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by Henry James

Foreword by Libby Purves

A young girl working in a Mayfair post office is privy to the brief yet substantial messages telegraphed by wealthy, fashionable people to their friends. As she reads, she develops her own particular intimacy with various scandals, amours, and intrigues. Her mind captive in the cage of her workplace, and with only the prospect of a rather dull marriage to look forward to, she surrenders to her powerful imagination, her chosen entertainment being the sporadic visits of the dashing Captain Everard, and the ‘extravagance, selfishness, immorality, and crimes’ of the idle rich.

 In this novella, Henry James, an American in London, creates an unremarkable yet beguiling heroine to elaborate the gaze of one observing the rituals of her elders and betters. The result is a very modern story of communication and misunderstanding, technology and codes, and the professional and personal dilemmas that arise in the space between wishful thinking and settling for one’s lot in life.

Publication date: 01/11/2002

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