The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Daisy Miller

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For works with similar titles, see Daisy Miller.
The Encyclopedia Americana
Daisy Miller
Edition of 1920. See also Daisy Miller on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

DAISY MILLER. To know this novel by Henry James in all its forms, from the straight-forward first telling of the story in the Cornhill Magazine in 1878 to its revision in the New York edition of 1909, including the preface to the latter and the reworking of the former as a comedy (printed in the Atlantic Monthly in 1883), is to know the matter and the manner of its author as well as any one book or group of books can indicate the changing style and spirit of an author. Although refused by the first publisher to whom it was offered, as “an outrage on American girlhood,” ‘Daisy Miller’ justified itself by its later success both in England and America. It was, Mr. James says, “promptly pirated in Boston — a sweet tribute I hadn't yet received and was never again to know — and became ultimately the most prosperous child of my invention.” Although essentially dramatic in its quality as a story, it lost its character when rewritten as a play, and ‘Daisy Miller: A Comedy’ was the first of a line of paradoxical failures which marked the playwritings of this dramatic storyteller. As a character, too, Daisy Miller was one of the first of a long line — the successful line of those “international young ladies” who represent over a third of the feminine interest in Mr. James' stories. Like Charlotte Verver and Maggie, Julia Bride, Isabel Archer, Miss Gunton, Pandora Day, and dozens of others, she was young America sketched on a background of Europe, where neither the glare of her moneybags nor the shadow of her newness could obscure her real inwardness. Whether she was altogether fine like Isabel Archer in ‘The Portrait of a Lady,’ exquisitely, unmorally superior like Charlotte Verver in ‘The Golden Bowl,’ or naively, tragically vulgar, made up of “charming little parts that did not match and that made no ensemble,” like Daisy Miller, she was always a type that Henry James drew with vigor, truth and affection. For anyone interested in the contrast between the “early” and the “later” manner of James, a parallel reading of the first and last editions of ‘Daisy Miller’ will well repay study. Artistically, the simpler diction and form of the original is much better suited to the tale as it would be less well suited to the more intricate psychology of ‘The Awkward Age,’ ‘The Ambassador,’ or ‘The Golden Bowl.’

Edith J. R. Isaacs.