Henry James: The Conquest of London, 1870-1883 - Vol. 2

Henry James: The Conquest of London, 1870-1883 - Vol. 2

Henry James: The Conquest of London, 1870-1883 - Vol. 2

Henry James: The Conquest of London, 1870-1883 - Vol. 2

Excerpt

In this volume I continue the story of Henry James's life from the time of his return to America in 1870, after his "passionate pilgrimage," to the moment of his definitive expatriation in 1883. My first volume, Henry James: The Untried Years, published in 1953, showed the formation of his character and personality and the cosmopolitanism of his temperament. The present volume reveals the mature man in the process of fashioning his career. In the remaining two volumes I shall deal with his later middle years and his final phase.

Those familiar with the legendary Henry James, the Johnsonian "Master" of Rye and Chelsea, will discover an unknown figure in these pages. In his thirties the novelist was much more ardent and much less circumspect than the later James: he met life eagerly and often with exuberance. He was in the fullest sense an "addicted artist," but one who was guided at every turn by his intellect. And he was a man of action and a man of the world as well. No novelist of his time addressed himself more assiduously to wooing fame and fortune.

In my introduction to The Untried Years I alluded to Boswell's boast that he had not "melted down" his materials. My materials impose a different course. I had read five thousand of James's letters when I wrote the first volume; I have read (in round figures) seven thousand more since then. My task therefore has been one of arriving at significant detail and essence, lest I bury the reader under epistolary documents, all eminently quotable. The documents themselves are therefore reserved for the edition of James's letters which I have in preparation.

Henry James once wrote to his friend Charles Eliot Norton that biography was a "questionable honour to men of tranquillity." He argued that such men, of "the chimneyside, even of the chair . . .

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