Complete Stories, 1884-1891 (Library of America) Hardcover – 4 Mar 2013
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About the Author
Henry James (1843-1916), born in New York City, was the son of noted religious philosopher Henry James, Sr., and brother of eminent psychologist and philosopher William James. He spent his early life in America and studied in Geneva, London and Paris during his adolescence to gain the worldly experience so prized by his father. He lived in Newport, went briefly to Harvard Law School, and in 1864 began to contribute both criticism and tales to magazines.
In 1869, and then in 1872-74, he paid visits to Europe and began his first novel, Roderick Hudson. Late in 1875 he settled in Paris, where he met Turgenev, Flaubert, and Zola, and wrote The American (1877). In December 1876 he moved to London, where two years later he achieved international fame with Daisy Miller. Other famous works include Washington Square (1880), The Portrait of a Lady (1881), The Princess Casamassima (1886), The Aspern Papers (1888), The Turn of the Screw (1898), and three large novels of the new century, The Wings of the Dove (1902), The Ambassadors (1903) and The Golden Bowl (1904). In 1905 he revisited the United States and wrote The American Scene (1907).
During his career he also wrote many works of criticism and travel. Although old and ailing, he threw himself into war work in 1914, and in 1915, a few months before his death, he became a British subject. In 1916 King George V conferred the Order of Merit on him. He died in London in February 1916.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Volume 3 of the Library of America's `complete stories' edition has 17 stories from James' middle period. Some of these stories are among the best that he has written. Often, his best are written in a first person narration mode. Some narrators are first rate specimen of the evil narrator species.
James provides few happy ends, but he also gives us few tragic ends. There are some suicides in this collection, though. More often, his affairs end in resignation and renunciation. Frequently his protagonists find themselves in an entrapment of their own making or in one built by society with their own complicity.
"Georgina's Reasons" is about a couple whose marriage did not work so well. She is a cold blooded devil of a woman, and he a man stuck in an antiquated code of honor.
"A Winter in New England" has a pampered selfish son of a Bostonian lady visiting home after 6 years in Paris. We are glad to see him go back to Paris.
"The Path of Duty": Narrator is a meddlesome, gossip-mongering American woman living (and married) in London since 16 years. She tells a friend, i.e. us, about a strange case of renunciation among the English nobility. Straight from the yellow press.
"Mrs. Temperly" is hardly a story, but more an open-ended study for inclusion in something larger. Young man is in love with the first daughter of a rich widow, but can't break down the barrier of polite refusal.
"Louisa Pallant" is a brilliantly twisted story of atonement. Or is it about dissimulation? Title heroine has jilted narrator over 20 years ago. Now she wants to protect the man's nephew from the charms of her daughter. Or so she says.
"The Aspern Papers" is a brilliant, witty, even suspenseful novella about a literary sleuth going after letters of a dead star poet. The papers are now in the possession of an old lady who treats them as her personal property and has no intention to part with them, except at a very specific and very high price.
"The Liar": another take on the rejected lover who meets his former jilter. She is married to a notorious liar now. Our hero has illusions that he can still win her by exposing her husband, but women are not so easily predicted in HJ's world.
"The Modern Warning" is a weaker piece about the antagonism between two idiotic men, with a nice woman between them in a losing position. A conservative English politician and a democratic Irish-American lawyer carry on a protracted battle of antipathy.
"A London Life" has a young American woman, visiting her married sister in London, entangled in sister's ugly divorce. Ugly characters throughout make it hard to keep interest in their troubles for over 100 pages.
"The Lesson of the Master" is a satire about a henpecked writer, observed by a young admiring colleague. The story has one of the few unambiguously positive women in all James. We realize that this serves the purpose of raising the hero's frustration level when he can't get her, after he finds himself fooled by the master.
"The Patagonia" is a slow boat from Boston to Liverpool. One of HJ's most obnoxiously meddlesome and gossipy narrators fouls up the affairs of a single young woman by talking too much about things that are none of his business.
"The Solution" deals with problems caused by a practical joke among friends in the world of diplomatic bachelors in Rome in the early 19th century. Amusing and light-weight (which is a true statement about many of these tales).
"The Pupil" is another favorite of mine: a poor young man entraps himself as a tutor of a lovable precocious boy (a hint of pedophilia?) in an extravagantly failing family of bohemian con men and women. This story alone would amply justify wading through the whole volume. It has been called one of the best short stories ever written, while other critics have found fault with the hero's actions.
"Brooksmith" is an admired old gentleman's respected butler. What happens to him after his master's passing?
"The Marriages" has a widowed colonel with 5 children exploring re-marriage against the hostile attitude of some of his offspring. One of HJ's most skillfully manipulative tales. Funny too, if you are into Schadenfreude.
"The Chaperon" has an obstinate young woman (one of HJ's good people, the Rose from my review headline) breaking down the barriers of her mother's social boycott. Mother had been disgraced after causing a scandalous divorce.
"Sir Edmund Orme" is the dessert in this volume. Some need dessert. I find this one superfluous, a romantic ghost story about a jilted suicidal suitor.
The book is a nice size with excellent type and format and is one of a series of Henry James' short stories catalogued by date. The book has a classy look and has additional information about the other books in the series and lists the stories in each.
There is a wonderful Chronology in the back of the book which tells all about Henry James, his travels and life in general.
The only draw back is that the pages are thin so the book can hold a lot and they can sometimes be a little difficult to separate when turning.
All in all a great volume at a modest price.