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Did You Know

YOU'VE GOT WHAT?: The characters in Daisy Miller talk a lot about "Roman fever," or "the plague" which is going around in the city. This sounds like the worry of overprotective mothers when it's first mentioned, but, of course, Roman fever turns out to have a deadly importance: Daisy really does contract it, and dies of it in the end.

In fact, the deadly "Roman fever" was malaria, a dangerous tropical illness which, before the advent of modern medicine, was often deadly. We now know that it can be transmitted by the bites of mosquitoes, which breed in still water and warm climates and -- of course -- are more active after dark. So the Victorian medics and worried society ladies really were right when they tried to warn Daisy: Going around outside in Rome, especially after dark, could be dangerous not only to the reputation but also to the health.

DAISY OUTRAGEOUS: Although Daisy Miller turned out to be one of the most lastingly popular of James's works, the first magazine he submitted it to rejected it without comment. The editor of Lippincott's, an American magazine based in Philadelphia, mailed James back the manuscript without an explanation -- which James thought very strange, since the editor had published his works before. A friend whom he gave the story to read explained to James that he thought the editor must have seen the tale as "an outrage on American girlhood"!

But the magazine readership of England and America didn't seem to be outraged. Or, if they were, they loved Daisy Miller anyway: on its 1878 magazine publication in England, the story was almost immediately published in pirated editions in Boston and New York. James claimed to be proud of this "sweet tribute," but because of it -- there were no international copyright laws at that time to protect authors from this kind of thing -- he saw very little money from the American sales of the book.

MASTER WORK: Late in his career, in 1907-1909, James carefully revised many of his stories and novels in preparing the "definitive edition" of his work, known as the New York edition. The revisions he made to Daisy Miller are usually not included in editions of the book, because they replace the quick, light touch of the original story with the slow, complex prose mechanisms James was using thirty years later -- at a point in his career when he was generally known simply as "the Master."

The 1907 edition of Daisy Miller includes an interesting preface, which gives some background on the genesis and history of the story, but which also demonstrates the ponderousness at which James's prose had arrived. A typical moment from this preface, in which James quotes a woman who challenged him about the book, goes as follows: 'You know you quite falsified, by the turn you gave it, the thing you had begun with having in mind, the thing you had had, to satiety, the chance of 'observing': your pretty perversion of it, or your unprincipled mystification of our sense of it, does it really too much honour -- in spite of which, none the less, as anything charming or touching always to that extent justifies itself, we after a fashion forgive and understand you." You too may forgive Henry James for this sentence, but can you understand him?

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Part 1 (I)
Part 1 (II)
Part 1 (III)
Part 2 (I)
Part 2 (II)
Part 2 (III)
Part 3 (I)
Part 3 (II)
Part 3 (III)
Part 4 (I)
Part 4 (II)
Part 4 (III)
Part 4 (IV)


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