Henry James (Hardcover)
Novels 1886-1890 (LOA #43): The Princess Casamassima / The Reverberator / The Tragic Muse (Library of America Complete Novels of Henry James #3)
Library of America, 9780940450561, 1312pp.
Publication Date: June 1, 1989
The Reverberator (1888) is a swiftly paced comic novel named after a newspaper that caters to the American public’s appetite for the “society news of every quarter of the globe.” Francie Dosson, the free-spirited daughter of a wealthy Boston family, innocently provides gossip to George Flack, a “young commercial American” who writes for the paper. His published report imperils her engagement to Gaston Probert, whose family is outraged by the airing of its secrets. James portrays the collision of easily shocked Old World propriety and self-assured New World naiveté with benevolent affection and spirited delight.
The Tragic Muse (1890) explores with a topical realism not usually found in James the conflicts between art and politics, society and the Bohemian life. It does so with dazzling glimpses of Parisian theater and of London aestheticism, as articulated by the flamboyant and idealistic Gabriel Nash. At its center are four superbly drawn characters. The fascinating Miriam Rooth is an actress of overwhelming egotistic vitality and dedication to her art. Her suitor, the diplomat Peter Sherringham, is impassioned by her theatrical talent even while asking her to sacrifice it for his career. Nick Dormer faces a similar predicament in his engagement to the rich Julia Dallow, who wants him to forgo his painting so as to make use of her fortune in pursuit of his career in Parliament. Full of witty talk and vividly dramatic scenes, the novel includes a vast array of characters such as the impressive political matriarch Lady Dormer. Perhaps more than any of his novels, it attests to James’s recognition of the costs of any dedication, like his own, to creative achievement.
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About the Author
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.