Henry James
The Aspern Papers
The Middle Years
The Portrait of a Lady
The Real Thing
The Story in it
The Tree Of Knowledge
The Turn of the Screw
Washington Square

"I could come back to America. to die - but never, never to live" (letter to Mrs William James, 1 April 1913)

Henry James was born in New York City, the son of a distinguished father of the same name who wrote about theology and philosophy and the younger brother of William James, one of the foremost philosophers of his day. Due to the frequent travel of his parents his education was scattered between his hometown and the European capital cities of Geneva, Paris and London. James trained as a lawyer at Harvard in 1862 but finally settled in Europe in 1875 having given up the intention of a legal career. Between these dates he began his literary career as a writer for periodicals. Watch and Ward (1871), and A Passionate Pilgrim (1875) hail from this time when his close friend W. D. Howells was a notably ally. His novels, however, began to be published at the time of his return to Europe. Roderick Hudson (1876, first serialised in "Atlantic Monthly", 1875) was the first of these, and in the ensuing twenty years he spent in London he produced many more of his most famous works, often focusing upon the relationship between 'old' Europe and 'young' America. During this time he wrote The American (1877), Daisy Miller (1879), Washington Square (1881) and Portrait of a Lady (1881) as well as certain travel books.

The novels of the 1890s were concerned specifically with England and the English character and are less well known now but include The Tragic Muse (1890) and The Other House (1896). Although James wrote the famous short-story The Turn of the Screw in 1898, this period one of depression as his writings for the stage were poorly received (1895's failed Guy Domville is a case in point). Despite these problems, he wrote twelve plays in all and they seem to have contributed subtlety and drama to his later novels. The first years of the twentieth century were far more dignified for the writer who had moved out of London in 1898 to live in Lamb House, Rye. He wrote The Wings of a Dove (1902), now considered his finest work, at this time and followed its success with The Ambassadors (1903) and The Golden Bowl (1904). This later period was a return to James's theme of the contrast between America and Europe is widely regarded as his most effective. In the revised versions of his novels, which ran from 1907, he wrote exceptional introductions that led to his being seen as his own best critic.

His final novels, The Ivory Tower and The Sense of the Past were unfinished (though published as fragments in 1917) and matters of note in his life tended to come from the outside: such as the Order of Merit, which he received in 1916. Although he only became a British subject in 1915 he is now sometimes seen as an English author. Given his novels' perspective, however, he remains a strangely trans-Atlantic figure very much in the sense that T.S. Eliot is. This has doubtless influenced Hollywood's near obsession with his works in the 1990s, since he represents the very mixture of European culture and American attitudes that filmmakers wish to convey. The reason why that they have not all done justice to the writer is perhaps that the detail of James's writing is so minute and subtle, or as Eliot put it so rudely, "Henry James had a sensibility so fine, no mere idea could ever penetrate it"!

The Henry James Review Brings together the best contemporary scholarly, critical and theoretical work on the major American writer
Calendar of Authors Resource site which contains a biography and further information on Henry James

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