First published in the inaugural issue of The English Review in 1908, ‘‘The Jolly Corner’’ also appeared the following year in the definitive New York edition of James’s work. The main character of the story, Spencer Brydon, is a middle-aged man who returns to his birthplace of New York City. He has lived abroad for thirty-three years, and while visiting his childhood home—situated on ‘‘a jolly corner’’—he questions if leaving the States was the best decision. He walks around the vacant house late at night, wondering about what could have been. The story reaches a climax when he believes that he is being haunted by his alter ego.
Some critics praise James’s creation of a ghost story worthy of Edgar Allan Poe with ‘‘The Jolly Corner.’’ The protagonist’s decision to move from his homeland echoes the lives of famous, romanticized writers who died far from home—Percy B. Shelley, Lord Byron and Margaret Fuller—and foreshadows the themes and experiences of other great expatriate writers—Gertrude Stein, James Joyce and James Baldwin.