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  • Published: 10 March 2003
  • ISBN: 9781931082303
  • Imprint: Library of America
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 1035

Henry James




This Library of America volume collects four novels written by Henry James in the period immediately following his unsuccessful five-year-long attempt to establish himself as a playwright on the London stage. Hoping to convert his “infinite little loss” into “infinite little gain,” James returned to the novelistic examination of English society with a new appreciation for what he called the “divine principle of the Scenario,” “a key that, working in the same general way fits the complicated chambers of both the dramatic and the narrative lock.”

His continued interest in dramatic form is demonstrated in The Other House (1896), which was derived from the scenario for a three-act play. Set in two neighboring houses and told mostly through dialogue, the novel explores the violent and tragic consequences of jealousy and frustrated passion. In The Spoils of Poynton (1897), one of the most tightly constructed of James’s late novels, a house and its exquisite antique furnishings and artwork become the source of a protracted struggle involving the proud and imperious Mrs. Gereth, her amiable son, Owen, his philistine fiancée, Mona Brigstock, and the sensitive Fleda Vetch, whose moral judgment is tested by her conflicting allegiances.

What Maisie Knew (1897) explores with perception and sensitivity the effect upon a young girl of her parents’ bitter divorce and their subsequent remarriages. In writing the novel James chose as his point of view what he described as “the consciousness, the dim, sweet, scared, wondering, clinging perception of the child.” The Awkward Age (1899) examines the complicated relations among the members of a sophisticated London social circle almost entirely through dialogue as it depicts the shifting marital prospects of a young woman poised on the verge of adult life. Both of these novels insightfully explore the ambiguity of childhood “innocence” amid adult struggles over money, power, and love.

LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America’s best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.

  • Published: 10 March 2003
  • ISBN: 9781931082303
  • Imprint: Library of America
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 1035

About the author

Henry James

Henry James was born on 15th April 1843 in Washington Place, New York to a wealthy and intellectual family and as a youth travelled between Europe and America and studied with tutors in Geneva, London, Paris, Bologna and Bonn. He briefly and unsuccessfully studied law at Harvard but decided he preferred reading and writing fiction to studying law. His first novel, Watch and Ward, was published in 1871 after first appearing serially in Atlantic Monthly. After a brief period in Paris, James moved first to London and then later to Rye in Sussex. He became a British citizen in 1915 to declare his loyalty to his adopted country as well as to protest against America's refusal to enter the war on behalf of Britain. Henry James was a prolific writer and critic and from around 1875 until his death he maintained a strenuous schedule of publications in a variety of genres: novels, short story collections, literary criticism, travel writing, biography and autobiography. He died in 1916.

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