Henry James’s The Ambassadors Is Published (Great Events from History II: Arts and Culture Series)
Article abstract: The Ambassadors was the first and greatest of Henry James’s three late novels that dealt with an international theme, and the book climaxed his efforts at the subtle dissection of thought processes.
Summary of Event
By the time of the publication of The Ambassadors in 1903, Henry James had long been recognized as one of the United States’ premier writers. Yet over the years his readership had been dwindling to a select coterie, while the general public was growing less inclined to support his work. Part of the reason for this disfavor was that his writing had grown increasingly intellectually challenging, but James had also lost popularity because he was unwilling to stay with the tried-and-true themes that had brought him initial success. In early novels such as The American (1877) and The Portrait of a Lady (1881), which were both popular and critical triumphs, he had described naïve, feeling Americans whose hearts were broken by scheming or class-prejudiced Europeans. When James resolutely turned to new themes, as in The Bostonians (1886), which satirized Boston reformist and spiritualist circles, he began losing his audience. An attempt to write for the British stage, lasting from 1890 to 1895, was equally unsatisfactory. One play, Guy Domville (1895), was actually booed off the stage. After this signal theatrical failure, James moved from London,...
(The entire section is 2391 words.)
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