Henry James

A landscape-painter

(written 1865, text of 1885)


by Adrian Dover

This satiric and ironic tale originally appeared in 1866, James’s third-published story and only the second one naming ‘Henry James, Jr’ as author. He revised it in 1884 or 1885 as one of the very early tales he ‘re-introduced’ because they were being ‘hunted up’ (‘notice’ in Stories revived, Macmillan, 1885). There was no room in the New York edition for the juvenilia, so the 1885 text presented here was the last one James worked on. A full list of the differences between the two versions can be found in an appendix in volume 1 of the Tales of Henry James edited by Maqbool Aziz (1973), but it is particularly noticeable that many of the characters’ names were substantially changed, as was the import of the last paragraph (you can check this out in the relevant table of my tales’ sample variants page).

A landscape painter is a very early example of James’s use of a metafictional frame, in this case two paragraphs introducing the transcription of a diary. In a particularly neat twist the diary plays a part in the story and it ends by explaining why it breaks off!

reveal spoiler in remainder of paragraph :

In addition we discover that Miriam has read it (before us) but that she wouldn’t (have) read it anymore anyway. In fact, in some senses, the tale is about the diary and its readers.

The story is also characteristic of many later James works by centring on marriage, money and deception. We only have to think of novels such as The portrait of a lady (1881) and The wings of the dove (1902) to see how fruitful this combination was to be. Here it is the woman who is perhaps the more culpable deceiver, but Locksley brings things upon himself, both by deception and by self-deception. As the (anti-)hero’s name and a reference to the poet Tennyson himself alert us, A landscape painter rewrites one of the laureate’s poems, although not the one entitled Locksley Hall. James’s situation is in fact based on that in The Lord of Burleigh, so, as usual, if you are not familiar with that narrative, I would encourage you to click on the names in the text here and read my notes about it (at least that will have made it worth my while writing the damn things!).

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.

this menu and introduction © 2010
part of an edition of A landscape-painter
on the Ladder : a Henry James website