The Complete Letters of Henry James, 1878-1880: Volume I - Vol. 1

The Complete Letters of Henry James, 1878-1880: Volume I - Vol. 1

The Complete Letters of Henry James, 1878-1880: Volume I - Vol. 1

The Complete Letters of Henry James, 1878-1880: Volume I - Vol. 1

Synopsis

Containing letters written between October 3, 1878, and August 30, 1879, this volume of The Complete Letters of Henry James reveals Henry James establishing control of his writing career and finding confidence in himself not only as a professional author on both sides of the Atlantic but also as an important social figure in London.

In this volume of 114 letters, of which 58 are published for the first time, we see James learning to negotiate, pitting one publisher against another, and working to secure simultaneous publication in the United States and England. He establishes a working relationship with Frederick Macmillan and with the Macmillan publishing house, cultivates reviewers, basks in the success--and notoriety--of his novella Daisy Miller, and visits Alfred Tennyson and George Eliot, among others. James also produces essays on political subjects and continues to publish reviews and travel essays. Perhaps most important, James negotiates terms for and begins planning The Portrait of a Lady.

Excerpt

Michael Anesko

If I keep along here patiently for a certain time I rather think I shall
become a (sufficiently) great man. I have got back to work with great
zest after my autumnal loafings, & mean to do some this year which
will make a mark. I am, as you suppose, weary of writing articles about
places, & mere potboilers of all kinds; […] but[∧] shall probably, after
the next six months, be able to forswear it altogether, & give myself up
seriously to “creative” writing. Then, & not till then, my real career
will begin. After that, gare à vous!

Hj to wj, 28, [29] January [1878]

I must try & seek a larger success than I have yet obtained in doing
something on a larger scale than I have yet done. I am greatly in need
of it—of the larger success.

Hj to William Dean Howells, [c. 18 July 1879]

If we take Henry James at his word, we can date his “real career” from the correspondence that appears in this installment of The Complete Letters of Henry James, covering the twenty-month period from October 1878 through May 1880. Even though he was obliged to continue writing occasional travel pieces and other “mere potboilers,” his journalistic contributions to periodicals do indeed taper off: in 1877 he published forty-five magazine reviews, travel sketches, critical essays, and miscellaneous commentaries on the stage and visual art; in 1878 that aggregate number fell by a third to thirty-one; it was reduced even more drastically in 1879 to ten; and it totaled a mere three in 1880. James could not afford to “forswear” such journeyman work altogether, but we should seriously take note of his deliberate shift toward “creative” writing, a move that also betrayed a new eagerness in him to tackle longer forms of fiction. He published four short stories serially in 1878, three in 1879, and none in 1880, while the sequence of novels written during this period grew progressively . . .

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