General Editors’ Note
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

303 General Editors’ Note We intend The Complete Letters of Henry James to be as useful to as broad a range of readers as possible, given the limitations of print reproduction. Because one cannot anticipate what biographical or historical details or stylistic idiosyncrasies contained in any given letter may be of value to users of the edition, the general editors believe that our duty is “to be as complete as possible,” as James wrote in another context (“Art of Fiction” 408). By being as complete as possible, we enable the opportunity for study of almost any aspect of James’s letters. Such an inclusive edition of the letters enriches by its range and detail our understanding of James’s life and the lives of his correspondents, his use of language, his importance to our cultural legacy, and thus the value of the original letters themselves. The goal of this edition is to provide an inclusive, reliable, available , and easily read scholarly and critical text for all extant letters, telegrams, and notes written by Henry James. We aim to establish the letter text, thus evidence of the compositional process represented by it, with the greatest precision possible in a format that is easy to read and understand. It may be important to some readers, for example, that HJ added an element of emphasis to the phrase “The American’s say ‘imitation-lace’” when he careted “always” into his 6 November 1881 letter to Marian “Clover” Hooper Adams (p.  9). Understanding James’s change from “The American’s say ‘imitation-lace’” to “The American’s "always!"# say ‘imitation-lace’” at this point in the letter gives a small insight into the moment of composition, to James’s wavering at that moment on the degree of his authority on the subject. Likewise, James’s nuanced adjustment of “people” to “Europeans” in his letter of 8 January [1882] to Sir John Forbes Clark (p. 66) offers a window into James’s compositional methods and strategies. Such readability in combination with representational precision helps us to produce a reliable edition. Where reliability (in terms of the meaningful details of the his- 304 General Editors’ Note torical document itself) is in tension with readability, we give priority to reliability. Informing this view is a conviction that historical documents are fundamentally different from “literary texts” such as poems and novels and therefore must be edited and published differently .We do not correct slips or other errors in the letters, preferring instead to render what James wrote whenever possible. As much as we hope that this edition can function to communicate to readers a substantial amount of the meaning of James’s originals, no edition of letters can represent all details of the original documents . That having been said, our aim is to help our readers experience something of the moment of composition, which only a careful examination of the manuscript can offer fully. Our position on this aspect of the editorial rationale is based on G. Thomas Tanselle’s critique of modernization and his argument that editors of historical documents should preserve in a scholarly edition a writer’s deletions and, by extension, other meaningful features of the holograph, for then “the editor allows the reader to have the same experience” as the original reader of the historical document (“Editing” 50–51). Interpreting the Manuscript The manuscripts of James’s letters show that James was a spontaneous letter writer who wrote rapidly, for they contain a substantial number of changes and corrections that constitute each letter’s “drafts” through its “revisions.” The position and apparent sequence of James’s cancellations, corrections, and insertions indicate that he adjusted, shaped, and sharpened his meaning as he wrote, working just ahead of his pen, when he noticed an error or clarified his meaning at all. Those changes, made as he drove himself to answer letter after letter received and to open new paths of communication, reveal James’s mind in action. They also record the way in which James responded to individual correspondents and particular rhetorical situations . As we considered the changes—both what James rejected and what he accepted—as well as the representation of those changes, it became evident that those adjustments were themselves interesting because James obviously made the particular change for a reason. And such changes could hold an interest all their own, just as they 305 General Editors’ Note would for those who read the original letters. In the same way shifts and turns of...


pdf