1880s

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The Fictions of Byron

 

Fictions of Byron: An Annotated Bibliography
by G. Todd Davis

1880s

The Aspern Papers. Henry James. 1888. The narrator, a critic, biographer, and historian, continues his search for Jeffrey Aspern's papers. He believes that the Bordereau women have numerous letters and papers from Aspern's own hand. He desperately wants to see them and concocts a plan to masquerade as a boarder in their huge house. He does so, but clashes with Juliana Bordereau's temperament. She despises publishing houses and their editors. The narrator befriends Miss Tina, Juliana’s niece, and eventually gains her trust. She tells him that Miss Juliana hoards numerous papers from Aspern, but that she guards them closely. Eventually, Miss Juliana dies, but Miss Tina says the narrator must marry her to gain access to the papers. He recoils in horror and leaves. Miss Tina burns the papers one by one at the kitchen table. The short story ends with the narrator longing after the papers, knowing that the destruction of them was his fault. Henry James writes this story based on factual evidence relating to Claire Clairmont, her niece, and Capt. Edward Silsbee, the Boston art critic and Shelley worshipper. Claire retained papers and letters of both Byron and Shelley. Silsbee lodged with the Clairmonts and eventually Claire died. The niece said that Silsbee could have the papers only if he married her.

Published @ RC

January 2006