Henry James

The spoils of Poynton

(written 1896, text of 1897)


by Adrian Dover

One of James’s shorter novels and perhaps one of his most loved, at least by readers who sympathize with Fleda’s assumption of a high moral stance rather than with Mrs Gereth’s predicament! When I first checked for etexts of James’s works in 1998 I was surprised not to find The spoils already complete. Two years later, I was able to introduce the first electronic version and now, ten years further on, here is a revised edition, using XHTML coding and incorporating some textual corrections which have recently been reported to me. There are also some changes to the punctuation, fixing errors which have been discovered by running some new checking scripts that I have been able to write because of the revised coding. The XHTML also includes the recent ‘textlabel’ and text option innovations on the Ladder.

Just as was the case in 2000, the currently available paperback editions choose the revised New York Edition text of 1908, but this edition follows the first book edition. I was able to buy a copy of the 1897 London edition at an affordable price, largely because it had been rebound after slight water damage, however this has not affected its value as a working text. For full details of the source and method used in preparing this edition see my separate textual note. In a novel with an unusual number of speeches which are imagined by an observer, and quoted letters and telegrams, I hope my treatment of quotation marks provides a useful guide.

This is one of my favourite James novels, perhaps because it was the first work of his I read, but also because it has intriguing depths, which I hope to write about at greater length in the future. A summary of some of the recent critical discussion of the work can be found in the bibliography, which also lists the original publications of the novel by Henry James. You can check details of later editions on my index to novels’ reprints. Otherwise you can just start reading.


Adrian Dover

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