'Washington Square is perhaps the only novel in which a man has successfully invaded the feminine field and produced work comparable to Jane Austen's,' said Graham Greene.
Inspired by a story Henry James heard at a dinner party, Washington Square tells how the rakish but idle Morris Townsend tries to win the heart of heiress Catherine Sloper against the objections of her father. Precise and understated, the book endures as a matchless social study of New York in the mid-nineteenth century.
'Washington Square has long been beloved by almost all readers,' noted Louis Auchincloss. 'The chief beauty of the novel lies in its expression--by background, characterization, and dialogue--of its mild heroine's mood of long-suffering patience. Everything is ordered, polite, still: the charming old square in the pre-brownstone city, the small, innocent, decorous social gatherings, the formal good manners, the quaint reasonableness of the dialogues. . . . James was the poet of cities: New York in Washington Square.' Clifton Fadiman agreed: 'It has extraordinary charm, deriving from an almost Mozartian combination of sweetness and depth.
Capturing the grandeur of a gracious, splendid Europe of wealth and Old World sensibilities, this glorious, complex novel has become a touchstone for a great writer's entire literary achievement. From the opening pages, when the high-spirited American girl Isabel Archer arrives at the English manor Gardencourt, James's luminous, superbly crafted prose creates an atmosphere of intensity, expectation, and incomparable beauty.
Isabel, who has been taken abroad by an eccentric aunt to fulfill her potential, attracts the passions of a British aristocrat and a brash American, as well as the secret adoration of her invalid cousin, Ralph Touchett. But her vulnerability and innocence lead her not to love but to a fatal entrapment in intrigue, deception, and betrayal. This brilliant interior drama of the forming of a woman's consciousness makes The Portrait of a Lady a masterpiece of James's middle years.
From the Paperback edition.
Introduction by Colm Tóibín
One of the final masterpieces from one of the world’s greatest authors, Henry James’s The Ambassadors is now available for the first time in a Modern Library edition, with a new Introduction by acclaimed novelist Colm Tóibín. A keenly observed tale of a man’s awakening to life, this dark comic novel follows Lewis Lambert Strether, a middle-aged widower, on a mission to Europe to convince his fiancée’s wayward son to forsake the pleasures of Paris and return to America. Rich with fin de siècle detail, The Ambassadors brims with finely drawn character portraits, including one of the Master’s most unforgettable heroines--the beguiling Madame de Vionnet. This was the novel that Henry James himself considered his finest, and no one is better equipped to put it into literary and historical context than Colm Tóibín, whose award-winning novel The Master depicted the inner life of James in the final years of the nineteenth century.
To read a story by Henry James is to enter a fully realized world unlike any other--a rich, perfectly crafted domain of vivid language and splendid, complex characters. Devious children, sparring lovers, capricious American girls, obtuse bachelors, sibylline spinsters, and charming Europeans populate these five fascinating nouvelles, which represent the author in both his early and late phases. From the apparitions of evil that haunt the governess in "The Turn of the Screw" to the startling self-scrutiny of an egotistical man in "The Beast in the Jungle," the mysterious turnings of human behavior are coolly and masterfully observed--proving Henry James to be a master of psychological insight as well as one of the finest prose stylists of modern English literature.
/> From the Paperback edition.
Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time
Neither Edith Wharton nor E. M. Forster admired it, but Louis Auchincloss calls The Wings of the Dove 'perhaps the greatest of Henry James's novels.' Published in 1902, the novel represented something of a comeback for James, whose only 'bestseller,' Daisy Miller, had appeared more than two decades earlier. Set amid the splendor of fashionable London drawing rooms and gilded Venetian palazzos, the story concerns a pair of lovers who conspire to obtain the fortune of a doomed American heiress. But the naïve young woman becomes both their victim and their redeemer in James's meticulously designed drama of treachery and self-betrayal. 'It seems to me that I know the characters even more intimately than I know the characters in the earlier novels of his Balzac period,' said Louis Auchincloss. 'The Wings of the Dove represents the pinnacle of James's prose.' This version is the definitive New York Edition, which appeared in 1907, together with the author's Preface.
Originally published in The Cornhill Magazine in 1878 and in book form in 1879, Daisy Miller brought Henry James his first widespread commercial and critical success. The young Daisy Miller, an American on holiday with her mother on the shores of Switzerland's Lac Leman, is one of James's most vivid and tragic characters. Daisy's friendship with an American gentleman, Mr. Winterbourne, and her subsequent infatuation with a passionate but impoverished Italian bring to life the great Jamesian themes of Americans abroad, innocence versus experience, and the grip of fate. As Elizabeth Hardwick writes in her Introduction, Daisy Miller "lives on, a figure out of literature who has entered history as a name, a vision."
This brilliant satire of the women's rights movement in America is the story of the ravishing inspirational speaker Verena Tarrant and the bitter struggle between two distant cousins who seek to control her. Will the privileged Boston feminist Olive Chancellor succeed in turning her beloved ward into a celebrated activist and lifetime companion? Or will Basil Ransom, a conservative southern lawyer, steal Verena's heart and remove her from the limelight?
"The Bostonians has a vigor and blithe wit found nowhere else in James," writes A. S. Byatt in her Introduction. "It is about idealism in a democracy that is still recovering from a civil war bitterly fought for social ideals . . . [written] with a ferocious, precise, detailed--and wildly comic--realism."
From the Trade Paperback edition.