The Tragic Muse
Hard Cover. London: Macmillan and Co., 1894, 1895, 1890. First Edition. Good.
First English edition. One of 500 copies. Three volumes, original publisher's blue cloth. Louis Auchincloss's copy bearing his bookplate to each volume. An additional former owner bookplate to the front pastedowns of each volume, some wear with fraying to spine ends and corners, short tears along spine, hinges cracked and secure. A good, completely unrestored set, housed in a custom cloth box with folding chemise. Edel & Laurence A34b. Auchincloss's writing embodied the old New York traditions of Henry James and Edith Wharton. Auchincloss wrote in his 1977 novel, The Dark Lady: "...Do you know Henry James's The Tragic Muse? It's the best novel written about an actress. A rising young diplomat asks the heroine to give up her career to become his wife and a future ambassadress...Ah how James saw it, the idiocy of any man's thinking that a real actress could even consider balancing love against the stage!" Originally published serially in seventeen installments in the Atlantic Monthly from January 1889-May 1890, The Tragic Muse was Henry James' longest novel to date. The plot tells of two aspiring artists, painter Nick Dormer and actress Miriam Rooth, who endeavor to find both artistic and commercial success. The large cast of characters that encounter Nick and Miriam throughout the text comprise a panoramic view of nineteenth century English society. James originally offered The Tragic Muse to Macmillan, but was dissatisfied with their offers. Accordingly, the first edition of this text was published on June 7, 1890, by Houghton, Mifflin, and Co., and was followed by this first English edition on June 28th of the same year. Notorious for heavily editing his serialized stories before book publication, James naturally made many revisions to The Tragic Muse, and his dual publication lead to slightly different revisions in the American and English editions. Notably, the use of punctuation, specifically commas, varies significantly in the Atlantic Monthly, Houghton, and Macmillan editions, with the heaviest use in the Atlantic Monthly and lightest in Macmillan. As James was known for using commas sparingly, this first English edition most closely mirrors the author's natural writing style.