Issues in Modern Culture MA Contexts Essay #1

Candidate Module Title Thesis David Jones Contexts Henry James in London: Depicting a City of Readers A new interpretation of the writings of James’s middle years. Taking a detailed historicist approach, I argue that changes in London’s reading culture (mainly the development of a massmarket reading public and the proliferation of the periodical press) led to an anxiety in James’s work that manifests itself in assertions of the value of ‘literary’ texts.

MHRA Citation 6324 Words

Declaration

Monday, 31st May 2004 I certify that this essay, Henry James in London: Depicting a City of Readers, is my own work.

(David Jones)

Issues in Modern Culture: Contexts Essay Henry James In London: Depicting A City Of Readers

Issues in Modern Culture

Module Title Thesis

Contexts Henry James in London: Depicting a City of Readers A new interpretation of the writings of James’s middle years. Taking a detailed historicist approach, I argue that changes in London’s reading culture (mainly the development of a massmarket reading public and the proliferation of the periodical press) led to an anxiety in James’s work that manifests itself in assertions of the value of ‘literary’ texts.

MHRA Citation

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Issues in Modern Culture: Contexts Essay Henry James In London: Depicting A City Of Readers

December 2003 – May 2004

Henry James in London: Depicting a City of Readers
When Thomas Hardy memorably described London as a monster with ‘four million heads and eight million eyes’ he expressed the characteristic response of the Victorian intelligentsia to a city whose population had exploded from 4.5 million in 1881 to 7 million by 1911 (Kimmey 1991, 4 ; Porter 1994, 249). This fear of the mass is directly connected to the emergence of the first mass-market reading public, and their attendant popularising effect upon cultural production. Critics such as John Carey have already charted the way in which the closing decades of the nineteenth century saw ‘literary’ texts eclipsed by the adventure stories and railway novels that flooded the marketplace. The mass enjoyed Treasure Island and Conan Doyle’s mysteries, and on a Sunday afternoon were more likely to be found consuming lurid stories in the new newspapers rather than reading ‘literature’. This essay examines the effect of such on London’s high-culture writer in residence, Henry James. In his own correspondence James often recognised that his writing was neither light nor fastpaced enough to please the multitude (Gard 1968, 7). This essay will argue that the emergence of a mass-market reading public caused him to reassert the value of literary texts in his fiction, by using several self-legitimating narrative strategies. Firstly the essay will define some broad features of London’s reading culture and situates James within them. It then discusses the The Princess Casamassima (1886), whose central protagonist moves away from the forms of the mass market towards more ‘valuable’ literary writing. This section discusses James’s feelings about class, education and capitalism, as well as his personal stance on the aesthetics of art. The essay then examines James’s response to the newly ascendant periodical press, mainly in his tale ‘The Papers’ (1903). It categorises his two main claims: that the papers are an incitement to revolutionary violence and a degradation of the noble art of writing. The essay then outlines James’s vindication of the literary author within my two chosen texts. It closes by suggesting piracy as an additional reason for his anxiety. This essay follows a path laid by Walter Benjamin’s claim that the superstructure1 of any given era will contain a dialectic between its conditions of production and the ‘developmental tendencies of art’ (1937). In other words, as modes 3

Issues in Modern Culture: Contexts Essay Henry James In London: Depicting A City Of Readers

of textual production changed in the late nineteenth century, so did ideas about art. If the famous 1960s Marxist critiques which first drew the era to our attention 2 now seem outmoded, with their straightforward distinction between bourgeois and proletariat marketplaces, their distinction between ‘high’ and ‘low’ cultural artefacts is still useful. As Carey points out, the division is in fact a construction of the Victorian intelligentsia and reflects their worldview. The word ‘mass’ functions as a linguistic device ‘to eliminate the human status of the majority of people – or at any rate, deprive them of those distinctive features that make users of the term, in their own esteem, superior’ (1992, Preface). Defining London’s reading culture with absolute precision is an impossible task. Preceding the mass market, the city abounded with the same popular, lowculture texts it had produced for centuries: cheap newspapers, almanacks, ‘penny dreadfuls’, single sheet broadsides and ballads (Ackroyd 1987, 24-5). These contrasted with more recent high-culture periodicals such as Thackery and Trollope’s Cornhill Magazine. The three-decker, the dominant form of the novel, meanwhile enjoyed broad social popularity through circulating libraries like Charles Edward Mudie’s, but remained too expensive for the poor and lower working classes. The arrival of the mass market with changes in mechanical reproduction threw this balance of power into disarray. London was already the nucleus of the British printing industry (Porter 1994, 236), which went into overdrive with the advent of faster steam printing and the use of cheap wood-pulp paper. This in turn resulted in affordable single-edition novels undermining the circulating library system (Jacobson 1983, 4). As early as the 1840s the standard price of 31s.6d. for the original edition of a novel was heavily undercut by ‘yellow back’ or ‘railway’ fiction at 1s. or 1s.6d. From the 1860s onwards the 6d. novel put the three-decker under such pressure that it became all but extinct by the nineties (Altick 1957, 299-307). This is the beginning of Williams’s ‘Long Revolution’, in which a correlation of changes in production, economics and education led to a degree of cultural democratisation (1961, xi-xiii). This democratisation was also the result of changing social factors. The principal of these has been historically explained as an increase in literacy due to the Education Acts of 1871 and 1876. The 1871 Act (the Foster Act) decreed that government would take control of education wherever voluntary effort was insufficient, causing Bernard Shaw to remark that it ‘was producing readers who had never before bought books, nor could have read them if they had (in Carey 1992, 3). 4

Issues in Modern Culture: Contexts Essay Henry James In London: Depicting A City Of Readers

Yet, as Raymond Williams notes, there was in fact no floodgate of literacy (1961, 166). To use Richard Altick’s figures, in the two decades preceding the Act the average rate of literacy increased 11.3% for males and 18.4% for females, while in two decades following it this rate of increase grew only modestly to 13.0 and 19.5% respectively (1957, 172). Instead, the conditions for a mass reading public must be attributed to a combination of literacy, huge increases in disposable income and new legislation to restrict the working week that consequently increased leisure time. While these changes were taking place journalism also became more professional and respectable. The quantity of periodicals exploded, as Ford Madox Ford observed at the time: All over town these sheets, as if they were white petals bearing oblivion, settle down, restful and beneficent, like so many doses of poppy seed. In the backyards of small cottages, separated one from another by breast-high modern palings you find by the hundreds of thousands (it is certified by accountants) —’s Weekly News; —’s Weekly Paper; —’s News of the Week; and, on each back doorstep, in his shirt sleeves, in his best trousers and waistcoat, voluptuously, soberly and restfully, that good fellow, the London mechanic, sits down to read the paper (1998, 91) As the shape of the city changed so did the nature of its reading: a new commuter market was built up as the population moved to the suburbs and travelled to work on omnibuses, horse trams or increasingly by the new underground (Porter 1994, 271, 382-3). It is during this period that Henry James chose to reside in London, between 1876 and 1904. Kimmey claims that this city ‘was the centre of his world just as Paris was Balzac’s and Dublin Joyce’s’ (1991, ix). This essay will the way in which this ‘observant stranger’ engages with and distances himself from the city’s readers. London clearly became, for James, the premier setting across the globe for the study of texts and textuality. He is fascinated with the city as a site for the production and consumption of texts, but is discomfited when this écriture breaks down distinctions between high and low culture. This is a characteristic response of the Victorian upper classes. As Altick notes, most commentators realised that more people were reading than ever before, but they claimed that they were reading the wrong things, avoiding any serious purpose in reading (1957, 368). Even champions of the working man including John Ruskin were opposed to the mass-market commodification of books:

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Issues in Modern Culture: Contexts Essay Henry James In London: Depicting A City Of Readers

I will even go so far as to say that we ought not to get books too cheaply. No book, I believe, is ever worth half so much to its reder as one that has been coveted for a year at a bookstall, and bought out of saved halfpence; and perhaps a day or two’s fasting. That’s the way to get at the cream of a book (1895, 64) Raymond Williams identifies a common fear that the standard of literature will decline as the reading public extends, a fear which concludes that the common man can threaten the social order simply by reading. So where Walter Benjamin later saw changes in mechanical production as positively democratising, James takes the opposite stance. His writing in this era could be seen as setting down, to reverse Benjamin’s stated aim, a ‘formulation of reactionary demands in the politics of art’. In The Princess Casamassima James enacts a particularly noticeable selflegitimating narrative strategy. As the hero, Hyacinth Robinson, progresses from the gutter to the realms of high society he also moves away from the low-cultural forms of the mass market towards literary ones. Hyacinth is first introduced as an innocent young reader of popular texts, before he even appears in person. His surrogate mother Miss Pynsent gazes from her doorstep into a street in shabby Pentonville, central London, and wonders where he might be: At this time of day the boy was often planted in front of the sweet-shop on the other side of the street, an establishment where periodical literature, as well as tough toffy and hard lollipops, was dispensed, and where song-books and pictorial sheets were attractively exhibited in the small-paned, dirty window. He used to stand there for half an hour at a time, spelling out the first page of the romances in the Family Herald and the London Journal, and admiring the obligatory illustration in which the noble characters (they were always of the highest birth) were presented to the carnal eye. When he had a penny he spent only a fraction of it on stale sugar-candy; with the remaining halfpenny he always bought a ballad, with a vivid woodcut at the top. Now, however, he was not at his post of contemplation (54) This passage establishes reading as a source of wonder, a central value in the novel’s ideological framework. The power that these texts hold over young Hyacinth is emphasised by the hardship he is willing to endure in order to experience them - being young and comparatively uneducated (‘his schooling had been desultory, precarious’ (118) as he was too old to benefit from the 1870s Education Acts) the actual reading process is an endurance: ‘he used to stand there for half an hour at a time, spelling out the first page’. Hyacinth’s mean surroundings contrast the lives of those he reads about, the ‘highest born’. The passage sets in motion Hyacinth’s frustration at being excluded from his true class. Later in the novel the Princess echoes the sweetshop 6

Issues in Modern Culture: Contexts Essay Henry James In London: Depicting A City Of Readers

image, declaring that Hyacinth has been ‘forced to look at the good things of life only through the glass of a pastry cook’s window’. The sweet-shop portrait is certainly endearing, aligning the reader to not only sympathise with Hyacinth but also with his lust for high society. However, by presenting the street literature that Hyacinth covets in the context of the sweetshop James belittles its artistic value. It is not serious art but, like sweets, a treat for the grubby hands of a young boy. These are texts as items of consumption, ‘attractively exhibited’, and regarded in terms of Hyacinth’s low-scale economy: he can afford more texts if he skimps on candy. Rather than morally instructing the reader, periodical texts merely feed the public’s ‘carnal eye’ for formulaic sensation. James emphasises that the sweet-shop texts are generic, the characters are ‘always’ aristocratic and the pictures ‘obligatory’. The meagre quality of the confectionary, which is ‘tough’, ‘hard’ and ‘stale’, reflects the standard of the texts alongside which they are sold. Both, James implies, will rot one’s teeth. Perhaps James is even taking an ironic sweep here at his own kow-towing to the demands of the mass-market. Jacobson has already successfully argued for his writing as ‘adaptations of bestselling genres’ (1983, 13) and the romance plot of The Princess Casamassima actually contains many of the ‘popular’ subjects found in ballad sheets such as murder, sex and royalty (see Ackroyd 1987 24-5). Unfortunately, there is a more sinister side to Hyacinth’s inculcation into the world of street literature. He may be consuming harmless romances at this early stage, but James could hardly have been unaware of the historic place that such ballad sheets and the broadside (the direct precursor of the tabloid format of the Family Herald and London Journal) held in London’s tradition of radicalism. Ackroyd describes the condition of such street literature a century earlier as being for Londoners ‘the real “news” passing from hand to hand’ (2000, 141), in the shape of polemics about industrial discontent. So the same texts that please Hyacinth with melodramatic stories later inform his interest in social inequality. Does his ‘carnal eye’ for romance stories, drawn from an anti-authoritarian tradition, align him with the carnality of his seductress mother, whose own anti-authoritarian action was the murder of his aristocratic father? It is certainly true that when Mrs Bowerbank meets the young Hyacinth in Lomax Place she is immediately struck by his resemblance to his impetuous mother rather than his father.

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Issues in Modern Culture: Contexts Essay Henry James In London: Depicting A City Of Readers

When Hyacinth gains employment as a bookbinder he makes an approach towards the literary interests of high-culture, but since this employment situates him in the realm of manufacture and craft, it simultaneously heightens his frustrations. The position at Mr Crookenden’s, ‘a haunt of punctuality and sobriety’ (114), is quite an achievement. Hyacinth has escaped the most soul-destroying areas of working class drudgery and toil that are open to an inhabitant of the ‘humble but harmonious’ Lomax Place (94)3. The narrator is keen to signal Hyacinth’s near-escapes: he is ‘a poor little devil whom a fifth-rate dressmaker . . . had rescued from the workhouse’ (115). Nonetheless, Hyacinth’s position is regarded as a waste of his natural gifts by both old and new London society, through the eyes of the old aristocracy but also by those involved with newly ascendant consumer capitalism. The narrator emphasises Hyacinth’s lowly status by repeatedly referring to him using the condescendingly diminutive noun-phrase ‘the little bookbinder’. Though Hyacinth is now part of the literary sphere, he serves as one element of its material production rather than producing the intellectual content to which he has shown great aptitude: ‘to bind the book, charming as the process might be, was after all much less fundamental than to write it’. Millicent emphasises the disparity: ‘A bookbindery? Laws!’ said Millicent Henning. ‘Do you mean they get them up for the shops? Well, I always thought he would have something to do with books . . . but I didn’t think he would ever follow a trade’ (97). Hyacinth faces a prejudice identified by James’s contemporary, the social commentator Thorstein Veblen: the distinction between classes is very rigorously observed; and the feature of most striking economic significance in these class differences is the distinction maintained between the employments proper to the several classes4. The upper classes are by custom exempt or excluded from industrial occupations . . . Manual labour, industry, whatever has to do with the everyday work of getting a livelihood, is the exclusive occupation of the inferior class (Wolf ed. 2001, 3) If Hyacinth is to be perceived as upper class his manual work is a scandalous aberration, for ‘the men of the upper classes are not only exempt, but by prescriptive custom they are debarred, from all industrial application’ (2001, 4). Millicent stresses that Hyacinth’s employment cannot fulfil his cultural ambitions: ‘You used always to be reading: I never thought you would work with your ‘ands’ (111). The narrator

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Issues in Modern Culture: Contexts Essay Henry James In London: Depicting A City Of Readers

declares here that there is, however, something to Hyacinth’s work beyond its social standing: Our young man's feelings were mingled; the place and the people appeared to him loathsome, but there was something delightful in handling his tools. He gave a little private groan of relief when he discovered that he still liked his work and that the pleasant swarm of his ideas (in the matter of sides and backs) returned to him. They came in still brighter, more suggestive form, and he had the satisfaction of feeling that his taste had improved [during his time in Paris, that it had been purified by experience, and that the covers of a book might be made to express an astonishing number of high conceptions. Strange enough it was, and a proof surely, of our little hero’s being a genuine artist, that the impressions he had accumulated during the last few months appeared to mingle and confound themselves with the very sources of his craft and to be susceptible of technical representation. (403) The mechanics of bookbinding are overtaken by some kind of creative impulse. A swarm of ideas are dramatised, striking ‘our hero’ in ever-brighter bursts. His cultural experience is given an opportunity to manifest itself because bookbinding, for James, is not only a trade but also a genuine art. Or, as he oxymoronically describes it, ‘the most delightful of the mechanical arts’ (119) This notion is clearly a reaction to the almost infinite reproducibility of the mass-market, an appeal for the preservation of the original object rather than the mass distribution of copies. Bookbinders are almost anachronistic figures, a throwback to an era in which books were a much rarer commodity. Before the explosion of cheap mass-market editions in the 1880s and 90s the ownership of books conferred social status, and this was enhanced by decorating them with finely (and non-mechanically) constructed bindings. For Walter Benjamin, ‘that which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction is the aura of the work of art’, by which he refers to the quality of the presence of the art-object (1937). Having a book, a mechanically reproduced object, bound by hand is to restore some of its aura. A unique existence is conferred once again upon one of a number of copies. The idea is similar in spirit to the work of anti-industrial reformists such as the Arts and Crafts movement, which was influential at James’s time of writing. The turning away from machines towards handicraft evokes their idea of the ‘master craftsman’ who uses his hands to take part in all aspects of production (see anon 2004). In an ironic affront to the aesthetics of art espoused in The Princess Casamassima, however, binding was the only area of production that failed to interest William Morris, the movement’s major exponent. He

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Issues in Modern Culture: Contexts Essay Henry James In London: Depicting A City Of Readers

even told bookbinder T.J. Cobden-Sanderson that ‘some sort of machine should be invented to bind books’ (Isherwood 1986, 17). Considering James’s stance, it is unsurprising that Hyacinth’s circle consist of a large number of book fetishists. The Frenchman M. Poupin introduces him to the idea that book bindings are art objects on their own terms: ‘M. Poupin showed him his bindings, the most precious trophies of his skill, and it seemed to Hyacinth that on the spot he was initiated into a fascinating mystery’ (117). Hyacinth is drawn into a curious and enclosed hermeneutic world, that of ‘the binder’s esoteric studies’ (116). Poupin binds ‘for the love of art’ (116), and, repeating the phrase, Anastasius Vetch goes ‘for the love of art’ to see the man’s private collection. This world judges objects on the dual criteria of the technical skill taken to produce them and the aristocratic wealth that has had the good taste to commission them into existence. Note, ironically, that despite Poupin’s anarchistic leanings the narrator describes him by utilising the aristocratic hierarchy, as ‘a prince of binders’ (114). People are interested in books as desirable objects not because of what they contain, but because of the craft involved in their mode of production. Binding looks back to the era of art as ritual rather than as an economic product. There is a huge performative aspect in taking a book to a craftsman to have it individualised and then displaying it in a personal library to be perused by visitors. As such the bound book defies the mass-market’s ability to offer texts to the masses: ‘technical reproduction can put the copy of the original into situations which would be out of reach for the original itself’ (1937). Hyacinth’s skill in binding is in many ways a precursor to William Morris’s ‘little typographical adventure’ (1986, 2) of the 1890s, the Kelmscott Press. Both believed that books were objects of beauty that had value beyond consumerism. Morris never sold his meticulously produced books for a profit (1986, 7), and Hyacinth gives away his best work as a gift to the Princess. When Hyacinth binds for pleasure, he chooses only the most literary texts available. Morris, similarly, only produced high culture works such as his celebrated Complete Works of Chaucer (anon 2004). Morris’s works were always produced in small editions of around fourhundred, which were bought almost exclusively by collectors rather than the public. For him this represented a failing of his great ambition to produce affordable objects of beauty for common people (anon 2004). For James, however, the very success of handcrafted books lay in their exclusivity. Vetch, a supposed anarchist like Poupin, 10

Issues in Modern Culture: Contexts Essay Henry James In London: Depicting A City Of Readers

adores bindings precisely because they are restricted from the working classes: ‘no man knew better the difference between the common and the rare’ (114). He goes so far, in his free indirect thought, as to personify this edition of his essays by Francis Bacon in a manner that lusts for aristocratic splendour: ‘it became a question of fitting the great Elizabethan with a new coat – a coat of full morocco’ (115). This is where James and Morris differ most strongly. Morris’s socialist views, in which the master craftsman defies the division of labour by taking part in all aspects of production, are at odds with James’s rigid appreciation of the class system (discussed later). Moreover, Morris does not concede the superlative value attributed to literary novels in The Princess Casamassima. In fact, novels are excluded from the utopia he defines in News from Nowhere (Arata ed. 2004). James’s idea that bookbinding could avoid the dictates of the marketplace and enforce canonised literary texts against the barbarising influence of popular taste actually had little accuracy. Quite the opposite, in fact. It was a London bookbinder, J.M. Dent, who married highbrow culture and mass production for the first time. In 1894 he issued the Temple Shakespeare, a reproduction of scholarly editions which sold for a mere shilling a volume. Having achieved sales of 2,500,000 a year for some volumes, he went on to found Everyman’s Library (Altick 1957, 316). James’s vindication of such a restrictive process is curious, since at this stage of his career he had actually experienced some mass-market success, albeit the exception for him rather than the norm. Even in the face of rampant piracy of the time, the official Harper edition of ‘Daisy Miller’ sold 20,000 copies in a manner of weeks in America. Unfortunately the royalties accrued from this 20 or 35 cent pamphlet edition were negligible (Edel 1985, 216, Gard 1968, 549). The strongest critique of accelerating capitalism in The Princess Casamassima is, of course, identifiable in Hyacinth’s initial love-interest Millicent Henning. She has taken the opposite route to him, by abandoning productive labour in favour of performing as a dress-wearer in the new field of conspicuous consumption. Caught up with the trapping of appearance and leisure, Millicent embodies the changing attitudes held by the socially ascendant in the 1880s and 1890s. She is a self-made woman and fiercely independent: her struggle from guttersnipe to glamorousness was entirely self-fuelled and she consequently regards the familial support and interdependence of Hyacinth’s circle with scorn. She is entirely unable to appreciate the ‘art’ of

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Issues in Modern Culture: Contexts Essay Henry James In London: Depicting A City Of Readers

bookbinding, and this establishes a conflict between her new, consumer capitalist lifestyle, and the older, craft based one: “But the art of the binder is an exquisite art.” “So Miss Pynsent told me. She said you had some samples at home. I should like to see them.” “You wouldn't know how good they are,” said Hyacinth, smiling. (111) For Millicent it matters nothing that Hyacinth works at ‘an establishment where they turned out the best work of that kind that was to be found in London’ (96). She regards everything solely in terms of commerce, even social relations. When Hyacinth points out that she has little conversational tact, she responds, ‘I have little tact? You should see me work off an old jacket’ (112). James defines Millicent Henning’s brand of capitalism as the spirit of the age, the ‘typicality’ of changing London existence. She is a personification of the changing metropolis, of its dynamic but vulgar commercial success: She was, to her blunt, expanded fingertips, a daughter of London, of the crowded streets and hustling traffic of the great city; she had drawn her health and strength from its dingy courts and foggy thoroughfares, and peopled its parks and squares and crescents with her ambitions; it had entered into her blood and her bone, the sound of her voice and the carriage of her head; she understood it by instinct and loved it with passion; she represented its immense vulgarities and curiosities, its brutality and its knowingness, its good-nature and its impudence, and might have figured, in an allegorical procession, as a kind of glorified townswoman, a nymph of the wilderness of Middlesex, a flower of the accumulated parishes, the genius of urban civilisation, the muse of cockneyism (92-3) James is, however, keen to distinguish between material wealth and nobility of character: ‘she was common, for all her magnificence, but there was something about her indescribably fresh, successful and satisfying’ (92). While James laments the failure of the mass to embrace literary culture, he still makes a strong case for a literary education for all, on the basis of a provision of libraries and schooling for the working class. Hyacinth has excellent critical faculties but is too poor to exercise them under the prevailing social conditions of late Nineteenth Century London. He has had some schooling, like the 2,500,000 children of a possible 2,750,000 nationwide in 1861 (Williams 1961, 137) but this is at the more perfunctory end of the scale, missing out on the broadening of the curriculum that was to take place over succeeding decades. He is a classic ‘self-made reader’, 12

Issues in Modern Culture: Contexts Essay Henry James In London: Depicting A City Of Readers

who encounters the typical educational restrictions placed upon his class, what Altick charactersises as the limited accessibility of good books, lack of leisure and the absence of systematic guidance (1957, 223). Though Parliament had passed an Act to establish public libraries in 1850, they did not become widespread in London districts until the turn of the Twentieth Century. In 1887 metropolitan London had only two public libraries due to opposition from rate-payers (1957, 227). This proves an enormous handicap to our hero: ‘Reading was his happiness, and the absence of any direct contact with a library his principal source of discontent; that is, of that part of his discontent which he could speak out’ (119). At least the lack of a library is an articulatable grievance, however. Hyacinth’s real problem is that there are ideologically-imposed naturalisation strategies within the Victorian class system, which make certain activities ‘obviously’ impossible for a working man. Anastasius Vetch satirises the possibility of Hyacinth rising to fulfil his ambitions from a working class background, suggesting that his aims are simply impossible. Speaking to Miss Pynsent he asked her if she were prepared to send the boy to one of the universities, or to pay the premium required for his being articled to a solicitor, or to make favour, on his behalf, with a bank-director or a mighty merchant, or, yet again, to provide him with a comfortable home while he should woo the muse and await the laurels of literature’ (118) The Oxbridge extension movement of the 1870s has obviously failed to make an impact upon Vetch’s perception of working class educational opportunities. Hyacinth’s position may even have worsened compared to the opportunities of earlier decades. Williams notes that ‘there had been provisions, again and again, for the exceptional poor boy to get to university’ (1961, 136) but with the increase in urban living this had diminished alongside a shift to class- rather than location-based educational opportunities. Vetch regards Hyacinth as even being barred from the stock bourgeois pursuits of law or trade. Instead, he is restricted to the sphere of manual labour, and the trenchantly practical values of this sphere cannot accept the study of literature as a valid activity, hence the caricature of him ‘wooing the muse’ by sitting on his laurels. Oddly, however, James makes no concession to the possibility that the social problem he is depicting may already be slipping into extinction at his time of writing. In 1876 elementary schooling was made compulsory, ensuring some degree of emancipation for the generations that follow Hyacinth.

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Issues in Modern Culture: Contexts Essay Henry James In London: Depicting A City Of Readers

In the 1870s, however, Hyacinth is forced to discover new strategies to educate himself. Miss Pynsent would not have pretended that he was highly educated, in the technical sense of the word, but she believed that at fifteen he had read almost every book in the world. The limits of his reading were, in fact, only the limits of his opportunity. Mr Vetch, who talked with him more and more as he grew older, knew this, and lent him every volume he possessed or could pick up for the purpose. (119) Hyacith’s desire for reading can be readjusted into a formula of the relationship between education and social prospects: the limits of his opportunity were only the limits of his reading. It is painfully ironic that, working as a bookbinder, he is brought into such close contact to high culture texts but is forbidden to actually read them: he knew the exasperation of having volumes in his hands, for external treatment, which he couldn’t take home at night, having tried that system, surreptitiously, during his first weeks and Crookenden’s and come very near losing his place in consequence’ (137) James has drawn on a developing social type by evoking the working man in search of education. By doing so he anticipates Jude The Obscure, the defining work on the subject that was to be published nine years later. Hyacinth is an urban Jude in several ways: both demonstrate their strength of character, and their ingenuity, through passionate autodidacticism. As a Londoner, however, the young Hyacinth has advantages over Hardy’s rural eponym. The vital difference, however, and the major objection to The Princess Casamassima being read as a social problem novel, is that Hyacinth is not actually working class at all: ‘I have blood in my veins that is not the blood of the people’ (219). The prevailing social order is maintained. Where Jude pushes against the very shape of Victorian society, by trying to use education to forge beyond class distinctions and break the bond between class and manual labour, James ultimately reinforces these structures. Hyacinth appreciates highbrow texts because he is latently upper class. His struggle is relocated to the level of the novel’s superordinate romance story: he is not breaking the bounds of his class but is struggling to regain the hereditary nobility of his roots. Hyacinth, like James, is therefore in constant opposition to the mass. The novel is characteristic, to use Williams’s analysis, of the

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Issues in Modern Culture: Contexts Essay Henry James In London: Depicting A City Of Readers

time in depicting ‘the energy and the mystery of strangers [but] moving uncertainly among them the newly isolated, heightened and charged individual consciousness’ (1987, 7). Its plot follows a narrative ark that is residually religious – an individual soul being redeemed from the masses (see Carey 1992, 9). Hyacinth, an individuated higher-class soul lost in mass anonymity, negates the possibility of true working class ascendancy. This aligns James with Flaubert’s view that ‘the mob, the mass, the herd will always be despicable’ (in Carey 1992, 5). James introduces high-cultural forms through Lady Aurora Langrish, his casestudy in aristocratic philanthropy. Like Hyacinth, Lady Aurora’s nobility has passed down a genealogical line, she is ‘an organism highly evolved’ (137). As Brewer notes, ‘it is Lady Aurora who, as a matter of course, treats Hyacinth as ‘a gentleman’ (1987, 9). One of the chief signifiers of Lady Aurora’s cultivation is her appreciation of continental novels. She ‘remarked that there were many delightful books in French’ (137), and this gives James another opportunity to point out Hyacinth’s cultural oppression: ‘Hyacinth rejoined that it was a torment to know that (as he did, very well) when you didn’t see your way to getting hold of them’ (137). Lady Aurora is the first character to address Hyacinth’s problems on his own terms, she does not try to diminish his dreams within the opportunities of his class as Mr Vetch has done, but offers to lend him some French books. As Rose Muniment says, ‘isn’t it right that she should be called the dawn, when she brings light where she goes?’ (136). Yet for all her virtues and cultural opportunities, it transpires that Lady Aurora does not have a level of artistic cultivation to fulfil Hyacinth’s ambitions: He was privately a little disappointed in the books, though he selected three or four, as many as he could carry, and promised to come back for others: they denoted, on Lady Aurora’s part, a limited acquaintance with French literature and even a puerility of taste (264) James may have previously slighted street literature, but he is equally under no illusions as to the novel form’s potential as a non-‘literary’ piece of popular entertainment. Imported texts are not guaranteed to be superior to colloquial work, as Hyacinth discovers. While James suggests that the novel form - though often debased - can create true art, his reaction to London’s burgeoning newspaper industry is entirely negative. He despises the papers because he feels that they are both a debasement of the art of writing and an incitement to revolutionary violence. The importance of education is 15

Issues in Modern Culture: Contexts Essay Henry James In London: Depicting A City Of Readers

once again raised here. Hyacinth’s social position offers him only two potential educational routes: the first is the traditional and haphazard route of church philanthropy5, the second the radical discourses spread in workshops such as Mr Crookenden’s and the curious London set with whom Hyacinth associates. This set demonstrates what Raymond Williams sees as the most unusual change caused by urban living, whereby social networks are no longer based around community proximity but around meeting at pubs or clubs in the name of particular interests or causes (1987, 1). Hyacinth’s education is the combined result of continental ideas and their dissemination through his friends and through the papers. Newspapers define radical ideology. Excepting the Illustrated London News, all of London’s popular weekly papers were left wing, and for many commentators ‘cheap’ and ‘radical’ became synonymous (Altick 1957, 349). By the 1880s they had become a pervasive part of London life: local papers served sixty-six localities within a twelve mile radius of Charring Cross (Harris 1990, 105). There was a simultaneous rise in radical literature over the course of the century, with the appearance of the Weekly Political Register, Two-Penny Trash, Black Dwarf and Yellow Dwarf (1994, 304). Harris claims that political party engagement [with the Sunday papers] was extended during the 1880s and 1890s with the emergence of more radical forms of politics [and] their progressive ideology also manifested itself with some force within the more conventional output of the local press” (1990, 113). In 1905 Ford Madox Ford describes his personal experience of the connection between newspapers and political pampleteering. He recounts how, as a boy, he used to buy the Observer from a shop in Kensington: the paper shop was a dirty, obscure and hidden little place that during the week carried on the sale, mostly, of clandestine and objectionable broad sheets directed against the Papists (1995, 89) Hyacinth Robinson appropriates his revolutionary language from the papers, as mocked by Paul Muniment: ‘Don’t you belong to the party of action?’ said Hyacinth, solemnly. ‘Look at the way he has picked up all the silly bits of catchwords!’ Paul cried, laughing, to his sister. ‘You must have got that precious phrase out of the newspapers, out of some drivelling leader. Is that the party you want to belong to?’ he went on, with his clear eyes ranging over his diminutive friend. 16

Issues in Modern Culture: Contexts Essay Henry James In London: Depicting A City Of Readers

‘If you’ll show me the thing itself I shall have no more occasion to mind the newspapers,’ (242) While the papers instil revolutionary ideas they alone cannot spur men to violence as they cannot properly depict the complexity of the political situation. They reduce Muniment’s cause to ‘silly bits of catchwords’. Hyacinth’s impression of the ‘small occult back-room in Bloomsbury’ (182) where the radicals meet caricaturises this situation: what did [Hyacinth] see, after all, in Bloomsbury? Nothing but a ‘social gathering’, where there were clay pipes, and a sanded floor, and not half enough gas, and the principal newspapers; and where the men, as any one would know, were advanced radicals, and mostly advanced idiots. He could pat as many of them on the back as he liked, and say the House of Lords wouldn’t last till midsummer; but what discoveries would he make? (209) Lacking Hyacinth’s fiery continental blood, these men are only ‘advanced idiots’ with a utopian view of the future. The papers are increasingly discredited as Hyacinth moves to the higher echelons of the revolutionary movement. Mr Schinkel points out, with a degree of astuteness that the narrator does not fully accredit, that they are ultimately just another piece of ideological state apparatus holding together the prevailing formation of Victorian society: ‘They say it's a bad year -- the blockheads in the newspapers,’ Mr Schinkel went on, addressing himself to the company at large. ‘They say that on purpose -- to convey the impression that there are such things as good years’ As critical orthodoxy attests, James’s knowledge of the relationship between the papers and anarchism - indeed his knowledge of anarchism itself - is at best patchy. Though events are often rendered in Hyacinth’s free indirect thought, we are kept out of his consciousness when it comes to this topic. We are not given the opportunity to understand or sympathise with his radical feelings: this is a novel with a hole at its political core. Such a stance does reflect something of the bourgeois standpoint from which James is writing, however. Porter emphasises that in reality nineteenth century London was the site of very little political violence (1994, 293). As such Hyacinth’s descent into a terrorist circle of continental would-be assassins is a ‘dramatization of the fear of violence which was widespread among the upper and middle classes at the time’, as Raymond Williams has pointed out regarding a similar aspect of Mary Barton (1960, 52). 17

Issues in Modern Culture: Contexts Essay Henry James In London: Depicting A City Of Readers

James’s condemnation of the press as a degradation of the noble art of writing is stressed in his 1903 tale ‘The Papers’. The Princess Casamassima portrays London’s network of readers with requisite complexity, as an impossibly interwoven set of communities across the urban sprawl. In ‘The Papers’, however, this network is reduced to a theatre of the absurd6. The fear of the papers presented in The Princess gives way to a less threatening outrage at their sheer vulgarity. In his letters, James repeatedly referred to the years following the commercial failure of The Bostonians and The Princess Casamassima as ‘evil days’ (see Jacobson 1983, 17-19) and ‘The Papers’ is clearly derivative of a newly blinkered view of the commercial environment. Like Gissing’s New Grub Street, it depicts the ruthless ability of the London journalist to exploit a potential market. And what a market the London papers were by this point – in 1900 their daily public numbered 1,500,000 (Williams 1961, 176). Daily newspapers had become competitive with the abolition of stamp duty in 1861. They had begun to circulate widely among workingmen with the advent of TitBits and Answers in the 1880s, and especially Lord Northcliffe’s halfpenny The Daily Mail in 1896. The increase in newspaper sales occurred in the lower-middle and working class sector. The London Journal, the type of gossip-heavy publication satirised in ‘The Papers’, sold close to half a million copies an issue against the paltry 7,200 circulation of the intellectual Athenaeum (Altick 1957, 358). James satirises the papers using an extended pattern of imagery, based around their personification as a carnivorous beast: the most highly organised animal, into which, regularly, breathlessly, contributions had to be dropped – odds and ends, all grist to the mill, all somehow digestible and convertible (230). The beast becomes increasingly ravenous: ‘the Papers roared and resounded more than ever with the new meat flung to them’ (297). News stories pander to the basest of human desires, to the ‘carnal eye’ that initially attracted Hyacinth Robinson to street literature – they expose the voyeuristic sadism beneath polite society: ‘you enjoyed his terror. That was what led you on’ (295). The press gains its own momentum, beyond that of the protagonists who produce it. James uses a light pattern of alliteration to demonstrate the decreasing accuracy of its manifestations, as a ‘cloud of correspondence, communication, suggestion, supposition’ (272). The papers are an unstoppable malevolent force. Howard Bight, James’s master journalist realises that

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Issues in Modern Culture: Contexts Essay Henry James In London: Depicting A City Of Readers

‘no one now, at any moment, means anything about anyone else . . . I’ve lost intellectual control - of the extraordinary case’ (276). James’s stance is similar to that of Ford Madox Ford, who charts the rise of the ‘Modern Paper’ as a shallowing of London’s textual culture: ‘for the Londoner the ‘facts’ of the daily and weekly press take the place of any broad generalisations about life’ (Hill ed. 1995, 85). Rather than reporting the external world they represent an escape from it, a ‘mental anodyne’ (85). In ‘The Papers’ Howard Bight tells his partner, with the utmost contempt for the public, that the two of them are too intelligent to enjoy news stories since ‘we haven’t the gift . . . of not seeing’ (233). James is unrepentantly dismissive of the quality of news journalism. Maud’s admiration about her partner’s work is a rather double-edged compliment, claiming it was journalism of the intensest essence; a column concocted of nothing, an omlette made, as it were, without even the breakage of the egg or two that might have been expected to be the price (259) James, here, seems to enforce what Raymond Williams regards as a popular historical misconception that ‘with the entry of the masses on to the cultural scene, the press became, in large part, trivial and degraded, where before, serving an educated minority, it had been responsible and serious’ (1961, 174). James and Ford also accuse the papers of engendering a transitoriness of knowledge. Mechanical reproduction has allowed the papers to report contemporary events at a much more rapid pace, coterminous with the speed at which people are transported around the city by the new underground railway network. The papers kept up with news much more quickly, with the appearance of a new type of evening paper (modelled on the Sunday Papers) in the 1870s and 1880s (Williams 1961, 176). As Ford reports, commuters sat morning after morning in their city-going trains, with the sheets held up before them, swallowing ‘news’ as they swallow quick lunches later on . . . All these things flicker through the dazed and quiescent minds without leaving a trace, forgotten as soon as the first step is made upon the platform at Park Lane (86) It is hardly surprising that Lord Northcliffe marketed The Daily Mail under the slogan ‘The Busy Man’s Paper’ (Carey 1992, 6). To actually comment upon this news, to attempt to interpret it, is to go back to the ways of the old-fashioned novel, which is

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Issues in Modern Culture: Contexts Essay Henry James In London: Depicting A City Of Readers

reproachable in modern society using the insult: ‘Oh, don’t talk like a book here’ (86). James is as bowled over as Ford by the speed at which newspapers report information. He describes them transforming the actual landscape of the city – ‘hawkers’ (street vendors) are audible across the streets, like a perpetual radio newsfeed, presenting constantly updated reports upon a new (and baseless) level of reality called ‘the news’. Madox Ford and James are both excellent examples of what Carey identifies as a fear of this ‘alternative culture which bypassed the intellectual and made him redundant’ (1992, 6). As Publishers Circular argued in 1890, the verbiage of the three-decker novel is unsuited to this new reading culture: The impatience of the age will not tolerate expansiveness in books. There is no leisurely browsing and chewing of the literary cud such as Charles Lamb describes with the gusto of an epicure. As a people we have lost the art of taking our ease in an inn, or anywhere else; assuredly we do not take it in the library or in a corner under the bookshelf. The world preses, and the reading has to be done in snatches’ (in Altick 1957, 369). At the centre of the fake news-world is Sir Beadel-Muffet, a caricature of media focus upon empty celebrities which is surprisingly pertinent to our own age: He was universal and ubiquitous, commemorated, under some rank and rubric, on every page of every public print every day in every year, and as inveterate a feature of each issue of any self-respecting sheet as the name, the date and the tariffed advertisments’ (231-2) The actual content of these stories does not matter, all are fabricated gossip: ‘one half of his chronicle appeared to consist of official contradictions of the other half’ (232). The narrator repeats that the stories are merely ‘rumours and remarks’ (270), and Marshall asks Bight if his facts are ‘authentic – or as I believe you clever people say, ‘inspired’ ones?’ (285). As in tales such as ‘The Figure in the Carpet’, ‘The Papers’ is based around a central hermeneutic puzzle. In this case the central lacunae is the question of quite what Beadel-Muffett actually does to warrant this attention. Even the journalists are impressed at his inactivity: It is genius, you know, to get yourself so celebrated for nothing – to carry out your idea in the face of everything. I mean your idea of being celebrated. It isn’t as if he had done even one little thing. What has he done when you come to look?

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Issues in Modern Culture: Contexts Essay Henry James In London: Depicting A City Of Readers

He is a celebration of negative space: ‘his absence, you may say, doubles, quintuples, his presence’ (37). The ultimate answer to the lacunae, produced after the revelation that Beadel-Muffat had staged his own death, is highly ironic. He appears in the papers because his one skill is that he is an arch manipulator of the press. This is a depressing facet of the vulgar upper classes, as represented here by the playwright Mortimer Marshal. Rather than considering his art he is only interested in fame: ‘His one idea of help, from the day he opened his eyes, has been to be prominently – damn the word! – mentioned’ (243). It is hardly surprising, considering this lack of cultivation, that he ‘preferred after all the novel of adventure to the novel of subtlety’ (240). Miss Pynsent, in The Princess Casamassima, is the type of reader responsible for degenerating noble aristocrats to hollow celebrities. She has made a muddled attempt to bring Hyacinth up as a ‘little gentleman’ (56) since ‘she adored the aristocracy’ (56), but her own conception of this class consists of only a patchwork of romance stories. Take, for example, the portrait decorating her show-room, ‘of the Empress of the French, taken from an illustrated newspaper and framed and glazed in the manner of 1853’ (91). Stories from the press often condition Miss Pynsent’s perception of events in her own life. She even turns Hyacinth’s background into a melodrama along the lines of popular fiction: he belonged ‘by the left hand’ as she had read in a novel, to an exalted race, the list of whose representatives and the record of whose alliances she had once (when she took home some work and was made to wait, alone, in a lady’s boudoir) had the opportunity of reading in a fat red book, eagerly and tremblingly consulted. (58) The London journalist, then, is an extremely debased form of writer. The typicality of Millicent Henning is replaced in ‘The Papers’ by another revision of femininity: the beer-drinking journalist Maud Blandy, ‘a shocker’ who ‘was fairly a product of the day’ (230). This type of portrait follows the Nietzschean conviction that the emancipation and education of women were signs of modern shallowness’ (in Carey 1992, 8). Blandy meets up with fellow journalist Howard Bight in the physical embodiment of this industry, a London locality that is entirely taken up by the papers: the Strand being for them, with its ampler alternative Fleet Street, overwhelmingly the Papers, and the Papers being, at a rough guess, all the furniture of their consciousness’ (229-30).

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Issues in Modern Culture: Contexts Essay Henry James In London: Depicting A City Of Readers

Journalists can only grasp reality, the world beyond their salacious stories, in brief gasps between the cries of ‘hoarse newsmen’ (277): the squalid Strand, damp yet incandescent, ugly yet eloquent, familiar yet fresh, was life, palpable, ponderable, possible, much more than the stuff, neither scenic nor cosmic, they had quited [in their stories]’ (277) Journalists are parasites upon human tragedy. Catastrophe is ‘just the thing for [Bight’s] professional hand’ (290). The mutuality of intrigue and manipulation in the journalistic sphere means that nobody can be held morally responsible for anything. Bight begins to feel guilty about Beadel-Muffet’s death, only to realise with Muffet’s resurrection that he too has been manipulated. As a result of this universal scheming Bight comes to despise the human race: ‘I haven’t a scrap of faith left in a single human creature’ (233). It is hardly surprising that the papers fail to set the moral agenda in the same way as a literary text. Madox Ford laments their increasing lack of cohesion, commenting that: ‘in the 70s-80s the Londoner was still said to get his General Ideas from the leader writers of his favourite paper. Nowadays even the leader is dying out’ (1995, 89). The reliance of the newspapers upon commerce is also regarded as a barrier to their achieving any kind of artistic success. Maud Blandy and Howard Bight have an economic imperative to shock. They are too poor to obsess about values: ‘What mainly concerned him was [his story] being bold enough to get him dinner’ (231). Bight reflects that ‘we do the worst we can for the money’ (233). How, James asks, can journalists produce admirable work when the self-awareness of the best of their number manifests itself in a complete loathing of the profession? Take Bight’s ultimate image of the press as carnivorous beast: “The Press, my child,” Bight said, “is the watchdog of civilisation, and the watchdog happens to be – it can’t be helped – in a state of rabies. Muzzling is easy talk; one can but keep the animal on the run” (266-7) This monster of the market-place cannot be stopped. Carey’s account of intellectual anxiety comes into play once more here, since ‘by adopting sales figures as the sole criterion, journalism circumvented the traditional cultural elite’ (1992, 7). James is demonstrating an anxiety, along lines stated by Ford Madox Ford, that ‘with the coming of the Modern Newspaper the Book has been deposed from its intimate position in the hearts of men’ (1995, 88). The development from a general fear of

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Issues in Modern Culture: Contexts Essay Henry James In London: Depicting A City Of Readers

‘popular’ texts in The Princess Casamassima to a very specific opposition between the ‘literary’ and the newspapers in ‘The Papers’ is coterminous with changes in the marketplace. In terms of total net value within the printing industry by 1907, manuscript books and binding accounted for 17.1% compared to the 28.2% attributed to newspapers and periodicals (figures from Eliot, Simon 1995, 19). Finally, then, an investigation into James’s vindication of the literary author in London’s shifting reading culture. At the same time as James debases the products of low culture, he also constructs an idealised image of the writer of literary fiction. In both The Princess Casamassima and ‘The Papers’ the central protagonists view this profession as their rather utopian goal. James’s main strategy for asserting its value, and by implication his own position, is one of naturalisation ideology. There is never an interrogation of the value of literary art, as is held over popular texts: it is presented as an ‘obvious’ goal for these characters, a central value in their lives but one that they rarely articulate. The two journalists realise that the absurdity of their situation would provide excellent material for an (always pronounced in cockney) ‘ply’. As Carey argues, the human-interest stories in the papers have superceded the need for other artworks, such as the play or novels, not to mention their eclipsing ‘what had previously circulated informally as a component of popular culture – in gossip, ballad or broadsheet’ (1992, 7). Bight, like Hyacinth, works for the city’s readers but his ultimate aspiration is to actually create the intellectual content that his journalism so contrasts, to produce: ‘imaginative work’ (242). Both journalists scorn the aristocratic playwright Marshal since they know that, detached from the economic necessity of writing for the press, they are far more capable than he of being ‘littery’ (246). The literary dream serves for the journalist couple as a form of ‘happily ever after…’-style closure: "Ah," Maud amended, "we must be 'littery'. We've now got stuff." "For the dear old ply, for the rattling good tile? Ah, they take better stuff than this -- though this too is good." "Yes," she granted on reflection, "this is good, but it has bad holes. _Who was the dead man in the locked hotel room_?" "Oh, I don't mean that. That," said Bight, "he'll splendidly explain." "But how?" "Why, in the Papers. To-morrow."

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Issues in Modern Culture: Contexts Essay Henry James In London: Depicting A City Of Readers

James lightens the tone, rendering the story thus far metafictional (it becomes the journalist’s story, too) in order to point out his own plot-holes: we will never find out the identity of the dead man in the hotel, it is a point for the papers and they extend beyond the scope of this tale, infinitely stretching a story out, in order to keep consumers buying. The papers are allowed a final reprieve, however, as a site at which it is occasionally possible to place genuine messages relating to the external world: "Whom will you marry?" She only, at first, for answer, kept her eyes on him . . . they walked on together. "That, at least," she said, "we'll put in the Papers." (312) Ultimately Maud has a route of escape that is not open to Hyacinth Robinson. She detaches herself from the commercial imperative and gives up the papers to live a more moral life. She chooses not to sell her story. Hyacinth is granted no such reprieve to fulfil his dreams: he cannot remain true to both his working (radical) and aristocratic roots, the only possible solution proving to be self-annihilation. If the literary aspirations of the two journalists are portrayed in the vaguest possible terms, Hyacinth’s are almost impossible to pin-down. As with his radical sympathies, we are kept out of Hyacinth’s consciousness when it comes to his literary aspirations. His interest in writing is not even reported through detached indirect discourse, but in narrative reports of discoursal acts, such as during his tryst with Millicent: ‘By the time he reached her door he had confided to her that, in secret, he wrote: he had a dream of literary distinction’ (112). What Hyacinth actually writes is beyond the scope of the novel. There are only occasional affirmations of his aptitude: What remained in Hyacinth's mind from this conversation was the fact that the old man, whom he regarded distinctly as cultivated, had thought his letters clever. He only wished that he had made them cleverer still; he had no doubt of his ability to have done so’ (239) These statements serve to heighten Hyacinth’s tragedy: he is never given an opportunity to exercise his gifts. There is, however, a sole passage that provides a tantalising glimpse into his creative consciousness: When that debt should have been paid and his other arrears made up he proposed to himself to write something. He was far from having decided as yet what it should be; the only point settled was that it should be very remarkable

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Issues in Modern Culture: Contexts Essay Henry James In London: Depicting A City Of Readers

and should not, at least on the face of it, have anything to do with a fresh deal of the social pack. That was to be his transition – into literature . . . It had occurred to Hyacinth more than once that it would be a fine thing to produce a brilliant death-song. (239) Hyacinth’s writing is a pure impulse, detached from his destructive radical ideas about the ‘fresh deal of the social pack’. Moreover, these artistic conceptions are Hyacinth’s greatest assessment on the inevitability of his own fate: the form most suited to his unique situation is the ‘death-song’. All of his endeavours are doomed, be they social ascendancy, working class emancipation or greatest of all, the creation of art. There is one additional shift in London’s textual culture, however, that is also worth mentioning. Though it is difficult to gauge its effect upon James’s writing, his London years were a golden age for piracy. Piracy is rarely considered in relation to nineteenth century conceptions of authorship, but must have caused writers anxiety beyond the obvious financial blow. In a manner not dissimilar to the current explosion of music piracy in our internet age, copyright legislation came into existence with illjudged belatedness following the emergence of cheap bulk printing for the massmarket. There was a proliferation of pirated editions of novels, especially as imports from one side of the Atlantic to the other. Leon Edel delights in recounting James’s return to London from Paris in the winter of 1877, to find the railway book-stalls bursting with a pirated popular edition of The American, previously only available in the United States. To continue Edel’s story the cover [showed] a tall Christopher Newman and a Claire de Cintré rather more blonde and less dignified than she was ever intended to be . . . the volume was ‘vilely printed’ and carelessly edited; whole paragraphs were omitted. Nor was [James] happy to receive from Germany, however flattering, a pirated translation of the same novel, with a happy ending substituted for his own (1985, 214) Crucially James, the author, has lost control over his texts during their mass distribution, from the paratextual influence of misinterpretive cover illustrations to changes in meaning caused by new editing, to the most extreme case of the complete alteration of his tale, substituting the actual words on the page at the novel’s closure for their opposites. Not since the days of the ever-editing medieval scribe (consider the differing manuscripts of The Canterbury Tales, and the ‘Chaucerian Apocracy’ whereby other writers added to and recontextualised the Tales) had an author had so little control over the transmission of his texts, and never had it occurred on such a 25

Issues in Modern Culture: Contexts Essay Henry James In London: Depicting A City Of Readers

scale. In this context it is hardly surprising that James idealises the culture of limited print runs embodied by the bookbinder, the playwright and the literary novelist.

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Sources Cited
Ackroyd, Peter 1987 Dickens’ London: An Imaginative Vision London: Headline Ackroyd, Peter 2000 London: A Biography Great Britain: Chatto & Windus Altick, Richard D. 1998 (1957) The English Common Reader: A Social History of the Mass Reading Public, 1800-1900 Columbus: Ohio State Univ. Press Anon 2004 ‘William Morris’ in Wikipedia htttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Morris Arata, Stephen ed. and introd. 2003 Morris, William 1890 News from Nowhere: or an epoch of rest being some chapters from a utopian romance Canada: Broadview Literary Texts Benjamin, Walter 1937 ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ [Etext] ‘Emerson University Set Texts’ http://pages.emerson.edu/Courses/spring00/in123/workofart/benjamin.htm [originally in Arendt, Hannah ed. and Zohn, Harry trans. 1999 Benjamin, Walter Illuminations London: Verso Brewer, Derek. ed. and introd. 1987 James, Henry 1886 The Princess Casamassima [Macmillan] Wiltshire: Penguin Carey, John 1992 The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice among the Literary Intelligensia 1880-1939 London, Boston: Faber & Faber Chatman, Sara S. 1990 Henry James’s Portrait of the Writer as Hero Hampshire and London: Macmillan Dover, Adrian ed. 2002 James, Henry 1903 ‘The Papers’ Adrian Dover’s Henry James Site http://bham.ac.uk/doveral/james Edel, Leon 1985 Henry James: A Life London: Collins Eliot, Simon 1995 ‘Some trends in British book production, 1800-1919’ in Jordan, John O. and Patten, Robert L. ed 1995 Literature in the Marketplace: NineteenthCentury British publishing and reading practices Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press Gard, Roger ed. 1968 Henry James: The Critical Heritage London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, New York: Barnes and Noble Harris, Michael 1990 ‘London’s Local Newspapers: Patterns of Change in the Victorian Period’ 1990 in Brake, Laurel; Jones, Aled and Madden, Lionel ed. 1990 Investigating Victorian Journalism Hampshire and London: Macmillan Hill, Alan G. ed. 1995 Madox Ford, Ford 1905 The Soul of London London: Everyman

Issues in Modern Culture: Contexts Essay Henry James In London: Depicting A City Of Readers

Isherwood, Andrew 1986 An Introduction to the Kelmscott Press: Illustrated from Material in the National Art Library National Art Library, Victoria and Albert Museum Jacobson, Marcia 1983 Henry James and the Mass Market USA: Univ. Alabama Press Keating, Peter 1989 The Haunted Study: A Social History of the English Novel 18751914 England: Secker & Warburg Kimmey, John 1991 Henry James and London: The City in his Fiction New York: Peter Lang Lyon, John ed. 2001 James, Henry Henry James: Selected Tales London: Penguin Porter, Roy 1994 London: A Social History London: Hamish Hamilton Ruskin, John 1895 (2nd edition) A Joy For Ever (and its price in the market): being the substance (with additions) of two lectures on the political economy of art. Delivered at Manchester July 10th and 13th, 1857 Orpington and London: George Allen Sutherland, John 1995 Victorian Fiction: Writers, Publishers, Readers London: Macmillan Taylor, Dennis ed. Hardy, Thomas 1986 (1895) Jude The Obscure Suffolk: Penguin Williams, Raymond 1960 Culture & Society 1780-1950 London: Chatto & Windus Williams, Raymond 1961 The Long Revolution London: Chatto & Windus Williams, Raymond 1987 Country and City in the Modern Novel: W.D. Thomas Memorial Lecture: Delivered at the College on 26 January 1987 Swansea: University College of Swansea Wolfe, Alan introd. 2001 Veblen, Thorstein 1899 The Theory of the Leisure Class Modern Library: New York

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1

Notes

‘Superstructure’ is used in its classic Marxist sense, as the particular form through which human subjectivity engages with the material substance of society, the economic base.
2

See, in particular, Raymond Williams’s The Long Revolution (1961)
3

In the ‘insolvent’ Henning family, for instance, a work shy brushmaker allows his children to reside in gin palaces while his wife has an affair with a stove polisher. The bindery is also preferable to the job Hyacinth is offered with a stationer, ‘a dreadful bullying man, with a patch over his eye, who seemed to think the boy would be richly remunerated with three shillings a week’ (118).
4

All italics in block quotations in this essay are my own, serving as emphases
5

‘in his early years . . . he was under the care of an old lady who combined with the functions of pew-opener at a neighbouring church the manipulation, in [Lomax] Place itself . . . of such pupils as could be spared (in their families) from the more urgent exercise of holding the baby and fetching the beer’ (118)
6

‘The Papers’ is in general rather a stylistic departure for James, eschewing the loftier philosophical ideals of Tales like ‘The Figure in the Carpet’ or ‘The Middle Years’ in favour of a mode of outraged satire which has more in common with Kipling’s story ‘The Village that Voted the Earth was flat’ (1913). There is also productive work to be done in examining ‘The Papers’ as a direct precursor to Evelyn Waugh’s Fleet Street satires Scoop and Vile Bodies.

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