James seems to have written A London life almost immediately after being given the basic idea by his friend Paul Bourget in June 1887. They were both staying in Venice; James at the Palazzo Barbaro, home of the Curtises, where he extended his planned ten days into five weeks. The notebook entry is dated 1887-06-20 and he seems to have taken the early pages back to London with him in July. Being quite long, and with the new fad for illustrations, it did not reach print until the following summer, when it appeared in four issues of Scribner’s magazine. It then became the title story of the collection published in April 1889 and reappeared, nearly twenty years later, somewhat revised, in the The spoils of Poynton volume of the New York edition. Full details of all subsequent publications known to me containing the tale can be found on the relevant page of my index to Henry James’s tales in collections.

The text for the edition on this website is taken from the first UK book edition in A London life (1889), subject to changes required by the editor’s standard editorial method. Some emendations have been made in preparing this text from the source edition: they are listed below. A number of them required by an apparent inconsistency in the treatment of foreign phrases. Either someone, a sub-editor or one of the typesetters (of signature ‘K’), has failed to provide the usual italics, or else some strange convention is at work. A similar error is found in three phrases in the final signature of the book, ‘2A’ (in the text of Mrs Temperly), but there each phrase forms its own sentence; here however only the first phrase is self contained, so a convention ‘exempting’ full sentences seems unlikely. I have therefore standardized on making foreign words and phrases italic, which suits the style sheets I use with my XHTML because they use the language markup to control the display! This also makes it easy to list foreign words separately, by language, in the concordance of the texts on this site (when the XHTML update is complete!).

location in 1889
Macmillan 1 vol. ed.
original text correction
page 29, line 17 this   she this: she
page 55, line 6 Wedgewood Wedgwood
page 97, line 1 What “What
page 134, lines 4–5 Voyons un peu! Voyons un peu!
page 137, lines 13–14 Vous faisiez votre cour Vous faisiez votre cour
page 146, lines 3, 7 & 8 [three broken and dropped type sorts] [silently corrected]

The script used in preparing the downloadable ASCII version of this text counted 43,888 words in it.

Because of the production method the text has been proof-read twice, but only by this editor, so it is possible that an error has slipped through both times – offers of proofing assistance will be gratefully received.