‘Greville Fane’: Portrait of a ‘Lady-Novelist’

  • Sara S. Chapman


In 1892 James wrote ‘Greville Fane’, the third story in his series on the literary life. It is as different in form and substance from its predecessors, ‘The Author of Beltraffio’ and ‘The Lesson of the Master’, as they are from each other. It is the most extensive of James’s comic portraits of ‘lady novelists’, preceding such satirically drawn characters as Guy Walsingham (who also takes a masculine pen name) in ‘The Death of the Lion’; Jane Highmore in ‘The Next Time’; and Gwendolyn Erme in ‘The Figure in the Carpet’. ‘Greville Fane’ also precedes James’s developing by the end of the 1890s a more sympathetic view of women as novelists and of their likely contributions to the art of fiction.1 It is unique among James’s fictions about writers in that it is not a conventionally conceived dramatic fiction, but rather, as James called it, an ‘anecdote’, a ‘minor miracle of foreshortening’ (Volume XVI, p. vii). Moreover, despite its comic perspective, it is the first fiction through which James dramatises his ever-clearer belief about the responsibility of the critic to respond with flexibility and humanity to his subject. His narrator in ‘Greville Fane’ is an illustration of the critic James had described in his essay ‘Criticism’ in the preceding year:


Literary Criticism Young Lady Comic Perspective Literary Life North American Literature 
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Notes and Reference

  1. 1.
    Margolis (1985), pp. 1–23 for a discussion of James’s developing attitudes toward women novelists.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Edel (ed.), The Complete Tales of Henry James. For this edition Edel uses the text which first appeared in book form in The Real Thing (New York, 1893). It was little changed in this version from its original appearance in the Illustrated London News, September 1892.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Sara S. Chapman 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sara S. Chapman
    • 1
  1. 1.Russell Sage CollegeTroyUSA

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