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Henry James, the “Maison Buglese,” and Dirty Hands

Greg W. Zacharias


On peut être frappé par le traitement inhabituel que Henry James réserve à l’apparence physique et au comportement des voyageurs d’affaires de l’Hôtel de France dans l’essai “En Province” de A Little Tour in France, anomalie qui indiquerait une hantise récurrente de l’auteur d’être beaucoup plus semblable à ces individus qu’il n’aurait voulu le reconnaître. L’objet de cet article est d’analyser la façon dont James semble s’identifier avec ces représentants de commerce et d’examiner les stratégies qu’il déploie pour s’en distancier.

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Language as Symbolic Action and Soiled Hands

1Henry James’s travel writing is about far more than the descriptions of places he enjoyed and/or found interesting—though there is plenty of that; it offers another way, in addition to his fiction, autobiography and letters, to see how language functions in his representation of the drama of life. As he announces in his travel essay on Turin, “[t]o travel is, after all, to go to the play, to attend a spectacle” (James, 1995 106). In narrating the drama, the “play,” the “spectacle” of travel, James includes himself. As Kenneth Burke pointed out, those like James deploy language and thus writing as a mode of living. Burke calls such use of language “symbolic action,” through which one works out problems of living by means of idiosyncratic systems of meaning. Thus language serves those writers as “equipment for living” (1973; 1966, esp. 29-30). This short article attempts to show how James’s narration of his visit to the Hôtel de France in Narbonne, a visit which stands out for its strangeness, dramatizes an aspect of his life that troubled him, and with which he seems to have been working to come to terms. The narration of the travel essay in which he visits the Hôtel de France shows James confronting an “Other” aspect of himself as a professional writer that also confronted him in other dramas of his life. The symbolic figure or the dramatized gesture that I point to are versions of sordidness, including soiled hands and other figures of dirtiness and disgust, that constitute an important part of the travel essay I examine as well as James’s autobiography, letters, fiction, which I use as context to understand James’s meaning.

  • 1 See also Buelens and Ben-Joseph, whose books are useful in different ways.

2Recent discussions about James and Otherness begin for me with Sara Blair’s Henry James and the Writing of Race and Nation and its analysis of James’s “representation of the theatricality of culture itself” (2).1 James’s travel writing could be read as a good instance of such representation, or of what the author calls the “spectacle” of the places he visits and narrates in his writing on travel and tourism.

3Blair frames James’s narrative method so that his theatricalized descriptions can be more easily read in racial, ethnic, and economic terms. Such terms are important for considering the ways Otherness functions in James’s travel writing, as well as his letters, autobiographies, and fiction. According to Blair:

James constructs a literary “internationalism” through which definitively national and racial feelings, aspirations, and characterologies are elaborated and considered. [...] I also argue that the literary sphere itself, and the widely varied performances comprehending that sphere, is a crucially important site of racial formation, in and through which distinctly American, Anglo-Saxon, and ‘Anglo-Saxon’ racial feelings, entangled with the pursuit of taste and the cultural good, evolve. (3)

4Blair’s description of “Jamesian ‘internationalism’” is matter of “widely varied performances,” which appear in James’s travel essays and other writing. Likewise, as in James’s other writing, the travel essays show “the complexity of James’s racial figures, which tend to hover between metaphor and historical fact” (Blair 5). Such representation of “metaphor” with “historical fact” describes James’s way of romanticizing the real, of converting the empirical into the symbolic through figurative language and other narrative tactics. In addition to complicating racial figures, James complicates those indicative of class.

5Jonah Siegel also takes up James’s representation of cultural difference. Siegel enables us to see how James’s narrative representation of cultural difference operates symbolically as Kenneth Burke’s notion of equipment of living. Like Blair, Siegel investigates the particular way James romanticizes the real, or, in James’s vocabulary, “dramatizes” it with symbolic language. The sites of Siegel’s analysis are James’s museum scenes. What takes place in those museum scenes is similar to what Blair discusses as theatricalization and what James calls dramatization. By locating his analysis in the museum, a location created for and read by tourists, Siegel brings us closer to particular narrative strategies in James’s travel writing than Blair could through her study. Siegel explains:

Two motivating fantasies tend to be at stake in the art romance: the encounter with the ideal creator and the force of material and contingent experience. Yet, in spite of the longing toward the real that seems to underlie both these aspirations, texts in the tradition are characterized by repeated and flamboyant recourse to the artificial. [...] The most concrete museums instantly become emblematic in Henry James, sites at which to represent a crucial ever-negotiated relationship between a self desperately aspiring for culture and a world of culture the self cannot avoid. (16, 17)

6Important for Siegel in James’s representation of the museum, as in other sites of Jamesian representation, especially the travel writing, is “the intricate affiliation between romance and the foreign,” which includes the exotic, the different, the Other, through which James can attribute figurative, symbolic meaning (85). The similarity between Jamesian representation, “dramatization,” tourism, the Jamesian struggle with Otherness, and the museum, all key concepts for my discussion, appear in James’s famous account of the “Dream of the Louvre” in A Small Boy and Others (346-349), which Siegel discusses (134-138), and which exposes James’s struggle with the Other within himself. In the “Dream of the Louvre” sequence, James’s narrator recounts his own dream of himself, alone in “the Galerie d’Apollon,” where he confronts and forces away the “awful agent” that threatens him in the place that stands for “Style” (348, 346). Mastering the spectre of Style, then, enables James to feel able to control the threats imposed by the loss of self-identity. It is important that for Siegel James “pursu[es] his own ghost” (138) in the Dream of the Louvre (and other James works, such as “The Jolly Corner” via Spencer Brydon’s confrontation with the ghost of the “awful” elements of himself) because those scenes highlight the relation of James’s sense of self and Other, in which the Other becomes an emanation, a ghost, in other words a haunting part of the self. The dynamic between self and the (foreign) Other that Siegel and Blair explore is also present in the drama of James’s travel writing.

7The motive for class Othering in James could be a version of “Anglo-Saxon panic,” which Alex Zwerdling explains as the dominant race’s response to immigration in the later nineteenth century. The argument indicative of the panic that results from one’s confrontation with the Otherness of oneself is familiar. Zwerdling offers Thomas Bailey Aldrich’s poem, “Unguarded Gates” as an example (47). James’s representation of what he saw during his travels, and his peculiar way of including ghosts of himself in the romanticized form of that travel experience (see Zacharias), as well as class, ethnic, and racial Othering, would be features of his narrative strategy. In short, that which James Others through the theatricalization of experience he also often identifies, “feels,” or perceives as part of himself. Thus through James’s staged representations of people and places, he implicitly and explicitly represents himself and the symbolic Other as ghosts of his imagination from which he distances himself and by which, then, he defines himself. Just as Spencer Brydon’s ghostly hallucination is an Othered part of his imagined self that he must confront symbolically in order to resolve personal psychic tension, and just as James’s symbolic confrontation with his ghostly Other in the Dream of the Louvre is reputed to have enabled him to overcome an episode of depression (James, 1987 318), so does James’s dramatization of his visit to the Hôtel de France offer an example of how James’s symbolic language reveals the presence of personal tensions and his efforts to confront and overcome them.

8In spring or summer 1883 James delivered to Thomas Bailey Aldrich, editor of the Atlantic Monthly, a letter whose purpose was mainly as the cover sheet for a package containing two installments of his travel serial “En Province,” which James arranged to research, write, and publish as a way to earn money. To increase his income, James later collected the installments with the rest of the Atlantic series and published them in book form as A Little Tour in France (1885). At the end of that cover sheet, James signed off by sharing with Aldrich that “I dreamed all last night of the Maison Buglese!” (James, 2018 119). But the Maison Buglese is not the odd name of an actual hotel. It is James’s theatricalized, romanticized name (House of Noise or Hotel Noise) for what he stages as the noisy, dirty Hôtel de France in Narbonne, where he stayed during some of the time he journeyed while preparing “En Province.” Thus James begins to dramatize the Hôtel de France in “En Province”:

Nothing could have been more meridional; indeed, both the dirty little inn and Narbonne at large seemed to me to have the infirmities of the south without its usual graces. Narrow, noisy, shabby, belittled and encumbered, filled with clatter and chatter, the Hôtel de France would have been described in perfection by Alphonse Daudet. (631)

  • 2 See “An English New Year,” in which James recounts a journey to Britain’s industrial north, the su (...)

9But that is not all. At breakfast James’s narrator further theatricalizes the experience. Part of the work of that theatricalizing is to fashion an Other, in contrast to which James can define himself. The narrator tells readers that he sat “with a hundred hungry marketers,” one of whose hands were so dirty “it would have excluded him from a farmers’ ordinary” in England. James continues to develop the scene in the hotel by noting that the men travelling on business, like him, were served “gras-double, a light gray, glutinous, nauseating mess, which my companions devoured in large quantities” (631-32). While James generally appreciated the labor and efforts of working-class men and women,2 this is not the first or only time he deprecated pointedly middle-class individuals with dirty hands and their affiliated faults. The romanticized descriptions of the hotel guests point to James’s working out of a tension within himself regarding the role of commerce in his career as a writer.

  • 3 For a rather comprehensive overview of James’s picturesque aesthetic in his travel writing, includ (...)

10In this instance, the narrator's problem in the Hôtel de France sequence can’t simply be with dirt or dirtiness itself. Elsewhere he values the dirty and unkempt as elements of the picturesque.3 For example, James wrote to Thomas Sergeant Perry that Geneva “has no Galleries or Museums or Churches but is nevertheless very interesting. Such dingy streets and courts and alleys black with age [...] are very picturesque (27, 28 March [1860]; 2006 1:33). Bellinzona, Italy, James wrote to his sister, Alice, is “a charming dirty suffocating old town (31 Aug [1869]; 2006 2:84). To his mother, James wrote with humor and irony of the Thames’ “dirty bosom” (26 March [1869]; 2006 1:256). More, James included in “En Province” itself the following representations of dirtiness, all of which differ from the one of the Hôtel de France and his “companions,” the commis voyageurs, who appear with him in the theater of the narrative. Of the château at Amboise, James wrote:

Like the castle of Blois it has been injured and defaced by base uses, but, unlike the castle of Blois, it has not been completely restored. “It is very, very dirty, but very curious”—it is in these terms that I heard it described by an English lady who was generally to be found engaged upon a tattered Tauchnitz in the little salon de lecture of the hotel at Tours. The description is not inaccurate; but it should be said that if part of the dirtiness of Amboise is the result of its having served for years as a barrack and as a prison, part of it comes from the presence of restoring stone-masons, who have woven over a considerable portion of it a mask of scaffolding. (60-61)

11James here dramatizes the château’s dirtiness to reveal its history and the efforts of its restorers’ craft. He does not use the dirtiness to distinguish himself from it.

  • 4 See Capuano for the importance of the representation of hands in later Victorian fiction.

12In addition, also during his tour and written for “En Province” and A Little Tour, James found “the little inn at Azay-le-Rideau” to be “very bad. It was terribly dirty, and it was in charge of a fat mégère [...] I attached great importance to this incongruous hostess, for she uttered the only uncivil words I heard spoken (in connection with any business of my own) during a tour of some six weeks in France” (81). While the dirt adds no picturesque interest to the inn at Azay-le-Rideau, neither does it offer a reason for James to marginalize it through condemnation or ridicule, as he does the Hôtel de France. James describes the streets in Bourges as “narrow, tortuous, and dirty.” Here too the terms are descriptive rather than comparative and evaluative. In Nantes, James’s “big circular room” at the inn “had a stately, lofty, last-century look—a look that consoled [him] a little for the whole place being dirty” (136). Again, the dirtiness carries no moral or symbolic meaning. While the room at Nantes was a part of his experience there, it has nothing to do with him other than his witnessing of it. Thus he has no impulse to Other it. The inn at Poitiers, like Poitiers itself, was “dirty” (157). In this case, the detail works as a metonym. It serves James’s lesson about inns in general: “a dirty inn has always seemed to me the dirtiest of human things—it has so many opportunities to betray itself” (157). Other references to the dirtiness of inns or towns or people follow the same representational logic: dirtiness is either an element of the picturesque, a part of the specific scene, or is used metonymically so James can make a broader point about life. The exception is the hotel at Narbonne, which James found so favored by the travelling commercial men, who, like himself, were there “in connection [...] with [...] business of [their] own” (81). Because the dirtiness at the Hôtel de France is an exception to the way James tends to represent dirt and dirtiness, it merits close attention in relation to other similar situations in his writing. James’s fictional representation of dirty hands thus provides a partial context for understanding their symbolic meaning in the travel essay.4

13Dirty hands appear in James’s fiction and function in James’s theatricalization of his subject as they do in the sequence of the Hôtel de France. In The Princess Casamassima, a novel in which Hyancinth Robinson’s confrontation with the Otherness of himself drives the plot, Paul Muniment exhibits “ten work-stained fingers” to Hyacinth, in order to learn whether his dirty hands could sabotage his meeting with the Princess. Muniment asks Robinson, “how can I go see a delicate female, with those paws?”

“Buy a pair of gloves,” said Hyacinth, who recognised the serious character of this obstacle. But after a moment he added, “No, you oughtn’t to do that; she wants to see dirty hands.” (171)

14When the dirty hands are Muniment’s and the person seeing them is the Princess, the dirtiness is all to the good. But the working-class shop girl in the novel, Millicent Henning, who was born into poverty, works her way out of it, and has neither Robinson’s aristocratic heritage (real or imagined) nor the Princess’s status, regards Muniment’s hands differently from the way Robinson believes the Princess would read them. Says Millicent to Hyacinth about Muniment’s hands, “Is it one of your political clubs, as you call them, where that dirty young man from Camberwell, Mr. Monument (what do you call him?) fills your head with ideas that’ll bring you to no good?” (144). Rather than a signal of his working-class identity, which Hyacinth believes the Princess wants to see in Muniment, Millicent Henning’s theatricalization of Muniment’s stained hands, his dirtiness, like his name, produces ridicule. In that ridicule both of his name and his dirty hands, Henning separates herself from her working-class fellow whom she has Othered. The separation enables her to overcome symbolically the working-class ghosts of herself she sees in him.

15The meaning of dirty hands would have mattered to James because he likely exhibited them, especially on days he wrote. His letters show regularly that he corrected errors by smudging the still-wet ink with his finger, waiting until the ink in the smudged error dried, and then wrote over the obscured error. In the example below an illegible character is smudged and then a “w” written over the dried ink of the smudging. The finger or fingers that made such changes to the wet ink would have carried the ink stain after James’s writing session ended and he went about the rest of the day. He knew what it was to have and show dirty hands.

16Although James must have presented himself with dirty fingers from time to time, when the dirtiness is a feature of those nearer his station, of someone like him but who isn’t him, James separates himself symbolically from the Other through language and removes himself from the comparison, just as Millicent Henning separates herself from Paul Muniment and just as James separates himself from the businessmen at the Hôtel de France. For example, after summarizing an event in his social schedule, James wrote on 4 March [1879] to his brother, William:

I suppose this strikes you as an attractive occasion + in the stillness of Harvard St. excites your envy and speculation. But it failed to give me a sense of rare privilege—owing partly, I think, to the ungemüthlich [unpleasant; James’s spelling] associations I have, humanly, with Oxford—dreary, ill-favored men, with local conversations and dirty hands. (All the men in London, however, have dirty hands). (2014 125)

17As in the Hôtel de France dramatization of the French businessmen and Millicent Henning’s distancing of herself from Muniment, James uses hands symbolically, consistent with Victorian convention, in the letter to his brother.4 In showing what he is not through the dirty hands of the Other, however, he also shows how that Other haunts him and reveals the way that which he rejects resides as a tension within him. For much of the time James resided in England and was comfortable there, he was not ready to represent himself as English. (He did not become a British subject until 1915, shortly before his death.) So as James theatricalizes his life for his brother, he shows that English men, unlike himself, have “dirty hands.” The comparison of hands enables American Henry James writing to his American brother to distinguish himself from the British Other. The Othered British help dramatize James’s unpleasant associations with those places and thus with the nation itself, from which, to his brother, he represents his distance.

Othering the Shame of the Sordid

18A motivation related to James’s evident compulsion to mark the dirty hands of those like the lodgers at the Hôtel de France, whose status is close enough to his own that he needed to distinguish himself from them, is James’s nearly life-long sensitivity to the way his writing was motivated and defined by commerce. For James the commercial aspect of his work is a form of the dirty which haunts him and from which he often seeks to distance himself, even as commercial success is necessary and desirable. So strong is his aversion to his own potential for being identified as a literary version of a commis-voyageur that a sense of figurative, theatricalized dirtiness in gaining money not well-earned, figured as “handling” or touching, remained throughout his life a part of his memory of his first payment:

I had earned [my first twelve dollars], I couldn’t but feel, with fabulous felicity: a circumstance so strangely mixed with the fact that literary composition of a high order had […] [taken place] at that very table where the green backs were spread out, […] and sordid gain thereby never again to seem so easy as in that prime handling of my fee. Other [...] [rewards], of the same queer, the same often rather greasy, complexion followed […]. (1914 377)

19James’s sense of the possibility, even likelihood in some cases, that he would be judged for his “sordid gain,” which he confesses was “queer,” was not only a function of his memory as he wrote his autobiographical volumes late in life. James’s need to recover income lost in 1883 following two trips to the United States to attend to the deaths of his mother and soon after of his father drove him to write to earn. “En Province” and then A Little Tour in France were part of that income-recovery effort. As he toured the Midi during 1884 collecting notes for the subsequent essays, James was or could have been regarded as a literary commis-voyageur. Both James and the men he ate with and distinguished himself from at the Hôtel de France were in fact all travelling on business.

20James’s sensitivity to the way that as a professional writer he could cross into the “sordid,” the dirty, perhaps associating him with others rooted more ostensibly in the commercial world, is made clear not only in the memory of his first payment. It also is made clear in the way James announced his contract with Charles A. Dana, part owner and editor of the popular, often lurid, widely-distributed, and thus lucrative New York Sun for at least two stories, “Georgina’s Reasons” and “Pandora,” also during the period of income recovery.

21Having informed his brother William of Dana’s offer to pay well for at least two stories, Henry James must have received strong cautions, at least, from his brother. James’s response to William’s cautions of impending dishonor from his publishing in the popular Sun implies James’s awareness that the appearance of his work there as well as the earnings gained would be seen as “dirty.” On October 10, 1883, Henry James responded to his brother:

You warn me in your former note against my going in for “mere market work;” but I don’t see why what I might write for the Sun should be so qualified. To be so well paid as that is to have leisure to work carefully, artistically, and according to one’s taste, and that is the real and only seduction of the thing to me. But there will be time to think of this: for if I have written to Dana that I will write him (several months hence) one or two tales (to try,) this is all I have consented to. If I write only one, and get paid $4000 [nearly $109,000 in 2018 dollars according to], I shall be amply rewarded. If one were to write but a little of a very high quality (as one could afford to do, at such rates for each individual thing) and the productions were to appear only in the Sun, it would not (little as the paper is to my taste,) be, I think, a dishonorable situation. (2018 238)

22Yet despite James’s protests to his brother, it is the prospect of the “dishonorable situation” and of sordidness against which he argues. In that prospect it is the ghost of himself as a commercial writer publishing in a highly commercialized venue that James works to chase away as he theatricalizes the situation for William.

23By 5 February 1884 the chance to earn at least $4,000 with relative ease was still on James’s mind. By then he had started the work. The discomfort and shame established through his confrontation with the tales, and thus with the Other of himself, was apparent in a letter James wrote to his sister Alice:

I am writing a couple of short tales—as a trial, to begin with—for Dana + the Sun! The die is cast—but I don’t in the least repent of it—as I see no shame in offering my productions to the widest public, + in their being “brought home”, as it were, to the great American people. (2019 10)

24That James feels it necessary to announce that “I see no shame” reveals, of course, that others might and that he does too because he must deny it. After all, James reasons, in addition to the good payday, the Sun will bring his fiction to a large audience. While such an audience is a source of pride for James as it would be for any professional writer, it also inspires a sense of shame which must be negated.

25On 13 February 1884, with his discomfort made obvious by his denial of it, James wrote to Aldrich that:

three or four short tales, from my teeming hand, are to appear (this is a profound secret)—have been, in a word, secured, à prix d’or in—je vous le donne en mille—the New York Sunday Sun!! This last fact, I repeat, is really as yet a complete + sacred secret. Please bury it in oblivion + burn my letter. I mention it, with the preceding items, simply to denote that by July 1865 [sic] I expect to be in the enjoyment of a popularity which will require me to ask $500 a number for the successive instalments of The Princess Casamassima (which will probably be the name of my novel, though on this I am not yet fixed) (2019 22).

  • 5 Waller describes the importance during James’s time in London of the successful writer fulfilling (...)

26Not only did James offer Aldrich, as he did his sister and brother, evidence of his awareness that publication with the Sun could be regarded by some as sordid or dirty by his mock horror, naming of the “profound secret” and “sacred secret,” and by his command to “bury in oblivion and burn my letter.” At the same time, in a letter about business to Aldrich (another literary business professional), James was freer than he was with his siblings about the commercial and career advantages of publishing in the Sun. James not only would earn top dollar (“à prix d’or”), but he also used the payment to prove his commercial value, which will, in turn, enable him to extend his “$500 a number” fee for the serial version of The Princess Casamassima. Giving the upper limit of the number of stories he would publish in the Sun (he published two, not “three or four”) added to his representation of his own commercial worth. Also worth noting is the lack of any pretense on James’s side about bringing his work to the masses. To Aldrich James represents himself as a professional writer, an able businessman of letters.5 In addition to James’s differing representations of a sordid aspect of himself as a writing professional to William James, Alice James, and Thomas Bailey Aldrich, Henry James commented too on his work with the Sun to Thomas Sergeant Perry, himself a professional writer who, like James, knew literary artists and trends in literary art in the United States and Europe. James’s comments to Perry help to round out an understanding of James’s sense of the sordid, “dirty,” for those like himself working at the intersection of commerce and art. They contribute too to an understanding of James’s similarity to and consequently repulsion from the commercial men at the Hôtel Narbonne:

Lately I have been doing some short things which you will see in due time—in the Century, + eke three or four in (horresco referens!) the New York Sunday Sun! This last item by the way, is for the present, till the things appear, a profound secret. That journal has bribed me with gold—it is a case of gold pure + simple; + moreover the reasons against my offering exposing myself in it do not seem to me serious (2019 55).

27Although James’s initial announcement to Perry that he will see “three or four” of James’s stories in the Sun warrants the melodramatic “horresco referens!”, James excuses the choice for a publication venue by placing the burden on the payment and making himself the passive partner (“[t]hat journal has bribed me with gold”). He also obscures any shame he would feel, first by changing “offering” to “exposing,” which minimizes injury, and second by claiming that any reasons for his not publishing in the Sun “do not seem to me serious.”

James Family Shame

28James’s expressed sense of shame for succeeding commercially as a working writer may seem puzzling. After all, he was only fulfilling his identity as a businessman of letters. Such an identity called for celebrating rather than diminishing the pay day. Yet success as a professional writer clearly had limits for James. He wanted, needed, to succeed commercially. He sought popular acceptance and exceptional compensation, “à prix d’or.” So it remains to account for his need to separate himself from salesmen, to point to their dirty hands and sordid way of living. Carol Holly’s understanding of James family dynamics and the role of family guilt among the Jameses offers a reason for James’s attention to the dirty part of his career and his need to dramatize his distance from it, to confront and Other the ghost of himself as a commercially-motivated writer, a literary commis voyageur.

29Fundamental to Holly’s Intensely Family is her contention that Henry James’s parents, “in spite of their obvious love for and devotion to their children, were responsible for establishing a shame-based emotional atmosphere in their home and perpetuating the feelings of shame [...] in their children” (14). Holly shows that Henry James felt such shaming and the Othering it could engender in him, in part through the empathy he felt with his father. One important example of that shaming is the son’s memory of his father’s having been shamed by an embarrassing publication “in an 1874 issue of Woodhull & Clafin’s.” The episode resulted in the son’s “‘lasting hatred’” of “‘newspaper vulgarity’” (39). Such vulgarity, not itself different from that which James used to describe the commis voyageurs at the Hôtel de France in Narbonne, helps mark the shameful in the James household and in Henry James himself. To distinguish the vulgarity others engaged in and to protect himself from the shame he must have imagined others carried from such commercial work, then, Henry James would have had to distinguish his work from the more sordid work of others whose hands were not as clean as he needed to see his. Holly puts the problem of the proximity of shame and the sordid to its presence in success this way: “The problem of James’s formulation of honor and success, of course, is the condition of failure and shame against which it is defined, and thus the difficulty of freeing oneself from the fear of diminishment and defeat” (56). To show that one’s hands are clean, it is useful to point to the Other whose hands are not. At the same time, one must always be aware both of one’s own hands, as it were, and also of their condition. One must remain vigilant of the possibility—even likelihood—of their dirtiness, in order to take attention away from them and what they mean. James’s willingness to engage the commercially sordid and then to theatricalize it, as he does his first paid writing job, his essays for “En Province” and A Little Tour in France, and the publication of “Pandora” and “Georgina’s Reasons” in the New York Sun show a career-long need and ability to manage family shame even as he strove for ever-greater commercial success as a professional writer with ink-stained fingers.

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Rawlings, Peter. “Grotesque Encounters in the Travel Writing of Henry James.” Yearbook of English Studies 34, 2004, p. 171-85.

Siegel, Jonah. Haunted Museum: Longing, Travel, and the Art-Romance Tradition. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2005.

Waller, Philip. Writers, Readers, and Reputations: Literary Life in Britain 1870-1918. New York: Oxford UP, 2006. “S. Morgan Friedman’s Inflation Calculator.” 22 May 2019.

Zacharias, Greg. “‘The complexion of ever so long ago’: Style and Henry James’s Ghosts.” Henry James and the Supernatural. Ed. Anna Despotopoulou and Kimberly C. Reed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, p. 13-33.

Zwerdling, Alex. “Anglo-Saxon Panic.” Improvised Europeans: American Literary Expatriates and the Siege of London. New York: Basic Books, 1998, p. 43-60.

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1 See also Buelens and Ben-Joseph, whose books are useful in different ways.

2 See “An English New Year,” in which James recounts a journey to Britain’s industrial north, the suffering of workers there, and efforts to bring relief to them (270-71). To Grace Norton James wrote of a trip to Yorkshire, during which he saw “the dense + dusky population, who form a not very attractive element in that great total of labor + poverty on whose enormous base all the luxury + leisure of English country-houses are built up” (2014-83).

3 For a rather comprehensive overview of James’s picturesque aesthetic in his travel writing, including the tradition associated with “[d]ecay, deformity, and ruin” that includes the dirty, see Rawlings, esp. 177-79.

4 See Capuano for the importance of the representation of hands in later Victorian fiction.

5 Waller describes the importance during James’s time in London of the successful writer fulfilling the role of “a businessman of letters” (405).

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Greg W. Zacharias, « Henry James, the “Maison Buglese,” and Dirty Hands »Viatica [En ligne], HS 3 | 2020, mis en ligne le 22 juin 2023, consulté le 18 juillet 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Greg W. Zacharias

Creighton University

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