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Henry James

Henry JamesBorn: 15-Apr-1843
Birthplace: New York City
Died: 28-Feb-1916
Location of death: Rye, England
Cause of death: Stroke
Remains: Buried, Cambridge Cemetery, Cambridge, MA

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Gay
Occupation: Author

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Portrait of a Lady

American author, born in New York on the 15th of April 1843. His father was Henry James, a theological writer of great originality, from whom both he and his brother Professor William James derived their psychological subtlety and their idiomatic, picturesque English. Most of Henry's boyhood was spent in Europe, where he studied under tutors in England, France and Switzerland. In 1860 he returned to America, and began reading law at Harvard, only to find speedily that literature, not law, was what he most cared for. His earliest short tale, "The Story of a Year", appeared in 1865 in the Atlantic Monthly, and frequent stories and sketches followed. In 1869 he again went to Europe, where he subsequently made his home, for the most part living in London, or at Rye in Sussex. Among his specially noteworthy works are the following: Watch and Ward (1871); Roderick Hudson (1875); The American (1877); Daisy Miller (1878); French Poets and Novelists (1878); A Life of Hawthorne (1879); The Portrait of a Lady (1881); Portraits of Places (1884); The Bostonians (1886); Partial Portraits (1888); The Tragic Muse (1890); Essays in London (1893); The Two Magics (1898); The Awkward Age (1898); The Wings of the Dove (1902); The Ambassadors (1903); The Golden Bowl (1904); English Hours (1905); The American Scene (1907); The High Bid (1909); Italian Hours (1909).

As a novelist, Henry James is a modern of the moderns both in subject matter and in method. He is entirely loyal to contemporary life and reverentially exact in his transcription of the phase. His characters are for the most part people of the world who conceive of life as a fine art and have the leisure to carry out their theories. Rarely are they at close quarters with any ugly practical task. They are subtle and complex with the subtlety and the complexity that come from conscious preoccupation with themselves. They are specialists in conduct and past masters in casuistry, and are full of variations and shadows of turning. Moreover, they are finely expressive of milieu; each belongs unmistakably to his class and his race; each is true to inherited moral traditions and delicately illustrative of some social code. To reveal the power and the tragedy of life through so many minutely limiting and apparently artificial conditions, and by means of characters who are somewhat self-conscious and are apt to make of life only a pleasant pastime, might well seem an impossible task. Yet it is precisely in this that Henry James is pre-eminently successful. The essentially human is what he really cares for, however much he may at times seem preoccupied with the technique of his art or with the mask of conventions through which he makes the essentially human reveal itself. Nor has "the vista of the spiritual been denied him." No more poignant spiritual tragedy has been recounted in recent fiction than the story of Isabel Archer in The Portrait of a Lady. His method, too, is as modern as his subject matter. He early fell in love with the "point of view", and the good and the bad qualities of his work all follow from this literary passion. He is a very sensitive impressionist, with a technique that can fix the most elusive phase of character and render the most baffling surface. The skill is unending with which he places his characters in such relations and under such lights that they flash out in due succession their continuously varying facets. At times he may seem to forget that a character is something incalculably more than the sum of all its phases; and then his characters tend to have their existence, as Positivists expect to have their immortality, simply and solely in the minds of other people. But when his method is at its best, the delicate phases of character that he transcribes coalesce perfectly into clearly defined and suggestive images of living, acting men and women. Doubtless, there is a certain initiation necessary for the enjoyment of James. He presupposes a cosmopolitan outlook, a certain interest in art and in social artifice, and no little abstract curiosity about the workings of the human mechanism. But for speculative readers, for readers who care for art in life as well as for life in art, and for readers above all who want to encounter and comprehend a great variety of very modern and finely modulated characters, James holds a place of his own, unrivalled as an interpreter of the world of today.

Father: Henry James, Sr. (theological author, b. 1811, d. 1882)
Brother: William James (philosopher, b. 1842, d. 1910)
Slept with: Henrik Andersen (American sculptor)
Slept with: Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (U.S. Supreme Court Justice, when HJ was 22)

    Law School: Harvard Law School (dropped out in 1862)

    Renounced US Citizenship
    Risk Factors: Stuttering

Appears in articles:
The Times of London, 13-May-2000, DETAILS: The Forbidden Love of Henry James, BYLINE: Richard Owen

Author of books:
Watch and Ward (1871)
A Passionate Pilgrim and Other Tales (1875)
Roderick Hudson (1876)
The American (1877)
Watch and Ward (1878)
French Poets and Novelists (1878)
The Europeans (1879)
Daisy Miller (1879)
An International Episode (1879)
The Madonna of the Future and Other Tales (1879, short stories, 2 vols.)
Hawthorne (1880)
The Diary of a Man of Fifty, and a Bundle of Letters (1880)
Confidence (1880)
Washington Square (1881)
Washington Square: The Pension Beaurepas: A Bundle of Letters (1881)
The Portrait of a Lady (1882)
The Siege of London: The Pension Beaurepas: The Point of View (1883)
Portraits of Places (1884)
Tales of Three Cities (1884)
A Little Tour in France (1885)
Stories Revived (1885, short stories)
The Bostonians (1886, 3 vols.)
The Princess Casamassima (1886, 3 vols.)
Partial Portraits (1888)
The Aspern Papers: Louisa Pallant: The Modern Warning (1888, 2 vols.)
The Reverberator (1888, 2 vols.)
A London Life: The Patagonia: The Liar: Mrs Temperley (1889, 2 vols.)
The Tragic Muse (1890)
The Lesson of the Master: The Marriages, etc. (1892)
The Private Life (1893)
The Wheel of Time (1893)
The Real Thing and Other Tales (1893, short stories)
Picture and Text (1893)
Essays in London and Elsewhere (1893, essays)
Theatricals: Two Comedies: Tenants [and] Disengaged (1894, drama)
Theatricals: Second Series (1895, drama)
Terminations: The Death of the Lion (1895)
Embarrassments (1896)
The Other House (1896)
The Spoils of Poynton (1897)
What Maisie Knew (1897)
The Two Magics: The Turn of the Screw: Covering End (1898)
In the Cage (1898)
An Awkward Age (1899)
The Soft Side (1900)
The Sacred Fount (1901)
The Wings of the Dove (1902, 2 vols.)
William Wetmore Story and His Friends (1903, 2 vols.)
The Better Sort (1903)
The Ambassadors (1903)
The Golden Bowl (1904, 2 vols.)
The Question of Our Speech: The Lesson of Balzac (1905)
English Hours (1905)
The American Scene (1907)
Views and Reviews (1908)
Julia Bride (1909)
Italian Hours (1909)
The Finer Grain (1910)
The Outcry (1911)
A Small Boy and Others (1913, autobiographical)
Notes on the Novelists (1914)
Notes of a Son and Brother (1914, autobiographical)
The Ivory Tower (1917)
The Middle Years (1917, autobiographical, posthumous)
The Sense of the Past (1917)
Within the Rim and Other Essays (1914-15, essays)
Gabrielle de Bergerac (1918)
Travelling Companions (1919)
The Letters of Henry James (1920, letters, 2 vols.)
Notes and Reviews (1921)
A Most Unholy Trade (1923, 100 copies)
The Letters of Henry James to Walter Berry (1928, letters)
Letters to A. C. Benson and Auguste Monod (1930, letters)
Theatre and Friendship (1932)
The Art of the Novel: Critical Papers (1934, essays)


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