The Illustration of the Master: Henry James and the Magazine Revolution

By Amy Tucker | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2 “Double Discourse” in the
Illustrated Tales of the 1890s

JAMES professed lifelong “fanaticism” for the art of illustration. In his autobiography he cast over the picture books of his youth a kind of prelapsarian charm of the irrecoverable. “To turn back to [Rodolphe] Toeppfer’s pages today,” he recalled of a treasured adventure book, “is to get the sense of a lost paradise, and the effect for me even yet of having pored over them in my childhood is to steep in sweetness and quaintness some of the pictures” (SB 166). He wrote about contemporary illustrators with equal fervor, claiming kinship with the visual artist and confessing good-natured “envy” of the draftsman’s skill, just as he would admit to adolescent envy of his brother William’s artistic talent. In an essay for Harper’s Weekly on Edwin Austin Abbey (1886) he explains,

Such a hapless personage, who may have spent hours in trying to produce some-
thing of the same result by sadly different means, will measure the difference
between the roundabout, faint descriptive tokens of respectable prose and the
immediate projection of the figure by the pencil. A charming story-teller indeed

-24-

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