Welcome to the Ladder, a website devoted to the writer Henry James (1843–1916). He was one of the foremost literary figures of his time, leaving us an enormous body of novels, ‘tales’ (short stories), literary and art criticism, autobiography and travel writing. Throughout the twentieth century, and on into our own, different generations of scholars have found in his work points of reference for the preoccupations of their own time, and numbers of ‘ordinary’ readers dreamed of by James but never achieved in his lifetime have been enthralled by the rich texture of his writing.

Because the Henry James scholar’s Guide to Web Sites provides an excellent summary of James-related material available on the web, and modern search engines can find all the eclectic rubbish, the Ladder does not aim to be a comprehensive collection of James information. Rather, its chief purpose is to make available electronic texts (etexts), suitable for reading on the world wide web, of some of the works not available elsewhere, particularly the tales. All of these texts are annotated with relevant critical apparatus to aid study as well as casual reading. Because of the number of titles available, they are indexed on a separate page. Click on the ‘editions available on this site’ option (to be found at all times on the menu, usually as ‘editions’ menu’) for all the relevant links. If you are seeking a text not available here, go first to the Henry James scholar’s Guide to Web Sites, which has a reasonably comprehensive listing, with annotations about the quality, and then try search engines.

Over the course of time, the Ladder has accrued many additional ‘rungs’. I have been led into compiling some scholarly reference tools, such as: indexes to reprints of the novels and of the tales (short stories), showing which of James’s versions of the text has been reprinted in each, together with sample variants so anyone can check a reprint’s textual version; a page giving a summary of each tale, as a finding aid when you can’t remember the title of a particular story; the ‘missing’ index to lists of possible character names in James’s surviving notebooks; a much fuller list of fictional places in James’s work than is given in Robert L. Gale’s A Henry James encyclopedia; and, of more local relevance, a concordance to my editions. I have also provided a page of suggestions which may help you if you are completely new to Henry James’s writing, answering the question “where do I begin?” You can find all these rungs through the menu in the left-hand frame, and introductory descriptions of them are available on a guide to the site.

Future projects include: the construction of a chronology of James’s life and works (after the disappointment of the book published in 2005); and, perhaps using one of the shorter tales as a guinea-pig, to find a method of presenting James’s various revisions on the Internet, possibly using XML although initial impressions are that it is too inflexible to cope! If you have any comments on my current work here or have web ideas you wish to share, please feel free to contact me for a discussion.

Being in favour of using open standards, this site is written in XHTML 1.0 Transitional (it uses frames) and CSS2 (on a Linux system, of course). You are advised that some errors may occur if viewing it with Micros**t’s Internet Explorer (up to version 7), which is non-compliant with these standards. I’ve also noticed odd displays with IE8 (although I’ve implemented revised style sheets to ensure that the shorter dividing lines are centred). I suggest you get a better browser: the excellent Mozilla Firefox and the blindingly fast Opera browsers are available for free. If you encounter other problems, particularly with the JavaScript on some of the ‘clever’ pages, please let me know: stating which platform, browser (including version) and which page, of course.

Adrian Dover – November 2013