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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: October 2019

Chapter 8 - Henry James, Vulgarity and Transatlantic Moderation

Summary

In the 1880s, the New York-based Century Magazine was a regular home for Henry James’s fiction and criticism. His first major intervention on the theory of fiction in the magazine is his July 1883 essay on Anthony Trollope (published over a year before Century printed his now canonical consideration ‘The Art of Fiction’). The essay represents, perhaps unsurprisingly, a highly nuanced view of the literary scene in which allegiances circle and return and reputations are diminished and then rebuilt. Trollope’s posthumously-published autobiography appeared three months after James’s essay and seemed to confirm many of the latter’s anxieties about the business of writing. This chapter explores James’s contorted reading of Trollope as a literary precursor who is both criticised for his immoderate, promiscuous productivity and, at the same time, recuperated as a moderate sensibility standing opposed to the scientific avant-gardism of the French naturalist tradition. By exploring the complex national allegiances of an American author writing in a proudly American journal about a recently-deceased, and highly popular, English novelist, I consider the ways in which James attempts to carve out for himself a transatlantic space where the metaphoric possibilities of moderation and its antonyms find a restless purchase.