Although he first noted the basic idea for this story in 1892, during the period when he was concentrating on writing plays, James didn’t get around to creating the first, one-act, version until after the poor reception of Guy Domville on its four-week run in January 1895. He returned to the idea when asked to write a short piece for the actress Ellen Terry, but she never exercised her option to perform the play. Thus James was able to use the story for one of his ‘tales’ (short stories) later in the 1890s, when he needed a matching ‘white magic’ to go with the ‘black magic’ of The turn of the screw. Later still he responded to another theatrical invitation, this time from the actor-manager Forbes-Robertson (who didn’t realise that the tale had been a play first), to make the story into a three-act play. This had successful but low-key (five matinees only) production in 1909. It therefore becomes an interesting exercise to compare the three James texts which tell the same story, and this combination of the three separate editions available individually on the Ladder will enable you to do just that.

Because it puts the three texts side by side, the display is space intensive. Also note that there are JavaScript implementation errors in some versions of Micros**t’s Internet Explorer, which mean that IE sometimes cannot scroll the texts together using my buttons – you’ll have to move each yourself with the scroll bars. If you can cope with all that, please maximize the size of your browser window, then display the texts.

Adrian Dover