Getting to Know Henry James

His Life and Works

640px-Henry_James_by_John_Singer_Sargent_cleaned.jpg
By John Singer Sargent (died 1925) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Biography:

Henry James (1843–1916) author of such classics as Daisy Miller, The Portrait of a Lady, and The Bostonians, was an American writer and a founder of literary Realism. James was the son of Henry James Sr., an influential American theologian and prominent Swedenborgian. His brother, William James, was a philosopher, physician, and psychologist who became one of the leading thinkers of his time.

Just as Henry James led the literary Realism movement, William was a leading figure in the pragmatist movement and also the founder of radical empiricism.

Although Henry James traveled extensively between Europe and the United States for much of his younger years, he eventually decided to live permanently in England. In 1915, the year before he died, James became an official British citizen. Not coincidentally, his best known works are ones that explore relationships between Americans and Europeans.

Aside from his contributions to literary fiction, Henry James wrote biographies, plays, travel books, and articles. He was also a prominent and influential literary critic. In “The Art of Fiction,” James criticized “moral timidity” because it limited a story’s subject matter and the author’s ability to engage with it. Indeed, he asserted that writers must be allowed full freedom and creative license in presenting their view of the world, as long as the text remained realistic (hence his association with literary Realism).

While James applauded realistic fiction, he also appreciated a literary text’s entertainment value. James himself incorporated elements such as unreliable narrators, nontraditional points of view, and interior monologue to supplement his otherwise recognizable and realistic stories.

James was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1911, 1912 and 1916 but, sadly, never won.

Nevertheless, he has had an enormous and lasting effect on literature. He is cited more than one thousand times in the Oxford English Dictionary and has influenced such writers as Ernest Hemingway, who wrote in a letter: “Did you ever read Henry James? He was a great writer who came to Venice and looked out the window and smoked his cigar and thought."

A Selective Bibliography:

Novels

  • Watch and Ward (1871)
  • Roderick Hudson (1875)
  • (1877)
  • The Europeans (1878)
  • Washington Square (1880)
  • The Portrait of a Lady (1881)
  • The Bostonians (1886)
  • The Princess Casamassima (1886)
  • The Tragic Muse (1890)
  • The Spoils of Poynton (1897)
  • What Maisie Knew (1897)
  • The Awkward Age (1899)
  • The Sacred Fount (1901)
  • The Wings of the Dove (1902)
  • The Ambassadors (1903)
  • The Golden Bowl (1904)
  • The Outcry (1911)

Short Stories/Novellas

  • A Tragedy of Error (1864)
  • The Story of a Year (1865)
  • A Landscape Painter (1866)
  • A Day of Days (1866)
  • The Story of a Masterpiece (1868)
  • A Most Extraordinary Case (1868)
  • A Problem (1868)
  • De Grey: A Romance (1868)
  • Gabrielle de Bergerac (1869)
  • Travelling Companions (1870)
  • A Passionate Pilgrim (1871)
  • Master Eustace (1871)
  • Guest's Confession (1872)
  • The Madonna of the Future (1873)
  • The Sweetheart of M. Briseux (1873)
  • Adina (1874)
  • Professor Fargo (1874)
  • Benvolio (1875)
  • Daisy Miller (1878)
  • Longstaff's Marriage (1878)
  • A Diary of a Man of Fifty (1879)
  • The Siege of London (1883)
  • Impressions of a Cousin (1883)
  • Lady Barbarina (1884)
  • Pandora (1884)
  • Georgina's Reasons (1884)
  • A New England Winter (1884)
  • Mrs. Temperly (1887)
  • The Aspern Papers (1888)
  • The Patagonia (1888)
  • The Lesson of the Master (1888)
  • The Solution (1888)
  • The Pupil (1891)
  • Brooksmith (1891)
  • The Marriages (1891)
  • Nona Vincent (1892)
  • The Real Thing (1892)
  • The Private Life (1892)
  • The Visits (1892)
  • Sir Dominick Ferrand (1892)
  • Owen Wingrave (1892)
  • The Wheel of Time (1892)
  • The Middle Years (1893)
  • The Death of the Lion (1894)
  • The Altar of the Dead (1895)
  • The Figure in the Carpet (1896)
  • The Turn of the Screw (1898)
  • In the Cage (1898)
  • Europe (1899)
  • The Great Condition (1899)
  • Paste (1899)
  • The Great Good Place (1900)
  • Maud-Evelyn (1900))
  • The Tree of Knowledge (1900)
  • The Third Person (1900)
  • The Special Type (1900)
  • The Two Faces (1900)
  • The Beldonald Holbein (1901)
  • Flickerbridge (1902)
  • The Birthplace (1903)
  • The Beast in the Jungle (1903)
  • Fordham Castle (1904)
  • Julia Bride (1908)
  • The Jolly Corner (1908)
  • The Velvet Glove (1909)
  • The Bench of Desolation (1909)
  • A Round of Visits (1910)

Nonfiction/Criticism/Other

  • A Passionate Pilgrim and Other Tales (1875)
  • Transatlantic Sketches (1875)
  • French Poets and Novelists (1878)
  • Hawthorne (1879)
  • A Little Tour in France (1884)
  • Essays in London and Elsewhere (1893)
  • Picture and Text (1893)
  • Terminations (1893)
  • The Better Sort (1903)
  • English Hours (1905)
  • The American Scene (1907)
  • Italian Hours (1909)
  • A Small Boy and Others (1913)
  • Notes on Novelists (1914)
  • Notes of a Son and Brother (1914)
  • Travelling Companions (1919)
  • The Art of the Novel : Critical Prefaces (1934)