A Landscape Painter (New York: Scott and Seltzer, 1919)
SCOTT AND SELTZER
By Scott and Seltzer, Inc.
First printing, December, 1919.
Second printing, January, 1920.
Printed in the United States of America
All Rights Reserved
The four tales comprising this volume are printed now for the first time in America in book form. All of them were written by Henry James before he had attained his twenty-fifth year. They are remarkable for their maturity of thought and clarity of style.
It has been the general opinion that James, like George Eliot, achieved his literary development rather slowly, since it was known that he was thirty-two years of age when "The Passionate Pilgrim," his first collection of tales, and "Rodrick Hudson," his first long novel, were published. As a matter of fact, however, James had been writing for the leading magazines since he was twenty-two. The first story in this volume, "A Landscape Painter," appeared in the Atlantic Monthly for February, 1866, and was the second story James had published up to that time.
The tales in this volume are among the most precious in our literature, and James himself thought highly of them, since he collected them in an English edition, published in 1885, in three volumes with the title, "Short Stories Revived." This collection never appeared in America. It is strange that James should have chosen to appeal to English readers rather than to his own countrymen. Why he did so is a question that remains unanswered. But the present volume will serve as a corrective of this anomaly. The tales are reprinted, not from the English edition, but from the American periodicals in which they were first published.
It has been claimed for William Dean Howells that it was he who discovered James, when, as assistant editor to Fields on the Atlantic Monthly, he strongly recommended the acceptance of James' story, "Poor Richard." The claim, however, is not altogether well founded, since James had published two stories before that time. These were "A Landscape Painter" and "A Day of Days," the latter appearing in the Galaxy for June 15, 1866. All three stories are reprinted in this volume.
Unusual interest, however, attaches to the tale of "Poor Richard," because of Howell's connection with it. Its reading led to the beginning of a friendship between James and Howells which may be considered as one of the great literary friendships in the annals of literature. Howells told the story in the Century for November, 1882.
When the manuscript was received at the office of the Atlantic, Fields submitted it to Howells for his opinion. Howells read it, and when asked whether he would accept it, he replied, "Yes, and all the stories you can get from that writer." "One is much securer of one's judgment," writes Howells, "at twenty-nine than, say, at forty-five; but if there was a mistake, I am not yet old enough to regret it. The story was called 'Poor Richard' and it dealt with the conscience of a man very much in love with a woman who loved his rival. He told the rival a lie, which sent him away to his death on the field, but poor Richard's lie did not win his love. It seems to me that the situation was strongly and finely felt. One's pity went, as it should, with the liar; but the whole story has a pathos which lingers in my mind equally with a sense of the new literary qualities which gave me much delight in it."
I am sure these first efforts of James' pen will be welcomed by his American admirers. They are in every way worthy of James at his best, and so worthy of being preserved. The only regret the reader may feel is that the author should in his later works have seen fit to adopt an elaborate, complex and often obscure style, instead of clinging to simple, natural language, of which these stories show him to be such a master.
Philadelphia, July 10, 1919.