Letters, Volume 3

Front Cover
Harvard University Press, 1980 - Biography & Autobiography - 612 pages
0 Reviews

The third volume of Leon Edel's superb edition of Henry James's letters finds the novelist settled in Europe and his expatriation complete. The letters of this time reflect the growth of James's literary and personal friendships and introduce the reader to the frescoed palazzos, Palladian villas, and great estates of the Roseberys, the Rothschilds, the Bostonian-Venetian Curtises, and the Florentine-American Boott circle. In all his travels, James closely observes the social scene and the dilemmas of the human beings within it. During this fruitful period he writes The Bostonians, The Princess Casamassima, The Tragic Muse, and some thirty-five of his finest international tales.

Undermining his success, however, are a devastating series of disappointments. Financial insecurity, an almost paraniod defensiveness following the utter failure of his dramatic efforts, and the deaths of his sister, his friend Robert Louis Stevenson, and his ardent admirer Constance Fenimore Woolson all combine to take him to what he recognizes is the edge of an abyss of personal tragedy.

And yet James endures, and throughtout these trials his letters reveal the flourish, the tongue-in-cheek humor, and the social insight that marked his genius. As Edel writes in his Introduction: "The grand style is there, the amusement at the vanities of this world, the insistence that the great ones of the earth lack the imagination he is called upon to supply, and then his boundless affection and empathy for those who have shown him warmth and feeling."

In an appendix Mr. Edel presents four remarkable unpublished letters from Miss Woolson to James. These throw light on their ambiguous relationship and on James's feelings of guilt and shock after her suicide in Venice.


What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (1980)

Henry James, American novelist and literary critic, was born in 1843 in New York City. Psychologist-philosopher William James was his brother. By the age of 18, he had lived in France, England, Switzerland, Germany, and New England. In 1876, he moved to London, having decided to live abroad permanently. James was a prolific writer; his writings include 22 novels, 113 tales, 15 plays, approximately 10 books of criticism, and 7 travel books. His best-known works include Daisy Miller, The Turn of the Screw, The Portrait of a Lady, The Ambassadors, and The American Scene. His works of fiction are elegant and articulate looks at Victorian society; while primarily set in genteel society, James subtlely explores class issues, sexual repression, and psychological distress. Henry James died in 1916 in London. The James Memorial Stone in Poet's Corner, Westminster Abbey, commemorates him.

Joseph Leon Edel was born September 9, 1907 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He received a master's degree in English from McGill University in Montreal in 1928 and a doctorate in literature from the University of Paris in 1932. In 1932, he was an assistant professor of English at Sir George Williams University in Montreal. Between 1934 and 1943, he worked as a freelance writer and journalist and in broadcasting. During World War II, he served in the Army. He was a professor of English at New York University from 1953 to 1972 and at the University of Hawaii from 1972 to 1978. His five-volume biography of Henry James, published between 1953 and 1972, has been considered among the finest biographies by and about an American author. Two of the volumes won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 1963. He also edited books on James's letters, plays, essays, criticism and stories and wrote introductions to new editions of James's novels. He also wrote critical biographies of Willa Cather and Henry David Thoreau, a book about the Bloomsbury circle entitled A House of Lions, and Wartime Memoir. He was the editor of four volumes of Edmund Wilson's papers. He died on September 5, 1997 at the age of 89.

Bibliographic information