Henry James (Hardcover)

Novels 1896-1899 (LOA #139): The Other House / The Spoils of Poynton / What Maisie Knew / The Awkward Age (Library of America Complete Novels of Henry James #4)

By Henry James, Myra Jehlen (Editor)

Library of America, 9781931082303, 1035pp.

Publication Date: March 10, 2003

List Price: 40.00*
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This Library of America volume collects four novels written by Henry James in the period immediately following his unsuccessful five-year-long attempt to establish himself as a playwright on the London stage. Hoping to convert his “infinite little loss” into “infinite little gain,” James returned to the novelistic examination of English society with a new appreciation for what he called the “divine principle of the Scenario,” “a key that, working in the same general way fits the complicated chambers of both the dramatic and the narrative lock.”

His continued interest in dramatic form is demonstrated in The Other House (1896), which was derived from the scenario for a three-act play. Set in two neighboring houses and told mostly through dialogue, the novel explores the violent and tragic consequences of jealousy and frustrated passion. In The Spoils of Poynton (1897), one of the most tightly constructed of James’s late novels, a house and its exquisite antique furnishings and artwork become the source of a protracted struggle involving the proud and imperious Mrs. Gereth, her amiable son, Owen, his philistine fiancée, Mona Brigstock, and the sensitive Fleda Vetch, whose moral judgment is tested by her conflicting allegiances.

What Maisie Knew (1897) explores with perception and sensitivity the effect upon a young girl of her parents’ bitter divorce and their subsequent remarriages. In writing the novel James chose as his point of view what he described as “the consciousness, the dim, sweet, scared, wondering, clinging perception of the child.” The Awkward Age (1899) examines the complicated relations among the members of a sophisticated London social circle almost entirely through dialogue as it depicts the shifting marital prospects of a young woman poised on the verge of adult life. Both of these novels insightfully explore the ambiguity of childhood “innocence” amid adult struggles over money, power, and love.

LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America’s best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.

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.