Dr. Matt Seybold Published in the Henry James Review

May 23 2017
Category: Faculty

Henry James Journal

Dr. Matt Seybold, Assistant Professor of American Literature & Mark Twain Studies, authored an essay for the Spring 2017 issue of Henry James Review.

In the essay titled, “Delusive Hopes of Matrimony and Dollars: Confidence & the Marriage Market in Henry James’s Early Fiction,” Dr. Seybold argues that throughout the 1870s, James’s fiction betrays a fascination with two distinctly American figures: the con-artist and the coquette.

James’s plots consistently center around “an international marketplace for trafficking young women.” This “pattern of bridal migrations,” as James calls it, is driven by macroeconomic forces: financial volatility surrounding the Panic of 1873, the rising power of the dollar, and the precariousness of inherited wealth as costs associated with the bourgeois lifestyle were inflated by an expanding nouveau riche

These factors compelled well-educated and “mannered,” but financially insecure Americans, including James himself, to prolonged expatriation. Recognizing the European fetish for stereotypically American "girls,” many of these expatriate families explicitly “sold off” their smart, pretty daughters to aristocrats. Dr. Seybold traces the elaborate and euphemistic etiquette evolving around these exchanges, which James synthesizes with the emerging archetype of the confidence game.

The Henry James Review is a triennial peer-reviewed journal published by Johns Hopkins University Press and is digitally available through the Project MUSE database. 

Click here to read Dr. Seybold’s essay.