This is a study of Henry James's changing attitudes to history as a narrative model, tracing the development from his early interest in `scientific' historiography to the radically anti-historical character of his late works.James's use of the term `history' was influenced by developments in nineteenth-century historiography, but was also embedded in the complex of defensive manoeuvres through which Victorian culture sought to control
its anxiety about the power of fiction. Reading James's novels in the light of contemporary debates about the morality and authorship and the politics of reading, Dr Jolly finds that fiction develops from being history's censored `other' in the early works to being a valued mode of problem-solving in the later fiction.
This shift may be seen as the product of James's increasing engagement with the reading practices of groups marginalized by high Victorian culture: women, the working class, other cultures, and the avant-garde. The book ends with a consideration of the challenge posed to James's radical anti-historical epistemology by the unprecedented violence of twentieth-century history.Drawing on contemporary narrative theory, and providing illuminating readings of a large number of James's
novels, Roslyn Jolly had written a sophisticated and persuasive analysis of James's shifting definitions of history and fiction.
'Jolly's work is particularly interesting in its lucid expositions of the contradictions inherent within James's early position which appears to collude with cultural tones derogatory to fiction, but I find all the readings of the novels extremely illuminating. Jolly's well-argued, and lucid exposition is a valuable contribution to the debate about the nature of narrative and is mercifully jargon-free.'
Jacqueline Kaye. University of Essex. American Studies, Volume 28, Part 2 - 1994
'Comprehensive, succinct, and clearly written, this is one of the best books on James to appear in recent years as well as an essential study for anyone interested in the evolution of the novel.'
D. Kirby, Florida State University. Choice May '94
`For all the many felicities of Jolly's work, and its definite contribution to the subject of James's lifelong meditation on the realtions of history and fiction, it recalls to the reader how often and how easily James's restless enquiries elude the most determind strategies to contain them.'
The Modern Language Review
`This brief summary does not do justice to the subtlety and richness of Jolly's argument overall or her reading of individual texts, theoretical and fictional. Especially valuable is her discussion of nineteenth-century cultural debates about the merits of history and fiction....intelligent, neatly focused study.'
`Jolly has produced a timely reminder, by way of a particular study of the large and complex case of Henry James, of the difficult and changing relationship between fiction and history. Treating James's voluminous work in little more than 200 pages inescapably entails selection, although here that selection is well-judged and the attendant danger of the imposition of an overly schematic thesis is, by and large, avoided.'
John M. Lyon, University of Bristol, Review of English Studies, Vol. 47, No. 186, May '96