James’s fiction, especially his later works, is complex—psychologically, stylistically, and morally. T. S. Eliot once observed that James “had a mind so fine no idea could ever violate it.” While literally untrue—James’s problem was precisely that he had too many ideas and that all of them qualified and altered one another ceaselessly—Eliot’s judgment does suggest something important about James’s writing. Fineness, in the sense of precision, is just what James’s fiction seeks most relentlessly. Reading his work should be proof against any tendency to reach hasty conclusions about human motivation, about human action, and indeed about knowledge itself.
Henry James’s career is usually divided into four periods: his formative years, his apprenticeship, his middle years, and his major phase. James was descended from Irish Protestants. His grandfather, a poor immigrant, lived out the American Dream and died one of the wealthiest men in the United States. James’s father, Henry James, Sr., renounced the Calvinistic work ethic and indulged in the mysticism of Emanuel Swedenborg and the socialism of Charles Fourier.
Through most of his youth, James was shuttled back and forth between Europe and the United States, thus gaining an international perspective on art and life. He learned French and received a European education through a variety of tutors and schools. As a...
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If one wished to create for oneself a background and early life that was appropriate for preparing to be an important and dedicated American novelist during the later years of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth century, one might very well choose just the sort of family and early experience that fate created for Henry James, born in 1843 in New York, New York. The family circumstances were comfortable (his grandfather, William James, had amassed one of the three largest fortunes in New York), and his father, Henry James, Sr.; his mother, Mary Robertson Walsh James; his older brother, William James; and his younger siblings, Garth Wilkinson, Robertson, and Alice, were all lively, articulate, and stimulating....
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Henry James, Jr., was the second of five children born to Mary Robertson Walsh and Henry James, Sr. A friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson and a follower of the Swedish philosopher-theologian Emanuel Swedenborg, Henry James, Sr., advocated a “sensuous” rearing of his children. This amounted to showering his five children with educational opportunities and encouraging them to adopt an individual morality. Although much of the young James’s education occurred at home and through extensive foreign travel (his first trip abroad came when he was five months old and was followed by several more stays during his childhood and adolescence), he also had tutors and attended various schools in the United States and in Europe, including Harvard...
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Henry James is one of the most important and influential writers in English of the nineteenth century; his examples and his theoretical principles established the foundation of the modernist movement in twentieth century fiction and poetry, and his major novels constitute a great advance in the type known as psychological realism. Henry James’s father was an eccentric though respected philosopher from a prominent New York family. Determined to give his children the best possible education, James, Sr., sent them to the Continent, where they attended schools in France, Germany, England, and Switzerland. The young Henry James returned to America in 1860, studied painting briefly, attended Harvard Law School briefly, and then...
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Henry James, Jr., was born in New York City on April 15, 1843, the son of Henry James, Sr., the Swedenborgian philosopher, and Mary Robertson Walsh. The younger of two sons (his brother was the philosopher and psychologist William James), Henry also had a younger sister, Alice. As is clear from the second volume of his autobiography, Notes of a Son and Brother (1914), and from letters, Henry, Jr., often struggled in the shadow of his successful elder brother and strove all of his life to carve out an independent career to rival William’s.
Although a New Yorker by birth, James grew up principally in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with several important trips to Europe punctuating his youth and early manhood....
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