Another sequel to The Portrait Of A Lady

I hear from the University of Chicago’s website that renowned Man Booker prize winner, John Banville, is writing a sequel to Henry James’s The Portrait Of A Lady which is due to be published at the end of this year.

I look forward to how he approaches the subject. It will certainly be written as a literary work whereas my sequel, A Kind Of Justice, is more like one of John Banville’s Benjamin Black novels. In the UofC article Banville describes his endeavour as maybe ‘arrogant, foolhardy and stupid’. When I was considering writing the sequel to James’s acclaimed but ambiguously-ending novel I dismissed attempting to write in the great author’s voice as clearly being arrogant and totally beyond me. Therefore, I thought, to take a style diametrically opposed and produce my solution to the enigmatic end of Portrait as a Victorian ‘sensation’ novel and who better to write it than Henrietta Stackpole. Henrietta is a support character in Portrait, an unused rôle model for Isabel Archer and a ‘celebrated authoress’. I cannot describe better Mr James’s notion of ‘me’ better than by re-quoting what my ‘agent’ has written about the relationship.


Henry James seems ambivalent about Henrietta. In his preface to his amended version he refers to her as ‘ so broken a reed (from her slightness of cohesion)’ and as a wheel or body to the coach, ‘or is for a moment accommodated with a seat inside’. He says she is ‘of the light ficelle‘ – a thin string perhaps – rather than a trivial stage trick. Contradicting himself he continues this theme by noting that she can run beside the coach until she is visibly out of breath and will never board it; she will always ‘…tread the dusty road’ and be a fishwife accompanying the royal coach into Paris at the start of the French Revolution. He conceded that he will be asked to explain why he has allowed Henrietta ‘…so almost inexplicably to pervade’.  Eventually he resolves the paradox by explaining that she is ‘…only an excess of my zeal’ and that to avoid ‘thinness’ in his work he cultivates the lively. ‘Henrietta must have been at that time part of my wonderful notion of the lively.’

In the book itself he has this light ficelle, looking after her widowed sister and family from her own income; he has her as a rôle model for the undirected Isabel (a rôle Isabel never lives up to during The Portrait I might say); he has her showing more great humanity when she offers and proceeds to nurse the dying Ralph Touchett on his way back to England and as well as referring to her as a ‘celebrated authoress’ Mr James has Ralph Touchett bequeathing to her his valuable library ‘for services to literature’, thus making her a wealthy woman. All along he has Henrietta as a very modern woman with strength of mind and purpose. Undoubtedly Isabel is the subject of the book – the portrait, but Henrietta is no mere carriage wheel, no chaser on a dusty road, no fishwife, no weak twine – not even a stage trick; she is the glue which binds several flaky characters and situations together. James says his novel has no plot – no story – it is an ‘ado’ – an ado about Isabel Archer. Without Henrietta I suspect it would vie with Shakespeare for the use of his title ‘about nothing’.

I think Mr James was as fascinated as I by Henrietta Stackpole and found it impossible to control her thoughts and actions whenever she stole into his book. He betrays his secret love for her by the amount of preface space he grants her and the excuse he makes for her pervasiveness and super-abundance in his writing. I wonder he never wrote a novel about the gritty, determined and utilitarian Miss Stackpole – perhaps she was just a little too energetic and interesting for his taste.


The University of Chicago article can be found at

and my sequel, A Kind of Justice can be purchased at

Publish in Parts?

Novel No. 2, Some Choose the Pen is quite long at around 140,000 words I am considering publishing it in parts, somewhat like the old Victorian way. The arc is such that I can split it into three novella-sized chunks or two small novel volumes. This would give some scope to charge less for the first volumes enabling readers to see if they like what they read at a lower entry price—or even for free.

I like the idea and will consider it more as I finish off the editing of the finished full volume.

On later consideration I decided to go ahead with three volumes but have not yet decided whether the first part should be at a lower cost or free.

This whole concept filtered into my brain and I decided to do a prelude to A Kind of Justice and to couple it to the first four chapters. for free. I’m in the process of doing this and have a target date of the end of January to complete.

I was a week late which I put down to the task being harder than I thought and a very dreary and permanently cold January. The desire to hibernate was hard to shake off but now it is done and available for free of this website.

Now to the final polishing stage of Some Choose The Pen!

The Time is Nigh

I’ve spent the last week trying to establish which is the best plugin or widget (I don’t even know the difference) it’s best to use on my site to enable books to be purchased or gifted easily. In the end I’ve gone for Easy Digital Downloads (EDD) plus an extension (widget or plugin?) to handle Pay What You Want which I am keen to explore.

Having made this decision I’m hoping that A Kind of Justice will be published next week. The epub and mobi files are all sitting there waiting for the expectant reader and the magic button that leads to download. I know that sounds a little odd but this publishing business has its pregnant moments!

Best wishes


PS this site explains the difference between plugins and widgets but I don’t think it is as clear as that, e.g. EDD (above) seems to me to be a pludget.


My editing agent, Jimpy, thinks it’s important that we establish a reasonably regular series of blogs on the trials, tribulations and tortures of novel writing in the hope that some may be vaguely helpful and others of moderate inspiration. It all smacks too much of arrogance to me but if my musings help at all I will be glad of it.

In any event, Jimpy is probably correct, being, at least, in the land of the breathing whereas I am just a figment of his imagination.

We have decided to move forward on the publication of my first novel (for over 130 years?) through the e-book route. The principle reason for this decision is:


as Jimpy puts it – why wait six months to a year when you can publish through Amazon, Kobo and Smashwords within weeks of final polish.

Using the helpful links on publishing which you will see in the sidebar to the left we came to the conclusion that an initial launch on Kindle alone and perhaps with KDP Select is the way we will go. Then after the required period we shall move on to Smashwords and Kobo to cover the non-Amazon market – and now that you can publish on Nook in the UK we will consider that too.

Depending on the reception we get we may well move on to seeking a literary agent and/or using the Print-on-Demand route. Jimpy has some experience with this latter method over ten years since and assures me it has moved forward in leaps and bounds and has become quite a mature product now.

If you are thinking about publishing yourself you can do

no better than to look at the three publishing links

in the sidebar.