• In setting his 1898 tale In the Cage in a telegraph office, Henry James was adapting and investigating a metaphor that earlier novelists had used for the workings of fiction. As invoked by writers such as Elizabeth Gaskell and Charles Dickens, the idealized image of the electric telegraph hints at some of the formal and ideological properties of Victorian realism. With In the Cage James proves to be more alert than such predecessors not only to the social and technological mechanics of telegraphy but also to the significance of mediation-in telegraphy as well as in realist fiction. Analyzing the conjunction this essay calls “telegraphic realism” indicates the ways in which a medium’s imaginative possibilities may change over time and suggests the connections between the histories of media and of literature.