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The Next Time

By Henry James

MRS. HIGHMORE’S errand this morning was odd enough to
deserve commemoration : she came to ask me to write a
notice of her great forthcoming work. Her great works have
come forth so frequently without my assistance that I was
sufficiently entitled, on this occasion, to open my eyes ; but what
really made me stare was the ground on which her request reposed,
and what leads me to record the incident is the train of memory
lighted by that explanation. Poor Ray Limbert, while we talked,
seemed to sit there between us : she reminded me that my acquaint-
ance with him had begun, eighteen years ago, with her having
come in precisely as she came in this morning to bespeak my
consideration for him. If she didn’t know then how little my
consideration was worth she is at least enlightened about its value
to-day, and it is just in that knowledge that the drollery of her
visit resides. As I hold up the torch to the dusky years—by which
I mean as I cipher up with a pen that stumbles and stops the
figured column of my reminiscences—I see that Limbert’s public
hour, or at least my small apprehension of it, is rounded by those
two occasions. It was finis with a little moralising flourish, that
Mrs. Highmore seemed to trace to-day at the bottom of the page.
” One of the most voluminous writers of the time,” she has often


                        12 The Next Time

repeated this sign ; but never, I dare say, in spite of her professional
command of appropriate emotion, with an equal sense of that
mystery and that sadness of things which, to people of imagination,
generally hover over the close of human histories. This romance
at any rate is bracketed by her early and her late appeal ; and
when its melancholy protrusions had caught the declining light
again from my half-hour’s talk with her, I took a private vow to re-
cover, while that light still lingers, something of the delicate flush,
to pick out, with a brief patience, the perplexing lesson.

It was wonderful to observe how, for herself, Mrs. Highmore
had already done so : she wouldn’t have hesitated to announce to
me what was the matter with Ralph Limbert, or at all events to
give me a glimpse of the high admonition she had read in his
career. There could have been no better proof of the vividness of
this parable, which we were really in our pleasant sympathy quite
at one about, than that Mrs. Highmore, of all hardened sinners,
should have been converted. This indeed was not news to me :
she impressed upon me that for the last ten years she had wanted
to do something artistic, something as to which she was prepared
not to care a rap whether or no it should sell. She brought home
to me further that it had been mainly seeing what her brother-in-
law did, and how he did it, that had wedded her to this perversity.
As he didn’t sell, dear soul, and as several persons, of whom I was
one, thought ever so much of him for it, the fancy had taken her—
taken her even quite early in her prolific—course of reaching, if
only once, the same heroic eminence. She yearned to be, like
Limbert, but of course only once, an exquisite failure. There
was something a failure was, a failure in the market, that a success
somehow wasn’t. A success was as prosaic as a good dinner : there
was nothing more to be said about it than that you had had it.
Who but vulgar people, in such a case, made gloating remarks


                        By Henry James 13

about the courses ? It was by such vulgar people, often, that a
success was attested. It made, if you came to look at it, nothing
but money ; that is it made so much that any other result showed
small in comparison. A failure, now, could make—oh, with the
aid of immense talent of course, for there were failures and failures
—such a reputation ! She did me the honour—she had often done
it—to intimate that what she meant by reputation was seeing me
toss a flower. If it took a failure to catch a failure I was by my
own admission well qualified to place the laurel. It was because
she had made so much money and Mr. Highmore had taken such
care of it that she could treat herself to an hour of pure glory.
She perfectly remembered that as often as I had heard her heave
that sigh I had been prompt with my declaration that a book sold
might easily be as glorious as a book unsold. Of course she knew
that, but she knew also that it was an age of flourishing rubbish
and that she had never heard me speak of anything that had ” done
well ” exactly as she had sometimes heard me speak of something
that hadn’t—with just two or three words of respect which, when
I used them, seemed to convey more than they commonly stood
for, seemed to hush up the discussion a little, as if for the very
beauty of the secret.

I may declare in regard to these allusions that, whatever I then
thought of myself as a holder of the scales, I had never scrupled to
laugh out at the humour of Mrs. Highmore’s pursuit of quality at
any price. It had never rescued her, even for a day, from the hard
doom of popularity, and, though I never gave her my word for it,
there was no reason at all why it should. The public would
have her, as her husband used roguishly to remark ; not indeed
that, making her bargains, standing up to her publishers and even,
in his higher flights, to her reviewers, he ever had a glimpse of her
attempted conspiracy against her genius, or rather, as I may say,


                        14 The Next Time

against mine. It was not that when she tried to be what she
called subtle (for wasn’t Limbert subtle, and wasn’t I ?) her fond
consumers, bless them, didn’t suspect the trick nor show what
they thought of it : they straightway rose, on the contrary, to the
morsel she had hoped to hold too high, and, making but a big,
cheerful bite of it, wagged their great collective tail artlessly for
more. It was not given to her not to please, nor granted even to
her best refinements to affright. I have always respected the
mystery of those humiliations, but I was fully aware this morning
that they were practically the reason why she had come to me.
Therefore when she said, with the flush of a bold joke in her kind,
coarse face, ” What I feel is, you know, that you could settle me if
you only would,” I knew quite well what she meant. She meant
that of old it had always appeared to be the fine blade, as some
one had hyperbolically called it, of my particular opinion that
snapped the silken thread by which Limbert’s chance in the market
was wont to hang. She meant that my favour was compromising,
that my praise indeed was fatal. I had made myself a little specialty
of seeing nothing in certain celebrities, of seeing overmuch in an
occasional nobody, and of judging from a point of view that, say
what I would for it (and I had a monstrous deal to say) remained
perverse and obscure. Mine was in short the love that killed, for
my subtlety, unlike Mrs. Highmore’s, produced no tremor of the
public tail. She had not forgotten how, toward the end, when his
case was worst, Limbert would absolutely come to me with a funny,
shy pathos in his eyes and say : ” My dear fellow, I think I’ve done
it this time if you’ll only keep quiet.” If my keeping quiet, in
those days, was to help him to appear to have hit the usual taste, for
the want of which he was starving, so now my breaking out was to
help Mrs. Highmore to appear to have hit the unusual.

The moral of all this was that I had frightened the public too


                        By Henry James 15

much for our late friend, but that as she was not starving this was
exactly what her grosser reputation required. And then, she
good-naturedly and delicately intimated, there would always be, if
further reasons were wanting, the price of my clever little article.
I think she gave that hint with a flattering impression—spoiled
child of the booksellers as she is—that the price of my clever little
articles is high. Whatever it is, at any rate, she had evidently
reflected that poor Limbert’s anxiety for his own profit used to
involve my sacrificing mine. Any inconvenience that my obliging
her might entail would not, in fine, be pecuniary. Her appeal, her
motive, her fantastic thirst for quality and her ingenious theory of
my influence struck me all as excellent comedy, and as I con-
sented, contingently, to oblige her (I could plead no inconvenience)
she left me the sheets of her new novel. I have been looking
them over, but I am frankly appalled at what she expects of me.
What is she thinking of, poor dear, and what has put it into her
head that ” quality ” has descended upon her ? Why does she
suppose that she has been ” artistic ” ? She hasn’t been anything
whatever, I surmise, that she has not inveterately been. What
does she imagine she has left out ? What does she conceive she
has put in ? She has neither left out nor put in anything. I shall
have to write her an embarrassed note. The book doesn’t exist,
and there’s nothing in life to say about it. How can there be any-
thing but the same old faithful rush for it ?


This rush had already begun when, early in the seventies, in the
interest of her prospective brother-in-law, she approached me on
the singular ground of the unencouraged sentiment I had enter-


                        16 The Next Time

tained for her sister. Pretty pink Maud had cast me out, but I appear
to have passed in the flurried little circle for a magnanimous youth.
Pretty pink Maud, so lovely then, before her troubles, that dusky
Jane was gratefully conscious of all she made up for, Maud Stannace,
very literary too, very languishing and extremely bullied by her
mother, had yielded, invidiously, as it might have struck me, to
Ray Limbert’s suit, which Mrs. Stannace was not the woman to
stomach. Mrs. Stannace was never the woman to do anything :
she had been shocked at the way her children, with the grubby taint
of their father’s blood (he had published pale Remains or flat Con-
versations of his father) breathed the alien air of authorship. If not
the daughter, nor even the niece, she was, if I am not mistaken, the
second cousin of a hundred earls, and a great stickler for relationship,
so that she had other views for her brilliant child, especially after her
quiet one (such had been her original discreet forecast of the pro-
ducer of eighty volumes) became the second wife of an ex-army-
surgeon, already the father of four children. Mrs. Stannace had
too manifestly dreamed it would be given to pretty pink Maud to
detach some one of the hundred (he wouldn’t be missed) from the
cluster. It was because she cared only for cousins that I unlearnt the
way to her house, which she had once reminded me was one of the
few paths of gentility indulgently open to me. Ralph Limbert,
who belonged to nobody and had done nothing—nothing even at
Cambridge—had only the uncanny spell he had cast upon her
younger daughter to recommend him ; but if her younger
daughter had a spark of filial feeling she wouldn’t commit the in-
decency of deserting for his sake a deeply dependent and intensely
aggravated mother.

These things I learned from Jane Highmore, who, as if her
books had been babies (they remained her only ones) had waited till
after marriage to show what she could do, and now bade fair to


                        By Henry James 17

surround her satisfied spouse (he took, for some mysterious reason,
a part of the credit) with a little family, in sets of triplets, which,
properly handled, would be the support of his declining years.
The young couple, neither of whom had a penny, were now virtu-
ally engaged : the thing was subject to Ralph’s putting his hand
on some regular employment. People more enamoured couldn’t
be conceived, and Mrs. Highmore, honest woman, who had more-
over a professional sense for a love-story, was eager to take them
under her wing. What was wanted was a decent opening for
Limbert, which it had occurred to her I might assist her to find,
though indeed I had not yet found any such matter for myself.
But it was well known that I was too particular, whereas poor
Ralph, with the easy manners of genius, was ready to accept
almost anything to which a salary, even a small one, was attached.
If he could only get a place on a newspaper, for instance, the rest
of his maintenance would come freely enough. It was true that
his two novels, one of which she had brought to leave with me,
had passed unperceived, and that to her, Mrs. Highmore person-
ally, they didn’t irresistibly appeal ; but she could none the less
assure me that I should have only to spend ten minutes with him
(and our encounter must speedily take place) to receive an impres-
sion of latent power.

Our encounter took place soon after I had read the volumes
Mrs. Highmore had left with me, in which I recognised an inten-
tion of a sort that I had now pretty well given up the hope of
meeting. I daresay that, without knowing it, I had been looking
out rather hungrily for an altar of sacrifice : at any rate, when I
came across Ralph Limbert I submitted to one of the rarest emo-
tions of my literary life, the sense of an activity in which I could
critically rest. The rest was deep and salutary, and it has not
been disturbed to this hour. It has been a long, large surrender,


                        18 The Next Time

the luxury of dropped discriminations. He couldn’t trouble me,
whatever he did, for I practically enjoyed him as much when he
was worse as when he was better. It was a case, I suppose, of
natural prearrangement, in which, I hasten to add, I keep excellent
company. We are a numerous band, partakers of the same repose,
who sit together in the shade of the tree, by the plash of the
fountain, with the glare of the desert around us and no great vice
that I know of but the habit perhaps of estimating people a little
too much by what they think of a certain style. If it had been
laid upon these few pages, however, to be the history of an
enthusiasm, I should not have undertaken them : they are con-
cerned with Ralph Limbert in relations to which I was a stranger,
or in which I participated only by sympathy. I used to talk about
his work, but I seldom talk now : the brotherhood of the faith
have become, like the Trappists, a silent order. If to the day of
his death, after mortal disenchantments, the impression he first
produced always evoked the word ” ingenuous, ” those to whom
his face was familiar can easily imagine what it must have been
when it still had the light of youth. I have never seen a man of
genius look so passive, a man of experience so off his guard. At
the period I made his acquaintance this freshness was all un-
brushed. His foot had begun to stumble, but he was full of big
intentions and of sweet Maud Stannace. Black-haired and pale,
deceptively languid, he had the eyes of a clever child and the
voice of a bronze bell. He saw more even than I had done in
the girl he was engaged to ; as time went on I became conscious
that we had both, properly enough, seen rather more than there was.
Our odd situation, that of the three of us, became perfectly possible
from the moment I observed that he had more patience with
her than I should have had. I was happy at not having to supply
this quantity, and she, on her side, found pleasure in being able


                        By Henry James 19

to be impertinent to me without incurring the reproach of a
bad wife.

Limbert’s novels appeared to have brought him no money; they
had only brought him, so far as I could then make out, tributes
that took up his time. These indeed brought him, from several
quarters, some other things, and on my part, at the end of three
months, The Blackport Beacon. I don’t to-day remember how I
obtained for him the London correspondence of the great northern
organ, unless it was through somebody’s having obtained it for
myself. I seem to recall that I got rid of it in Limbert’s interest,
persuaded the editor that he was much the better man. The better
man was naturally the man who had pledged himself to support a
charming wife. We were neither of us good, as the event proved,
but he had a rarer kind of badness. The Blackport Beacon had two
London correspondents—one a supposed haunter of political circles,
the other a votary of questions sketchily classified as literary.
They were both expected to be lively, and what was held out to
each was that it was honourably open to him to be livelier than the
other. I recollect the political correspondent of that period, and
that what it was reducible to was that Ray Limbert was to try to
be livelier than Pat Moyle. He had not yet seemed to me so can-
did as when he undertook this exploit, which brought matters to a
head with Mrs. Stannace, inasmuch as her opposition to the marriage
now logically fell to the ground. It’s all tears and laughter as I
look back upon that admirable time, in which nothing was so
romantic as our intense vision of the real. No fool’s paradise
ever rustled such a cradle-song. It was anything but Bohemia
—it was the very temple of Mrs. Grundy. We knew we
were too critical, and that made us sublimely indulgent; we
believed we did our duty, or wanted to, and that made us free to
dream. But we dreamed over the multiplication-table ; we were


The Yellow Book—Vol. VI. B
                        2O The Next Time

nothing if not practical. Oh, the long smokes and sudden ideas,
the knowing hints and banished scruples ! The great thing was
for Limbert to bring out his next book, which was just what his
delightful engagement with the Beacon would give him leisure and
liberty to do. The kind of work, all human and elastic and sug-
gestive, was capital experience : in picking up things for his
bi-weekly letter he would pick up life as well, he would pick up
literature. The new publications, the new pictures, the new
people—there would be nothing too novel for us and nobody
too sacred. We introduced everything and everybody into Mrs.
Stannace’s drawing-room, of which I again became a familiar.

Mrs. Stannace, it was true, thought herself in strange company ;
she didn’t particularly mind the new books, though some of them
seemed queer enough, but to the new people she had decided
objections. It was notorious, however, that poor Lady Robeck
secretly wrote for one of the papers, and the thing had certainly,
in its glance at the doings of the great world, a side that might be
made attractive. But we were going to make every side attractive,
and we had everything to say about the kind of thing a paper like
the Beacon would want. To give it what it would want and
to give it nothing else was not doubtless an inspiring, but it was
a perfectly respectable task, especially for a man with an appealing
bride and a contentious mother-in-law. I thought Limbert’s first
letters as charming as the genre allowed, though I won’t deny
that in spite of my sense of the importance of concessions I was
just a trifle disconcerted at the way he had caught the tone. The
tone was of course to be caught, but need it have been caught so
in the act ? The creature was even cleverer, as Maud Stannace
said, than she had ventured to hope. Verily it was a good thing
to have a dose of the wisdom of the serpent. If it had to be
journalism—well, it was journalism. If he had to be ” chatty “—


                        By Henry James 21

well, he was chatty. Now and then he made a hit that—it was
stupid of me—brought the blood to my face. I hated him to be
so personal ; but still, if it would make his fortune— ! It
wouldn’t of course directly, but the book would, practically and
in the sense to which our pure ideas of fortune were confined ; and
these things were all for the book. The daily balm meanwhile
was in what one knew of the book—there were exquisite things
to know ; in the quiet monthly cheques from Blackport and in
the deeper rose of Maud’s little preparations, which were as dainty,
on their tiny scale, as if she had been a humming-bird building a
nest. When at the end of three months her betrothed had fairly
settled down to his correspondence—in which Mrs. Highmore
was the only person, so far as we could discover, disappointed,
even she moreover being in this particular tortuous and possibly
jealous; when the situation had assumed such a comfortable
shape it was quite time to prepare. I published at that moment
my first volume, mere faded ink to-day, a little collection of
literary impressions, odds and ends of criticism contributed to a
journal less remunerative but also less chatty than the Beacon,
small ironies and ecstasies, great phrases and mistakes ; and the very
week it came out poor Limbert devoted half of one of his letters
to it, with the happy sense, this time, of gratifying both himself
and me as well as the Blackport breakfast tables. I remember his
saying it wasn’t literature, the stuff, superficial stuff, he had to
write about me ; but what did that matter if it came back, as we
knew, to the making for literature in the roundabout way ? I
sold the thing, I remember, for ten pounds, and with the money I
bought in Vigo Street a quaint piece of old silver for Maud
Stannace, which I carried to her with my own hand as a wedding-
gift. In her mother’s small drawing-room, a faded bower of photo-
graphy, fenced in and bedimmed by folding screens out of which


                        22 The Next Time

sallow persons of fashion, with dashing signatures, looked at you
from retouched eyes and little windows of plush, I was left to wait
long enough to feel in the air of the house a hushed vibration
of disaster. When our young lady came in she was very pale,
and her eyes too had been retouched.

” Something horrid has happened,” I immediately said; and
having really, all along, but half believed in her mother’s meagre
permission, I risked with an unguarded groan the introduction of
Mrs. Stannace’s name.

” Yes, she has made a dreadful scene ; she insists on our putting
it off again. We’re very unhappy : poor Ray has been turned
off.” Her tears began to flow again.

I had such a good conscience that I stared. ” Turned off
what ?”

” Why, his paper of course. The Beacon has given him what
he calls the sack. They don’t like his letters—they’re not the
sort of thing they want.”

My blankness could only deepen. ” Then what sort of thing
do they want ?”

” Something more chatty.”

” More ?” I cried, aghast.

” More gossipy, more personal. They want ‘journalism.’
They want tremendous trash.”

” Why, that’s just what his letters have been ! ” I broke out.

This was strong, and I caught myself up, but the girl offered
me the pardon of a beautiful wan smile. ” So Ray himself
declares. He says he has stooped so low.”

” Very well—he must stoop lower. He must keep the place.”

” He can’t ! ” poor Maud wailed. ” He says he has tried all he
knows, has been abject, has gone on all fours, and that if they
don’t like that——”


                        By Henry James 23

” He accepts his dismissal ?” I demanded in dismay.

She gave a tragic shrug. ” What other course is open to him ?
He wrote to them that such work as he has done is the very worst
he can do for the money.”

” Then,” I inquired, with a flash of hope, ” they’ll offer him
more for worse ?”

” No, indeed,” she answered, ” they haven’t even offered him
to go on at a reduction. He isn’t funny enough.”

I reflected a moment. ” But surely such a thing as his notice
of my book—— !”

” It was your wretched book that was the last straw ! He should
have treated it superficially.”

” Well, if he didn’t——! ” I began. But then I checked myself.
Je vous porte malheur.

She didn’t deny this ; she only went on : ” What on earth is he
to do?”

” He’s to do better than the monkeys ! He’s to write !”

” But what on earth are we to marry on ?”

I considered once more. ” You’re to marry on The Major


The Major Key was the new novel, and the great thing there-
fore was to finish it ; a consummation for which three months of
the Beacon had in some degree prepared the way. The action of
that journal was indeed a shock, but I didn’t know then the worst,
didn’t know that in addition to being a shock it was also a
symptom. It was the first hint of the difficulty to which poor
Limbert was eventually to succumb. His state was the happier,
however, for his not immediately seeing all that it meant. Diffi-


                        24 The Next Time

culty was the law of life, but one could thank heaven it was excep-
tionally present in that horrid quarter. There was the difficulty
that inspired, the difficulty of The Major Key to wit, which it
was, after all, base to sacrifice to the turning of somersaults for
pennies. These convictions Ray Limbert beguiled his fresh wait
by blandly entertaining : not indeed, I think, that the failure of
his attempt to be chatty didn’t leave him slightly humiliated. If
it was bad enough to have grinned through a horse-collar, it was
very bad indeed to have grinned in vain. Well, he would try no
more grinning, or at least no more horse-collars. The only success
worth one’s powder was success in the line of one’s idiosyncrasy.
Consistency was in itself distinction, and what was talent but the art
of being completely whatever it was that one happened to be ? One’s
things were characteristic or they were nothing. I look back rather
fondly on our having exchanged in those days these admirable re-
marks and many others ; on our having been very happy too, in spite
of postponements and obscurities, in spite also of such occasional
hauntings as could spring from our lurid glimpse of the fact that
even twaddle cunningly calculated was above some people’s heads.
It was easy to wave away spectres by the reflection that all one
had to do was not to write for those people ; and it was certainly
not for them that Limbert wrote while he hammered at The
Major Key. The taint of literature was fatal only in a certain
kind of air, which was precisely the kind against which we had
now closed our window. Mrs. Stannace rose from her crumpled
cushions as soon as she had obtained an adjournment, and Maud
looked pale and proud, quite victorious and superior, at her having
obtained nothing more. Maud behaved well, I thought, to her
mother, and well indeed, for a girl who had mainly been taught
to be flowerlike, to every one. What she gave Ray Limbert her
fine, abundant needs made him, then and ever, pay for ; but the


                        By Henry James 25

gift was liberal, almost wonderful—an assertion I make even while
remembering to how many clever women, early and late, his work
had been dear. It was not only that the woman he was to marry
was in love with him, but that (this was the strangeness) she had
really seen almost better than any one what he could do. The
greatest strangeness was that she didn’t want him to do something
different. This boundless belief was, indeed, the main way of her
devotion ; and, as an act of faith, it naturally asked for miracles.
She was a rare wife for a poet, if she was not perhaps the best
who could have been picked out for a poor man.

Well, we were to have the miracles at all events, and we were
in a perfect state of mind to receive them. There were more of
us every day, and we thought highly even of our friend’s odd jobs
and pot-boilers. The Beacon had had no successor, but he found
some quiet corners and stray chances. Perpetually poking the fire
and looking out of the window, he was certainly not a monster of
facility, but he was, thanks perhaps to a certain method in that
madness, a monster of certainty. It wasn’t every one, however,
who knew him for this : many editors printed him but once. He
was getting a small reputation as a man it was well to have the
first time : he created obscure apprehensions as to what might
happen the second. He was good for making an impression, but
no one seemed exactly to know what the impression was good
for when made. The reason was simply that they had not seen
yet The Major Key, that fiery-hearted rose as to which we
watched in private the formation of petal after petal. Nothing
mattered but that, for it had already elicited a splendid bid, much
talked about in Mrs. Highmore’s drawing-room, where, at this
point my reminiscences grow particularly thick. Her roses
bloomed all the year, and her sociability increased with her row of
prizes. We had an idea that we ” met every one ” there—so we


                        26 The Next Time

naturally thought when we met each other. Between our hostess
and Ray Limbert flourished the happiest relation, the only cloud
on which was that her husband eyed him rather askance. When
he was called clever this personage wanted to know what he had
to “show”; and it was certain that he had nothing that could
compare with Jane Highmore. Mr. Highmore took his stand on
accomplished work and, turning up his coat-tails, warmed his rear
with a good conscience at the neat bookcase in which the genera-
tions of triplets were chronologically arranged. The harmony
between his companions rested on the fact that, as I have already
hinted, each would have liked so much to be the other. Limbert
couldn’t but have a feeling about a woman who, in addition to
being the best creature and her sister’s backer, would have made,
could she have condescended, such a success with the Beacon.
On the other hand, Mrs. Highmore used freely to say : ” Do
you know, he’ll do exactly the thing that I want to do ? I shall
never do it myself, but he’ll do it instead. Yes, he’ll do my thing,
and I shall hate him for it—the wretch.” Hating him was her
pleasant humour, for the wretch was personally to her taste.

She prevailed on her own publisher to promise to take The
Major Key and to engage to pay a considerable sum down, as
the phrase is, on the presumption of its attracting attention. This
was good news for the evening’s end at Mrs. Highmore’s, when
there were only four or five left and cigarettes ran low ; but there
was better news to come, and I have never forgotten how, as it
was I who had the good fortune to bring it, I kept it back on one
of those occasions, for the sake of my effect, till only the right
people remained. The right people were now more and more
numerous, but this was a revelation addressed only to a choice
residuum—a residuum including of course Limbert himself, with
whom I haggled for another cigarette before I announced that as

                                                a consequence

                        By Henry James 27

a consequence of an interview I had had with him that afternoon,
and of a subtle argument I had brought to bear, Mrs. Highmore’s
pearl of publishers had agreed to put forth the new book as a
serial. He was to ” run ” it in his magazine, and he was to pay
ever so much more for the privilege. I produced a fine gasp
which presently found a more articulate relief, but poor Limbert’s
voice failed him once for all (he knew he was to walk away with
me) and it was some one else who asked me in what my subtle
argument had resided. I forget what florid description I then
gave of it : to-day I have no reason not to confess that it had
resided in the simple plea that the book was exquisite. I had said :
” Come, my dear friend, be original ; just risk it for that !” My
dear friend seemed to rise to the chance, and I followed up my
advantage, permitting him honestly no illusion as to the quality
of the work. He clutched interrogatively at two or three
attenuations, but I dashed them aside, leaving him face to face
with the formidable truth. It was just a pure gem : was he the
man not to flinch ? His danger appeared to have acted upon
him as the anaconda acts upon the rabbit ; fascinated and paralysed,
he had been engulfed in the long pink throat. When, a week
before, at my request, Limbert had let me possess for a day the
complete manuscript, beautifully copied out by Maud Stannace,
I had flushed with indignation at its having to be said of the author
of such pages that he hadn’t the common means to marry. I had
taken the field, in a great glow, to repair this scandal, and it was
therefore quite directly my fault if, three months later, when
The Major Key began to run, Mrs. Stannace was driven to the
wall. She had made a condition of a fixed income ; and at last
a fixed income was achieved.

She had to recognise it, and after much prostration among the
photographs she recognised it to the extent of accepting some of


                        28 The Next Time

the convenience of it in the form of a project for a common
household, to the expenses of which each party should propor-
tionately contribute. Jane Highmore made a great point of
her not being left alone, but Mrs. Stannace herself determined
the proportion, which, on Limbert’s side at least, and in spite
of many other fluctuations, was never altered. His income had
been ” fixed ” with a vengeance: having painfully stooped to
the comprehension of it, Mrs. Stannace rested on this effort
to the end and asked no further questions on the subject.
The Major Key, in other words, ran ever so long, and before
it was half out Limbert and Maud had been married and the
common household set up. These first months were probably
the happiest in the family annals, with wedding-bells and
budding laurels, the quiet, assured course of the book and the
friendly, familiar note, round the corner, of Mrs. Highmore’s big
guns. They gave Ralph time to block in another picture, as
well as to let me know, after a while, that he had the happ
y prospect of becoming a father. We had some dispute, at times, as
to whether The Major Key was making an impression, but our
contention could only be futile so long as we were not agreed as
to what an impression consisted of. Several persons wrote to the
author, and several others asked to be introduced to him : wasn’t
that an impression? One of the lively ” weeklies, ” snapping
at the deadly ” monthlies,” said the whole thing was “grossly
inartistic “—wasn’t that ? It was somewhere else proclaimed ” a
wonderfully subtle character-study “—wasn’t that too ? The
strongest effect doubtless was produced on the publisher when, in
its lemon-coloured volumes, like a little dish of three custards, the
book was at last served cold : he never got his money back and,
as far as I know, has never got it back to this day. The Major Key
was rather a great performance than a great success. It con-


                        By Henry James 29

verted readers into friends and friends into lovers ; it placed the
author, as the phrase is—placed him all too definitely ; but it
shrank to obscurity in the account of sales eventually rendered.
It was in short an exquisite thing, but it was scarcely a thing
to have published, and certainly not a thing to have married on.
I heard all about the matter, for my intervention had much ex-
posed me. Mrs. Highmore said the second volume had given her
ideas, and the ideas are probably to be found in some of her works,
to the circulation of which they have even perhaps contributed.
This was not absolutely yet the very thing she wanted to do, but
it was on the way to it. So much, she informed me, she par-
ticularly perceived in the light of a critical study which I put forth
in a little magazine ; which the publisher, in his advertisements,
quoted from profusely ; and as to which there sprang up some
absurd story that Limbert himself had written it. I remember
that on my asking some one why such an idiotic thing had been
said, my interlocutor replied : ” Oh, because, you know, it’s just
the way he would have written !” My spirit sank a little perhaps
as I reflected that with such analogies in our manner there might
prove to be some in our fate.

It was during the next four or five years that our eyes were
open to what, unless something could be done, that fate, at least
on Limbert’s part, might be. The thing to be done was of
course to write the book, the book that would make the differ-
ence, really justify the burden he had accepted and consummately
express his power. For the works that followed upon The Major
Key he had inevitably to accept conditions the reverse of brilliant,
at a time when the strain upon his resources had begun to show
sharpness. With three babies, in due course, an ailing wife, and a
complication still greater than these, it became highly important
that a man should do only his best. Whatever Limbert did was


                        30 The Next Time

his best ; so, at least, each time, I thought, and so I unfailingly said
somewhere, though it was not my saying it, heaven knows, that
made the desired difference. Every one else indeed said it, and
there was always the comfort, among multiplied worries, that his
position was quite assured. The two books that followed The
Major Key did more than anything else to assure it, and Jane
Highmore was always crying out : ” You stand alone, dear Ray ;
you stand absolutely alone !” Dear Ray used to tell me that he
felt the truth of this in feebly-attempted discussions with his book
seller. His sister-in-law gave him good advice into the bargain ;
she was a repository of knowing hints, of esoteric learning. These
things were doubtless not the less valuable to him for bearing
wholly on the question of how a reputation might be, with a
little gumption, as Mrs. Highmore said, ” worked ” : save when
she occasionally bore testimony to her desire to do, as Limbert
did, something some day for her own very self, I never heard
her speak of the literary motive as if it were distinguishable
from the pecuniary. She cocked up his hat, she pricked up
his prudence for him, reminding him that as one seemed to take
one’s self, so the silly world was ready to take one. It was a
fatal mistake to be too candid even with those who were all right—
not to look and to talk prosperous, not at least to pretend that one
had beautiful sales. To listen to her you would have thought
the profession of letters a wonderful game of bluff. Wherever
one’s idea began it ended somehow in inspired paragraphs in
the newspapers.” I pretend, I assure you, that you are going off
like wildfire—I can at least do that for you !” she often declared,
prevented as she was from doing much else by Mr. Highmore’s
insurmountable objection to their taking Mrs. Stannace.

I couldn’t help regarding the presence of this latter lady in
Limbert’s life as the major complication : whatever he attempted


                        By Henry James 31

it appeared given to him to achieve as best he could in the narrow
margin unswept by her pervasive skirts. I may have been mis-
taken in supposing that she practically lived on him, for though it
was not in him to follow adequately Mrs. Highmore’s counsel
there were exasperated confessions he never made, scanty domestic
curtains he rattled on their rings. I may exaggerate, in the
retrospect, his apparent anxieties, for these after all were the years
when his talent was freshest and when, as a writer, he most laid
down his line. It wasn’t of Mrs. Stannace, nor even, as time went
on, of Mrs. Limbert that we mainly talked when I got, at longer
intervals, a smokier hour in the little grey den from which we
could step out, as we used to say, to the lawn. The lawn was
the back-garden, and Limbert’s study was behind the dining-
room, with folding-doors not impervious to the clatter of the
children’s tea. We sometimes took refuge from it in the depths
—a bush and a half deep—of the shrubbery, where was a bench
that gave us a view, while we gossiped, of Mrs. Stannace’s tiara-
like headdress nodding at an upper window. Within doors and
without, Limbert’s life was overhung by an awful region that
figured in his conversation, comprehensively and with unpremedi-
tated art, as Upstairs. It was Upstairs that the thunder gathered,
that Mrs. Stannace kept her accounts and her state, that Mrs.
Limbert had her babies and her headaches, that the bells forever
jangled for the maids, that everything imperative, in short, took
place—everything that he had somehow, pen in hand, to meet
and dispose of in the little room on the garden-level. I don’t
think he liked to go Upstairs, but no special burst of confidence
was needed to make me feel that a terrible deal of service went.
It was the habit of the ladies of the Stannace family to be
extremely waited on, and I’ve never been in a house where three
maids and a nursery-governess gave such an impression of a


                        32 The Next Time

retinue. ” Oh, they’re so deucedly, so hereditarily fine!”—I
remember how that dropped from him in some worried hour.
Well, it was because Maud was so universally fine that we had
both been in love with her. It was not an air moreover for the
plaintive note : no private inconvenience could long outweigh,
for him, the great happiness of these years—the happiness
that sat with us when we talked and that made it always
amusing to talk, the sense of his being on the heels of success,
coming closer and closer, touching it at last, knowing that
he should touch it again and hold it fast and hold it high.
Of course when we said success we didn’t mean exactly what
Mrs. Highmore, for instance, meant. He used to quote at me,
as a definition, something from a nameless page of my own,
some stray dictum to the effect that the man of his craft had
achieved it when of a beautiful subject his expression was com-
plete. Wasn’t Lambert’s, in all conscience, complete ?


And yet it was bang upon this completeness that the turn
came, the turn I can’t say of his fortune—for what was that ?—but
of his confidence, of his spirits and, what was more to the point,
of his system. The whole occasion on which the first symptom
flared out is before me as I write. I had met them both at
dinner ; they were diners who had reached the penultimate stage
—the stage which in theory is a rigid selection and in practice a
wan submission. It was late in the season, and stronger spirits
than theirs were broken ; the night was close and the air of the
banquet such as to restrict conversation to the refusal of dishes
and consumption to the sniffing of a flower. It struck me all


                        By Henry James 33

the more that Mrs. Limbert was flying her flag. As vivid as a
page of her husband’s prose, she had one of those flickers of fresh
ness that are the miracle of her sex and one of those expensive
dresses that are the miracle of ours. She had also a neat brougham
in which she had offered to rescue an old lady from the possi-
bilities of a queer cab-horse ; so that when she had rolled away
with her charge I proposed a walk home with her husband, whom
I had overtaken on the doorstep. Before I had gone far with
him he told me he had news for me—he had accepted, of all
people and of all things, an ” editorial position.” It had come to
pass that very day, from one hour to another, without time for
appeals or ponderations : Mr. Bousefield, the proprietor of a
” high-class monthly,” making, as they said, a sudden change, had
dropped on him heavily out of the blue. It was all right—there
was a salary and an idea, and both of them, as such things went,
rather high. We took our way slowly through the empty streets,
and in the explanations and revelations that, as we lingered under
lamp-posts, I drew from him, I found, with an apprehension that
I tried to gulp down, a foretaste of the bitter end. He told me
more than he had ever told me yet. He couldn’t balance
accounts—that was the trouble ; his expenses were too rising a
tide. It was absolutely necessary that he should at last make
money, and now he must work only for that. The need, this last
year, had gathered the force of a crusher ; it had rolled over him
and laid him on his back. He had his scheme; this time he knew
what he was about ; on some good occasion, with leisure to talk
it over, he would tell me the blessed whole. His editorship would
help him, and for the rest he must help himself. If he couldn’t,
they would have to do something fundamental—change their life
altogether, give up London, move into the country, take a house
at thirty pounds a year, send their children to the Board-school. I


                        34 The Next Time

saw that he was excited, and he admitted that he was : he had
waked out of a trance. He had been on the wrong tack ; he had
piled mistake on mistake. It was the vision of his remedy that
now excited him : ineffably, grotesquely simple, it had yet come
to him only within a day or two. No, he wouldn’t tell me what
it was : he would give me the night to guess, and if I shouldn’t
guess it would be because I was as big an ass as himself. How
ever, a lone man might be an ass : it was nobody’s business. He
had five people to carry, and the back must be adjusted to the
burden. He was just going to adjust his back. As to the editor
ship, it was simply heaven-sent, being not at all another case of
The Blackport Beacon, but a case of the very opposite. The
proprietor, the great Mr. Bousefield, had approached him precisely
because his name, which was to be on the cover, didn’t represent
the chatty. The whole thing was to be—oh, on fiddling little
lines, of course—a protest against the chatty. Bousefield wanted
him to be himself; it was for himself Bousefield had picked him
out. Wasn’t it beautiful and brave of Bousefield ? He wanted
literature, he saw the great reaction coming, the way the cat was
going to jump. ” Where will you get literature ?” I wofully
asked ; to which he replied with a laugh that what he had to get
was not literature, but only what Bousefield would take for it.

In that single phrase, without more ado, I discovered his
famous remedy. What was before him for the future was not to
do his work, but to do what somebody else would take for it. I
had the question out with him on the next opportunity, and of all
the lively discussions into which we had been destined to drift it
lingers in my mind as the liveliest. This was not, I hasten to
add, because I disputed his conclusions : it was an effect of the
very force with which, when I had fathomed his wretched
premises, I embraced them. It was very well to talk, with Jane


                        By Henry James 35

Highmore, about his standing alone ; the eminent relief of this
position had brought him to the verge of ruin. Several persons
admired his books—nothing was less contestable ; but they
appeared to have a mortal objection to acquiring them by sub-
scription or by purchase : they begged, or borrowed, or stole, they
delegated one of the party perhaps to commit the volumes to
memory and repeat them, like the bards of old, to listening
multitudes. Some ingenious theory was required, at any rate, to
account for the inexorable limits of his circulation. It wasn’t a
thing for five people to live on ; therefore either the objects
circulated must change their nature, or the organisms to be
nourished must. The former change was perhaps the easier to
consider first. Limbert considered it with extraordinary ingenuity
from that time on, and the ingenuity, greater even than any I had
yet had occasion to admire in him, made the whole next stage of
his career rich in curiosity and suspense.

“I have been butting my head against a wall,” he had said in
those hours of confidence ; ” and with the same sublime imbecility,
if you’ll allow me the word, you, my dear fellow, have kept
sounding the charge. We’ve sat prating here of ‘success,’ heaven
help us, like chanting monks in a cloister, hugging the sweet
delusion that it lies somewhere in the work itself, in the expres-
sion, as you said, of one’s subject, or the intensification, as some-
body else somewhere said, of one’s note. One has been going on,
in short, as if the only thing to do were to accept the law of one’s
talent, and thinking that if certain consequences didn’t follow, it
was only because one hadn’t accepted enough. My disaster has
served me right—I mean for using that ignoble word at all. It’s
a mere distributor’s, a mere hawker’s word. What is ‘success’
anyhow ? When a book’s right, it’s right—shame to it surely if
it isn’t. When it sells it sells—it brings money like potatoes or


The Yellow Book—Vol. VI. c

                        36 The Next Time

beer. If there’s dishonour one way and inconvenience the other,
it certainly is comfortable, but it as certainly isn’t glorious, to
have escaped them. People of delicacy don’t brag either about
their probity or about their luck. Success be hanged !—I want to
sell. It’s a question of life and death. I must study the way.
I’ve studied too much the other way—I know the other way
now, every inch of it. I must cultivate the market—it’s a science
like another. I must go in for an infernal cunning. It will be
very amusing, I foresee that ; the bustle of life will become
positively exhilarating. I haven’t been obvious—! must be
obvious. I haven’t been popular—I must be popular. It’s
another art—or perhaps it isn’t an art at all. It’s something else ;
one must find out what it is. Is it something awfully queer ?—
you blush !—something barely decent ? All the greater incentive
to curiosity ! Curiosity’s an immense motive ; we shall have
tremendous larks. They all do it ; it’s only a question of how.
Of course I’ve everything to unlearn; but what is life, as Jane
Highmore says, but a lesson ? I must get all I can, all she can
give me, from Jane. She can’t explain herself much ; she’s all
intuition ; her processes are obscure ; it’s the spirit that swoops
down and catches her up. But I must study her reverently in
her works. Yes, you’ve defied me before, but now my loins are
girded : I declare I’ll read one of them—I really will : I’ll put it
through if I perish !”

I won’t pretend that he made all these remarks at once ;
but there wasn’t one that he didn’t make at one time or another,
for suggestion and occasion were plentiful enough, his life being
now given up altogether to his new necessity. It wasn’t a
question of his having or not having, as they say, my intellectual
sympathy : the brute force of the pressure left no room for judg-
ment ; it made all emotion a mere recourse to the spy-glass. I


                        By Henry James 37

watched him as I should have watched a long race or a long chase,
irresistibly siding with him, but much occupied with the calcula-
tion of odds. I confess indeed that my heart, for the endless
stretch that he covered so fast, was often in my throat. I
saw him peg away over the sun-dappled plain, I saw him double
and wind and gain and lose ; and all the while I secretly enter-
tained a conviction. I wanted him to feed his many mouths, but
at the bottom of all things was my sense that if he should succeed
in doing so in this particular way I should think less well of
him, and I had an absolute terror of that. Meanwhile, so far as I
could, I backed him up, I helped him : all the more that I had
warned him immensely at first, smiled with a compassion it was
very good of him not to have found exasperating, over the com-
placency of his assumption that a man could escape from himself.
Ray Limbert, at all events, would certainly never escape ; but one
could make believe for him, make believe very hard—an under-
taking in which, at first, Mr. Bousefield was visibly a blessing.
Limbert was delightful on the business of this being at last my
chance too—my chance, so miraculously vouchsafed, to appear
with a certain luxuriance. He didn’t care how often he printed
me, for wasn’t it exactly in my direction Mr. Bousefield held that
the cat was going to jump ? This was the least he could do for
me. I might write on anything I liked—on anything at least
but Mr. Limbert’s second manner. He didn’t wish attention
strikingly called to his second manner ; it was to operate in-
sidiously ; people were to be left to believe they had discovered it
long ago. ” Ralph Limbert ?—why, when did we ever live with-
out him ? “—that’s what he wanted them to say. Besides, they
hated manners—let sleeping dogs lie. His understanding with
Mr. Bousefield—on which he had had not at all to insist ; it was
the excellent man who insisted—was that he should run one of his


                        38 The Next Time

beautiful stories in the magazine. As to the beauty of his story,
however, Limbert was going to be less admirably straight than as
to the beauty of everything else. That was another reason why
I mustn’t write about his new line : Mr. Bousefield was not to be
too definitely warned that such a periodical was exposed to prosti-
tution. By the time he should find it out for himself, the public—
le gros public—would have bitten, and then perhaps he would be
conciliated and forgive. Everything else would be literary in
short, and above all I would be ; only Ralph Limbert wouldn’t—
he’d chuck up the whole thing sooner. He’d be vulgar, he’d be
rudimentary, he’d be atrocious : he’d be elaborately what he hadn’t
been before.

I duly noticed that he had more trouble in making ” everything
else ” literary than he had at first allowed for ; but this was largely
counteracted by the ease with which he was able to obtain that
that mark should not be overshot. He had taken well to heart
the old lesson of the Beacon ; he remembered that he was after
all there to keep his contributors down much rather than to keep
them up. I thought at times that he kept them down a trifle
too far, but he assured me that I needn’t be nervous : he had his
limit—his limit was inexorable. He would reserve pure vulgarity
for his serial, over which he was sweating blood and water ;
elsewhere it should be qualified by the prime qualification, the
mediocrity that attaches, that endears. Bousefield, he allowed, was
proud, was difficult : nothing was really good enough for him but
the middling good ; but he himself was prepared for adverse
comment, resolute for his noble course. Hadn’t Limbert more-
over, in the event of a charge of laxity from headquarters, the
great strength of being able to point to my contributions ?
Therefore I must let myself go, I must abound in my peculiar
sense, I must be a resource in case of accidents. Limbert’s vision


                        By Henry James 39

of accidents hovered mainly over the sudden awakening of Mr.
Bousefield to the stuff that, in the department of fiction, his editor
was smuggling in. He would then have to confess in all humility
that this was not what the good old man wanted, but I should be
all the more there as a compensatory specimen. I would cross the
scent with something showily impossible, splendidly unpopular—
I must be sure to have something on hand. I always had plenty
on hand—poor Limbert needn’t have worried : the magazine was
forearmed, each month, by my care, with a retort to any possible
accusation of trifling with Mr. Bousefield’s standard. He had
admitted to Limbert, after much consideration indeed, that he was
prepared to be perfectly human ; but he had added that he was not
prepared for an abuse of this admission. The thing in the world
I think I least felt myself was an abuse, even though (as I had
never mentioned to my friendly editor) I too had my project for
a bigger reverberation. I daresay I trusted mine more than I
trusted Limbert’s ; at all events, the golden mean in which, as an
editor, in the special case, he saw his salvation, was something I
should be most sure of if I were to exhibit it myself. I exhibited
it, month after month, in the form of a monstrous levity, only
praying heaven that my editor might now not tell me, as he had
so often told me, that my result was awfully good. I knew what
that would signify—it would signify, sketchily speaking, disaster.
What he did tell me, heartily, was that it was just what his game
required: his new line had brought with it an earnest assumption—
earnest save when we privately laughed about it—of the locutions
proper to real bold enterprise. If I tried to keep him in the dark
even as he kept Mr. Bousefield, there was nothing to show that I was
not tolerably successful : each case therefore presented a promising
analogy for the other. He never noticed my descent, and it was
accordingly possible that Mr. Bousefield would never notice his.


                        40 The Next Time

But would nobody notice it at all ?—that was a question that
added a prospective zest to one’s possession of a critical sense. So
much depended upon it that I was rather relieved than otherwise
not to know the answer too soon. I waited in fact a year—the
year for which Limbert had cannily engaged, on trial, with Mr.
Bousefield ; the year as to which, through the same sharpened
shrewdness, it had been conveyed in the agreement between them
that Mr. Bousefield was not to intermeddle. It had been Lim-
bert’s general prayer that we would, during this period, let him
quite alone. His terror of my direct rays was a droll, dreadful
force that always operated : he explained it by the fact that I
understood him too well, expressed too much of his intention,
saved him too little from himself. The less he was saved, the
more he didn’t sell : I literally interpreted, and that was simply fatal.

I held my breath, accordingly ; I did more—I closed my eyes, I
guarded my treacherous ears. He induced several of us to do that
(ot such devotions we were capable) so that not even glancing at
the thing from month to month, and having nothing but his
shamed, anxious silence to go by, I participated only vaguely in
the little hum that surrounded his act of sacrifice. It was blown
about the town that the public would be surprised ; it was hinted,
it was printed, that he was making a desperate bid. His new
work was spoken of as ” more calculated for general acceptance. “
These tidings produced in some quarters much reprobation, and
nowhere more, I think, than on the part of certain persons who
had never read a word of him, or assuredly had never spent a
shilling on him, and who hung for hours over the other attractions
of the newspaper that announced his abasement. So much as-
perity cheered me a little—seemed to signify that he might really
be doing something. On the other hand, I had a distinct alarm ;
some one sent me, for some alien reason, an American journal


                        By Henry James 41

(containing frankly more than that source of discomposure) in
which was quoted a passage from our friend’s last instalment.
The passage—I couldn’t for my life help reading it—was simply
superb. Ah, he would have to move to the country if that was
the worst he could do ! It gave me a pang to see how little, after
all, he had improved since the days of his competition with Pat
Moyle. There was nothing in the passage quoted in the American
paper that Pat would for a moment have owned. During the last
weeks, as the opportunity of reading the complete thing drew
near, one’s suspense was barely endurable, and I shall never forget
the July evening on which I put it to rout. Coming home to
dinner I found the two volumes on my table, and I sat up with
them half the night, dazed, bewildered, rubbing my eyes, wonder-
ing at the monstrous joke. Was it a monstrous joke, his second
manner—was this the new line, the desperate bid, the scheme for
more general acceptance and the remedy for material failure ?
Had he made a fool of all his following, or had he, most injuriously,
made a still bigger fool of himself? Obvious ?—where the deuce
was it obvious ? Popular ?—how on earth could it be popular ?
The thing was charming with all his charm and powerful with all
his power ; it was an unscrupulous, an unsparing, a shameless,
merciless masterpiece. It was, no doubt, like the old letters to
the Beacon, the worst he could do ; but the perversity of the
effort, even though heroic, had been frustrated by the purity of the
gift. Under what illusion had he laboured, with what wavering,
treacherous compass had he steered ? His honour was inviolable,
his measurements were all wrong. I was thrilled with the whole
impression and with all that came crowding in its train. It was
too grand a collapse—it was too hideous a triumph ; I exulted
almost with tears—I lamented with a strange delight. Indeed as
the short night waned, and, threshing about in my emotion, I


                        42 The Next Time

fidgeted to my high-perched window for a glimpse of the summer
dawn, I became at last aware that I was staring at it out of eyes
that had compassionately and admiringly filled. The eastern sky,
over the London housetops, had a wonderful tragic crimson.
That was the colour of his magnificent mistake.


If something less had depended on my impression I daresay I
should have communicated it as soon as I had swallowed my
breakfast ; but the case was so embarrassing that I spent the first
half of the day in reconsidering it, dipping into the book again,
almost feverishly turning its leaves and trying to extract from
them, for my friend’s benefit, some symptom of re-assurance, some
ground for felicitation. But this rash challenge had consequences
merely dreadful ; the wretched volumes, imperturbable and
impeccable, with their shyer secrets and their second line of
defence, were like a beautiful woman more denuded or a great
symphony on a new hearing. There was something quite
exasperating in the way, as it were, they stood up to me. I
couldn’t, however, be dumb—that was to give the wrong tinge
to my disappointment ; so that, later in the afternoon, taking my
courage in both hands, I approached, with a vain indirectness,
poor Limbert’s door. A smart victoria waited before it, in
which, from the bottom of the street, I saw that a lady who had
apparently just issued from the house was settling herself. I
recognised Jane Highmore and instantly paused till she should
drive down to me. She presently met me half-way and as soon
as she saw me stopped her carriage in agitation. This was a
relief—it postponed a moment the sight of that pale, fine face of


                        By Henry James 43

Limbert’s fronting me for the right verdict. I gathered from the
flushed eagerness with which Mrs. Highmore asked me if I had
heard the news that a verdict of some sort had already been

” What news ?—about the book ?”

” About that horrid magazine. They’re shockingly upset.
He has lost his position—he has had a fearful flare-up with Mr.

I stood there blank, but not unconscious, in my blankness, of
how history repeats itself. There came to me across the years
Maud’s announcement of their ejection from the Beacon, and
dimly, confusedly the same explanation was in the air. This
time, however, I had been on my guard; I had had my suspicion.
” He has made it too flippant ?” I found breath after an instant to

Mrs. Highmore’s blankness exceeded my own. ” Too
flippant ? He has made it too oracular. Mr. Bousefield says
he has killed it.” Then perceiving my stupefaction : ” Don’t
you know what has happened ?” she pursued : ” isn’t it because
in his trouble, poor love, he has sent for you, that you’ve
come ? You’ve heard nothing at all ? Then you had better
know before you see them. Get in here with me—I’ll take you
a turn and tell you.” We were close to the Park, the Regent’s,
and when with extreme alacrity I had placed myself beside her
and the carriage had begun to enter it she went on : ” It was
what I feared, you know. It reeked with culture. He keyed it
up too high.”

I felt myself sinking in the general collapse. ” What are you
talking about ?”

” Why, about that beastly magazine. They’re all on the streets.
I shall have to take mamma.”

                                                I pulled

                        44 The Next Time

I pulled myself together. ” What on earth, then, did Bousefield
want ? He said he wanted elevation.”

” Yes, but Ray overdid it.”

” Why, Bousefield said it was a thing he couldn’t overdo.”

” Well, Ray managed—he took Mr. Bousefield too literally. It
appears the thing has been doing dreadfully, but the proprietor
couldn’t say anything, because he had covenanted to leave the
editor quite free. He describes himself as having stood there in
a fever and seen his ship go down. A day or two ago the year
was up, so he could at last break out. Maud says he did break
out quite fearfully ; he came to the house and let poor Ray have
it. Ray gave it to him back ; he reminded him of his own idea of
the way the cat was going to jump.”

I gasped with dismay. ” Has Bousefield abandoned that idea ?
Isn’t the cat going to jump ?”

Mrs. Highmore hesitated. ” It appears that she doesn’t seem in
a hurry. Ray, at any rate, has jumped too far ahead of her. He
should have temporised a little, Mr. Bousefield says ; but I’m
beginning to think, you know,” said my companion, ” that Ray
can’t temporise.”

Fresh from my emotions of the previous twenty-four hours, I
was scarcely in a position to disagree with her.

” He published too much pure thought.”

” Pure thought ?” I cried. ” Why, it struck me so often—
certainly in a due proportion of cases—as pure drivel !”

” Oh, you’re a worse purist than he ! Mr. Bousefield says that
of course he wanted things that were suggestive and clever, things
that he could point to with pride. But he contends that Ray
didn’t allow for human weakness. He gave everything in too stiff

Sensibly, I fear, to my neighbour, I winced at her words ; I felt

                                                a prick

                        By Henry James 45

a prick that made me meditate. Then I said : ” Is that, by chance,
the way he gave me? Mrs. Highmore remained silent so long
that I had somehow the sense of a fresh pang ; and after a
minute, turning in my seat, I laid my hand on her arm, fixed my
eyes upon her face and pursued pressingly : ” Do you suppose it to
be to my ‘Occasional Remarks’ that Mr. Bousefield refers ?”

At last she met my look. ” Can you bear to hear it ?”

” I think I can bear anything now. “

” Well, then, it was really what I wanted to give you an inkling
of. It’s largely over you that they’ve quarrelled. Mr. Bousefield
wants him to chuck you.”

I grabbed her arm again. “And Limbert won’t ?”

” He seems to cling to you. Mr. Bousefield says no magazine
can afford you.”

I gave a laugh that agitated the very coachman. ” Why, my
dear lady, has he any idea of my price ?”

” It isn’t your price—he says you’re dear at any price, you do so
much to sink the ship. Your ‘Remarks’ are called ‘Occasional,’
but nothing could be more deadly regular : you’re there month
after month, and you’re never anywhere else. And you supply no
public want.”

” I supply the most delicious irony.”

“So Ray appears to have declared. Mr. Bousefield says that’s
not in the least a public want. No one can make out what
you’re talking about, and no one would care if he could. I’m
only quoting him, mind.”

” Quote, quote—if Limbert holds out. I think I must leave
you now, please : I must rush back to express to him what
I feel.”

” I’ll drive you to his door. That isn’t all,” said Mrs. High-
more. And on the way, when the carriage had turned, she


                        46 The Next Time

communicated the rest. ” Mr. Bousefield really arrived with an
ultimatum : it had the form of something or other by Minnie

” Minnie Meadows ?” I was stupefied.

” The new lady-humourist every one is talking about. It’s the
first of a series of screaming sketches for which poor Ray was to
find a place.”

” Is that Mr. Bousefield’s idea of literature ?”

” No, but he says it’s the public’s, and you’ve got to take some
account of the public. Aux grands maux les grands remèdes.
They had a tremendous lot of ground to make up, and no one
would make it up like Minnie. She would be the best concession
they could make to human weakness ; she would strike this note,
at least, of showing that it was not going to be quite all—well,
you. Now Ray draws the line at Minnie ; he won’t stoop to
Minnie ; he declines to touch, to look at Minnie. When Mr.
Bousefield—rather imperiously, I believe—made Minnie ; sine quâ
non of his retention of his post he said something rather violent,
told him to go to some unmentionable place and take Minnie
with him. That of course put the fat on the fire. They had
really a considerable scene.”

” So had he with the Beacon man,” I musingly replied. ” Poor
dear, he seems born for considerable scenes ! It’s on Minnie,
then, that they’ve really split ?” Mrs. Highmore exhaled her
despair in a sound which I took for an assent, and when we had
rolled a little further I rather inconsequently, and to her visible
surprise, broke out of my reverie. “It will never do in the
world—he must stoop to Minnie !”

” It’s too late and what I’ve told you isn’t all. Mr. Bouse-
field raises another objection.”

” What other, pray ?”


                        By Henry James 47

” Can’t you guess ?”

I wondered. ” No more of his fiction ?”

” Not a line. That’s something else the magazine can’t stand.
Now that his novel has run its course, Mr. Bousefield is distinctly

I fairly bounded in my place. ” Then it may do ?”

Mrs. Highmore looked bewildered. ” Why so, if he finds it
too dull ?”

” Dull ? Ralph Limbert ? He’s as sharp as a needle !”

” It comes to the same thing. Mr. Bousefield had counted
on something that would have a wider acceptance.” I collapsed
again ; my flicker of elation dropped to a throb of quieter comfort ;
and after a moment’s silence I asked my neighbour if she had
herself read the work our friend had just put forth. ” No,” she
replied, ” I gave him my word at the beginning, at his urgent
request, that I wouldn t.”

” Not even as a book ?”

” He begged me never to look at it at all. He said he was trying
a low experiment. Of course I knew what he meant, and I
entreated him to let me, just for curiosity, take a peep. But he
was firm, he declared he couldn’t bear the thought that a woman
like me should see him in the depths.”

” He’s only, thank God, in the depths of distress,” I replied.
“His experiment’s nothing worse than a failure.”

” Then Bousefield is right—his circulation won’t budge ?”

” It won’t move one, as they say in Fleet Street. The book
has extraordinary beauty.”

” Poor duck, and he tried so hard !” Jane Highmore sighed
with real indulgence. ” What will, then, become of them ?”

I was silent an instant. ” You must take your mother.”

She was silent too. ” I must speak of it to Cecil !” she then


                        48 The Next Time

exclaimed. Cecil is Mr. Highmore, who then entertained, I knew,
strong views on the inadjustability of circumstances in general to
the idiosyncrasies of Mrs. Stannace. He held it supremely happy
that in an important relation she should have met her match. Her
match was Ray Limbert—not much of a writer, but a practical
man. ” The dear things still think, you know, ” my companion
continued, ” that the book will be the beginning of their fortune.
Their illusion, if you’re right, will be rudely dispelled.”

” That’s what makes me dread to face them. I’ve just spent
with his volumes an unforgettable night. His illusion has lasted
because so many of us have been pledged, till this moment, to
turn our faces the other way. We haven’t known the truth and
have therefore had nothing to say. Now that we do know it
indeed we have practically quite as little. I hang back from the
threshold. How can I follow up with a burst of enthusiasm such
a catastrophe as Mr. Bousefield’s visit ?”

As I turned uneasily about my neighbour more comfortably
snuggled. ” Well, I’m glad I haven’t read him, then, and
have nothing unpleasant to say to him !” We had drawn
near to Limbert’s door again, and I made the coachman stop short
of it. ” But he’ll try again, with that determination of his : he’ll
build his hopes on the next time.”

” On what else has he built them from the very first ? It’s
never the present, for him, that bears the fruit ; that’s always
postponed and for somebody else ; there has always to be another
try. I admit that his idea of a new line has made him try
harder than ever. It makes no difference,” I brooded, still timor-
ously lingering ; ” his achievement of his necessity, his hope of a
market, will continue to attach themselves to the future. But
the next time will disappoint him as each last time has done—and
then the next, and the next, and the next !”

                                                I found

                        By Henry James 49

I found myself seeing it all with an almost inspired clearness:
it evidently cast a chill on Mrs. Highmore. Then what on
earth will become of him ?” she plaintively asked.

” I don’t think I particularly care what may become of him,”
I returned, with a conscious, reckless increase of my exaltation ;
I feel it almost enough to be concerned with what may become of
one’s enjoyment of him. I don’t know, in short, what will become
of his circulation ; I am only quite at my ease as to what will
become of his work. It will simply keep all its value. He’ll try
again for the common with what he’ll believe to be a still more
infernal cunning, and again the common will fatally elude him, for
his infernal cunning will have been only his genius in an ineffectual
disguise. ” We sat drawn up by the pavement, and I faced poor
Limbert’s future as I saw it. It relieved me in a manner to know
the worst, and I prophesied with an assurance which, as I look
back upon it, strikes me as rather remarkable. ” Que voulez-vous ?”
I went on ; ” you can’t make of a silk purse a sow’s ear ! It’s
grievous indeed if you like—there are people who can’t be vulgar
for trying. He can’t—it wouldn’t come off, I promise you, even
once. It takes more than trying—it comes by grace. It happens
not to be given to Limbert to fall. He belongs to the heights—
he breathes there, he lives there, and it’s accordingly to the heights
I must ascend,” I said as I took leave of my conductress, ” to
carry him this wretched news from where we move !”


A few months were sufficient to show how right I had been about
his circulation. It didn’t move one, as I had said ; it stopped
short in the same place, fell off in a sheer descent, like some


                        50 The Next Time

precipice admired of tourists. The public, in other words, drew
the line for him as sharply as he had drawn it for Minnie Meadows
Minnie had skipped with a flouncing caper over his line, however ;
whereas the mark traced by a lustier cudgel had been a barrier in-
surmountable to Limbert. Those next times I had spoken of to
Jane Highmore, I see them simplified by retrocession. Again and
again he made his desperate bid—again and again he tried to. His
rupture with Mr. Bousefield caused him, I fear, in professional
circles, to be thought impracticable, and I am perfectly aware, to
speak candidly, that no sordid advantage ever accrued to him from
such public patronage of my performances as he had occasionally been
in a position to offer. I reflect for my comfort that any injury I
may have done him by untimely application of a faculty of analysis
which could point to no converts gained by honourable exercise
was at least equalled by the injury he did himself. More than once,
as I have hinted, I held my tongue at his request, but my frequent
plea that such favours weren’t politic never found him, when in
other connections there was an opportunity to give me a lift, any
thing but indifferent to the danger of the association. He let them
have me, in a word, whenever he could ; sometimes in periodicals
in which he had credit, sometimes only at dinner. He talked
about me when he couldn’t get me in, but it was always part of the
bargain that I shouldn’t make him a topic. ” How can I success-
fully serve you if you do ?” he used to ask : he was more afraid than
I thought he ought to have been of the charge of tit for tat. I
didn’t care, and I never could distinguish tat from tit ; but, as I
have intimated, I dropped into silence really more than anything
else because there was a certain fascinated observation of his course
which was quite testimony enough and to which, in this huddled
conclusion of it, he practically reduced me.

I see it all foreshortened, his wonderful remainder—see it from


                        By Henry James 51

the end backward, with the direction widening toward me as
if on a level with the eye. The migration to the country
promised him at first great things—smaller expenses, larger leisure,
conditions eminently conducive, on each occasion, to the possible
triumph of the next time. Mrs. Stannace, who altogether dis-
approved of it, gave as one of her reasons that her son-in-law,
living mainly in a village, on the edge of a goose-green, would be
deprived of that contact with the great world which was indis-
pensable to the painter of manners. She had the showiest
arguments for keeping him in touch, as she called it, with good
society ; wishing to know, with some force, where, from the
moment he ceased to represent it from observation, the novelist
could be said to be. In London, fortunately, a clever man was
just a clever man ; there were charming houses in which a
person of Ray’s undoubted ability, even though without the knack
of making the best use of it, could always be sure of a quiet
corner from which he might watch the social kaleidoscope. But
the kaleidoscope of the goose-green, what in the world was that,
and what such delusive thrift as drives about the land (with a
tearful account for flies from the inn) to leave cards on the
country magnates ? This solicitude for Lambert’s subject-matter
was the specious colour with which, deeply determined not to
affront mere tolerance in a cottage, Mrs. Stannace overlaid her
indisposition to place herself under the heel of Cecil Highmore.
She knew that he ruled Upstairs as well as down, and she clung to
the fable of the association of interests in the north of London.
The Highmores had a better address—they lived now in Stanhope
Gardens ; but Cecil was fearfully artful—he wouldn’t hear of an
association of interests, nor treat with his mother-in-law save as a
visitor. She didn’t like false positions ; but on the other hand she
didn’t like the sacrifice of everything she was accustomed to.


The Yellow Book—Vol. VI. D

                        52 The Next Time

Her universe, at any rate, was a universe all of card-leavings and
charming houses, and it was fortunate that she couldn’t, Upstairs,
catch the sound of the doom to which, in his little grey den,
describing to me his diplomacy, Limbert consigned alike the
country magnates and the opportunities of London. Despoiled
of every guarantee, she went to Stanhope Gardens like a mere
maidservant, with restrictions on her very luggage, while, during
the year that followed this upheaval, Limbert, strolling with me
on the goose-green, to which I often ran down, played extrava-
gantly over the theme that, with what he was now going in for,
it was a positive comfort not to have the social kaleidoscope.
With a cold-blooded trick in view, what had life, or manners, or
the best society, or flies from the inn, to say to the question ? It
was as good a place as another to play his new game. He had
found a quieter corner than any corner of the great world, and a
damp old house at sixpence a year, which, beside leaving him all
his margin to educate his children, would allow of the supreme
luxury of his frankly presenting himself as a poor man. This was
a convenience that ces dames, as he called them, had never yet
fully permitted him.

It rankled in me at first to see his reward so meagre, his conquest
so mean, but the simplification effected had a charm that I finally
felt : it was a forcing-house for the three or four other fine mis-
carriages to which his scheme was evidently condemned. I
limited him to three or four, having had my sharp impression, in-
spite of the perpetual broad joke of the thing, that a spring had
really snapped within him on the occasion of that deeply discon-
certing sequel to the episode of his editorship. He never lost his
sense of the grotesque want, in the difference made, of adequate
relation to the effort that had been the intensest of his life. He
had from that moment a charge of shot in him, and it slowly


                        By Henry James 53

worked its way to a vital part. As he met his embarrassments,
each year, with his punctual false remedy, I wondered periodically
where he found the energy to return to the attack. He did it
every time with a redder and redder rage, but it was clear to me
that the fever must at last burn itself out. We got again and
again the irrepressible work of art, but what did he get, poor man,
who wanted something so different ? There were likewise
odder questions than this in the matter, phenomena more curious
and mysteries more puzzling, which often, for sympathy if not for
illumination, I intimately discussed with Mrs. Limbert. She had
her burdens, poor woman : after the removal from London, and
after a considerable interval, she twice again became a mother.
Mrs. Stannace too, in a more restricted sense, exhibited afresh, in
relation to the home she had abandoned, the same exemplary
character. In her poverty of guarantees, in Stanhope Gardens,
there had been least of all, it appeared, a proviso that she shouldn’t
resentfully revert again from Goneril to Regan. She came down
to the goose-green like Lear himself, with fewer knights, or at
least baronets, and the joint household was at last patched up. It
fell to pieces and was put together more than once again before
poor Limbert died. He was ridden to the end by the superstition
that he had broken up Mrs. Stannace’s original home on pretences
that had proved hollow, and that if he hadn’t given Maud what she
might have had he could at least give her back her mother. I
was always sure that a sense of the compensations he owed was
half the motive of the dogged pride with which he tried to
wake up the libraries. I believed Mrs. Stannace still had money,
though she pretended that, called upon at every turn to retrieve
deficits, she had long since poured it into the general fund. This
conviction haunted me ; I suspected her of secret hoards, and I
said to myself that she couldn’t be so infamous as not, some day on


                        54 The Next Time

her deathbed, to leave everything to her less opulent daughter.
My compassion for the Limberts led me to hover perhaps indis-
creetly round that closing scene, to dream of some happy day when
such an accession of means would make up a little for their present

This, however, was crude comfort, as, in the first place, I had
nothing definite to go by, and, in the second, I held it for more and
more indicated that Ray wouldn’t outlive her. I never ventured
to sound him as to what in this particular he hoped or feared, for
after the crisis marked by his leaving London I had new scruples
about suffering him to be reminded of where he fell short. The
poor man was in truth humiliated, and there were things as to
which that kept us both silent. In proportion as he tried more
fiercely for the market the old plaintive arithmetic, fertile in jokes,
dropped from our conversation. We joked immensely still about
the process, but our treatment of the results became sparing and
superficial. He talked as much as ever, with monstrous arts and
borrowed hints, of the traps he kept setting, but we all agreed to
take merely for granted that the animal was caught. This pro-
priety had really dawned upon me the day that, after Mr. Bouse-
field’s visit, Mrs. Highmore put me down at his door. Mr.
Bousefield, on that occasion, had been served up to me anew, but
after we had disposed of him we came to the book, which I was
obliged to confess I had already rushed through. It was from that
moment—the moment at which my terrible impression of it had
blinked out at his anxious query—that the image of his scared face
was to abide with me. I couldn’t attenuate then—the cat was out
of the bag ; but later, each of the next times, I did, I acknow-
ledge, attenuate. We all did religiously, so far as was possible ;
we cast ingenious ambiguities over the strong places, the beauties
that betrayed him most, and found ourselves in the queer position


                        By Henry James 55

of admirers banded to mislead a confiding artist. If we stifled our
cheers, however, and dissimulated our joy, our fond hypocrisy
accomplished little, for Lambert’s finger was on a pulse that told a
plainer story. It was a satisfaction to enjoy a greater freedom with
his wife, who entered at last, much to her honour, into the con-
spiracy, and whose sense of responsibility was flattered by the
frequency of our united appeal to her for some answer to the
marvellous riddle. We had all turned it over till we were tired of
it, threshing out the question why the note he strained every
chord to pitch for common ears should invariably insist on address-
ing itself to the angels. Being, as it were, ourselves the angels,
we had only a limited quarrel in each case with the event ; but its
inconsequent character, given the forces set in motion, was
peculiarly baffling. It was like an interminable sum that wouldn’t
come straight ; nobody had the time to handle so many figures.
Limbert gathered, to make his pudding, dry bones and dead husks ;
how then was one to formulate the law that made the dish prove a
feast ? What was the cerebral treachery that defied his own
vigilance ? There was some obscure interference of taste, some
obsession of the exquisite. All one could say was that genius was
a fatal disturber or that the unhappy man had no effectual flair.
When he went abroad to gather garlic he came home with

I hasten to add that if Mrs. Limbert was not directly illuminat-
ing, she was yet rich in anecdote and example, having found a
refuge from mystification exactly where the rest of us had found
it, in a more devoted embrace and the sense of a finer glory.
Her disappointments and eventually her privations had been many,
her discipline severe ; but she had ended by accepting the long
grind of life, and was now quite willing to be ground in good
company. She was essentially one of us—she always understood.


                        56 The Next Time

Touching and admirable at the last, when, through the unmistake-
able change in Limbert’s health, her troubles were thickest, was
the spectacle of the particular pride that she wouldn’t have
exchanged for prosperity. She had said to me once—only once, in
a gloomy hour in London days, when things were not going at all
—that one really had to think him a very great man, because if
one didn’t one would be rather ashamed of him. She had distinctly
felt it at first—and in a very tender place—that almost every one
passed him on the road ; but I believe that in these final years she
would almost have been ashamed of him if he had suddenly gone
into editions. It is certain indeed that her complacency was not
subjected to that shock. She would have liked the money im-
mensely, but she would have missed something she had taught
herself to regard as rather rare. There is another remark I re-
member her making, a remark to the effect that of course if she
could have chosen she would have liked him to be Shakespeare or
Scott, but that, failing this, she was very glad he wasn’t—well, she
named the two gentlemen, but I won’t. I daresay she sometimes
laughed to escape from an alternative. She contributed passion-
ately to the capture of the second manner, foraging for him further
afield than he could conveniently go, gleaning in the barest
stubble, picking up shreds to build the nest and, in particular in the
study of the great secret of how, as we always said, they all did it,
laying waste the circulating libraries. If Limbert had a weakness
he rather broke down in his reading. It was fortunately not till
after the appearance of The Hidden Heart that he broke down in
everything else. He had had rheumatic fever in the spring, when
the book was but half finished, and this ordeal, in addition to
interrupting his work, had enfeebled his powers of resistance and
greatly reduced his vitality. He recovered from the fever and was
able to take up the book again, but the organ of life was pro-


                        By Henry James 57

nounced ominously weak, and it was enjoined upon him with some
sharpness that he should lend himself to no worries. It might have
struck me as on the cards that his worries would now be surmount-
able, for when he began to mend he expressed to me a conviction
almost contagious that he had never yet made so adroit a bid as
in the idea of The Hidden Heart. It is grimly droll to reflect
that this superb little composition, the shortest of his novels, but
perhaps the loveliest, was planned from the first as an ” adventure-
story ” on approved lines. It was the way they all did the ad-
venture-story that he tried most dauntlessly to emulate. I wonder
how many readers ever divined to which of their bookshelves The
Hidden Heart was so exclusively addressed. High medical
advice early in the summer had been quite viciously clear as
to the inconvenience that might ensue to him should he neglect
to spend the winter in Egypt. He was not a man to neglect any-
thing ; but Egypt seemed to us all then as unattainable as a second
edition. He finished The Hidden Heart with the energy of
apprehension and desire, for if the book should happen to do what
” books of that class, ” as the publisher said, sometimes did h
e might well have a fund to draw on. As soon as I read the deep
and delicate thing I knew, as I had known in each case before,
exactly how well it would do. Poor Limbert, in this long business,
always figured to me an undiscourageable parent to whom only
girls kept being born. A bouncing boy, a son and heir, was
devoutly prayed for, and almanacks and old wives consulted ; but
the spell was inveterate, incurable, and The Hidden Heart proved,
so to speak, but another female child. When the winter arrived
accordingly Egypt was out of the question. Jane Highmore, to
my knowledge, wanted to lend him money, and there were even
greater devotees who did their best to induce him to lean on them.
There was so marked a ” movement ” among his friends that a


                        58 The Next Time

very considerable sum would have been at his disposal, but his
stiffness was invincible : it had its root, I think, in his sense, on
his own side, of sacrifices already made. He had sacrificed honour
and pride, and he had sacrificed them precisely to the question of
money. He would evidently, should he be able to go on, have to
continue to sacrifice them, but it must be all in the way to which
he had now, as he considered, hardened himself. He had spent
years in plotting for favour, and since on favour he must live it
could only be as a bargain and a price.

He got through the early part of the season better than we
feared, and I went down, in great elation, to spend Christmas on
the goose-green. He told me, late on Christmas eve, after our
simple domestic revels had sunk to rest and we sat together by the
fire, that he had been visited the night before, in wakeful hours,
by the finest fancy for a really good thing that he had ever felt
descend in the darkness. ” It’s just the vision of a situation that
contains, upon my honour, everything,” he said, “and I wonder
that I’ve never thought of it before.” He didn’t describe it
further, contrary to his common practice, and I only knew later,
by Mrs. Limbert, that he had begun Derogation and that he
was completely full of his subject. It was a subject, however,
that he was not to live to treat. The work went on for a couple
of months, in happy mystery, without revelations even to his
wife. He had not invited her to help him to get up his case—
she had not taken the field with him, as on his previous campaigns.
We only knew he was at it again, but that less even than ever
had been said about the impression to be made on the market. I
saw him in February, and thought him sufficiently at ease. The
great thing was that he was immensely interested and was pleased
with the omens. I got a strange, stirring sense that he had not
consulted the usual ones, and indeed that he had floated away into

                                                a grand

                        By Henry James 59

a grand indifference, into a reckless consciousness of art. The
voice of the market had suddenly grown faint and far ; he had
come back at the last, as people so often do, to one of the moods,
the sincerities, of his prime. Was he really, with a blurred sense
of the pressing, doing something now only for himself? We
wondered and waited—we felt that he was a little confused.
What had happened, I was afterwards satisfied, was that he had
quite forgotten whether he generally sold or not. He had merely
waked up one morning again in the country of the blue, and he
had stayed there with a good conscience and a great idea. He
stayed till death knocked at the gate, for the pen dropped from his
hand only at the moment when, from sudden failure of the heart,
his eyes, as he sank back in his chair, closed for ever. Deroga-
tion is a splendid fragment ; it evidently would have been one of
his high successes. How far it would have waked up the libraries
is of course a very different question.

MLA citation:

James, Henry. “The Next Time.” The Yellow Book, vol. 6, July 1895, pp. 11-59. Yellow Book Digital Edition, edited by Dennis Denisoff and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2010-2014. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2020.