Sleep Fictions: A Digital Companion

III.4 Hudson

The spaces which the patron and artist inhabit are physical manifestations of the class distinctions between the two. Once settled in Rome, Rowland ensures that Roderick’s work space is separate from his own dwelling place. Inside a “crumbling and shabby and melancholy” place is Roderick’s makeshift studio, located “in the basement of a huge, dusky, dilapidated old house.”

Meanwhile, Rowland settles himself “in a stately old palace close to the Fountain of Trevi, and made himself a home to which books and pictures and prints and odds and ends of curious furniture gave an air of leisurely permanence." 

While watching Roderick at work, Rowland is reminded of the young artist’s industriousness: “At times when he saw how the young sculptor’s day passed in a single sustained pulsation, while his own was broken into a dozen conscious devices for disposing of the hours, and intermingled with sighs."

Roderick's effort, as a "single sustained pulsation," mirrors James's “almost ceaseless writing activity" as he worked on the novel in New York City. Such industriousness was symptomatic of the city’s urban environment. James recalls the stirrings of bustling productivity when he was just a boy, witnessing firsthand the tumult of the New York Tribune office: “That was a wonderful world indeed, with strange steepnesses and machineries and noises and hurrying bare-armed, bright-eyed men” (A Small Boy). Despite its delivery as a fond, childhood recollection, this frenetic environment had real repercussions for even the highest of executives. For instance, in 1872 the death of esteemed editor Horace Greeley inspired eulogies that bemoaned his lack of “a good night’s sleep in fifteen years” and warned that “night work is ‘killing our literary men.’” A round-the-clock commitment to labor practices took hold and infiltrated all social strata of city workers, including the artistic and literary minded, such as Greeley and later James himself. Like journalists who were compelled to keep up with the news, James felt the pressure of staying relevant in an increasingly harried publishing industry. 

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