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Home / Books / Remembering Henry James, the author of The Portrait of a Lady

Remembering Henry James, the author of The Portrait of a Lady

The works of Henry James often juxtapose Old World sensibilities with that of the New World. His novels explored the clash of personalities in the two starkly different cultures and highlighted a power tiff in relationships.

books Updated: Feb 28, 2020 10:59 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Delhi
Remembering Henry James, the author of The Portrait of a Lady.
Remembering Henry James, the author of The Portrait of a Lady.(wikipedia.org)

Born on April 15, 1843, the works of Henry James often juxtapose Old World sensibilities with that of the New World. His novels explored the clash of personalities in the two starkly different cultures and highlighted a power tiff in relationships.

The son of an American theologian, Henry James was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature thrice in 1911, 1912 and 1916, but never won. He went on to become a British subject in 1914, and received the Order of Merit a year later.

James died on February 28, 1916, in Chelsea, London. As per his request, his ashes were buried in Cambridge Cemetery in Massachusetts.

On the author’s death anniversary, here’s looking at a few quotes by the author:

-- Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.

-- Summer afternoon — summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.

-- I don’t want everyone to like me; I should think less of myself if some people did.

-- We work in the dark – we do what we can – we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.

-- Sorrow comes in great waves... but rolls over us, and though it may almost smother us, it leaves us. And we know that if it is strong, we are stronger, inasmuch as it passes and we remain.

-- I’m yours for ever – for ever and ever. Here I stand; I’m as firm as a rock. If you’ll only trust me, how little you’ll be disappointed. Be mine as I am yours.

-- Sometimes considered to be an influencer of the stream-of-conscious narrative for writers such as Virginia Woolf, the settings of his fiction range from the working class to the aristocracy, which perhaps mirrors his own journey in life. James, who had once confessed that he got his best story ideas from dinner table gossip, has a number of stellar novels and novellas to his name.

The Portrait of a Lady: First published as a serial in The Atlantic Monthly and Macmillan’s Magazine, the novel is about a young and spirited American woman Isabel Archer who comes across an inheritance and subsequently becomes victim of Machiavellian scheming by two American expatriates.

The Ambassadors: A dark comedy, often considered to be a masterpiece, follows protagonist Lewis Lambert Strether to Europe in search of his widowed fiancée’s wayward son. He wants to bring the young man back to the family business, but encounters troubles along the way.

The Wings of the Dove: The 1902 novel by the author tells the tale of an American heiress who is stricken with a serious disease and the effect she has on people around her.

Roderick Hudson: Published in 1875, the bildungsroman traces the journey of the titular character who is an exceptionally gifted sculptor but hails from a poor background.

The novel sees him being taken from New England to Rome by Rowland Mallet. One of the underlying themes of the novel is unspoken sexuality.

The Turn of the Screw: This novella by James is classified both as a Gothic fiction and a ghost story and focuses on a governess, who while caring for two children at a remote estate begins to think that the place is haunted.

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