Preferred Citation: Litvak, Joseph. Caught in the Act: Theatricality in the Nineteenth-Century English Novel. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  1992.

Actress, Monster, Novelist

7. Actress, Monster, Novelist

Figuration and Counterplot in The Tragic Muse

He was so accustomed to living upon irony and the interpretation of things that it was new to him to be himself interpreted and—as a gentleman who sits for his portrait is always liable to be—interpreted all ironically. From being outside of the universe he was suddenly brought into it, and from the position of a free commentator and critic, an easy amateurish editor of the whole affair, reduced to that of humble ingredient and contributor.

Although published in the same year as The Bostonians, 1886, The Princess Casamassima follows it in order of composition. As a later text, it registers a development that we could chart over the long course of James’s career—namely, his growing uneasiness about the implications of embarrassment. In some sense, it seems that that career in itself recapitulates the pattern of theatrical “deviation” and theoretical “correction” that we traced from the sensation novel to Daniel Deronda. Admittedly, since we have located the paradigm of Jamesian embarrassment in an even later text, A Small Boy and Others (1913), our history may seem somewhat at odds with itself. Yet it is not necessary to resolve this apparent contradiction by claiming, for instance, that after The Bostonians, James begins to experience a revulsion from his characteristic theatrical strategies—a revulsion that one might expect to have reached its climax as a result of his disappointing excursion into playwriting—but that, in the last few years of his life, he somehow undergoes a conversion back to those strategies. As has been suggested by numerous studies of James’s relation to popular forms, the sensationalistic and the “Eliotic” are inextricably entangled throughout his work. I would agree that one can in fact discern a persistent and coherent structure of ambivalence in James’s writing. Both as early as in The Bostonians and as late as in A Small Boy, the author can be seen to seek “detachment” from the theater of embarrassment as much as involvement in it. Conversely, texts like The Princess Casamassima and The Tragic Muse (1890) evince a continuing engagement—indeed, a fascination—with the very practices of scene-making that they want at the same time to keep at a distance. Such changes that take place in the course of James’s career are changes of emphasis and degree, rather than of fundamental attitude.

Yet it is important, I think, both to acknowledge those changes and to ask what they might have to tell us about certain contiguous changes in the culture itself. Thus, in the Conclusion to this book, I will be suggesting that the anxiety one can notice in the revised text of The Tragic Muse has something to do with the more-than-embarrassing “case” of Oscar Wilde, whose Picture of Dorian Gray, moreover, itself published in the same year as the original version of The Tragic Muse comes a bit too close to the latter for James’s comfort. Most of the present chapter will indeed be given over to a discussion of the revised version of The Tragic Muse, which appears in the New York edition of 1909.[1] But before turning to that text, I want to look very briefly at The Princess Casamassima, since this middle novel in the theatrical “trilogy” reveals a significant renegotiation within the larger theater of the Jamesian oeuvre as a whole.

Of Hyacinth Robinson, the “little hero” of The Princess Casamassima, James writes: “he was to go through life in a mask, in a borrowed mantle; he was to be, every day and every hour, an actor.”[2] In this respect, Hyacinth is as “typical” of his environment as Olive Chancellor is of hers. For although theatricality in The Bostonians manifests itself most obviously as an ineluctable, vulgarizing publicity, while theatricality in The Princess Casamassima is bound up, rather differently, with a thematics of political paranoia and revolutionary conspiracy, both novels depict thoroughly theatricalized worlds. And if we were to articulate the question of theatricality-as-theme with that of theatricality-as-mode, we might begin to see how these two apparently dissimilar theatrical novels in fact overlap with each other. What I have in mind, specifically, is the insistence of a certain “vulgarity” as an overdetermined and increasingly problematic figure for the embarrassments of James’s own discourse.

As was noted in the previous chapter, “vulgarity” in James gets coded not only as that which is “low” in terms of class hierarchy, but also—in anticipation of more recent usage—as that which is “low” (i.e., disreputable) in terms of sexual behavior or sexual representation; in James, “vulgar” means “common,” yet it begins to approach “obscene” as well. Desiring Verena, finally almost becoming Verena, Olive Chancellor, we saw, is drawn to the very social-sexual vulgarity that she professes to “despise.” Olive’s not-so-secret desire for and identification with this vulgarity, moreover, opens a space for James’s enactment of his own similar relationship to what he would bafouer. Now, if Olive Chancellor offers such opportunities, one would think that a character like Hyacinth Robinson might provide even richer possibilities for authorial investment. For James’s own liminal stance, as both in and out of the closet, as both for and against the embarrassment of vulgarity, finds a promising analogue in the double “vagueness” of Hyacinth’s social identity—is he the son of his aristocratic father or of his proletarian mother?—and of his sexual identity—is he in love with, say, the Princess Casamassima and Millicent Henning or with, say, Captain Sholto and Paul Muniment?

On the whole, the critics who have written about this novel have a great deal to say about the former, social kind of indeterminacy and almost nothing to say about the latter, sexual kind.[3] Although Hyacinth’s name alone seems resonant enough, it would appear that, despite or perhaps because of their preoccupation with the novel’s “political” theme, critics are content to overlook its concern with the politics of sexuality. To be sure, James himself is characteristically evasive about this issue, but to the extent that this evasiveness leaves traces in both the novel and its preface, it demands all the more to be read. Though such a reading cannot be my project here, I would nonetheless point to certain places where that project might begin.

For one thing, one might want to determine what it means that James employs a technique of dispersion in this novel, establishing not one but at least two main figures of embarrassment. For in addition to Hyacinth, whose increasing chagrin ends only with his literal (self-)mortification (that is, with his suicide), there is the chronically embarrassed, strikingly Olive-like Lady Aurora Langrish, whose frustrated attraction to Paul Muniment in many ways replicates Hyacinth’s. And while this dispersion might bespeak a productive refinement of the technology of embarrassment—along the lines of Olive’s enrichment of the possibilities inherent in the figure of James’s cousin, Marie—it is hard to see just what that refinement produces. Where Olive’s very exclusion, I hope to have shown, allows for the activation of significant imaginative energies in James himself, both Lady Aurora and Hyacinth, each eventually encountering an intolerable erotic impasse, suggest instead a recalcitrant occlusion of performative possibilities. Similarly unlucky in love, Olive nevertheless ends up intimating, for James, something evermore about to be. But at the end of Book Fifth, in the final, vaguely rueful interview between Hyacinth and Lady Aurora, when they sit “looking at each other, in a kind of occult community of suffering” (p. 539), the author seems to be marking less his difference with them than his difference from them. In short, his relationship to these two characters and to the dispersion that they underwrite indicates not greater investment in their embarrassed “community” but rather divestment, dissociation from it.

In his preface to the novel, James explicitly differentiates himself from “little Hyacinth Robinson,” even as he emphasizes their connection.

To find his possible adventure interesting I had only to conceive his watching the same public show, the same innumerable appearances, I had watched myself, and of his watching very much as I had watched; save indeed for one little difference. This difference would be that so far as all the swarming facts should speak of freedom and ease, knowledge and power, money, opportunity, and satiety, he should be able to revolve round them but at the most respectful of distances and with every door of approach shut in his face. For one’s self, all conveniently, there had been doors that opened—opened into light and warmth and cheer, into good and charming relations; and if the place as a whole lay heavy on one’s consciousness there was yet always for relief this implication of one’s own lucky share of the freedom and ease, lucky acquaintance with the number of lurking springs at light pressure of which particular vistas would begin to recede, great lighted, furnished, peopled galleries, sending forth gusts of agreeable sound.

Asserting a simultaneous identification with and detachment from the “possible adventure” of another, this passage seems strikingly like the one from A Small Boy and Others, where James posits the origin of his peculiar vocation in the scene made by Marie. What is telling here, however, is the way in which James sets himself apart from Hyacinth. While the difference between James as narrator and Marie as character was primarily a difference of age—it would take “a long time of course” before James himself would learn to “distinguish between” inferior and superior scenes—the “one little difference” between James and Hyacinth is clearly one of class: it is obvious why if, “for one’s self, all conveniently, there had been doors that opened,” for Hyacinth “every door of approach shut in his face.”

Much as one admires the candor and perspicacity with which James recognizes his own social and economic privilege, one also has to wonder what deeper “implication” his thematizing of class difference works to conceal. From what embarrassment do the sentences announced by the phrase, “save one little difference,” save James himself? I would argue that if, as James admits, he and Hyacinth are fellow spectators of “the same public show,” comrades in their enjoyment of “the ripe round fruit of perambulation” (p. 33), James is nonetheless prepared to leave Hyacinth at the door, at the point where the pleasure of urban voyeurism threatens to turn into the pain of rejection—or worse. Doors must get shut in Hyacinth’s face not just because of his lower-class affiliation but because the “fantasy of surveillance” that, as Mark Seltzer has shown, he shares with James risks emerging a little too ripely as a sexual fantasy, raising the possibility of more, and more specific, embarrassment than James may want to entertain.[4]

If James, staging his own disappearance into a space of “good and charming relations,” ostentatiously saves himself from “little Hyacinth[’s]” fate—and that miniaturizing, distancing nomenclature echoes the novel itself—he thereby exempts himself, at least this time, from the experience of liminality; this passage—out of the street and into the protective recesses of a specialized, rarefied, and sanitized locus of the “social”—is designed precisely to avoid becoming “itself a scene.” The doors that are flung open for James here are to be seen as permitting neither exit from nor entrance into anything as determinate as a closet; rather, what he supposedly accedes to is the saving difference of, in his terms, “knowledge and power”—knowledge and power as construed in the most blandly abstract light.

The novel itself does not withhold clues as to why the author might want to part company with his protagonist. One might look, for instance, at the curious scene in chapter 28, where Hyacinth, having arranged to have an eminent West End doctor pay a housecall to the dying Pinnie, is disconcerted to find himself the object of the medical gaze: “The great man…gazed at Hyacinth over his spectacles (he seemed rather more occupied with him than with the patient)” (p. 369). Perhaps the differentiation on which James insists, both in the novel and in its preface, reflects his own unwillingness to undergo the kind of surveillance imposed with increasing fixity by the new “spectacles” of medicalized discipline. In any event, despite James’s avowed affinities with Hyacinth, his relationship to this character often resembles a disappearing act.

Having indicated the outlines of that relationship, I turn now to James’s next novel, The Tragic Muse, where vulgarity, no longer mitigated, as in Hyacinth, by virtue of being mixed with “refinement,” takes center stage, and where, as a result, James’s defensive disappearing act—and I am aware of the paradoxical implications of the term—becomes more systematic and elaborate. It is not a question here merely of exposing James’s anxiety, of transforming him from an adroit practitioner of self-embarrassment to an unwitting case of male hysteria. Though the contradictions we observe in the author’s discourse may look at first like so many symptomatic gaffes, they may turn out to be sophisticated new techniques in the repertory of embarrassment. For if James seems to want to avoid embarrassment here, that very “desire” might in fact promote embarrassment. The major difference between the present chapter and the previous one is that, whereas I was concerned there with the strategic value of embarrassment, I will be paying greater attention here to its affective content. I will try, that is, to convey some of the experience of embarrassment for Henry James as he revises his always-already revisionary novel of 1890.

In his history of antitheatricalism through the ages, Jonas Barish identifies The Tragic Muse (1890) as a major instance of nineteenth-century protheatricalism. Where earlier novels like Mansfield Park, Vanity Fair, Villette, and Daniel Deronda use the theatrical temperament to represent duplicity and ontological indeterminacy, The Tragic Muse celebrates actors and acting, and demonstrates affectionate respect for the art form at which James would soon fail so dismally. Many other nineteenth-century novels with theatrical themes tend to view the theater as their demonic other, so that it comes to stand not only for various kinds of moral inadequacy, but also as a foil, a negative backdrop, for the novel itself as an artistic form. Barish argues that James, however, “links the fate of the theater firmly with that of all the arts, makes the theater into a paradigmatic case for the arts, and sees society’s downgrading of it as a symptom of its hostility to art in any form that presumes to be serious.”[5]

In his preface to The Tragic Muse, James underlines the paradigmatic status of the theater in his text, but he does not do so in quite the same spirit that Barish’s account would suggest.

The late R. L. Stevenson was to write to me, I recall—and precisely on the occasion of The Tragic Muse—that he was at a loss to conceive how one could find interest in anything so vulgar or pretend to gather fruit in so scrubby an orchard; but the view of a creature of the stage, the view of the “histrionic temperament,” as suggestive much less, verily, in respect to the poor stage per se than in respect to “art” at large, affected me in spite of that as justly tenable.

What is at stake in this metaphorization is the possibility of refining the “vulgar” literality of “the poor stage per se” out of the theatrical theme, so that what remains can be appropriated as a “suggestive” paradigm of “ ‘art’ at large.” Once purified as metaphor, the theatrical theme is no longer susceptible to Stevenson’s reproach. For on the thematic level the metaphor itself now becomes, as it were, a stage for its own technical or formal assimilation, an assimilation whose product is what critics will call James’s scenic method or dramatic mode.

Indeed, many critics have followed James in identifying The Tragic Muse as a pivotal text in his career, since it combines his older, painterly approach with a newer, more dramatic one.[6] Earlier in the preface, James explains how this formal innovation centers on the novel’s most prominent “creature of the stage,” the actress Miriam Rooth:

The emphasis is all on an absolutely objective Miriam, and, this affirmed, how—with such an amount of exposed subjectivity all round her—can so dense a medium be a centre?…Miriam is central then to analysis, in spite of being objective; central in virtue of the fact that the whole thing has visibly, from the first, to get itself done in dramatic, or at least in scenic conditions—though scenic conditions which are as near an approach to the dramatic as the novel may permit itself and which have this in common with the latter, that they move in the light of alternation. This imposes a consistency other than that of the novel at its loosest, and for one’s subject, a different view and a different placing of the centre. The charm of the scenic consistency, the consistency of the multiplication of aspects, that of making them amusingly various, had haunted the author of The Tragic Muse from far back.

In posing the initial question as to how a character as dense or opaque as Miriam can function as a center, James calls attention to the contrast between his more famous “centers of consciousness” and the “absolutely objective” center exemplified by this dramatic protagonist, whom we never “go behind” (1:xvi) but whom we see “in the light of [scenic] alternation” that permits both a “multiplication of aspects” and the tightness of “consistency.” “The sense of a system,” writes James, “saves the painter”—not to mention the dramatically oriented novelist—“from the baseness of the arbitrary stroke” (1:xiv). Any baseness or arbitrariness resulting from the attempt to “do the actress” (1:xvi) disappears once this central figure is seen as motivating a new technical system, as serving a higher purpose than that of mere entertainment. By using the theater as a metaphor for “ ‘art’ at large” and then establishing a second stage to the theatrical metaphor—that is, by constructing the novel itself according to dramatic principles—James completes the process of refining the “vulgarity” out of his theatrical subject and of distinguishing himself from those whose interest is captured by “the poor stage per se.”

Though they interpret James’s use of the dramatic analogy variously, most critics seem to accept his claim for the “consistency” of this method.[7] Fredric Jameson, for example, regards the method as an instrument of conservative mystification—especially compared with Conrad’s narrative strategies—but he assumes its unity and efficacy:

The secondary model which organizes Jamesian point of view is the metaphor and ideal of theatrical representation. As in the development of perspective (itself the end product of a theatrical metaphor), the structural corollary of the point of view of the spectator is the unity of organization of the theatrical space and the theatrical scene; hence the obsessive repetition throughout the nineteenth-century novel of theatrical terms like “scene,” “spectacle,” and “tableau,” which urge on the reader a theater-goer’s position with respect to the content of the narrative. Such terms are also abundant in Conrad, yet they are reappropriated by the perceptual vocation of his style, which undermines the unity of the theatrical metaphor.[8]

Yet the stability of the theatrical metaphor in James is by no means self-evident. One could argue, in fact, that it is unnecessary for Conrad to undermine its “unity,” since James—or a certain powerful insistence in James’s text—has already done so. While the scenic method works to convert the theater into a sufficiently abstract representation of representation, any notion of the formal purity and coherence of “ ‘art’ at large” is destabilized, earlier in the preface, by certain representations of the “largeness” of art, images that call into question the extent to which James has succeeded in transforming the theater from a vulgarly literal milieu into the guarantor of a “consistency other than that of the novel at its loosest.” “It seemed clear,” James admits, “that I needed big cases—small ones would practically give my central idea away; and I make out now my still labouring under the illusion that the case of the sacrifice for art can ever be, with truth, with taste, with discretion involved, apparently and showily ‘big’ ” (1:viii).

Indeed, no sooner has James complained of the risks to “health and safety” posed by certain nineteenth-century novels he calls “large loose baggy monsters, with their queer elements of the accidental and the arbitrary” (1:x), than he implies that The Tragic Muse may come close to joining this unhealthy company: for the looseness of his own literary structure is embodied, ironically, in its central character. Central though Miriam may be, “again and again, perversely, incurably, the centre of my structure would insist on placing itself not, so to speak, in the middle” (1:xi). James attempts to differentiate Miriam from the “vivid monsters” (1:xviii) of Anatole France, who in his Histoire comique has also “ ‘done the actress’ ” (1:xvii). Yet, as the novel’s ostensible center, Miriam lurks somewhere behind or within James’s striking emblematization of his asymmetrical novel as a “loose” monster in its own right:

In very few of my productions, to my eye, has the organic centre succeeded in getting into proper position.

Time after time, then, has the precious waistband or girdle, studded and buckled and placed for brave outward show, practically worked itself, and in spite of desperate remonstrance, or in other words essential counterplotting, to a point perilously near the knees—perilously I mean for the freedom of these parts. (1:xi)[9]

The oddness of James’s evocation of the monstrous text, which “insists,” “perversely,” on finding its own place, and whose waistband or girdle “works itself” out of proper position, suggests that this beast enjoys a certain autonomy, acting against its creator’s better judgment. It is as if the “creature of the stage” somehow resisted James’s attempt to dignify her as the presiding genius of the novel’s compositional procedure and “insisted” instead on a more unsettling kind of centrality, a centrality characterized by the very largeness, looseness, bagginess, and monstrosity that James attempts to preclude by turning the theater into a metaphor for “ ‘art’ at large.”[10] Here is a center that wanders from its assigned post, pervading and disfiguring the text that tries to master it. Far from being insufficiently central, this creature is too central—central to the point of incorporating the text and remaking it in its own image. Where James had hoped to achieve the “charm of…scenic consistency” and the beauty of formal control, he confronts instead the meretricious spectacle of an “outward show” much too “showily ‘big.’ ”

But it would be a mistake to conclude that this return-of-the-repressed, this reinstatement of theatrical vulgarity on the level of the novel’s very form, represents a failure of metaphor, whereby the delicately figurative or spiritual ideal (“ ‘art’ at large”) gives way to the brute force of the literal (“the poor stage per se”). Rather, James presents a more complex version here of the relationship between the figurative and the literal, in which figurative language is no longer opposed to, but implicated in, the baseness of the literal; metaphor is no longer charmingly aloof from the “queer elements of the accidental and the arbitrary” but inhabited by them from the outset. For example, James’s image for the novel’s extravagance—the figure en déshabillé—is not only an extravagant figure in its own right, with its showy syntax and its irrepressible imagery: it also displays the convergence of figure-as-rhetorical-trope with figure-as-bodily-form, where both body and trope are at once theatrically vivid and theatrically mediated, bound up flamboyantly in a “waistband or girdle, studded and buckled and placed for brave outward show.”

Given the theatricality of metaphor, it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish the figural force of James’s theatrical metaphor from the literality of the theater. Thus, his statement, “the centre of my structure would insist on placing itself not, so to speak, in the middle”—an apparent affirmation of a split between the literal (the middle) and the figurative (the center)—has to invoke the figurative indirection of “so to speak” to name that literal term. No wonder, then, that in looking back at The Tragic Muse James refers to it as “the maimed or slighted, the disfigured or defeated, the unlucky or unlikely child” (1:vi). For the novel, like its preface, is precisely about the dis-figuration that results when a certain ideology of metaphor or figurative language—an ideology that supports in turn a highly metaphysical abstraction of “ ‘art’ at large”—breaks down.[11] Both The Tragic Muse and its preface exhibit the dis-figuring effects of novel-writing itself, an activity that not only engenders monsters but also threatens to uncover a certain “monstrosity” in the unlucky parent.

What James, in the passage cited above, calls “desperate remonstrance” or “essential counterplotting” is nothing other than a system designed to ensure his own “health and safety” by deflecting this threat. But when James points out that “the sense of a system” triumphs over the base and the arbitrary, he also admits that “it was but half a system” to rely on Miriam to accomplish such a task: “That device was to ask for as much help as it gave” (1:xiv). For if James “delight[s]…in an organic form” (1:x), the “form” of Miriam Rooth turns out to be “organic” in ways that James cannot regulate or normalize into a coherent counterplot or strategy of resistance to the novel’s decentering or disfiguring force. The problem is that, although Miriam may assist in this counterplot, she also serves as the “medium” that conducts the monstrous theatricality, against which that defensive system is directed, from the literal into the figural realm. The monstrosity transmitted from her “form” to the “form” of the novel as a whole keeps drifting toward the “form” of Henry James, who would play the role of external author-subject to Miriam’s “absolutely objective” character, but who repeatedly finds himself imperiled by the baseness and arbitrariness embodied in his own inescapably theatrical metaphors.[12]

Four years after he wrote The Tragic Muse, James complained to his brother William about the “humiliations and vulgarities and disgusts” he was then enduring as a remarkably unsuccessful playwright: “The whole odiousness of the thing lies in the connection between the drama and the theatre. The one is admirable in its interest and difficulty, the other loathsome in its conditions.”[13] In The Tragic Muse James attempts to evade the “odiousness” of that “connection” by ridding the theater of its unpleasantly literal “conditions” so that it can be incorporated, thematically and technically, into the higher form of the novel.

Many critics have noted that The Tragic Muse situates the theater among other, competing modes of representation, and that much of its interest derives from James’s ordering of these modes—novelistic, pictorial, even political—in relation to one another.[14] As would-be emblem of the novel’s “dramatic” method, Miriam occupies a central position in the text, but this very centrality indicates her intermediate status on James’s ethico-aesthetic scale, where her artistry stands below that of the novelist or painter but above that of the politician. Gabriel Nash, the text’s resident novelist-critic-aesthete, best articulates this aesthetic hierarchy. When Nash calls acting “the lowest of the arts,” and Peter Sherringham asks, “Lower than politics?,” Nash replies: “Dear no, I won’t say that. I think the Théâtre Français a greater institution than the House of Commons” (1:55).[15] But then, to complete the scale, Nash delivers his opinion on the institution of the theater in general, condemning its dependence upon

the omnium gatherum of the population of a big commercial city at the hour of the day when their taste is at its lowest, flocking out of hideous hotels and restaurants, gorged with food, stultified with buying and selling and with all the other sordid preoccupations of the age, squeezed together in a sweltering mass, disappointed in their seats, timing the author, timing the actor, wishing to get their money back on the spot—all before eleven o’clock. Fancy putting the exquisite before such a tribunal as that! There’s not even a question of it. The dramatist wouldn’t if he could, and in nine cases out of ten he couldn’t if he would. He has to make the basest concessions. One of his principal canons is that he must enable his spectators to catch the suburban trains, which stop at 11:30. What would you think of any other artist—the painter or the novelist—whose governing forces should be the dinner and the suburban trains?…What can you do with a character, with an idea, with a feeling, between dinner and the suburban trains? You can give a gross rough sketch of them, but how little you touch them, how bald you leave them! What crudity compared with what the novelist does!

Amplifying James’s notion of the vulgarity of the “poor stage per se”, Nash identifies the contemporary theater as a site of degrading intercourse, of an oppressively close and insistent physicality: the philistine modern audience is notable primarily for its sensual overindulgence—imaged as overeating—and for its “sordidly” commercial associations. The dramatist, for his part, must pander to its appetites, squeezing himself into the structures of capitalist reality, neatly condensed here as the inevitabilities of “dinner and the suburban trains.” And if the dramatist is a pander, the implications for the social and economic status of the actress are clear. Where he can at least hide behind the scenes, her contact with the “sweltering” masses is more compromisingly direct.

The novelist and the painter suffer no such exposure. But if, by the end of Nash’s speech, the painter has implicitly dropped into second place, leaving only the novelist completely immune from the “crudity” of the age, this differentiation may have something to do with the fact that the kind of painting represented in this novel is portraiture, of which Nash says, albeit approvingly, that it “offer[s] a double vision” (2:52), one that reveals the painter as well as the subject painted. At its most essential, however, art is supposed to be characterized by singleness, solitude, and autonomy. Hence James’s remark in the preface about the difficulty of depicting the true artist:

The most charming thing about the preference for art is that to parade abroad so thoroughly inward and so naturally embarrassed a matter is to falsify and vulgarise it;…under the rule of its sincerity, its only honours are those of contraction, concentration and a seemingly deplorable indifference to everything but itself. Nothing can well figure as less “big,” in an honest thesis, than a marked instance of someone’s willingness to pass mainly for an ass.

Especially in light of our discussion in the previous chapter, this distinction between embarrassment and vulgarity may strike us as being somewhat tenuous: it is as though James had concluded that, since embarrassment is inevitable, the best he can hope for is to be “naturally embarrassed.” But the point here seems to be that, if the novelist cannot help “pass[ing] mainly for an ass,” he thus gets to turn his back on the vulgar parade that others must join. Eschewing all figurative “bigness,” the novelist is the least theatrical of artists. Instead of being ruled by the constraints of “dinner and the suburban trains,” he obeys only the “rule” of “sincerity” and the dictates of “honesty.” The “indifferent” novelist stands alone, answerable only to himself. Even the portrait-painter, in the apparent seclusion of his studio, finds himself forced outward into a kind of intercourse with otherness and difference, insofar as he must submit to the doubling of his vision. The hierarchy that James has Nash suggest, then, points to the aesthetic supremacy of the novelist who defines this hierarchy in the first place.[16]

James himself seeks to emplot—or, as he would have it, to counterplot—this distancing of his artistry as a novelist from that of the artists within his novel, by having them try to distance themselves from the vulgarity of their own lesser arts. Thus, Miriam must develop from an “artlessly rough” (1:130) and “rude” (1:131) theatrical novice into an “exquisite” dramatic “revelation” (2:430) as Juliet, and Nick Dormer must give up his political career for the nobler calling of the portrait-painter. Together, the “theatrical case” (1:ix) and the “political case” (1:ix) should illustrate “the conflict between art and ‘the world’ ” (1:v). As they advance arduously from “ ‘the world’ ” to “art,” Nick and Miriam—especially Miriam, since her chosen art form straddles the line dividing the “loathsome” theater from the “admirable” drama—should dilate the distance between their creator and the vulgar entanglements from which he labors to extricate them. Snatching Nick from “ ‘the world’ ” and pointing him toward “art,” saving Miriam from the theater and training her for the drama, James stages a “conflict” whose terms reinforce his own singular authenticity.

But just as the outrageously “affected” (1:173) Nash may seem too much like James at times, so Nick and Miriam—especially Miriam—threaten to abbreviate, rather than expand, the distance between James and a “world” from which he would “contract.” And just as many critics strive to reassert the ironically stabilized differences between James and Nash, so James himself deploys the counterplot of aesthetic development and refinement against the risk of his own infection by vulgarity. In describing the task shared by Nick and Miriam as one of “postponing the ‘world’ to their conception of other and finer decencies” (1:xvii), the author describes the role of the counterplot as well: difference and deference are underwritten by narrative deferment, by a more or less “desperate” putting-off of the “world” designed to look like a transcendence of the world’s base and arbitrary conditions.[17] For James to present the counterplot as one of deferment is for him to recognize the danger of his own implication in the theatrical “plot” against which that counterplot struggles, a plot whose dangerous theatricality is embodied in Miriam Rooth.

James took the title of the novel from Reynolds’s portrait of Sarah Siddons, and at several points in the text Miriam is compared to that other Jewish actress, the legendary Rachel Félix.[18] At the beginning of the novel, however, any comparison between Miriam and such luminaries seems inconceivable. “Notez bien,” says Madame Carré, the great actress whom Miriam engages as a tutor, “Rachel wasn’t a grosse bête” (1:133). Yet, as Peter Sherringham recalls, Miriam “had looked slightly bête even when [he]…said to Nick Dormer that she was the image of the Tragic Muse” (1:190). The early Miriam combines overtones of stupidity, even perhaps of beastliness, and of a subtle but undeniable sexual immodesty, to yield an image of the monstrosity her aesthetic education will have to dispel. This implication of sexual impropriety is most evident in Sherringham’s obsessive and ambivalent reflections on the actress:

It struck him abruptly that a woman whose only being was to “make believe,” to make believe she had any and every being you might like and that would serve a purpose and produce a certain effect, and whose identity resided in the continuity of her personations, so that she had no moral privacy, as he phrased it to himself, but lived in a high wind of exhibition, of figuration—such a woman was a kind of monster in whom of necessity there would be nothing to “be fond” of, because there would be nothing to take hold of. He felt for a moment how simple he had been not to have achieved before this analysis of the actress. The girl’s very face made it vivid to him now—the discovery that she positively had no countenance of her own, but only the countenance of the occasion, a sequence, a variety—capable possibly of becoming immense—of representative movements…. The expression that came nearest belonging to her, as it were, was the one that came nearest being a blank—an air of inanity when she forgot herself in some act of sincere attention.

This monstrous woman whom one cannot “take hold of” looks in many ways like a more “vivid” or more particularized incarnation of the large loose baggy novel that its author can barely hold together. Juxtaposed with this passage from the novel, the description of the figure in the fallen waistband or girdle begins to assume a sexual specificity that James’s indeterminate language occludes, and the fallen girdle suggests the garment appropriate to a fallen woman or a woman of “loose” virtue: a woman like Miriam who can “make believe she had any and every being you might like.” Though essentially “blank,” Miriam confronts Sherringham with a disquieting potential for “immensity” that recalls the uncontrollable text and thus inscribes the novel’s technical or structural problem in a more “strikingly” anxious context. Indeed, in this light, James’s remark that the garment has “worked itself…to a point perilously near the knees,” with its curious qualification, “—perilously I mean for the freedom of these parts,” takes on a more plausibly nervous tone, as if to hint that James is more concerned about the parts that might be exposed than about the parts that might be constrained. To all the other attributes that make Miriam “a kind of monster,” then, we may add one more—a theatrical tendency to conflate the form-giving ideal of “figuration” with the fraudulence of “personation,” so that the loftier ambitions of representation are reduced to the cheapness of “exhibition.”

With her initial air of aesthetic and sexual impropriety, Miriam is just a notch above the politician, who offers the most egregious affront to the novel’s notion of representation. James indicates the stigma attached to political representation when he allows Nick to define the profession he will eventually abandon:

It’s an appeal to everything that for one’s self one despises…to stupidity, to ignorance, to prejudice, to the love of hollow idiotic words, of shutting the eyes tight and making a noise. Do men who respect each other or themselves talk to each other that way? They know they’d deserve kicking! A man would blush to say to himself in the darkness of the night the things he stands up on a platform in the garish light of day to stuff into the ears of a multitude whose intelligence he pretends he rates high.

If, as Sherringham says, one “half” of Miriam’s profession is “brilliant” while “the other’s frankly odious” (2:199)—the brilliant half corresponding to the “admirable” drama and the odious half to the “loathsome” theater—the “detestable side” (1:xxi) is contiguous with the irredeemable world of politics, wherein, as Nick’s remarks imply, theatricality becomes virtually synonymous with prostitution. For the politician “stands on a platform in the garish light of day” and “pretends” sympathy for a “multitude”; “shutting the eyes tight and making a noise,” he enacts a travesty of love. And what he “loves,” or pretends to love, is itself a travesty, a perversion of language into “names and phrases” and “hollow idiotic words.” In his “appeal to…stupidity,” this bête epitomizes monstrosity as an aberration at once intellectual, sexual, and rhetorical.

As the narrative of The Tragic Muse unfolds, the “brilliant” side of the actress should gradually eclipse her “odious” side: she should move further away from the politician and closer to the novelist, just as the (reluctant) politician in the novel rises to the rank of painter. Yet her association with political grandstanding—with theatricality at its worst—never quite disappears, so that her “brilliance” always seems a bit too close to mere “garishness.” Even on the verge of her triumph as Juliet, when she ends up apotheosized as an “incarnation” uttering the “truest divinest music that had ever poured from tragic lips” (2:430), she reminds us of her earlier, more palpably carnal self, of the “strange girl” who thinks that to act is “to go and exhibit one’s self to a loathsome crowd, on a platform, with trumpets and a big drum, for money—to parade one’s body and one’s soul” (1:162). It is as if, even as Miriam begins to deserve the comparison with Rachel Félix, she could degenerate into that other, presumably “great” Jewish precursor, Sarah Bernhardt, of whom James writes, in another context: “She has in a supreme degree what the French call the génie de la réclame—the advertising genius; she may, indeed, be called the muse of the newspaper.”[19] Here is the Tragic Muse in her penultimate dramatic triumph, as observed by a starstruck Peter Sherringham:

Miriam had never been more present to him than at this hour; but she was inextricably transmuted—present essentially as the romantic heroine she represented. His state of mind was of the strangest and he was conscious of its strangeness, just as he was conscious in his very person of a lapse of resistance which likened itself absurdly to liberation. He felt weak at the same time that he felt inspired, and he felt inspired at the same time that he knew, or believed he knew, that his face was a blank. He saw things as a shining confusion, and yet somehow something monstrously definite kept surging out of them. Miriam was a beautiful actual fictive impossible young woman of a past age, an undiscoverable country, who spoke in blank verse and overflowed with metaphor, who was exalted and heroic beyond all human convenience and who yet was irresistibly related to one’s own affairs.

If, even at this late stage, Miriam still suggests “something monstrously definite,” we can see why James calls the remonstrance of his counterplotting “desperate.” This “monstrously definite” substance neither coincides with nor cancels out the sense of “shining confusion,” because Miriam, like Lucy Snowe at her most histrionic, possesses an uncanny plasticity that flouts the either/or logic of realistic mimesis. That this defiance has an erotically illicit undercurrent appears in Miriam’s overpowering influence on her ecstatic beholder. Admittedly, she no longer strikes us—or Sherringham—as either stupid or vulgar. Yet her monstrosity persists, as a rhetorical transgression manifested in her “overflow[ing] with metaphor.” From the point of view of the counterplot, metaphor is not supposed to overflow, but to stay within bounds—indeed, to reinforce the bounds between theatricality and “ ‘art’ at large.” What thwarts the counterplot here is not just the skewing of the narrative line that would trace a progression from vulgarity to sublimity: in addition to diminishing the proper distance between the novel’s beginning and its end, Miriam’s overflow crosses the line separating male spectator from female performer, subject from object.

As William R. Goetz notes, Miriam “upsets the duality upon which representation is normally based.”[20] For Sherringham now exhibits many of the same peculiarities that he noticed in Miriam when he performed his “analysis of the actress.” Miriam appeared there in the dazzling light of contradiction: on the one hand, she had “any and every being you might like,” and suggested a “variety—capable possibly of becoming immense”; on the other hand, because she lacked “moral privacy” she offered “nothing to ‘be fond’ of” and “nothing to take hold of,” and “had no countenance of her own,” except for an expression resembling “a blank—an air of inanity.”[21] Here, Sherringham’s own face becomes “a blank,” a receptive surface on which the contradictory effects of theatricality are inscribed: acknowledging a “lapse of resistance” which at the same time feels like “liberation,” feeling at once “weak” and “inspired,” seeing things as both “a shining confusion” and yet at the same time “somehow…monstrously definite,” the spectator now becomes the site of the very oscillation between lack and excess that he found in his loved and dreaded object. His body, like hers, has become a text. And if, by dint of these oxymoronic constructions, the “beautiful actual fictive impossible” actress always seems both “irresistibly real” or “vivid” and strangely “make[-]believe” or “inextricably transmuted” into a “heroic” figure “beyond all human convenience,” the spectator himself is now affected by this same inconveniently and distinctively theatrical doubleness, in which “his state of mind [is] of the strangest and he [is] conscious of its strangeness.”[22]

Yet James by no means celebrates this “shining confusion.” For all the brilliance and energy of this passage, it occurs alongside others that characterize Miriam’s metaphorical overflow in more stringent terms. Where James calls Sarah Bernhardt “the muse of the newspaper,” Gabriel Nash offers his own “joyous amused amusing”—and condescending—vision of Miriam as the “predestined mistress” of the “roaring deafening newspaperism of the period”:

Gabriel brushed in a large bright picture of her progress through the time and round the world, round it and round it again, from continent to continent and clime to clime; with populations and deputations, reporters and photographers, placards and interviews and banquets, steamers, railways, dollars, diamonds, speeches and artistic ruin all jumbled into her train. Regardless of expense the spectacle would be and thrilling, though somewhat monotonous, the drama—a drama more bustling than any she would put on the stage and a spectacle that would beat everything for scenery.

The interest of this passage lies in its displacement and reversal of the image of Miriam as the novel’s center. Instead of being the stabilizing object around which everything turns, Miriam herself does the turning here, in a dizzying “progress through the time and round the world, round it and round it again.” Miriam’s aesthetic progress now takes on the mock-apocalyptic guise of a bizarre, pointless, unending revolution. Moreover, this confused and confusing circulation—much like that of a newspaper—indicates a rhetorical disorder, where the paradigmatic discourse of metaphor has deteriorated into an indiscriminately heterogeneous contiguity: Miriam becomes a destructive force, arbitrarily dragging “the world” along in her touring company, mixing up linguistic with non-linguistic forms of transport, verbal with nonverbal forms of exchange, whirling around with “reporters and photographers, placards and interviews and banquets, steamers, railways, dollars, diamonds, speeches and artistic ruin all jumbled into her train.” This “jumble” makes her triumphant overflow look like a perversion of metaphor into metonymy, a displacement that undoes the hierarchical and idealizing perspective of metaphor itself. If metaphor establishes a stable relationship between the fictive and the real, this displacement allows for the fluidity of relations that her “overflow” effects.[23]

For the “drama” and “spectacle” of her career will be more “bustling” and “scenic” than any of her real productions—if it makes sense to speak of “real productions” when the difference between the real and the fictional, between ground and figure, has succumbed to the general “artistic ruin.” Symptoms of the “artistic ruin” that Nash sees Miriam as effecting can be found in the “shining confusion” that theatricalizes Peter Sherringham as he watches her perform; for though this seems, on the one hand, like a tribute to Miriam’s heroic talent, it serves on the other hand as a sign of her disruptive potential, a sign that she might pull other characters besides Sherringham into her monstrous entourage.

Those who would object that this reading is predicated upon Nash’s antitheatrical prejudice, which James himself does not endorse, may wish to exempt the author less from Nash’s antitheatricalism than from the theatrical way in which he chooses to express it. For Nash, too, resembles Miriam insofar as his pronouncements about the importance of “style,” and about the need to protect it from the vulgar public, strike other characters—including Miriam—as exercises in “histrionics” (1:208).[24] Nash’s mysterious disappearance near the end of the novel, when he vanishes “without a trace” (2:412), just as his image is beginning to fade from the canvas where Nick is painting his portrait, may in fact identify him as the novel’s scapegoat, who must be punished and expelled for advertising a theatricality that other characters exhibit as well.[25] Indeed, Nash, whom many in the novel consider a “mere farceur” (1:170), is no less immune from this theatricality than is Sherringham—or even Nick Dormer, who at one point late in the story turns against portraiture because even the works of its greatest practitioners fall short of “the idea” and become mere “performances.”[26]

The desire to restrict this theatricality betokens a similar nostalgia for “the idea”—the idea of the omnipotent author and of the unified work of art. When Miriam overflows with metaphor, it seems as if she authored those metaphors in the very process of uttering them. And if the actress appears to usurp the authorial prerogative, her author may begin to look like an uncontrollable performer. Indeed, certain critics would deny what James himself acknowledges—that the text’s monstrous overflow results from his own “vice,” a “particular vice of the artistic spirit” (1:xi). If James encourages their nostalgia, it is in the wake of Miriam’s more spectacular metaphoric overflow, which washes away any solid ground on which authors and characters alike might take absolute or unambiguous stands.[27]

Nash merely elaborates, then, upon what Sherringham recognizes much earlier, when he says to Miriam (as Daniel Deronda might have said to his mother): “Your feigning may be honest in the sense that your only feeling is your feigned one. That’s what I mean by the absence of a ground or of intervals. It’s a kind of thing that’s a labyrinth!” (1:211). In the absence of a ground, it becomes extremely difficult to posit, with Nash, the polarity of the “dull, dense, literal prose” (1:170) of everyday life on the one hand and “our treatment of the material, our rendering of the text, our style” (1:172–73) on the other.[28] The integrity of what Nash calls “one’s form” (1:173) is compromised by a monstrous rhetoricity that overflows from Miriam to pervade the novel’s dramatis personae—including even its non-artistic characters—and to encroach upon the high ground staked out by the novelist himself.[29]

Thus, when Sherringham exclaims, “It’s a kind of thing that’s a labyrinth,” he might be describing not so much Miriam herself as her effect on the structure of the novel as a whole: the neuter “it” points to a less narrowly personal and more widely textual concern. By representing metaphor as something more like metonymy, Miriam enacts the breakdown of James’s hierarchically oriented theatrical metaphor into a trope of promiscuity—a trope that casts all the novel’s artists, as well as some of its critics, as “jumbled” composites of the arbitrarily figurative and the basely literal. The theatrical metaphor, despite its initial purpose, ends up inscribing upon those characters the “grosser signs” (as Nash would say; see 1:34) of theatrical self-display.[30] For the text in which Miriam performs as a perversely decentering center demonstrates not how the art of the novel absorbs and reorganizes other art forms, but how the notion of “ ‘art’ at large” shifts toward a transgressive theatricality that affects and redefines all modes of representation. If the resulting “system” is syntagmatic rather than paradigmatic, labyrinthine rather than hierarchical, this revision forces us to expand our understanding of how the various representational practices in the novel interact in a context not merely “artistic” but social as well.

For just as Miriam’s spectacularly inclusive orbit conjoins the aesthetic with the journalistic and the commercial, so her transgression of the line between the stage and the audience figures the power of theatricality to render problematic the very division between art and “the world” that the counterplot seeks to maintain. In an essay written ten years before The Tragic Muse, James acknowledges these implications of theatricality, without concealing his dismay. Lamenting the rampant theatricalization of everyday life, he writes:

It sometimes seems to an observer of English customs that this interest in histrionic matters almost reaches the proportion of a mania. It pervades society—it breaks down barriers. If you go to an evening party, nothing is more probable than that all of a sudden a young lady or a young gentleman will jump up and strike an attitude and begin to recite a poem or speech. Every pretext for this sort of exhibition is ardently cultivated, and the London world is apparently filled with stage-struck young persons whose relatives are holding them back from a dramatic career by the skirts of their garments. Plays and actors are perpetually talked about, private theatricals are incessant, and members of the dramatic profession are “received” without restriction. They appear in society, and the people of society appear on the stage; it is as if the great gate which formerly divided the theatre from the world had been lifted off its hinges. There is, at any rate, such a passing to and fro as has never been known; the stage has become amateurish and society has become professional.…It is part of a great general change which has come over English manners—of the confusion of many things which forty years ago were kept very distinct. The world is being steadily democratized and vulgarized, and literature and art give their testimony to the fact. The fact is better for the world perhaps, but I question greatly whether it is better for art and literature.[31]

Theatricality, in this vision, democratizes and vulgarizes “society,” stretching it to the vastness of “the world.” Almost thirty years later, in the preface to The Tragic Muse, James returns to this theme, but in tones of bemusement reminiscent of Gabriel Nash:

There had hovered before me some possible picture (but all comic and ironic) of one the most salient of London “social” passions, the unappeasable curiosity for the things of the theatre; for every one of them, that is, except the drama itself, and for the “personality” of the performer (almost any performer quite sufficiently serving) in particular. This latter, verily, had struck me as an aspect appealing mainly to satiric treatment; the only adequate or effective treatment, I had again and again felt, for most of the distinctively social aspects of London: the general artlessly histrionised air of things caused so many examples to spring from behind any hedge.

This “possible picture” of an abandoned approach to the theatrical subject appears, like much of the preface, to continue the effort to protect the novelist from the contamination of theatricality. The passage calls up the forgotten “germ” (1:v) of the work, reconstructing the dream of a privileged novelistic site, one unpolluted by the “general artlessly histrionised air of things” that would nonetheless constitute the novel’s subject matter. Here, the almost maniacal “interest in histrionic matters” would remain safely quarantined behind the cordon sanitaire of “satiric treatment,” sealed off in such a way that it can do no damage to the “health and safety” of the satirist himself.

Whether or not the novel treats the theatrical passion satirically, it inscribes the monstrous confusion of the formal (“treatment”) with the literal (“matters”) as a recurrent feature of its plot; and while the characters who inhabit it keep getting “histrionised,” this theatricalization keeps threatening to reveal their producer as another “thing of the theatre” himself. In fact, in its rehearsal of The Tragic Muse, the preface at once anticipates and reenacts the novel’s search for refuge from this taint of theatricality: a refuge in which James could escape the most reprehensible of “ ‘social’ passions”—the passion “for the ‘personality’ of the performer (almost any performer quite sufficiently serving).” Refusing to be “histrionised” (even artfully so), James would withdraw from the social in the broadest and most unnervingly comprehensive sense of the term. For he pictures society as an immense theater, in which passions play themselves out none-too-exclusively, and in which he himself could figure as merely one more “performer” at the service of a promiscuous public.[32]

After Nick has painted Miriam as the Tragic Muse, she suggests that he do another portrait of her, this time as the Comic Muse. Sherringham, however, objects: “The Comic Muse? Never, never.…You’re not to go smirking through the age and down to posterity—I’d rather see you as Medusa crowned with serpents. That’s what you look like when you look best” (2:215–16). Yet for Miriam to “look best” as Medusa is precisely for her to function as the comic muse, since this comparison partakes of a scenario as reassuringly “comic and ironic” as the satirical project James recollects in the preface. Sherringham is not alone in adverting facetiously to this “mild Medusa” (2:336): Nick Dormer, for his part, enjoys characterizing her as “the dishevelled actress” (2:423), or, more archly, as “the dishevelled one.”[33] Indeed, as a result of the novel’s counterplotting, one has trouble knowing just how seriously to take these evocations of Miriam’s monstrosity.

It is precisely this indeterminacy, however, that the counterplot works to achieve. For the urbane irony with which James invokes the stereotype of woman as “the demon, the devil, the devourer and destroyer” (2:254) does not make his remonstrance any the less desperate: the suavely comic tone of the references plays a crucial role in an elaborate defensive process, one that James executes adroitly but that he by no means invents. The image of Medusa, as Neil Hertz has shown, links a surprising number of texts by nineteenth-century male writers, and articulates a veritable canon of apotropaic counterplots.[34] Though not mentioned by Hertz, James’s anatomy of the actress displays the very features that make the Medusa oddly attractive—rather than merely terrifying—to male writers of the age. Just as Miriam is “a kind of monster” because she combines excess (of “personations”) with lack (of “moral privacy”), so the decapitated Medusa—as Hertz develops Freud’s and Jean Laplanche’s remarks on the subject—images at once an overabundance of snaky or phallic hair and the “castration” of the female genitalia. “The symbol of the Medusa’s head is reassuring” to male writers, Hertz observes, “not only because its elements can be read in those ways, but because it is a symbol.”[35]

Explaining in the preface why Miriam looms so large in the novel, James writes:

The idea of the book being, as I have said, a picture of some of the personal consequences of the art-appetite raised to intensity, swollen to voracity, the heavy emphasis falls where the symbol of some of the complications so begotten might be made (as I judged, heaven forgive me!) most “amusing”: amusing I mean in the blest very modern sense. I never “go behind” Miriam; only poor Sherringham goes, a great deal, and Nick Dormer goes a little, and the author, while they so waste wonderment, goes behind them: but none the less she is as thoroughly symbolic, as functional, for illustration of the idea, as either of them, while her image had seemed susceptible of a livelier and “prettier” concretion. I had desired for her, I remember, all manageable vividness—so ineluctable had it long appeared to “do the actress,” to touch the theatre, to meet that connexion somehow or other, in any free plunge of the speculative fork into the contemporary social salad.

Here, James recontains Miriam’s showy bigness under the rubric of “symbolic…illustration.” Though inflated until she mirrors the “gorged audience” of Gabriel Nash’s diatribe, Miriam, in her immensity, now emblematizes a robust plenitude of meaning. Instead of embodying a perilous and distressing vulgarity, Miriam permits an “amusing” specificity, a “ ‘prettier’ concretion,” and a “manageable vividness.” “Pretty” though she may be, Miriam offers the added—or programmatically necessary—attraction of an almost Rabelaisian ribaldry: as symbol, she perforce bears the “heavy emphasis” of “complications…begotten” in the name of “the art-appetite raised to intensity, swollen to voracity,” and remotivated to assume a centrality not exactly metaphorical but no longer loosely metonymic either. James designs a Medusa who is both beauty and beast—at whom the male characters gaze in “wonderment,” but whom we never “go behind.”

It is no accident, moreover, that what Miriam “symbolizes”—the “art-appetite”—reappears at the end of the passage, though in a much lighter, and ostentatiously light-hearted, form: James confides that he had wanted to “do the actress” by means of a “free plunge of the speculative fork into the contemporary social salad.” He acknowledges his own “art-appetite,” but he does so as if to demonstrate its dissimilarity to Miriam’s, its status as a mere figure of speech. By now, however, the neutrality or innocence of figurative expression is highly suspect. Hertz suggests that the Medusa scenario converts figurative language, whose meanings often exceed authorial control, into the “manageable vividness” and “functional” predictability of symbolism: symbolism would serve as a kind of exorcism, restoring the health of male writing by “casting out something that resembles it a bit too closely for comfort.”[36] Thus Miriam’s “art-appetite” swells to voracity so that James’s may seem to shrink from such vulgar and corporeal connotations.

The constitution of Miriam as a symbol, then, permits James to project onto her—and to expel from himself—the twin evils of a certain theatrical expansiveness and a certain rhetorical “bigness.” We recall James’s comment about the “preference for art,” according to which, in its most “natural” form—a form “falsified and vulgarized” by Miriam—the artistic spirit is never “large,” but always “contracted” into itself, utterly free of the expansionistic “vices” that produced novels like The Newcomes, The Three Musketeers, and War and Peace, to name James’s examples of large loose baggy monsters.[37] As long as James can shift the burden of this vice from himself to Miriam, he may recede into the safety and self-containment of his private pursuit, leaving the actress and the novel she represents to circulate among the likes of Thackeray and Dumas and Tolstoy and their bloated, unnaturally embarrassed and embarrassing fictions.

For it is these precursors, among others, whom James would cast out as well. When he insists, as he does so often in his career, that he has that within which passeth show, he disavows not only the theatricality of his own rhetoric, but also the theatricality—the self-exposure, the commercial realities, the aesthetic compromises—imposed upon any novelist publishing at the end of the nineteenth century. Time and again, James speaks of literature and the theater as alternatives, but his writing is haunted by the sense that the two careers have much in common.[38] A number of critics have written interestingly about James’s complex, ambivalent relationship to the dominant traditions of the English, American, and French novel, especially insofar as the overwhelmingly public and popular character of nineteenth-century fiction impinged upon his own ideal of literary vocation.[39] What has not been recognized sufficiently is the extent to which The Tragic Muse and its preface allegorize this predicament. Turning away from the “parade” in which Miriam figures a long line of recent and not-so-recent novelistic “personalities,” James cultivates an inviolable and magisterially free-standing authorial identity, whose only outward sign is its serene “indifference to everything but itself.”

Just as the trade of the actress entails constant intercourse with an overfed audience, and just as the business of the playwright requires all sorts of vitiating concessions to popular taste, so the enterprise of novel-writing involves a host of unwelcome contiguities, not just with unappreciative readers but with other authors as well, authors whom one may resemble “a bit too closely for comfort.” “One must go one’s way and know what one’s about and have a general plan and a private religion,” James wrote to his brother; “—in short have made up one’s mind as to ce qui en est with a public the draggling after simply leads one into the gutter. One always has a ‘public’ enough if one has an audible vibration—even if it should only come from one’s self.”[40] Although these remarks sound like a condemnation of the stage, they were written in the year in which The Tragic Muse was published, and concern the book’s probable commercial failure. But they also hint that, even if the public ignores the book, James will have been theatricalized by his own internal “public” of fellow performers, the “audible” audience installed within himself as an inevitable consequence of his historicity.

The same letter goes on to allude to Milton’s description of Satan’s fallen legions: “Thick as autumnal leaves that strow the Brooks / In Vallombrosa.” This intertextual opening points ironically to the subversion of James’s Satanic desire to appear “self-begot, self-rais’d, by [his] own quick’ning power.” In the more immediate context, of course, it is not Milton who occupies and divides James from himself: it is to the “vibrations” of predecessors and competitors in the art of the novel that James cannot help attending, since these resonances have defined and continue to define his own voice. An echo-chamber filled with other voices and other texts, James’s consciousness emerges as a densely crowded stage: he performs both for and with a thick legion of conspicuously public artists, including Thackeray, Dumas, and Tolstoy, to be sure, but reaching back to Austen and Hawthorne and Balzac, and extending through Trollope and Eliot to Zola and Howells and Mrs. Humphrey Ward.[41] To end with this popular female novelist is to suggest the heterogeneity of influences that renders James himself heterogeneous by constructing his authorial self as a theater overflowing with prior and contemporaneous selves, each profoundly jumbled and histrionized in its turn.

Behind Miriam’s overflow, which James can no more withstand than can Peter Sherringham, we glimpse, then, not some primal anarchic essence of metaphor, but the forces of literary history and social reality. Yet these forces cannot be dissociated from the rhetorical forms in which they present themselves and by means of which they shape the intertextual milieu of nineteenth-century fiction. In an important reading of Daniel Deronda that we discussed in Chapter 5, Catherine Gallagher has shown how women writers in the nineteenth century had to “avoid or transform” the metaphor of the author as prostitute, as agent of circulation rather than of production.[42] Gallagher argues that this metaphor was oddly attractive, despite its obvious disadvantages, because it represented an alternative to the metaphor of the author as father: it helped the woman writer to “evade…any specifically patriarchal authority that her literal and literary forefathers might try to impose, replacing the mystifications of genealogy with the realities of economics.”[43]

Our reading of The Tragic Muse shows how the metaphor of the author as prostitute leads to the notion that the authoring of metaphors is a kind of prostitution in its own right. What does it mean, though, for James to inherit and to engage—if only to fend off—this metaphor? In its belatedness, The Tragic Muse can claim a revisionary novelty, for it interprets the patriarchal trope of genealogy and the (ambiguously) feminist trope of prostitution not as mutually exclusive, but as virtually identical. While James’s textual practice opens not only onto Hertz’s male tradition of naturalizing self-mystification but also onto Gallagher’s female tradition of anti-natural self-commodification, it rewrites each tradition as the other’s uncanny double. Indeed, for Miriam Rooth to become an actress is precisely for her to act out the destiny ordained by her paternal genes: “the Hebraic Mr. Rooth, with his love of old pots and Christian altar-cloths, had supplied in the girl’s composition the aesthetic element, the sense of colour and form” (1:220). Jewish art and Jewish commerce converge in the Name-of-the-Father, which dictates, from the grave, Miriam’s professional itinerary. Likewise, for Nick Dormer to pursue the career of the politician is for him to honor—not to abjure—the “consecrated name” (1:84) imprinted upon him by the “paternal dedication” (1:85) that compels him to follow his father’s footsteps into Parliament.

To be sure, the parallel trajectories of Nick’s and Miriam’s stories seem to promise a way out of this double bind by having the protagonists transcend or repudiate the patriarchal imperative to sell oneself to the public. Yet neither evasion quite succeeds: Miriam ends up marrying her manager, consolidating her status as a commodity even in her apotheosis as the “divinest” Juliet, and Nick ends up giving in to the “bribery” of the politically ambitious Julia Dallow, who seems ready to lure him away from an aesthetic priesthood he has by now reconceptualized, in any case, as a displaced form of theatricality.[44] As Gabriel Nash predicts, Julia will “recapture” Nick as her husband and “swallow [his] profession,” by remaking him as a fashionable amateur painter and setting him up as a “great social institution” (2:406)—exactly what he thought he was renouncing.

Thus, the supposed liberation of the prostitute—fruit of a seed she only seems to scatter—and the supposed autonomy of the male artist—heir to a dubiously empowering legacy—parody and demystify each other. If the plot of The Tragic Muse collapses the distance between patriarchal genealogy and anti-patriarchal economics, this “deconstruction” narrows, instead of broadening, the ground available for a redemptive counterplot: in refiguring literary history, the novel by no means lifts James out of it. Of course, if male and female metaphors prove equally entrapping—and entrappingly equal—there is always androgyny. As David Carroll has noted, James’s prefaces often portray the artist as both father and mother, both disseminating and inseminated by the “germ” that becomes the novel. Carroll also demonstrates, however, that this “artist/father/mother” repeatedly recognizes in its work “the ‘monster’ which has been produced in spite of itself.”[45] Not surprisingly, James classifies the “disfigured” Tragic Muse as a “poor fatherless and motherless, a sort of unregistered and unacknowledged birth” (1:v). Yet this urge to disown the “unlucky” child may stem from a disquieting awareness of a similarity between authorial androgyny and textual monstrosity, a similarity readily suggested by the bisexual Medusa, who may well stand for what James, near the end of his life, would call “that queer monster, the artist.”[46]


1. The passage quoted at the beginning of this chapter appears in Henry James, The Tragic Muse, 2 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1908), 2:410. James is referring to Gabriel Nash, who is about to disappear from the novel, and to fade away from the canvas on which his portrait is being painted. Subsequent references, to both the novel and its preface, will be included parenthetically in the text. In a few instances, I have used the first edition of the novel (1890) where I preferred its phrasing to that of the New York edition. These exceptions will be noted accordingly.

2. Henry James, The Princess Casamassima, ed. Derek Brewer (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1987), p. 109. Subsequent parenthetical references to the novel will be to this edition, which reproduces the text of the 1886 version.

3. On those rare occasions when they do take up the question of Hyacinth’s sexuality, critics tend to display a drearily predictable heterosexist bias. Writing as recently as 1987, for example, Derek Brewer, in his Introduction to the Penguin edition, opines: “Hyacinth fails to realize the full sexual [i.e., heterosexual] desire that would be natural to a lively and reasonably well-fed young man, except when he has cause to be jealous of Paul Muniment with the Princess. He has a kind of impotence” (p. 20).

4. Mark Seltzer, Henry James and the Art of Power (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984). Seltzer’s first chapter (pp. 25–58) is “The Princess Casamassima: Realism and the Fantasy of Surveillance.”

5. Jonas Barish, The Antitheatrical Prejudice (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981), p. 385.

6. See, for example, Robert Falk, “The Tragic Muse: Henry James’s Loosest, Baggiest Novel,” in Themes and Directions in American Literature, ed. R. B. Browne and Donald Pizer (Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Studies, 1969), pp. 148–62; Judith E. Funston, “ ‘All Art Is One’: Narrative Techniques in Henry James’s Tragic Muse,Studies in the Novel 15 (Winter 1983): 344–55; William R. Goetz, “The Allegory of Representation in The Tragic Muse,Journal of Narrative Technique 8 (Fall 1978): 151–64.

7. Some, like Funston, praise James’s use of the dramatic analogy for its conduciveness to the creation of “living, breathing characters”: 352. Others view it as enabling the subterfuge of an “amusingly various” pseudomultiplicity in the service of an authoritarian ideology. In addition to Jameson’s Marxist perspective, see the Foucauldian formulation offered by Seltzer in Henry James, pp. 155–56.

8. Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1981), p. 231.

9. An indication of the uneasiness that The Tragic Muse still inspires in its author is the somewhat cagey obliquity with which he discusses its status in relation to his (other?) decentered “productions”: “As to which in my list they are, however, that is another business, not on any terms to be made known” (1:xi). Despite the aura of mystery James creates here, he spends much of his time in the preface trying to determine the degree to which this novel is or is not adequately centered. Not surprisingly, the results are contradictory: at some points he praises the book’s “unity of tone” (1:vii, 1:xxii), while at others he judges it “false,” “dissembling” (1:xiii), or “imperfect” (1:xiv).

10. John Carlos Rowe notes in The Theoretical Dimensions of Henry James (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1984), that “Miriam is central to analysis only because she permits a certain alternation of relations and an unsettling of the center.” Though I agree with this formulation, I think it important to stress that, for James, “alternation” should not lead inevitably to “unsettling” (p. 247).

11. The term “disfiguration” plays in important role in some of the later essays of Paul de Man. See, for example, “Autobiography as De-facement” and “Shelley Disfigured,” in de Man, The Rhetoric of Romanticism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984), pp. 67–81, and 93–123.

12. The subject of the theater tends to crystalize the particular ambiguity of James’s notion of “form.” For an interesting example of this oscillation between aesthetic and somatic registers, see the letter to his brother William in which he describes the “fever of dramatic production” and the exhilaration it brings: “Now that I have tasted blood, c’est une rage [of determination to do, and triumph, on my part], for I feel at last as if I had found my real form, which I am capable of carrying far, and for which the pale little art of fiction, as I have practised it, has been, for me, but a limited and restricted substitute.” Letters, 4 vols., ed. Leon Edel (Cambridge: Harvard University Press 1974–84) 3:329.

13. Edel, ed., Letters 3:452.

14. Goetz’s essay is particularly rewarding as a discussion of these different representational modes. For Seltzer, Henry James, p. 155, the novel is “virtually an inventory of aesthetic and political modes of representation, and their entanglement.”

15. Significantly, however, Nash chooses a French rather than an English theatrical “institution.” The most aggressive characterization of the difference between the two comes from Miriam’s tutor, the great old actress Madame Carré: “Je ne connais qu’une scène—la nôtre.…I’m assured by every one who knows that there’s no other” (1:122). For James’s comparisons of the Parisian and London stages, see the essays collected in The Scenic Art, ed. Allan Wade (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1948). For an extremely interesting and informative study of James’s views in the context of late-nineteenth-century discussion of the French theater versus the English theater, see D. J. Gordon and John Stokes, “The Reference of The Tragic Muse,” in The Air of Reality: New Essays on Henry James, ed. John Goode (London: Methuen, 1972), especially pp. 127–40.

16. A number of critics have taken special pains to deny any identification of Nash, the artist-critic, with James himself. In doing so, they enforce the differential system whereby a divinely self-contained author, though his attributes are invested judiciously in his various characters, avoids the contamination that affects those characters. See, for example, R. P. Blackmur, Introduction to the Laurel edition of The Tragic Muse, rpt. in Blackmur, Studies in Henry James, ed. Veronica A. Makowsky (New York: New Directions, 1983), pp. 202–12; Oscar Cargill, The Novels of Henry James (New York: Macmillan, 1961), pp. 182–202; Leon Edel, Henry James: The Middle Years, 1882–1895 (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1962), pp. 259–60; Dorothea Krook, The Ordeal of Consciousness in Henry James (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962), pp. 62–105.

17. An interesting and complex issue, but one beyond the scope of the present essay, is that of James’s compulsive use of quotation marks. This ironizing gesture tends to undermine or put into question the literal status of virtually any term, to turn all discourse into endless catachresis. If James can speak both of “ ‘art’ at large” and of “the ‘world,’ ” neither of these supposedly antithetical terms seems clearly literal—or, for that matter, clearly figurative. For provocative discussions of related rhetorical problems in James, see Deborah Esch, “A Jamesian About-Face: Notes on ‘The Jolly Corner,” ELH 50 (Fall 1983): 587–605; William R. Goetz, Henry James: The Darkest Abyss of Romance (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1986); Ruth Bernard Yeazell, Language and Knowledge in the Late Novels of Henry James (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976).

18. For a discussion of James’s use of the Reynolds painting as a compositional model, see Falk, “The Tragic Muse,” in Browne and Pizer, ed., Themes and Directions, pp. 152–53.

19. James, Scenic Art, Wade ed., p. 129. The figure of the Jewish actress looms large in such other novels of theatricality as Villette and Daniel Deronda. Barish, The Antitheatrical Prejudice, pp. 464–69, has an interesting discussion of the conventional association of actors with both Jews and prostitutes. The present chapter is also significantly indebted to Catherine Gallagher, “George Eliot and Daniel Deronda: The Prostitute and the Jewish Question,” in Sex, Politics, and Science in the Nineteenth-Century Novel: Selected Papers from the English Institute, 1983–84, ed. Ruth Bernard Yeazell (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), pp. 39–62. I discuss Gallagher’s reading in the final section of this chapter.

20. Goetz, “Allegory”: 150.

21. The notion of the actor as a paradoxical being has a venerable history. Diderot may be the exemplary theorist in this regard, but Hazlitt would serve as a useful nineteenth-century English instance. Of actors, he wrote, “It is only when they are themselves that they are nothing,” “On Actors and Acting,” in Essays, ed. Rosalind Vallance and John Hampden (London: Folio Society, 1964), p. 23. I am concerned here with the anxieties that may inform this virtually proverbial construction.

22. Just before this extraordinary passage Sherringham hears Nick Dormer remark that Miriam’s face is “finely made up—perhaps a little too much” (2:326). Sherringham’s subsequent meditation on Miriam reveals how a brilliant or “shining” performance overflows the protective boundary between spectacle and audience, implicating the viewer in an exhilarating fictionality that might feel like the garishness, even the vulgarity, of wearing “too much” make-up.

23. Nina Auerbach, Woman and the Demon: The Life of a Victorian Myth (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982), p. 206, sees the Victorian actress as the embodiment of that era’s fascination with the “rich fluidity of self.” I would emphasize that, while James may celebrate this fluidity, he also finds it disturbingly close to dissolution. In a perceptive discussion of James’s criticism of women novelists, Evan Carton writes that James “characterizes ‘the feminine element’ in a series of related ways: it is a ‘turn for color’ rather than for composition, a sensitivity to impression rather than a power of reflection, a ‘fatal gift of fluency’ (James repeatedly describes the feminine style in terms of liquids, fluids, currents)—fatal because it implies for him the effacement of the traceable self in a flood of irrationalism, an inescapable and ultimately incommunicable wave of private impulse.” “Henry James the Critic,” Raritan 5 (1986): 132.

24. For an excellent discussion of the way in which virtually any artistic representation—including Nash’s antitheatrical posturings—is in some sense theatrical, see Gordon and Stokes, “The Reference of The Tragic Muse,” in Goode, ed., The Air of Reality, pp. 86–114.

25. This “disappearance” (2:412) constitutes one of the more extreme, if not exactly terroristic, instances of James’s counterplotting. Nash is made to vanish immediately after he boasts, “I dare say I’m indestructible, immortal” (2:411). It is not clear, however, whether he is punished for claiming an invulnerability that James would reserve for himself alone, or whether his offense is that of making this claim with “such a literal air” ([Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1978], p. 511), and in a manner “so nearly witless” (2:412). Perhaps Nash has exposed too great a similarity between the true artist’s “willingness to pass mainly for an ass” and a vulgar—not to say bête—parody of that same willingness. Whatever its logic, this disappearing act (performed not so much by Nash as on him) is explicitly likened to the kind of thing one might find in “some delicate Hawthorne tale” (2:412). It is as though James wanted to break out of the realistic mode of the novel and to align himself with the precursor whose feelings about the “d——d mob of scribbling women” he knew well. That James also associates this fantastical event with the conventions of “a fairy-tale or a melodrama” (2:412) suggests, however, the persistence of a certain theatricality, alongside or even within a certain delicacy or ethereality.

26. Here, I quote from the 1890 version (ibid., p. 418). For “performances,” the New York edition substitutes the more attenuated and less interesting phrase, “palpable polished ‘toned’ objects” (2:266). Significantly, even when Nick rededicates himself to his painterly calling, he retains the theatrical metaphor: “Art was doing—it came back to that—which politics in most cases weren’t. He thus, to pursue our image, planted his supports in the dimness beneath all cursing, and on the platform so improvised was able, in his relief, to dance” (2:267–68).

27. Significantly, James’s admission that responsibility for the novel’s tendency to overflow its designated formal limits lies not with Miriam or with some mysterious external force but with his own “particular vice” conflicts with his earlier stricture that associates the “preference for art” with self-effacement and inwardness: “to parade abroad so thoroughly inward and so naturally embarrassed a matter is to falsify and vulgarise it” (1:viii). As dramatized in the novel, Miriam’s “parade,” her theatrical effect, exposes the willfulness of any such opposition between the “inward” and the “vulgarised,” between the “natural” and the “falsified.” The overflowing theatricality of Miriam’s metaphors threatens the circumscription of James’s own theatrical metaphor; for anyone who overflows with metaphors as “naturally” as James does risks being pulled along in the “jumble” of Miriam’s train. Given this confused state of affairs, what is to prevent “charmingly” introverted makers of metaphor from jostling against their less “embarrassed” fellows in her entourage? How are we to distinguish artistic virtue from artistic “vice”?

28. When Nash defends his “manner” as “a part of my little system,” but then equates this “manner” with “candour” (1:170), he provides a miniature allegory of how a defensive system, little or big, can end up replicating the very confusion of the literal with the figurative—of “feeling” with “feigning”—that it seeks to forestall.

29. At the end of the novel, for example, Julia Dallow invites Nick, his mother, and his sisters to spend the Christmas holiday at her country estate. In the spirit of this “supremely sociable time,” even the novel’s most dourly and decorously antitheatrical characters are hard put to resist getting into the act: “[Julia] was a perfect mistress of the revels; she had arranged some ancient bravery for every day and every night. The Dormers were so much in it, as the phrase was, that after all their discomfiture their fortune seemed in an hour to have come back. There had been a moment when, in extemporised charades, Lady Agnes, an elderly figure being required, appeared on the point of undertaking the part of the housekeeper at a castle who, dropping her h’s, showed sheeplike tourists about; but she waived the opportunity in favour of her daughter Grace. Even Grace had a great success; Grace dropped her h’s as with the crash of empires” (2:416).

30. The consequence of this general disfiguration, moreover, is yet another “jumbling,” this time of the vocationally and generically stratified relations among the characters, and so of the progressive counterplot that sustains, and is sustained by, this relational system.

31. James, “The London Theatres, 1879,” in Scenic Art, Wade, ed., pp. 119–20. In the novel, 1:150–51, Nash holds forth to similar effect.

32. It is important, of course, to keep in mind James’s remarkable ambivalence toward this public. For all his attacks on it, he desired its recognition at the same time. See, for example, the poignant letter to William Dean Howells, in which he writes: “I have felt, for a long time past, that I have fallen upon evil days—every sign or symbol of one’s being in the least bit wanted, have [sic] so utterly failed.” Letters, Edel, ed. 3:511.

33. Muse (1890; Penguin, 1978), p. 519.

34. Neil Hertz, “Medusa’s Head: Male Hysteria under Political Pressure,” in The End of the Line: Essays on Psychoanalysis and the Sublime (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985), pp. 161–93. Hertz’s essay is followed by responses by Catherine Gallagher, pp. 194–96, and Joel Fineman, pp. 197–205, to which Hertz adds a reply, pp. 206–15.

35. Ibid., p. 166.

36. Ibid., p. 179.

37. James in fact refers to Tolstoy’s novel as Peace and War (1:x). Blackmur, in Studies in Henry James, Makowsky, ed., p. 129, speculates interestingly on the significance of this reversal.

38. What is probably James’s most famous, and moving, assertion of the incommensurability of the “sow’s ear” of the theater and the “silk purse” of literature (Letters, Edel, ed., 3:509) appears in his Notebooks. Just after the failure of his play, Guy Domville, James wrote: “I take up my own old pen again—the pen of all my old unforgettable efforts and sacred struggles. To myself—today—I need say no more. Large and full and high the future still opens. It is now indeed that I may do the work of my life. And I will. x x x x x I have only to face my problems. x x x x x But all that is of the ineffable—too deep and pure for any utterance. Shrouded in sacred silence let it rest. x x x x x” (The Notebooks of Henry James, ed. F. O. Matthiessen and Kenneth B. Murdock [(New York: Oxford University Press, 1947)], p. 179).

39. See Carton, “Henry James the Critic,” 124–36, and Rowe, The Theoretical Dimensions, pp. 68–118, as well as Alfred Habegger, Gender, Fantasy, and Realism in American Literature (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982), and William Veeder, Henry James—The Lessons of the Master: Popular Fiction and Personal Style in the Nineteenth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975).

40. Letters, Edel, ed., 3:300.

41. For James, Balzac is perhaps the epitome of monstrous literary productivity. See his remarks on the latter’s “monstrous duality,” in the 1902 essay, “Honoré de Balzac,” in The Portable Henry James, ed. Morton Dauwen Zabel, rev. Lyall H. Powers (New York: Viking, 1968), p. 466. On the Balzac-James relationship, see Carton, “Henry James the Critic,” 124–27, and Peter Brooks, The Melodramatic Imagination: Balzac, Henry James, Melodrama, and the Mode of Excess (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976). With its theatrical plot, Mrs. Humphrey Ward’s Miss Bretherton (1884) is an important source for The Tragic Muse. See James’s entry in his Notebooks, Matthiessen and Murdock, eds., for June 19, 1884, pp. 63–64.

42. Gallagher, “George Eliot and Daniel Deronda,” in Yeazell ed., Sex, Politics, and Science, p. 40.

43. Ibid., p. 46.

44. In the Notebooks, Matthiessen and Murdock, eds., p. 90, James says of Julia’s relationship to Nick: “She tries to seduce him—she is full of bribery.”

45. David Carroll, The Subject in Question: The Languages of Theory and the Strategies of Fiction (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), pp. 62, 65.

46. Letters, Edel, ed., 4:706.

Actress, Monster, Novelist

Preferred Citation: Litvak, Joseph. Caught in the Act: Theatricality in the Nineteenth-Century English Novel. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  1992.