This guide to the contents of the Ladder is provided to give newcomers, especially, a descriptive overview of what is available: because of the fifteen-year history of the site, there is a potentially bewildering abundance of features and facilities. In addition to the summary of the parts of the site there are some hints and tips on technical matters.

electronic texts (editions)

The major part of the contents of the Ladder comprise electronic editions of a selection of Henry James’s works. You can think of the editions on this site as online versions of the modern paperbacks of literary classics. As well as the text, carefully edited from a single source, each contains :

Whereas in a printed edition these elements are presented sequentially – paperback publishers not usually wanting to run to the expense of typesetting footnotes on the text pages! – in the electronic environment all the elements can be interrelated with hypertext links. Therefore the display of a text on the Ladder has three frames, from left to right: a menu, with the main elements listed for instant access; a central text frame, for the introduction, text, textual note, synopsis and bibliography; and a note frame, in which links in the text or other central page ‘pop up’ so that you can read the note in conjunction with the text to which it refers. A comprehensive guide to using editions on this site is available.

Most of the texts here are fiction, covering novels, tales and plays. So far I have only tackled novels which are not available electronically elsewhere and, while my ultimate aim is to present editions of all the tales in the source collections to which I have access, I have, again, tackled first the ones which are not otherwise available. Recently I have begun completing the collection, often editing a version of the text which is not available elsewhere (mostly ‘original book’ as opposed to ‘New York edition’). The plays I have edited are related to one of the tales and one of the novels are not intended to be the start of a full collection. In addition to the fiction here, I have provided the complete set of prefaces James wrote for his ‘definitive’ New York edition of 1907–1909: surprisingly, in light of their continued relevance to literary criticism, only a few of these were available on the web before (as part of texts of the novels).

Finally, of course, it’s not quite so easy to ‘flip through’ an electronic edition, hence the provision of the chapter by chapter synopses – just don’t make them a substitute for reading the texts!


As an adjunct to the editions on the Ladder, I have used the computer to generate a single-word concordance to the fiction texts here. For each word this shows the number of occurrences and the texts including it (with links to take you to the text so you can search for the word in context).

lists of fictional places

Published encyclopedias of Henry James’s fictional names concentrate on the people, although Robert L. Gale’s A Henry James encyclopedia has a very incomplete list of ‘Houses, mansions and other imagined places in James’s fiction and plays’. Here is a much fuller list, although it is not yet quite complete.

index to name lists in the notebooks

Henry James’s surviving notebooks have been published in two editions, in 1947 and 1987 (details are in the bibliography). Despite indexing many of the references in the text, neither edition contains a index of the possible names for characters which James jotted down in occasional lists. I have compiled the missing index and made it available online here, now including notes showing where names were actually used by James.

index to reprints of the novels

This index lists all but the most obscure reprint editions of James’s novels and, where known, shows which version of the text each particular editor has chosen. The editor’s name and presence of any critical apparatus, such as introduction, notes and (specific) bibliography, are also shown. There is also a page detailing sample textual differences between versions for several of the novels, so you can do your own checking.

index to tales in collections

This index enables you to track down a printed text of any of James’s tales, which have appeared in many and various different collections over the ninety plus years since his death. To the extent that my knowledge allows, the details show which of James’s own ‘authorized’ versions of the text is reprinted: with his habit of revising for each new edition during his lifetime there can be up to five versions of the text and it is not always easy to find out, without checking a volume, which one a particular editor has chosen. There is a page of notes on how to set about identifying different versions and, to go with it, as with the novels, there is a page detailing sample textual differences between versions for many of the tales, to aid your own investigations.

list of tales’ summaries

Here you will find a brief summary of the situation or plot of each of the tales. It is designed for reference, particularly if you remember or have been told about a story but don’t recall its title. Hopefully, you can jog your memory by scanning the entries here.

miscellaneous other pages

There are a few ‘one off ’ pages here too. One you may find useful is a page of suggestions of works which I recommend if you are new to James’s work and want to start reading him. Other pages are adjuncts to the rest of the site, comprising :

font tips

To jazz up the look of the titles a little, download a swish titling font which was supplied with Windows NT but not with some more recent versions until, I think, Windows 7.. The font is called Matura MT Script and you used to be able to download it here.

Reading text online can be wearing on the eyes and another font I originally found on Windows NT became my preferred text font because it had a much less ‘lumpy’ look than Times New Roman or some of the other alternatives. It was Century Schoolbook and a number of locations which had free downloads of the true-type files no longer respond. Short of a firm recommendation now, I have tried to match my style sheet calls to the best of the faces available on a majority of machines (see the statistics on the Code Style website) but if you have a suggestion of a good face for continuous reading please contact me.