Henry James: The Writer and His Work

Henry James: The Writer and His Work

Henry James: The Writer and His Work

Henry James: The Writer and His Work

Excerpt

Some years ago I was asked by the British Council to write three pamphlets on Henry James. The intention of these pamphlets (called "Writers and Their Work") is to provide an introduction to a particular writer, stressing the works but also relating them, necessarily rather sketchily, to the biographical facts of his or her life. With the guidance of Ian Scott-Kilvert of the British Council (whose help I am happy to have a chance to acknowledge here) I wrote the pamphlets and now (with the encouragement of Bruce Wilcox of the University of Massachusetts Press, for which I am most grateful) I am offering these pamphlets, somewhat amended, as a small book. Like the pamphlets, it is not aimed at the reader already familiar with the works and life of James; by the same token it is not intended to supply utterly basic information and plot summaries for some notionally completely ignorant reader. The hope is, rather, that it may interest and even stimulate any educated reader who has read some James but is in no way a specialist and who might care to have a short account of the development of his complete works with some biographical background. In a way it is a short biography of James's imagination in its seemingly inexhaustible inventiveness and continuously amazing productivity. It does not hope or attempt to supplant or supersede the late F. W. Dupee's book on Henry James which became an essential introduction to the man and his work some thirty-five years ago. But every age needs to be reintroduced to--or to reintroduce itself to--a major writer and it is that need I am addressing in offering a brief reintroduction to Henry James for our times. For the Henry James specialist it will have little or no interest, and when it comes to biographical material I have, of course, nothing to add to the magnificent work of Leon Edel. In attempting to point to interesting and even crucial aspects of James's eigh-

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