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Henry James: A Life in Letters (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 25 Jan 2001

4.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (25 Jan. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140435166
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140435160
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 631,578 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


A magnificent... book which will be irresistible to any Jamesian... [It] comes to us with the freshness of a new biography of the man. [I] spent a few enchanted weeks reading and rereading Horne's addictive volume. I haven't enjoyed a book so much in years. -- A. N. Wilson, Independent on Sunday

Philip Horne's cherishing, meticulous, ministering annotations and biographical work... make this a very good book indeed -- Adam Petite, Evening Standard

The whole selection is most helpfully (and stylishly) edited by Philip Horne -- Ian Hamilton, Sunday Telegraph --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Publisher

This fully annotated selection from Henry James's eloquent correspondence follows him across America, Britain and continental Europe, and offers us a broad and fascinating panorama of an age of transition, when the foundations of our own world were being laid down. Philip Horne has spent over a decade looking at the thousands of letters in archives in America and England and half of those here have never before been published. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Writers' letters are often more interesting than their novels.
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By erser on 13 July 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have tried and tried to 'get' Henry James but up to now can only say that both his style and substance elude me.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars 7 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Stunner Stunningly Selected and Annotated 17 Oct. 2016
By Ray Carney - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have to disagree with a previous poster. Professor Horne's selection of letters is stunning, all the more with respect to the previously unpublished (or obscurely published) letters he brings into the light for the first time. (Check out numbers 93, 109, 110, and 129--four out of the nearly two hundred printed here that weren't included in Edel's four volumes--to have your socks knocked off, if you care about the craft of art and the mind of the artist.) This is an amazing, inspiring book, edited and annotated (as Edel's collection was not) brilliantly. I hold my breath with excitement and expectation for the appearance of Prof. Horne's forthcoming newly annotated and expanded edition of Henry James's Notebooks. Between this book and that one, we have the real portrait of the artist--the secret, inward, spiritual autobiography of one of the greatest artists of the last 200 years. Thank you, Prof. Horne.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A reader's first biography of Henry James 4 Oct. 2010
By Richard P. Cember - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Unlike the previous reviewer here, I am not a James scholar. With this volume a James layman can have The Master himself as guide through his life and work. From this book I learned about all kinds of James works that I had never heard of. After I read this, I went out and bought "Roderick Hudson", and read and enjoyed that. So, in addition to being, as the title accurately suggests, an epistolary biography, this book is also a kind of reader's guide to James's work, though not an exhaustive one.

In his selection of letters Horne concentrates on James's career as a writer, both artistic and financial, and as a man who knew and was friends with other writers. The letters bring to life such figures as his brother William James, H.G. Wells, Edith Wharton, and William Dean Howells, as well as many others whose names we non-scholars do not know today. The letters also bring to life James's never-quite-successful struggle for economic success and security -- and the artistic freedom that he wished it to bring him -- to go along with the critical success that he mostly enjoyed for his fiction.

One of the wonderful things about this book is the sense of transit through James's life, from the states of mind of youth to those just before death, through his thoughts and feelings; also the transit through the second half of the nineteenth century, with all its changes, and its bitter end in the First World War.

The book is very extensively footnoted and indexed, and usefully and enlighteningly so.

Read it slowly, a letter or two a day.

[Disclaimer: I did not buy this book from Amazon, but I buy plenty of other books from Amazon!]
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a feast for Jamesians 16 Mar. 2011
By Guy B. Kettelhack - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In some ways this collection of letters comes closest to an autobiography of anything Henry James ever wrote (including his late books meant - perhaps only to some degree - as autobiography). Such a marvelous sense of immediate life here; editing helps to connect each letter with what he did and where he went -- useful context-building data which once again helps to give these disparate letters the contours of a biography. If you're an inveterate James-reader (I've got a thing for the whole family - I love reading about them as much as reading them), the pleasures here are considerable. Terrific book to pick up and put down and pick up and ... etc. Largest box of chocolates you'll ever encounter - with every fruit, cream and nut imaginable - and they never get stale.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The best introduction to the subject 14 Jun. 2003
By Eric Krupin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Now that the University of Nebraska Press has undertaken to publish the complete James correspondence, these one-volume samplers can be relieved of the artificial responsibility to do the impossible - that is, tell the whole story in 600 pages or less.
Horne's effort suffers in comparison to Edel's by its self-imposed mandate to favor previously unpublished letters. (Personally, I found these almost invariably of lesser interest. It looks like Edel skimmed the cream.) But his cannily selected interstitial material makes it a far more rewarding reading experience. I would say this now stands as the best introduction to the subject.
And for what it's worth: the Penguin Classics paperback edition is a very nice piece of manufacture - comfortably sized in dimension and font.
5.0 out of 5 stars Henry James, from the inside out. 2 Sept. 2014
By Marianne - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
James is the Master of transmuting humanity into literature, whether it be in his letters, novels, or essays.
A Life in Letters is a pleasure to be savoured with one or two entries a day; as if one were the recipient of these missives.
Taken before bed, they may not work as a sleeping pill, but they do take the mind off of one's own cares and into another world.
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