Our story for April is “The Marriage of Phaedra.”
This is the last of the three stories from The Troll Garden that Cather chose not to revise for inclusion in her second collection of short stories, Youth and the Bright Medusa.
“The Marriage of Phaedra” is set in England. It’s about an American painter who makes a pilgrimage to the studio of a famous and influential British artist who passed away three years prior. The story may have been inspired by Cather’s 1902 visit to Edward Burne-Jones’s studio.
The story is Jamesian in tone and content. Speaking of which, Henry James held a copy of The Troll Garden in his hands. Witter Bynner, who was an office boy at the time, sent James a copy of the book and a letter. The Master had this to say in return,
“Being now almost in my 100th year, and with a long and weary experience of such matters [receiving complimentary works of fiction] behind me, promiscuous fiction has become abhorrent to me, and I find it the hardest thing in the world to read almost any new novel. Any is hard enough, but the hardest from the innocent hands of young females, young American females perhaps above all.” (source)
James was born in 1843, so he was only in his early 60s at the time. He wrote back that he would “do his best for Miss Cather,” but that was the end of communication on the matter.
I hope this won’t be the end of our communication regarding Cather’s short fiction! I’ll share a discussion post about my reading experience with the story on Wednesday, April 24th and I hope you’ll join in with your thoughts and experience.