Henry James

Prefaces
to volumes of the
New York edition

(1907–1909)

Introduction

by Adrian Dover

Henry James was the first of the major writers of fiction, indeed probably the first writer of any description, to provide a detailed critical introduction to their own work. From his second published piece, aged twenty-one, he had reviewed fiction as well as written it and, in making a ‘definitive’ collected edition of his novels and tales, he determined, in effect, to review his own work by writing prefaces which would revisit the genesis of the works, highlight difficulties, both those successfully overcome and those leaving traces in the finished fictions, and explain his selection and grouping in the edition. The resulting eighteen essays, taken together, form a conspectus of the fiction writer’s art and, given the relative scarcity and cost of the New York edition, as it became, cried out to be republished as a book; a need James foresaw, as he wrote the W. D. Howells on 1908-08-17, shortly after completing them : ‘They ought, collected together, none the less, to form a sort of comprehensive manual or vade mecum for aspirants in our arduous profession. Still, it will be long before I shall want to collect them together for that purpose and furnish them with a final Preface.’ That job was finally accomplished some twenty-five years later by Richard P. Blackmur in The art of the novel, which has provided the easier source for scholars and students ever since. I’m pleased to be able to present an edition of them here for scholars in the electronic age.

The following list of the prefaces shows the New York edition volume number and title of each, linked to the appropriate text. If you need to know what other tales are in an ‘etc.’ volume, the partial contents lists are available in the ‘sources’ section of my index to reprints of tales. Alternatively, to find any particular title, you can use the summary list of all James’s works referred to, which is alphabetical and appears below the volume list, with links to load the appropriate text here, positioned at the relevant place.

In the following table, the chapter number in The art of the novel (AN) is given in the right-hand column as a cross-reference. Note that major novels each occupy two volumes of the edition, the second of which of course did not include a preface: hence the gaps in the New York edition volume numbering.

vol. title AN ch.
1 : Roderick Hudson (1)
2 : The American (2)
3 : The portrait of a lady (3)
5 : The Princess Casamassima (4)
7 : The tragic muse (5)
9 : The awkward age (6)
10 : The spoils of Poynton; A London life; The chaperon (7)
11 : What Maisie knew; In the cage; The pupil (8)
12 : The Aspern papers; The turn of the screw; The liar; The two faces (9)
13 : The Reverberator; Madame de Mauves; A passionate pilgrim; etc. (10)
14 : Lady Barbarina; The siege of London; An international episode; etc. (11)
15 : The lesson of the master; The death of the lion; etc. (12)
16 : The author of Beltraffio; The middle years; etc. (13)
17 : The altar of the dead; The beast in the jungle; The birthplace; etc. (14)
18 : Daisy Miller; Pandora; The marriages; etc. (15)
19 : The wings of the dove (16)
21 : The ambassadors (17)
23 : The golden bowl (18)

alphabetical list of works discussed

The abasement of the Northmores
The altar of the dead
The ambassadors
The American
The Aspern papers
The author of Beltraffio
The awkward age
The beast in the jungle
The Beldonald Holbein
The birthplace
Broken wings
Brooksmith
A bundle of letters
The chaperon (category)
The chaperon (writing of)
The Coxon fund
Daisy Miller
The death of the lion
The figure in the carpet
Flickerbridge
Fordham Castle
The golden bowl
The great good place
Greville Fane
In the cage
An international episode
The jolly corner
Julia Bride
Lady Barbarina
The lesson of the master
The liar
A London life
Louisa Pallant
Madame de Mauves
The madonna of the future
The marriages
The middle years
Mrs Medwin
The next time
Owen Wingrave
Pandora
A passionate pilgrim
Paste
The Pension Beaurepas
The point of view
The portrait of a lady
The Princess Casamassima
The private life
The pupil
The real right thing
The Reverberator
Roderick Hudson
The siege of London
Sir Edmund Orme
The spoils of Poynton
The story in it
The tragic muse
The tree of knowledge
The turn of the screw
The two faces
The way it came
What Maisie knew
The wings of the dove


For details of the text sources and subsequent critical discussion see the bibliography. You may be interested in details of any problems I encountered while editing the source text for its presentation here, which can be found on a separate page, otherwise just pick a volume or start reading at the beginning (each has links to its neighbours, for continuous perusal).


this menu and introduction © 2009
part of an edition of the prefaces to the New York edition
on the Ladder : a Henry James website