Travelling Companions (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1919)
BONI AND LIVERIGHTNew York1919
By Boni & Liveright, Inc.
Printed in the U. S. A.
|The Sweetheart of M. Briseux||53|
|De Grey: a Romance||269|
To those who associate the name of Henry James with all that is tedious and involved in the art of fiction, the tales in this volume, now collected for the first time, will appear as revelations of simplicity in style. Here we have the author in all his freshness; his principal litarary characteristics are ease and precision. For he had not yet forged rules for abstruseness of style, to perplex and weary his reader. In these stories James showed even no remotest sign of ever becoming a by-word for convolutions of English and a mark for the parodist.
Though the author collected in his Passionate Pilgrim (1875) a half a dozen of the tales he published in the magazines before his thirty-second year, he overlooked stories which were at least equal to, and in some cases superior to those he then brought together. The seven stories in this volume were written and published exactly at the time of the tales in his Passionate Pilgrim (between 1868 and 1874). The issuing of this volume, therefore, is like giving the public a new book by Henry James of the early period. The intellectual and the average man both may read and enjoy it.
It is the tendency of some critics to deprecate what an author has not collected himself. We know that writers often have been the poorest judges of their own work. We are all familiar with the story of Byron who preferred his Hints from Horace to Childe Harold. James was a particularly erring critic when it came to his own writings. This fact is attested to by his rewriting and ruining some of his best early stories. The tales in this volume are not apprentice work. They show the hand of the master. True, there is the influence of Hawthorne and George Eliot in a strong degree and a romanticism is occasionally indulged in from which the later James would have recoiled, but the fiction is solid and above all, entertaining. The author cherished a kindly feeling for these tales all his life, and in the last of his autobiographical works published—Middle Years—he tells with gusto how Tennyson highly praised before him one of these tales written just before James went to Europe in the spring of 1869.
James has also left us a record of the affection he entertained for them and also suggests that their origin had as a basis actual experiences. He writes in Notes of a Son and Brother, page 436, in speaking of his early tales, published during the period represented by the ones in this volume:
"I of course really and truly cared for them, as we say, more than for aught else whatever—cared for them with that kind of care, infatuated though it may seem, that makes it bliss for the fond votary never to so much as speak of the loved object, makes it a refinement of piety to perform his rites under cover of a perfect freedom of mind as to everything but them. These secrets of imaginative life were in fact more various than I may dream of trying to tell; they referred to actual concretions of existence as well as to the suppositious."
This collection is a resurrecting of literary material whose loss has been and would have continued to be unfortunate for American literature.
The original publications of the stories were as follows:
Traveling Companions, Guest's Confession and De Gray appeared in the Atlantic Monthly for November-December, 1870, October-November, 1872, and July, 1868, respectively; The Sweetheart of M. Briseux, Professor Fargo and At Isella in the Galaxy for June, 1873, August, 1874, and August, 1871, respectively; and Adina in Scribner's Monthly May-June, 1874.
Feb. 6, 1919.