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This essay discusses James’s prefaces to the New York Edition as instances of the development of the form of the preface for James’s critical purposes. In particular, it focuses on the deployment of James’s frequent and elaborate set-pieces and it shows that as often as he vaunts his literary critical eloquence James apologizes for it. His prefatory voice is thus at once continuous with the stylistic virtuosity of his novels and critically authoritative, but also selfrevising and apologetic. James’s prefaces are thus shown to be a signal development in the preface as critical form.