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Henry James A Life in Letters cover
  • ISBN: 9780140435160
  • ISBN10: 0140435166

Henry James A Life in Letters

by Philip Horne

  • List Price: $16.00
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Publisher: Penguin USA
  • Publish date: 06/01/2001
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Description
As the twentieth century comes to an end, Henry James retains his eminent position as one of America's greatest and most influential writers, and indeed one of the world's. His rich body of fiction still has the power to move, challenge, intrigue, and amuse modern readers -- as suggested by the recent series of film adaptations of his novels. He was also a vivid travel writer and a brilliant commentator on literature, art, and manners. He had many friendships, but his greatest passion was for his art. "Henry James: A Life in Letters" tells the story of this passion -- mostly in James's own magnificent words -- from Newport, Rhode Island in 1864, when at age twenty-one he became a published author, till his death in London in 1916. To follow James's life across America, Britain, and continental Europe, as this carefully framed selection from his eloquent correspondence allows us to do, is to absorb a broad and fascinating panorama of an age of transition, a period when the foundations of our own cultural situation were being laid. In the pursuit of experience that could be converted into fiction he made it his business to know and understand as far as possible the people, places, and things that made up, and were changing, his world. He numbered among his friends and correspondents famous writers, as well as presidents and prime ministers, painters, great ladies, actresses, and bishops. Always, his restless, skeptical, ironic intelligence and wit makes him a deeply rewarding recorder of the scene. Henry James said about the letters of his brother William, the great philosopher and psychologist, "He was so admirable a letter-writer that they will constitute his real and best biography."This is true for Henry himself, once his letters are set in their true context; but surprisingly, only about a sixth of his letters have appeared in print. Philip Horne has spent over a decade looking at the thousands of letters in archives in the United States and Europe, and half of those in "Henry James: A Life in Letters," which includes letters from thirty-three different libraries, have never before been published. Horne has produced an extraordinary volume, both a biography and an edition, designed to allow the reader to live with James through the dramatic ups and downs of his ambitious, risky life as a writer. The format Horne has devised sets the letters in their contexts, with a minimum of overt interpretive interference, through connective narrative headnotes and convenient explanatory and suggestive footnotes, economically evoking the astonishingly talented and varied cast of correspondents and other figures with whom James was involved -- and the stories behind the letters. Scrupulous care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the texts (James's difficult handwriting has often been misread), but the entertainment of the general reader has been constantly borne in mind. Since James himself is one of the most entertaining of letter-writers, the resulting book will be a source of rich enjoyment to anyone interested in Henry James and his world.
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