bruns plots a new path through the tale, which leads to a fuller exposition of James’s comic seriousness


‘The It in the I : Patrice Leconte, Henry James, and analytic love’ by Leo Bersani
in : Henry James review, vol. 27 no. 3 (Fall 2006), pages 202–214

taking a psychoanalytic approach, with Freud’s das Es now more correctly translated as ‘the It’, rather than James Strachey’s ‘the Id’, Bersani reads the tale in parallel with Patrice Leconte’s film Confidences trop intimes (2003, English title Intimate strangers): both are about a confidence intime; analyses the determinate and indeterminate references of the word ‘it’ in the tale


‘Beastly vagueness in Charles Sanders Peirce and Henry James’ by Megan M. Quigley
in : Philosophy and literature, vol. 31 no. 2 (October 2007), pages 362–377

[not (yet) available to me]


‘Lives unled in realist fiction’ by Andrew Miller
in : Representations, vol. 98 (Spring 2007), pages 118–134

[not (yet) available to me]


‘Queer realism vs hardboiled modernism : Henry James’s The beast in the jungle and Ernest Hemingway’s The Battlerby Hideo Tsuji
in : Studies in English literature (Tokyo), vol. 49 (2008), pages 69–86

[not (yet) available to me]


‘Illustrating the invisible : The beast in the jungle as edition de luxe’ by Susan Bazargan
in : Henry James review, vol. 29 no. 1 (Winter 2008), pages 54–64

describes the 1963 fine-press edition of the tale by Lewis and Dorothy Allen of Kentfield, California, with illustrations by Blair Hughes-Stanton, relating its content to the text of the tale


‘Modern mnemosynes : female memory and the allegory of gender’ by John Lurz
in : Mosaic : a journal for the interdisciplinary study of literature, vol. 41 no. 4 (December 2008), pages 61–75

[not (yet) available to me]