This essay argues that the complex political resonances of Henry James's The Princess Casamassima (1886) can be further elucidated through closer critical attention to one of its more marginal characters, the shop-girl Millicent Henning. Ebullient, assertive, and, for many early reviewers, the novel's sole redeeming feature, Millicent supplies the novel with far more than local color. Instead, James seizes on a sexual persona already well established within literary naturalism and popular culture alike to explore a rival mode of insurrection to that more obviously offered elsewhere. While the modes of revolution contemplated by Hyacinth Robinson and his comrades in the Sun and Moon public house are revealed to be anachronistic and ineffectual, Millicent's canny manipulation of her sexuality supplies her with an alternative, effective, and unmistakably modern mode of transformation. The novel's portrait of ““revolutionary politics of a hole-and-corner sort”” is thus set against Millicent's brand of quotidian yet inexorable social change.
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