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The Classic Short Story, 1870-1925

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Florence Goyet

Part II: Media

6. Exoticism in the Classic Short Story

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  • 1 Harold Orel, The Victorian Short Story (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, l986), p. 127. On th (...)

Stevenson’s short stories were written originally for periodicals. For the sake of acceptance, Stevenson had to study the market; as he understood it, that market flourished when the literary commodity sold by the periodical was escapist, highly colored, and unobtrusively moral in its implications.1

1Harold Orel’s remark about Robert Louis Stevenson does not apply to all short story writers at the turn of the century, but his three essential points can be given a general application. Almost all short stories were written for periodicals at the end of the nineteenth century; as such, the author needed to adapt to a market and a pre-existing public (the readership of the periodical in which he published). Moreover, Orel points to the great law of the classic short story: exoticism. This may be surprising or shocking considering that exoticism — so overused in the preceding era — was known to be rejected by the Naturalists and, indeed, there are fewer texts that are exotic in the strict sense of the word in the end of the nineteenth century. But the term can be used to indicate in general the essential distance between readers and characters in the classic short story.

  • 2 This is one of the great differences between the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of (...)

2Almost everywhere in the world the “golden age” of the classic short story is intimately connected with that of the press. The periodical — grand purveyor of fiction — enthusiastically welcomed short narratives, along with serials and sensational news items2. The genre developed within this privileged framework, and Orel’s remark reminds us that such symbiosis between periodical and short story is heavy with implications for how stories were written at this time.

The role of the press

  • 3 Among the features that are associated with this rise: the growth of general education, technical i (...)
  • 4 The Library in Florence subscribed to 1,360 titles in 1891 and, in a call for papers in an exhibiti (...)
  • 5 For details of Chekhov’s income from newspapers, see Boris Esin, Chekhov Jurnalist (Moscow: Izd-vo (...)
  • 6 Edel (1965). See also Anne T. Margolis, Henry James and the Problem of Audience: An International A (...)

3The rise of the press at the end of the nineteenth century profoundly transformed the literary landscape.3 The arrival of the “penny papers” made it possible for everyone to buy one or more newspapers a day; the number of titles and the print-runs were enormous.4 Writing for the newspapers became an important part of an author’s income: from France to the United States to Japan, authors — particularly those of short stories — more or less lived off their earnings from newspapers.5 Anton Chekhov is known to have supported his whole family in Moscow thanks to his contributions to the press. Luigi Pirandello was able to supplement his meager professor’s salary with his short stories, and he found himself in deep financial trouble when this outlet was no longer available to him. As a young man, Henry James responded with some acrimony when his father suggested that he publish his first works at his own expense, and James instead turned to the periodicals. In the beginning he obtained contracts for travelogues, and his first short stories were published soon after. Later, around 1887, James found himself in financial trouble when some periodical editors were slow to publish his manuscripts. Leon Edel shows that the problem went deep: for James, losing the press as an outlet for his work virtually meant losing his status as an author, or at least as an author who was read.6

  • 7 Verga wrote this in a letter to Luigi Capuana, Lettere a Luigi Capuana, ed. by Gino Raya (Florence: (...)

4Not only did the press provide the money that allowed writers to make a living, it also provided them with most of their readers. The numbers speak for themselves: 3,000 copies in one or two years would be considered excellent sales for a collection of short stories, whereas 30,000 copies was normal for any periodical of the time. Giovanni Verga’s collection Vita dei campi (Life in the Fields), constantly cited in articles as a bestseller, sold around 5,000 copies in ten years.7 Guy de Maupassant’s Les Contes de la Bécasse (The Deaf Mute), considered a huge success, sold 4,000 copies between September 1882 and February 1884. This represents seven successive editions. Which means that for each of the additional editions, the publisher decided not to publish more than 300 copies. Clearly, even best-selling authors such as Maupassant (together with Zola the author with the highest print run of the time) was not expected to sell more than a few thousands copies of his stories.

  • 8 It was the same in Russia: when giving a story to the journal Novoe vremya, Chekhov was addressing (...)

5On the other hand, when Verga published his short stories in the newspaper Fanfulla, 23,000 copies were sold; and when Maupassant published in Le Gaulois or Gil Blas, the print run was in the order of 30,000 copies.8 Thus, without even mentioning the giants of the small press and their hundreds of thousands of copies, the newspapers of average circulation represented an infinitely larger audience than the readership of collections.

Exotic subjects

  • 9 Scofield notes in relation to American short stories: “The short story was frequently the form chos (...)

6The thousand or so stories I have surveyed for this study have exotic subjects at their core, with only a handful of exceptions. There is almost always a radical difference between the characters in classic short stories and the readers for which they were written. Sometimes what we find is exoticism in the strict sense: although there was a movement away from locating stories in exotic locations at the end of the nineteenth century, it was not completely abandoned, and the short story is one place where foreign settings persisted.9 Stevenson was not the only one to set his work in distant countries: Joseph Conrad and Herman Melville developed the dramatic potential of a sailor’s life; Ambrose Bierce dedicated himself to describing the unfamiliar world of the American frontier; while Jack London wrote of the Great North. Meanwhile, Maupassant provided vignettes of life in Northern Africa in short stories such as Allouma or Un soir (One Evening).

  • 10 David Trotter is very clear on the topic of Kipling’s English perspective on India following his sc (...)
  • 11 Rudyard Kipling, Something of Myself: For My Friends Known and Unknown (Rockville, MD: Wildside Pre (...)

7Rudyard Kipling, who became instantly famous with his Indian tales, continued to produce exotic short stories throughout his life, from his early Indian accounts, to his tales of South Africa, and other stories of soldiers, sailors or animals.10 His short stories were first published for the ex-pat community in Lahore, for whom they represented a more immediate record of an exotic life. But it was the English who made Kipling’s success. In his autobiography, the author explains that the exoticism of his subjects was what made Mowbray Morris, the editor of Macmillan’s Magazine, pursue him enthusiastically on his return from India.11 Even James’s stories of the “international theme” were drawing on exoticism, giving to his American readers the spectacle of the seemingly great differences of life in Europe, and vice versa.

8As for the Japanese, they often chose as their subject the world of the West: there are innumerable stories, beginning with Mori Ōgai and Nagai Kafū, that reference Germany, France or America. Temporal exoticism was also popular: a great many of Ōgai’s stories were “historical” and Akutagawa Ryūnosuke set most of his tales in the distant past. Frequently the latter would take his inspiration from mediaeval chronicles, amplifying traditional tales of gods and famous men of history, but also of the Brigands or the petty nobles of the Heian court. Fantastic short stories could also be described as exotic in their description of the “other”; they play on the sometimes infinitesimal but always crucial distance between the normal and the strange world. Similarly, James often focussed on the character of the “Great Writer”, in all his difference from “ordinary” men.

  • 12 Details of this survey can be found in Goyet (1990), available at http://rare.u-grenoble3.fr/spip/s (...)
  • 13 “[…] pariginissimo, libero, malizioso, beffardo, sarcastico novellatore Guy de Maupassant”. Benedet (...)

9But the principal form of exoticism at the end of the nineteenth century is what might be called “social exoticism”. The majority of Maupassant’s stories, as well as those of Verga or Pirandello, and of the young Chekhov or Joyce, focus on the lower middle class. Their subjects are often prostitutes or other pariahs of society, but also “average” working men, petty bureaucrats or peasants. I conducted a survey of the forty or so periodicals in which most of the short stories of Verga, Maupassant and Chekhov appeared, and found that they each had a specific audience, of which the characters in the short stories were almost never members.12 The short stories about working people and peasants appeared in newspapers intended for high society (Maupassant, Verga) or satirical papers (the young Chekhov). Stories about provincials were appearing in the newspapers of the capital cities: Milan, Rome, St Petersburg and Moscow. The point here can be summed up in one word, the epithet Benedetto Croce used for Maupassant: “pariginissimo”.13 When Maupassant was writing about the provinces, he was a Parisian speaking to Parisians.

  • 14 On 17 March 1886, for example, both newspapers ran the same advertisement for period furniture.
  • 15 The archives of Le Gaulois and Gil Blas are accessible via the website of the Bibliothèque National (...)

10Maupassant was bound by contract to Le Gaulois and Gil Blas for the exclusive rights to all his future work. The difference between these two periodicals has often been stressed: Gil Blas was a light newspaper, somewhat licentious, to which Maupassant gave the short stories and chronicles that he could not have offered to Le Gaulois because they would shock its readers, especially women. But the two newspapers shared a great deal in common: both were accessible only to members of high society because of their price (15 and 13 centimes) and their subjects. Le Gaulois contained worldly gossip and high-society news only of interest to those who knew the people alluded to, news from abroad, and accounts of official receptions. Gil Blas offered political news side by side with pieces of scandal, and the publications of the Official Journal; it also gave weather reports for chic resorts and foreign cities. Regular topics included: “Chronicle from the [Parliament] Chamber”, “Behind the Scenes in Finance”, and “Paris Affairs: From the Council [of Ministers]”. The paper offered some financial news and a little culture: on the whole nothing of any great intellectual breadth but very worldly. Advertisements in Gil Blas are very similar to those in Le Gaulois — sometimes even the same.14 They both included notices for hotels and expensive houses for sale, for example, a “Unique mansion, Opera quarter, 20,000 fr. a year”, or a “Factory, in Aubervilliers [a suburb near Paris] with mansion”, as well as mortgage and investment funds, period furniture, etc.15 It was these two elegant periodicals that published short stories about urban employees who “worked for eighteen hundred francs a year”, and about provincials in Normandy who were shown as simple, coarse and greedy.

  • 16 Verga published 29 short stories (out of 70) in the Fanfulla della Domenica.
  • 17 The photograph of the princess with Fanfulla is in the private collection of the Villa Torrigiani a (...)
  • 18 L’Illustrazione italiana (eleven stories), La Fiametta (Gli Orfani); La Domenica letteraria (Libert (...)

11Verga published most frequently in the supplement of the Fanfulla.16 This was a very expensive periodical (24 lire per year), published in Rome, and considered fashionable enough for the Princess of Savoy-Aosta to be photographed holding it.17 French was quoted without translation and there were daily reports from the stock exchange, foreign book announcements and reviews, and advertisements for expensive products. Literary and theatrical reviews appear side by side with society clippings on “the fox-hunting season” (using the English term), or Princess Marguerite’s visit to San Remo. It was here, or in even more sophisticated periodicals, that Verga published his stories about the peasants of far-away Sicily, the opposite end of the reader’s world.18

  • 19 Giovanni Verga, Tutte le novelle, ed. by Carla Ricciardi, 2 vols (Milan: Mondadori, 1983), I, p. 20 (...)
  • 20 Ibid, p. 209.
  • 21 The same gulf existed between Verga’s readers and his characters from the urban working population (...)

12The key to this contrast and this distance is given by the beginning of Verga’s short story Pentolaccia: “Let’s do as if we were at the cosmorama […] There’s ‘Pentolaccia’, he’s quite a type in himself”.19 Pentolaccia is a jealous provincial, who is all the more striking for having long accepted his wife’s infidelities. “La Venera” has been the mistress of Don Liborio for years; an affair which, by the way, made Pentolaccia a rich man. The entire story is told in the colloquial language of peasants, and the text is full of comparisons between these people and animals (hens, mules and a bull). The gulf separating high society readers from the jealous “country bumpkin” is central to this text. The mention of the “cosmorama” — a typical feature of working-class amusement parks at the end of the nineteenth century — indicates that we will be looking at a fixed and distant image. There, as Verga himself describes in the text: “during a country fete, if we put our eye to the glass, we can see everything pass before us from Garibaldi to Victor-Emmanuel” (where the narrator who says “we” is a Sicilian peasant).20 The cosmorama signifies the naive pleasure of country people as they discover the beauties of a wider world. They are happy and content to see “as if real” their king or heroes. For the readers of Fanfulla the perspective is, of course, reversed: they were living in the world of Victor Emmanuel, and it was the provinces and the working people, the Pentolaccias and the “Lupas”, the poor Sicilian muleteers and fishermen, whom they were looking at in this way.21

  • 22 I have only seen the “regular” edition of Vsemirnaya illustratsiya; there was also a deluxe edition (...)

13Chekhov provides another symbol of this kind of distance. On his return from a trip to Sakhalin, Chekhov published a landmark study of the convict prison, as well as two stories whose heroes were Siberian convicts or exiles. His story V ssylke (In Exile) paints the terrifying and hopeless picture he had seen on his way there. What is of interest to us is that the story appeared in Vsemirnaya illustratsiya, a Russian review homologous to the French or Italian Illustration: twenty well-illustrated pages, with plates and polished presentation. It contained the obituaries of famous Russians, but also Polish, English and French personalities, which appeared side by side with society news items, and long articles on topical events like the Panama affair. It was a beautiful and expensive publication at 15 roubles a year.22 For the readers of Vsemirnaya illustratsiya, an account of the desperately hard life of the exiles in Siberia was as exotic as a story of another country.

  • 23 Although subscriptions to all the great daily newspapers were sold throughout the country, as well (...)

14Chekhov gave many of his early short stories about provincials to the satirical papers of the two cities which played the role of capital in Russia: Moscow and St Petersburg. For the readers of these two metropolises, he repeatedly returned to the eternally popular theme of the shortcomings of the provincials — characters who appeared ridiculous to his readers simply because they lacked urban “sophistication”. The tone of Chekhov’s short stories in the satirical press was direct, and the characters are caricatured to such an extent that they would have been deeply offensive to those who were the subject of the ridicule. But the people living in the provinces had no opportunity to read these papers, nor did they have access to them if they had wanted to. Similarly the poor peasants of Normandy could hardly enjoy reading the short stories of Maupassant in which they are portrayed — as we shall see later in some detail. The point is that the authors could be as satirical as they liked, because the papers in which these stories were published would in no way lose a sale from an angry or offended customer.23

  • 24 Verga published eighteen out of his seventy stories in them. Chekhov, from 1888 on, was a regular c (...)

15Verga and Chekhov also frequently published in the intellectual journals — the “thick journals” (tolstye zhurnaly), as they were called in Russia.24 These played a great role in the intellectual life of the time. Naturalism, as is well known, was the expression of a period when artists felt deeply concerned with the social and political state of their countries. This was also true of the educated public at large, especially in Italy and Russia: they were ready to read serious and demanding publications. The Rivista nuova di scienze, lettere e arti, Rassegna settimanale di politica scienze, lettere e arti and Nuova rivista in Italy, and Russkaya mysl’, Severny vestnik and Zhizn’ in Russia were austere periodicals, of more than two hundred pages. They offered regular articles on military affairs, geography, moral philosophy, political analysis, descriptions of and reflections on political institutions, and many reviews of books, both scientific and literary.

16The short stories in these publications were on quite a different footing from those published in the worldly newspapers. Appearing side by side with statistical studies, reflexions on the administration of the provinces or reviews of books on philosophy or agronomy, they illustrated with all the force of pathos the horrifying state of the nation. There was just as much distance between the reader and subjects of short stories in these journals as in the daily newspapers, but the gap was of a different kind: it was the intellectual’s distance from his object of observation and reflection in what was a quasi-ethnographic document. For the readers of these intellectual publications, short stories offered a kind of scientific reflection; the ultimate aim being to transform reality.

The constraints of the newspapers

  • 25 Gabriel Tarde, L’Opinion et la foule (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1989 [1901]).

17Newspapers imposed restrictions on authors, the most obvious being that of length: Kipling, in the Civil and Military Gazette of Lahore, was allowed exactly a column and a quarter for each of his Plain Tales From the Hills; James, throughout his career, never ceased to complain of the 5,000 word limitation imposed on him. But let us remember that the short story sometimes continued through two or even three issues of the paper, so the restriction on length was not absolute. Another constraint was adamantly imposed on the author: since he was publishing in a periodical, he had to adapt to his public. As we know, newspaper editors were particularly importance of the barometer provided by the number of subscriptions, and all the studies of the press show a good editor to be a constant observer of his public’s taste attentive to the reactions of their readers. Gabriel Tarde insisted on the importance of the barometer provided by the number of subscriptions, and all the studies of the press show a good editor to be a constant observer of his public’s taste.25

  • 26 See Richard Ellmann, James Joyce (New York: Oxford University Press, 1959); Robert Scholes, “Some O (...)
  • 27 Etienne Sarkany, Forme, socialité et processus d’information: l’exemple du récit court à l’aube du (...)

18As we have seen, classic short stories were mostly published in newspapers that their provincial or popular objects of satire did not read. There are, however, a few counter-examples, all of which seem to prove the rule that the most successful classic short stories relied on some form of exoticism. Joyce, Proust, James and Maupassant each tried to publish stories in which the readers could recognise themselves. These are arguably among their greatest failures. Joyce’s misfortunes in publishing Dubliners, for example, are well known: the editor of the The Irish Homestead only published three of the ten or so stories he had ordered, and it took almost ten years and the intervention of Ezra Pound for the collection to see the light of day.26 Critics tend to see this as the result of the crude work of a “complex and extended censorship (judicial, social and psychological)” to quote Etienne Sarkany.27

  • 28 Levy (1993) observes the way in which institutions preside over short story writing today: “By agre (...)
  • 29 The letter reads: “Could you write anything simple, rural?, livemaking?, pathos?, which could be in (...)

19It seems to me, however, that the problems with Dubliners essentially came down to Joyce rejecting the conventions of short story publishing at the time, by trying to have his stories read by those who were most involved.28 Joyce was unable to achieve publication for a broad Irish public because the stories lacked the usual distance between readers and characters. When George Russell wrote to Joyce suggesting that he send short stories dealing with Ireland to The Irish Homestead, he defined for him a formula for his reader’s expectations: it was a question of writing “something simple, rural, livemaking, pathos”.29 We should not look on these as idle words from Russell — he knew the Irish intellectual and literary world well, in an Ireland at the height of its Gaelic euphoria, when folklore and national traditions were elevated to the level of myth.

  • 30 See Joyce’s well-known letter to Constantine Curran: “I am writing a series of epicleti — ten — for (...)
  • 31 Similarly, Joyce distributed his pamphlet entitled “The Holy Office” amongst the intellectuals of D (...)
  • 32 See Sarkany (1982), p. 360.
  • 33 Johnson (2001), p. xliii.

20It is Joyce’s concept that is in question here, and a concept of which he himself was very conscious. In Dubliners he made an accusation of the “hemiplegia” which he saw as paralyzing his country; he envisaged his texts as an opportunity of educating his fellow citizens.30 The saying is famous: the Dubliners would be a “nicely polished looking-glass”, which he would hold up to the people of Dublin to see themselves as they are, so that they could improve. It was a case of wanting deliberately to confront the Irish with his stories, and he refused to follow the advice of his brother to try to publish them in the French papers instead of the Irish.31 The Irish Homestead refused to continue the publication after the third story, telling Joyce too many readers were complaining.32 Joyce, then abroad, nevertheless wrote the ten stories he had intended to send to the magazine, and more, and looked for a publisher. At first, the editor Grant Richards accepted Joyce’s manuscript, but after the printer refused to print the texts, retracted his offer. The reason given was that coarse language was used. But even when Joyce finally submitted and made all the demanded substitutions, Richards refused to publish the book — as did no less than fifteen other publishers.33

  • 34 Letter of 5 May 1906 (Joyce, Letters, II, p. 134).
  • 35 Although “success” is perhaps not the right word. See Johnson (2001), calling it a “disheartening p (...)

21If we think of the publishing conditions of short stories in that period, things are quite clear. In a famous letter to Richards, Joyce himself outlined the problem very precisely, stressing that the portraits he had drawn were unacceptable to the readers, who for once were the very “models”: “The printer denounces Two Gallants and Counterparts. The more subtle inquisitor will denounce An Encounter […]. The Irish priest will denounce The Sisters. The Irish boarding-house keeper will denounce The Boarding-House. [...]”. And in the same letter: “I have come to the conclusion that I cannot write without offending people”.34 Joyce’s eventual success in publishing the book points in the same direction: Joyce owed the publication of Dubliners to an external intervention, that of a foreign literary “institution”, in the person of Pound.35 It was the “international reader” that made the book finally publishable, but even then only 1250 copies were printed. This was very far from the large readership of a magazine like The Irish Homestead, and it meant that very few of the intended readers got a chance to see it. Joyce’s desire to educate the middle-class people of Ireland was frustrated.

  • 36 Marcel Proust, Pleasures and Days: And Other Writings (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1957).
  • 37 An example of Proust’s poetry can be found in Le Gaulois (21 June 1895), p. 2. It was accompanied b (...)
  • 38 Proust not only wrote to Meyer, but also to the director of La Revue Hebdomadaire, who refused all (...)
  • 39 Albert Thibaudet wrote in the 1920s that Proust’s short stories were “médiocres” (see Correspondanc (...)

22Marcel Proust’s first volume, Les Plaisirs et les Jours, a collection of short stories and poetry, encountered similar difficulties.36 Proust published some poetry from this future collection in Le Gaulois, but his attempts to publish the short stories were thwarted.37 His letters at the time show him asking his friends to help him convince Le Gaulois’s director, Arthur Meyer, as well as other newspapers directors, to take them; other letters show him offering the stories directly, but without success.38 Most Proustian scholars tend to feel that these stories are not very good, and therefore they do not question or explore the author’s initial failure to have them published.39 Of course, these stories compare unfavourably with À la recherche du temps perdu but, compared to the other short stories that were being published in the newspapers at the time, they do not appear bad at all.

  • 40 La Revue hebdomadaire (29 October 1895), pp. 584-606.

23The problem for editors, once again, seems to be not so much the quality of the work as the relationship between readers and characters. Proust tried to publish his stories depicting high society and its shortcomings in society papers. These papers did not want to present their readers with their own caricature. The one exception seems to confirm the rule: La Mort de Baldassare Silvande (The Death of Baldassare Silvande) was pre-published in La Revue hebdomadaire.40 Yet this story was very different from the rest of the collection (some of which were a direct attack on recognisable socialites of the time, and all of which are harsh satires of fashionable urban life) — it was more of a metaphysical reflection on life and death, and only very mildly satirical.

  • 41 Anesko (1986).

24With this in mind, the case of James, the young American writer traveling and living in Europe, becomes exemplary and emblematic: for years, he published his short stories about America in Europe, and his short stories about Europe in America. This yet again confirms his inspired intuition concerning the genre. Michael Anesko shows that James obtained, for nearly all his stories, a quadruple publication — prepublication in journals in the United States and in England, followed by publication in volume in both countries.41 Among the few short stories that were not reprinted were the ones about the country in which he was trying to get them published; stories that would have shown the readers their own image were not accepted.

  • 42 We shall return to Boitelle in Chapter Eight. Mon oncle Jules (My Uncle Jules) is equally somewhat (...)
  • 43 With personal thanks to Jean Watelet for helping me to clarify this point. See Jean Watelet, La Pre (...)

25Similarly Maupassant’s short stories about the working class were never reprinted in the popular newspapers, although they did publish most of his other stories. Maupassant was under contract to Le Gaulois and Gil Blas for the original publication of his texts, but it was possible for other periodicals to pick them up later. He became hugely popular in his lifetime, and the reprints of his short stories were extremely numerous, especially in the popular papers like Le Petit Journal, Le Petit Parisien, La Lanterne and L’Intransigeant, all of which were big publishers of fiction. But these periodicals did not automatically reprint any text he produced. From the long list of Maupassant’s short stories about the “working class”, only four texts were reprinted in Le Petit Journal and Le Petit Parisien. One of them was Boitelle, whose hero, admittedly, is a young peasant from Normandy; however the heroine is of African descent, and she is described in the spirit of the purest exoticism.42 As for the rest, none of the most famous of the Normandy stories were reprinted, nor those which depicted the life of the “employees at 1800 francs a year”. Maupassant was also rejected by the provincial papers. Only three of his stories, to my knowledge, appeared in the provincial illustrated press between their publication and World War I, compared with hundreds of reprints in the Parisian papers.43 His treatment of provincials in his short stories, of which we shall explore at length later, might very well explain their lack of enthusiasm.

  • 44 This may not be a feature only of nineteenth-century short stories. Even if authors generally moved (...)

26These are rare cases of authors who tried to have their short stories read by the very characters they portrayed, and failed. Short story writing was a flourishing business when it met the absolute conditions of its medium. It was up to the writer to adapt to the public for whom he was writing, not the other way round. The people of Dublin were not fond of Dubliners any more than the peasants would have been of Maupassant’s Normandy stories or the Russian provincials of Chekhov’s satires. A condition for a classic short story’s success was to choose an unfamiliar or remote subject.44 One cannot publish just any short story in the periodicals: success depends on a respect for the medium’s own constraints. Editors selected the “right” stories so effectively that one could fail to notice that it was impossible to write anything else.

Exceptions to the rule

27In all of the one thousand or so classic short stories I have surveyed, I have found only one unambiguous exception to the “law” of exoticism: in contrast to the other short story writers, Chekhov used his readers as characters in many stories later in his career, from Dama s sobachkoi (Lady with Lapdog) to Strakh (Fear) or Nevest’ (The Bride). These are what we might call “transition stories” between the classic and modern form (which we will examine in detail in Part III). There are, in addition, two more exceptions, but here again these are exceptions that prove rather than challenge the rule.

28The first is that of the narrators of frame-stories. Some stories, like James’s The Turn of the Screw, follow a structure inherited from Giovanni Boccaccio: we are first introduced to a narrator who then proceeds to tell us a story within the story. This narrator generally belongs to the same world as the reader. He sets the mood before the real story unfolds. This narrator is one of a small group (hunters, guests in a country house, etc), who gently brings his readers into the warm intimacy of the circle around the fire or the relaxed after-dinner atmosphere of a group of friends. He will then let us hear the story as he heard it: because he has created a sense of familiarity, we are ready to enter the world of the unusual. As we shall see in regard to travelogues in the next chapter, this narrator is the intermediary who puts the reader in contact with a foreign world.

29The second exception in our corpus involves the few stories, published in the society newspapers, in which Verga and Maupassant talk about high society. First we should note that, in these stories, the attitude towards the characters is very different from the attitude towards workers or peasants. Members of the upper class are not shown to have certain types of behaviour that define them as a social group. The heroes are frenzied hunters, busybodies, coquettes, adulterous women who cling desperately to their lover: they are seen as unique individuals, and it is not likely that the reader will identify with them. He will not feel challenged by the story’s ridiculing of them, and neither will their abusive or ridiculous behaviour compromise the upper class as a whole.

  • 45 This is also the case in many of James’s stories, where the characters are admittedly of the same s (...)

30These types of stories are very similar to anecdote, and the reader’s involvement in them is quite different from the stories discussed earlier in this chapter. Like the serialised novel or the sensational news items, anecdote is a journalistic genre of its own: all the newspapers of the time published anecdotes, including those of good repute. These short stories are on the border of that genre, of the kind that is told at a dinner party: the “tall tale”. The tension they are built upon usually relies on paradox, with an end which brings an unexpected answer, one that introduces narrative elements in an unusual combination, or at least is perceived that way. Examples include Maupassant’s La Bûche (The Log), Le Gâteau (The Cake), Le Verrou (The Lock), Mon oncle Sosthène (My Uncle Sosthenes), Sauvée (Saved); and Verga’s Giuramenti di marinaio (Sailor’s Oaths), Carmen and Commedia da salotto (Drawing-room Comedy). These “high society” short stories are usually published in men’s magazines like Gil Blas, and are close relatives of the misogynist after-dinner tale. Here, too, the reader’s identification with the character is unlikely. Distance is not brought by the difference in social status, but in the amusement or irony with which the subject is treated.45

31Despite these few exceptions, the overwhelming fact about the publication of short stories in newspapers at the turn of the century was that the characters in these stories could not overlap with their readers. Tales of peasants and workers appeared in fashionable periodicals that were available to neither of these groups; short stories about the provinces appeared in the newspapers of the capitals. There is always distance, and this distance was largely a result of the commercial constraints of the press.

Notes

1 Harold Orel, The Victorian Short Story (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, l986), p. 127. On the extent of the influence of publication in periodicals, see too John Hellmann, Fables of Fact: The New Journalism as New Fiction (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1981).

2 This is one of the great differences between the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twenty-first. Charles E. May calculates that “the total number of stories in wide-circulation magazines per year in America is less than a hundred”; the rest of the very many stories appear in reviews or journals of which the “subscription lists are largely limited to university and college libraries, so they often go unread”. Charles E. May, “The American Short Story in the Twenty-first Century”, in Short Story Theories: A Twenty-First-Century Perspective, ed. by Viorica Patea (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2012), pp. 299-324 (p. 299).

3 Among the features that are associated with this rise: the growth of general education, technical inventions (the rotative printer, the invention of “half tone” which reduced the cost of printing colours); the rise of publicity; changes to American copyright laws; and a new European law that abolished the need to present the texts to a censor before publishing. In Europe, these changes all happened around 1880. See Andrew Levy, The Culture and Commerce of the American Short Story (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 31-35 and Laurel Brake and Marysa Demoor (eds.), Dictionary of Nineteenth-century Journalism in Great Britain and Ireland (Gent: Academia Press and London: British Library, 2009).

4 The Library in Florence subscribed to 1,360 titles in 1891 and, in a call for papers in an exhibition in Italy, 1,800 periodicals are mentioned (Nuova rivista, 12 December 1882). See Orazio Buonvino, Il giornalismo contemporaneo (Milan: R. Sandron, 1906); Valerio Castronovo and Nicola Tranfaglia, Storia della stampa italiana (Rome: Laterza, 1976); and Franco Nasi, 100 [i.e. Cento] anni di quotidiani milanesi (Milan: Comune di Milano, 1958). In France, Le Petit Journal (“le plus grand des petits” — “the largest of the small press” as it calls itself proudly) reached a print-run of 220,000 copies in l872, 825,000 in l884 and exceeded one million in 1890. This enormous figure does not mean that it reigned alone: Le Petit Parisien had print-runs that varied from 350,000 to 700,000 copies between 1890 and l900. See Francine Amaury, Histoire du plus grand quotidien de la IIIe République, Le Petit Parisien, 1876-1944 (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1972). See also Pierre Albert and Christine Leteinturier, La Presse française (Paris: Secrétariat général du gouvernement, La Documentation française, 1978); Claude Bellanger, Histoire générale de la presse française. 3, De 1871 à 1940 (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1972). For detailed data, see Florence Goyet, La Nouvelle au tournant du siècle en France, Italie, Japon, Russie, pays anglo-saxons. Maupassant, Verga, Mori Ōgai, Akutagawa Ryūnosuke, Tchekhov et James (doctoral thesis, Université Paris 4-Sorbonne, 1990). Part II of the thesis, which is on the short story and the press, is available at http://rare.u-grenoble3.fr/spip/spip.php?article341 (accessed 7/11/13).

5 For details of Chekhov’s income from newspapers, see Boris Esin, Chekhov Jurnalist (Moscow: Izd-vo Moskovskogo universiteta, 1977). More generally on Chekhov and the press, see Vladimir Kataev, Sputniki Chekhova (Moscow: Izd-vo Moskovskogo universiteta, 1982) and Literaturnye sviazi Chekhova (Moscow: Izd-vo Moskovskogo universiteta, 1989). For Henry James, see Leon Edel, Henry James: A Life (New York: Harper & Row, 1965). For Maupassant, see Gérard Delaisement, Maupassant, journaliste et chroniqueur; suivi d’une bibliographie générale de l’œuvre de Guy de Maupassant (Paris: A. Michel, 1956); André Vial, Guy de Maupassant et l’art du roman (Paris: Nizet, 1954); and Florence Goyet, “L’exotisme du quotidien: Maupassant et la presse”, in Maupassant multiple, Actes du colloque de Toulouse, Presses de l’Université de Toulouse-Le Mirail, 1995, pp. 17-28, available at http://rare.u-grenoble3.fr/spip/IMG/pdf/Maupassant_et_la_presse_-M-_multiple-_Toulouse-.pdf (accessed 22/10/13). For the new conception of authorship in the Naturalist period in general, see Yves Chevrel, Le Naturalisme (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1993), ch. 9, and more recently Dominique Kalifa, Philippe Régnier et Marie-Ève Thérenty (eds.), La Civilisation du journal: histoire culturelle et littéraire de la presse française au xixe siècle (Paris: Nouveau Monde éditions, 2012), and Marie-Françoise Melmoux-Montaubin, L’écrivain-journaliste au xixe siècle: un mutant des lettres (Saint-Etienne: Editions des Cahiers intempestifs, 2003). In Japan, at the beginning of the twentieth century, the big newspapers hired authors to whom they could guarantee sufficient revenues that they need not work elsewhere: Akutagawa was contracted to Mainichi in the 1920s.

6 Edel (1965). See also Anne T. Margolis, Henry James and the Problem of Audience: An International Act (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1985); and Michael Anesko, Friction with the Market: Henry James and the Profession of Authorship (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986). Anesko makes short work of the myth that would have James confined to his ivory tower, writing for the “happy few”: the entire beginning of his career was that of a very successful author. Even when he was having difficulty publishing his novels, he continued to publish his short stories. The regular income from periodicals was higher than all the earnings that James and the majority of authors ever received for their books.

7 Verga wrote this in a letter to Luigi Capuana, Lettere a Luigi Capuana, ed. by Gino Raya (Florence: Le Monnier, 1975), p. 77. Verga advised his friend to follow the same custom as he had of issuing a small print-run of the first edition: 2,000 copies, which made it possible, if it were a success, to print a second edition within the year; this means that a successful book might achieve a circulation of 4,000. Even for Life in the Fields he had to wait ten years for a third edition. See Carla Ricciardi, Introduction to Giovanni Verga, Tutte le novelle, ed. by Carla Ricciardi, 2 vols (Milan: Mondadori, 1983), vol I.

8 It was the same in Russia: when giving a story to the journal Novoe vremya, Chekhov was addressing about 35,000 readers, and Novoe Vremya was far from being the periodical with the biggest circulation. See F. A. Brockhaus and I. A. Efron (eds.), Entsiklopedicheskii slovar’, 82 vols and 4 supplements (St. Petersburg: Granat, 1890-1907), sub loc.

9 Scofield notes in relation to American short stories: “The short story was frequently the form chosen by writers introducing such new areas to a still predominantly East Coast reading public: it could give brief and vivid glimpses of new and ‘exotic’ places and ways of life”. Martin Scofield, The Cambridge Introduction to the American Short Story (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. 8. Scofield demonstrates this in some detail using the examples of Stephen Crane and Ambrose Bierce.

10 David Trotter is very clear on the topic of Kipling’s English perspective on India following his school years in England. See his introduction to Rudyard Kipling, Plain Tales From the Hills (London: Penguin, 1995).

11 Rudyard Kipling, Something of Myself: For My Friends Known and Unknown (Rockville, MD: Wildside Press, 2008), p. 78.

12 Details of this survey can be found in Goyet (1990), available at http://rare.u-grenoble3.fr/spip/spip.php?article341 (accessed 7/11/13).

13 “[…] pariginissimo, libero, malizioso, beffardo, sarcastico novellatore Guy de Maupassant”. Benedetto Croce, Poesia e non poesia (Bari: Laterza, 1923), p. 307. See also Fusco: “To the cosmopolitan Parisian [ie Maupassant], the Norman peasant and world probably appeared as a distant and alien being and place”. Richard Fusco, Maupassant and the American Short Story: The Influence of Form at the Turn of the Century (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994), p. 16.

14 On 17 March 1886, for example, both newspapers ran the same advertisement for period furniture.

15 The archives of Le Gaulois and Gil Blas are accessible via the website of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. The issues described here are at: http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k7523230x/f3.image.r=gil%20blas.langFR, and http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k525695q/f4.image.r=Le%20Gaulois.langFR (accessed 07/07/2013). The contrast is great with advertisements in the “small press”: there, instead of reports of the stock market, we find reports of the wholesale prices of one particular product (meat, material, corn, etc). The ads have little in common with those of Le Gaulois or Gil Blas (except the universally advertised cough lozenges “pastilles Géraudel”). Watches are advertised at 5, 12.5 and 18 francs; furs from 3 to 50 francs. There are session reports from the Paris Municipal Council — not the Council of Ministers. Le Petit Journal (1 January 1887), available at http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k609266n (accessed 22/10/13). These (leftist) popular periodicals would often include rants against Paris Municipal Council members who “indulge in dîners fins at 30 francs per person”. L’Intransigeant (1 January 1891), translation ours.

16 Verga published 29 short stories (out of 70) in the Fanfulla della Domenica.

17 The photograph of the princess with Fanfulla is in the private collection of the Villa Torrigiani at Camigliano near Lucca.

18 L’Illustrazione italiana (eleven stories), La Fiametta (Gli Orfani); La Domenica letteraria (Libertà; Il Canarino del n. 15; La Chiave d’oro). La Cronaca bizantina (which published Conforti, a particularly sordid affair) was perhaps the most famous review of the time, the very symbol of the elegant periodical: titles, layout, advertising style, graphics, tail-pieces, quality of texts and signatures were all of an extreme refinement.

19 Giovanni Verga, Tutte le novelle, ed. by Carla Ricciardi, 2 vols (Milan: Mondadori, 1983), I, p. 208.

20 Ibid, p. 209.

21 The same gulf existed between Verga’s readers and his characters from the urban working population of Milan. Franco Ferrucci shows Verga in these stories as the “occasional visitor”, “the passer-by who was gathering impressions from the streets, looking for the daily pathos”: “The working class world is seen through the eye of the philanthropist, as Russo stated, or, what is ultimately the same thing, of the sociologist in search of typical examples”. Franco Ferrucci, “I Racconti milanesi del Verga”, Italica, 2 (1967), 124 (translation ours).

22 I have only seen the “regular” edition of Vsemirnaya illustratsiya; there was also a deluxe edition, which cost twenty roubles.

23 Although subscriptions to all the great daily newspapers were sold throughout the country, as well as abroad, these periodicals were only ever accessible to the same rich and worldly people. Yes, nobles living on their estates in Normandy read Le Gaulois. But Le Gaulois was precisely a link with the capital, a sign of belonging to the elegant circle, like the outfits ordered from Paris. Reading it gave them the pleasure of belonging to the Parisian world, and separated them from their provincial surroundings. As Levy (1993) puts it in describing the New Yorker of Poe’s time: “designed to appeal to those social elites in each town and city that considered themselves ‘honorary New Yorkers’ — representatives of a wealthy, cosmopolitan class” (p. 20).

24 Verga published eighteen out of his seventy stories in them. Chekhov, from 1888 on, was a regular contributor, especially to Russkaya Mysl’ and Severny Vestnik. This is not true of Maupassant. His only contribution to intellectual publications was, to my knowledge, a few stories reprinted in La Revue bleue, the newspaper of the French Sorbonne, which did not play the same role as the many and admirable intellectual journals used by Verga and Chekhov.

25 Gabriel Tarde, L’Opinion et la foule (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1989 [1901]).

26 See Richard Ellmann, James Joyce (New York: Oxford University Press, 1959); Robert Scholes, “Some Observations on the Text of Dubliners: ‘The Dead’”, Studies in Bibliography, 15 (1962), 191-205; Hans Walter Gabler, Introduction to Dubliners, by James Joyce, ed. by Hans Walter Gabler and Walter Hettche (New York: Garland, 1993), pp. 1-24. A summary of the text’s publishing history is also given in Jeri Johnson, Introduction to Dubliners, by James Joyce, ed. by Jeri Johnson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. xlii-xlvi.

27 Etienne Sarkany, Forme, socialité et processus d’information: l’exemple du récit court à l’aube du xxe siècle (doctoral thesis, Diffusion Université Lille III, l982), pp. 354-73 (p. 357, translation ours). Sarkany dedicated a whole section of his thesis to Joyce’s difficulties in publishing the stories from Dubliners (with conclusions radically different from mine). Johnson (2001) also sees the origin of the negative judgements on Joyce in the fact that he described what had almost never been described: “Readers have more than once responded to Dubliners by feeling that the stories were cold, unsympathetic, distanced, clinically dissective, mocking. […] They have described it as ‘naturalistic’ (that ‘odour of ashpits and old weeds and offal’, the pervasive air of ‘disillusionment’, its ‘detachment’). Such criticisms make sense of one aspect of Dubliners, that through which Joyce calmly addresses matters which in the first decade of the last century were seldom mentioned in literature: poverty, drunkenness, bullying, child-beating […]” (p. xii). Which does not prevent her from seeing that it was indeed on the part of Joyce “defamation” (see p. xi and note 10).

28 Levy (1993) observes the way in which institutions preside over short story writing today: “By agreeing to enter a creative writing workshop, we implicitly agreed to write, or learn to write, literature that would be socially sanctioned” (p. 5; see also pp. 11-26). The idea that institutions of writing play a crucial role in shaping the genre is widely recognised. See for example, in Japan, Tsutsui Yasutaka, who stresses the role of prize-contests in the development of the Japanese short story. Tsutsui Yasutaka, Tanpen shōsetsu kōgi (Tōkyō: Iwanami Shoten, 1990). See also Hashimoto Kenji on the importance of the nineteenth-century American short story as mass entertainment. Hashimoto Kenji, Amerika tanpen shōsetsu no kōzō (Ōsaka: Ōsaka Kyōiku Tosho, 2009).

29 The letter reads: “Could you write anything simple, rural?, livemaking?, pathos?, which could be inserted so as not to shock the readers”. Quoted in Johnson (2001), p. xli. On the press in Ireland at that time see, for example, Karen Steele, Women, Press and Politics During the Irish Revival (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2007). Steele describes Russell as one of the great men in the Gaelic Renaissance movement, with its philosophy of a “redemptive rural civilization” (p. 189). He was editor from 1905 of The Irish Homestead, weekly organ of the Irish Agricultural Organisation, which supported young Irish authors.

30 See Joyce’s well-known letter to Constantine Curran: “I am writing a series of epicleti — ten — for a paper; I call the series Dubliners to betray the soul of that hemiplegia or paralysis which many consider a city”. James Joyce, Letters, ed. by Stuart Gilbert and Richard Ellmann, 3 vols (New York: Viking Press, 1957-1966), I, p. 55.

31 Similarly, Joyce distributed his pamphlet entitled “The Holy Office” amongst the intellectuals of Dublin, with the intention of their self-improvement.

32 See Sarkany (1982), p. 360.

33 Johnson (2001), p. xliii.

34 Letter of 5 May 1906 (Joyce, Letters, II, p. 134).

35 Although “success” is perhaps not the right word. See Johnson (2001), calling it a “disheartening process” (p. xliii).

36 Marcel Proust, Pleasures and Days: And Other Writings (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1957).

37 An example of Proust’s poetry can be found in Le Gaulois (21 June 1895), p. 2. It was accompanied by a laudative comment from the editor: “We are happy to give our readers a front seat preview of some delicate verses by a charming young poet, Mr Marcel Proust, of whom Le Gaulois has already published a few articles. These lines have been orated recently at Mme Madeline Lemaire’s by Mlle Bartet, together with very pleasant music by Mr Rinaldo Hahn” (translation ours). I quote in extenso this comment: it shows we are in a society circle in which “nice” verses were welcome, but harsh satire was not. For a more detailed account of this publication, see Florence Goyet, “Les Plaisirs et les Jours entre nouvelle classique et nouvelle moderne”, Bulletin d’Informations proustiennes, 44 (2014).

38 Proust not only wrote to Meyer, but also to the director of La Revue Hebdomadaire, who refused all but one very particular text (see note 40), and to other editors as well. In a letter to Suzette Lemaire, he says “I have tried with La Patrie, but failed, and at La Presse too”. Marcel Proust, Correspondance, ed. by Philip Kolb (Paris: Plon, 1970-1993), I, p. 388 (translation ours; hereafter Correspondance). I am speaking here of newspapers — not intellectual journals. Proust had good access to intellectual journals — among them the famous La Revue Blanche. As we have mentioned, the “gap” between reader and subject is very different in these journals — one can mock socialites in a journal of the avant-garde, especially in La Revue Blanche, which was then associated with anarchist authors. See Paul-Henri Bourrelier, La Revue blanche: une génération dans l’engagement 1890-1905 (Paris: Fayard, 2007).

39 Albert Thibaudet wrote in the 1920s that Proust’s short stories were “médiocres” (see Correspondance, XIX, p. 331). More recently, Thierry Laget has even given a precise analysis of their shortcomings. Thierry Laget, Introduction to Les Plaisirs et les Jours, by Marcel Proust, ed. by Thierry Laget (Paris: Gallimard, 1993), pp. 27-28.

40 La Revue hebdomadaire (29 October 1895), pp. 584-606.

41 Anesko (1986).

42 We shall return to Boitelle in Chapter Eight. Mon oncle Jules (My Uncle Jules) is equally somewhat special: the uncle is one of the poor unfortunates who sought his fortune in America, an “exotic” story for those who have never ventured far. The case of Fermier (The Farmer’s Wife) and Petit soldat (Two Little Soldiers) are more open to discussion; but even if we were to conclude that they are not exotic, there would still be only two exceptions among the three hundred stories published by Maupassant. These stories can be found in Guy de Maupassant, The Complete Short Stories of Guy de Maupassant, trans. by Artine Artinian (Garden City, NY: Hanover House, 1955), pp. 1308-12, 917-22 and 755-59 respectively.

43 With personal thanks to Jean Watelet for helping me to clarify this point. See Jean Watelet, La Presse illustrée en France 1814-1914 (Villeneuve d’Ascq: Presses Universitaires du Septentrion, 2000).

44 This may not be a feature only of nineteenth-century short stories. Even if authors generally moved away from the exotic in the twentieth century, readers in a few countries at least retained their former taste for exotic short stories. It has become common in France to complain of the public’s disaffection for the short story. But on closer examination, this disaffection only concerns French texts; foreign short stories — from Isaac Bashevis Singer to Jorge Luis Borges to Katherine Mansfield — are widely read. French short story writers today generally write about the immediate and topical; the public would seem to prefer, as in earlier times, stories about the other side of the world.

45 This is also the case in many of James’s stories, where the characters are admittedly of the same social circle as the author, but thrown by the author into eccentric, quasi-fantastic stories (The Private Life, Fordham Castle, Broken Wings). I will discuss this further in Chapter Eight.

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