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Henry James

(1843—1916) writer

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born in New York, the son of Henry James senior, writer on questions of theology and a follower of Swedenborg, and brother of William James. After a desultory education in New York, London, Paris, and Geneva. Henry James entered the law school at Harvard in 1862. He settled in Europe in 1875. From 1865 he was a regular contributor of reviews and short stories to American periodicals and owed much to his friendship with W. D. Howells. For more than 20 years he lived in London, and in 1898 moved to Lamb House, Rye, where his later novels were written. He at first chiefly concerned himself with the impact of the older civilization of Europe upon American life, and to this period belong his novels Roderick Hudson (1876), The American (1877), Daisy Miller (1879), and Portrait of a Lady (1881). He next turned to a more exclusively English stage in The Tragic Muse (1890), The Spoils of Poynton (1897), and The Awkward Age (1899), in which he analysed English character with extreme subtlety. What Maisie Knew appeared in 1897. In his last three great novels, The Wings of the Dove (1902), The Ambassadors (1903), and The Golden Bowl (1904), he returned to the ‘international’ theme of the contrast of American and European character. The Ivory Tower and The Sense of the Past remained unfinished at his death and were published in fragments in 1917. For the revised collection of his fiction, which began in 1907, James wrote a series of prefaces of high interest. In his critical essays James concentrated on the 19th‐cent. novel.

Besides more than 100 short stories (including the well‐known ghost story The Turn of the Screw, 1898), James wrote several volumes of sketches of travel (Portraits of Places, 1883; A Little Tour in France, 1884), several plays, and a life of Hawthorne. A short story called ‘The Middle Years’ appeared in the volume Terminations in 1895. The autobiographical work of the same title is a fragment (published posthumously, 1917).

His other works include Madonna of the Future (1879), Washington Square (1881), The Siege of London (1883), The Bostonians (1886), The Princess Casamassima (1886), The Reverberator (1888), The Aspern Papers (1888), The Real Thing (1893), Embarrassments (1896), The Other House (1896), In the Cage (1898), The Two Magics (1898), The Better Sort (1903).

Subjects: Literature

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