The Bostonians

The Bostonians

The Bostonians

The Bostonians


The plot of this novel revolves around the feminist movement in Boston in the 1870's. F.R. Leavis called it one of "the 2 most brilliant novels in the language. "The novel's many allusions to the historical and social background of Boston society are explained in the editorial material.


Viewed from Mt Vernon Street, the problem of life was as simple as it was classic. Politics offered no difficulties, for there the moral law was a sure guide. Social perfection was also sure, because human nature worked for Good, and three instruments were all she asked-- Suffrage, Common Schools, and Press. On these points doubt was forbidden. Education was divine, and man needed only a correct knowledge of facts to reach perfection.


The society of Boston was and is quite uncivilized, but refined beyond the point of civilization.


The Bostonians is the masterpiece of James's middle period, though it is not the kind of work upon which his reputation has come to rest. It is the only one of his major novels where James's characters inhabit a world that he himself knew intimately and from the inside, a world to which he himself had connexions more vital than those of an immensely superior tourist. James knew that exile from his native country would deprive him not so much of material, as of a world in which his material could resonate. What has Isabel Archer to do with Rome, or Lambert Strether with Paris? His achievement, therefore, had to lie in his analysis of consciousness, not in his analysis of a culture. Yet, even in novels as brilliant as What Maisie Knew or The Awkward Age, we may wonder whether these people are typical, and, if so, what they are typical of? But this is the question to which James frankly addresses himself in The Bostonians, and to which he gives an answer both comprehensive and critical, so critical, indeed, that the novel failed on its first appearance in America, and so enduringly accurate that even a quarter of a century later it could not (to James's regret) be included in the New York Edition of his works. The Bostonians sums up the history of New England . . .

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