Henry James

The impressions of a cousin

(written 1883, text of 1884)


by Adrian Dover

Although this tale has had rather a bad ‘press’, when it has had any press at all, I commend it to your attention as a fine example of James’s use a limited narratorial vision. Even a commentator such as Adeline Tintner, who has followed up the clues in the text for literary parallels to the story, in an attempt to explain some of the elisions, fails to consider the way in which James has occluded his telling by choosing, unusually for him, a first person narrative; and one in the form of a private journal, too. This gives him scope to explore several unusual features: a female narrator; a non-continuous narrative; interpreted rather than omniscient narrative; and metatextual jokes, that is statements which are paradoxical or funny because we know that this is a man writing as a woman (for example ‘or my name is not Catherine Condit’ (in the journal entry for July 11).

You may like to know about the exact source of the text presented here, and any errors I encountered while making the edition: these can be found in the note on the text. If you need full details of publications of this tale in James’s lifetime or of a selection of recent critical discussion about it see the bibliography, otherwise just start reading.

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