One step into the room had sufficed; my vision was instantaneous; it was all there. The person looking straight in was the person who had already appeared to me. He appeared thus again with I won’t say greater distinctness, for that was impossible, but with a nearness that represented a forward stride in our intercourse and made me, as I met him, catch my breath and turn cold. He was the same—he was the same, and seen, this time, as he had been seen before. . . His face was close to the glass, yet the effect of this better view was, strangely, only to show me how intense the former had been. He remained but a few seconds—long enough to convince me he also saw and recognized. Something, however, happened this time that had not happened before; his stare into my face, through the glass and across the room, was as deep and hard as then, but it quitted me for a moment during which I could still watch it, see it fix successively several other things. On the spot there came to me the added shock of a certitude that it was not for me he had come there. He had come for someone else. . .
Henry James (1843–1916) was a celebrated American author, who became a British subject in the last year of his life, and is considered by many to be among the greatest novelists in the English language having been thrice nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature. His novella The Turn of the Screw has garnered a reputation as the most analyzed and ambiguous ghost story in the English language and remains his most widely adapted work in other media. The story centers on a young governess sent to a remote estate to care for two orphans, but quickly becomes convinced that the grounds are haunted and its specters are stalking the children – but are they? And are they even real? And are the children aware? Questions author Gillian Flynn sums perfectly with her observation, “The Turn of the Screw is one of the most chilling ghost stories ever, largely because it is so deliciously elusive.”
"...one of the most chilling ghost stories ever,
largely because it is so deliciously elusive.”
As an Afterword, we have included an excerpt from the Preface that James wrote for his 1908 New York Edition, which provides some background as to how the story originated, and James’ thoughts on its success and criticisms after its initial publication ten years earlier, first being serialized in Collier’s Weekly magazine in 1898, then appearing later that same year in the book The Two Magics.
We hope you enjoy this book as much as we Heathens do!
And if this is your first time reading The Turn of the Screw, then you might want to read it with all the lights on. *mischievous giggle*
P.S. If you’re looking for a great companion piece to this “deliciously elusive” story, we highly recommend Jack Clayton’s 1961 film The Innocents co-written by Truman Capote (!) and starring Deborah Kerr. In the realm of adaptations that equal and possibly even surpass the original source material, The Innocents sits very high on the list.
“Cruel and untrue.” –Bookman
“Distinctly repulsive.” –Outlook
“A most wonderful, lurid poisonous little tale.” –Oscar Wilde
“One of the most thrilling stories we have ever read.” –The New York Tribune
“The most hopelessly evil story that we could have read in any literature.” –Independent
“[Henry James] is by no means a safe author to give for a Christmas gift.” –Ainlee’s Magazine
“The finest work he has ever done . . . a beautiful pearl: something perfect, rounded, calm, unforgettable.” –The American Monthly Review of Reviews
“[James] made The Turn of the Screw as frightening and dramatic as he could . . . So frightening, indeed, that he actually frightened himself. When he came to correct the proofs of the story, which was serialised over 12 issues in 1898, he told his friend Edmund Goose: ‘When I had finished them I was so frightened that I was afraid to go upstairs to bed.’” –Colm Tóibín, The Guardian
“It’s the darkest, richest ghost story I’ve ever read. Its profoundest pleasure lies in the beautifully fussed over way in which James refuses to come down on either side. In its twenty-four brief chapters, the book becomes a modest monument to the bold pursuit of ambiguity. At each rereading, you have to marvel anew at how adroitly and painstakingly James plays both sides.” –Brad Leithauser, The New Yorker
Published: July 27, 2020
Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.39 inches
Weight: 7.4 ounces
Cover: Matte Finish
Interior: Black & White on Cream Paper
Pages: 156 (+2 POD)
Annotations: 66 Footnotes
July 27, 2020