Roderick Hudson Background

Roderick Hudson Background

It was while visiting Europe in in 1874 that Henry James begin writing Roderick Hudson. Even before the manuscript was completed, the Atlantic Monthly began serializing chapters upon the author’s return to American in 1875. With the highly popular monthly installments due to end in December of that year, Roderick Hudson was published in novel form in November by J.R. Osgood.

Roderick Hudson thus stands as the first major novel of what would become one of the most illustrious literary characters in American history. Despite this, James exhibited a clear ambivalence toward the final published product. James conducted some minor revisions to the story prior to publication of the British edition in 1878. The revisions was much more significant for special New York Edition of the novel published in 1907 and also included a preface in which his James outlined the faults that he found with the original version. One aspect of his novel with which James was in no way critical was the character of Christina Light. So enamored of his creation was he, in fact, that James wrote an entire novel just for her. Christina is the title character of his 1886 novel, The Princess Casamassima.

Intended as a thematic exploration of what would become a recurring motif in the work of James—that of the artist’s relationship and position within the world—Roderick Hudson has since primarily been of academic interest and scholarship as a perhaps unconsciously intended exploration of what it means to be a homosexual in a world that has expressly forbidden such expression of sexuality as morally reprehensible and psychologically unsound.

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