Henry James

A London life

(written 1887, text of 1889)


by Adrian Dover

This tale is one of James’s longest, in fact it falls into the category which he labelled the nouvelle. It seems that in writing it the author’s attitude to his heroine gradually became more critical and in the finished text a number of the other characters try to make Laura Wing realize that her standards are just too high and that she applies them too rigidly for modern society. Her fate is however not quite as dreadful as that of the girl whose distress at her mother’s behaviour, as related by Paul Bourget, gave James the idea (see the author’s notebook entries).

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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part of an edition of A London life
on the Ladder : a Henry James website