An outstanding Four Volume collection of the unearthly from the pen of a master
Henry James was a notable American author who lived and worked in England for forty years of his life—becoming a nationalised British subject shortly before his death. He is especially remembered for his portrayal of Americans abroad and for the creativity and freedom he displayed within his diverse literary perspectives. His novels remain highly regarded and continually read. Among them are Washington Square, The Bostonians, The Ambassadors and others. In any list of James' notable achievements one title frequently appears first—just as in every list of the most highly regarded supernatural fiction a James work is also certain to appear. That story is, of course, the novella, 'The Turn of the Screw'—a tale of creeping supernatural threat, terror, polluted innocence and inevitable tragedy. It is a deserved classic of supernatural fiction and true to the nature of such things subordinates James's other work in the genre almost to obscurity. Predictably a prolific author who had both a talent for and an interest in the fiction of the bizarre and ghostly would be unlikely to venture into its shadowy realms but once. This special Leonaur collection of Henry James' supernatural fiction fills four substantial volumes for modern readers to relish. A veritable literary feast is in store for those who dare to venture within its pages.
In this first volume appears the famous, 'The Turn of the Screw' and another novella, 'The Lesson of the Master,' plus two novelettes, 'The Marriages' and 'The Private Life' and seven shorter works including, ‘The Romance of Certain Old Clothes,' 'Brooksmith' and others.
There was a moment during which I listened, reminded of the faint sense I had had, the first night, of there being something undefinably astir in the house, and noted the soft breath of the open casement just move the half-drawn blind. Then, with all the marks of a deliberation that must have seemed magnificent had there been anyone to admire it, I laid down my book, rose to my feet, and, taking a candle, went straight out of the room and, from the passage, on which my light made little impression, noiselessly closed and locked the door.<br>
I can say now neither what determined nor what guided me, but I went straight along the lobby, holding my candle high, till I came within sight of the tall window that presided over the great turn of the staircase. At this point I precipitately found myself aware of three things. They were practically simultaneous, yet they had flashes of succession. My candle, under a bold flourish, went out, and I perceived, by the uncovered window, that the yielding dusk of earliest morning rendered it unnecessary. Without it, the next instant, I saw that there was someone on the stair. I speak of sequences, but I required no lapse of seconds to stiffen myself for a third encounter with Quint.<br>
The apparition had reached the landing halfway up and was therefore on the spot nearest the window, where at sight of me, it stopped short and fixed me exactly as it had fixed me from the tower and from the garden. He knew me as well as I knew him; and so, in the cold, faint twilight, with a glimmer in the high glass and another on the polish of the oak stair below, we faced each other in our common intensity. He was absolutely, on this occasion, a living, detestable, dangerous presence. But that was not the wonder of wonders; I reserve this distinction for quite another circumstance: the circumstance that dread had unmistakably quitted me and that there was nothing in me there that didn’t meet and measure him.<br>
I had plenty of anguish after that extraordinary moment, but I had, thank God, no terror. And he knew I had not—I found myself at the end of an instant magnificently aware of this. I felt, in a fierce rigor of confidence, that if I stood my ground a minute I should cease—for the time, at least—to have him to reckon with; and during the minute, accordingly, the thing was as human and hideous as a real interview: hideous just because it WAS human, as human as to have met alone, in the small hours, in a sleeping house, some enemy, some adventurer, some criminal. It was the dead silence of our long gaze at such close quarters that gave the whole horror, huge as it was, its only note of the unnatural.<br>
If I had met a murderer in such a place and at such an hour, we still at least would have spoken. Something would have passed, in life, between us; if nothing had passed, one of us would have moved. The moment was so prolonged that it would have taken but little more to make me doubt if even I were in life. I can’t express what followed it save by saying that the silence itself—which was indeed in a manner an attestation of my strength—became the element into which I saw the figure disappear; in which I definitely saw it turn as I might have seen the low wretch to which it had once belonged turn on receipt of an order, and pass, with my eyes on the villainous back that no hunch could have more disfigured, straight down the staircase and into the darkness in which the next bend was lost.