Henry James (1843–1916). Known later in life as “the Master” and with good reason. One of the two or three most important figures in the history of Anglo-American fiction, James did much to elevate the status of the novel in the period from 1880 to 1910. Though born in New York City, he spent much of his childhood traveling in Europe. He attended Harvard Law School for a year. Drafted into the army during the American Civil War, he was exempted from service because of a medical disability. While living in Paris during the mid-1870s, he became acquainted with some of Europe’s greatest living novelists; his friends in this period included Ivan Turgenev and Gustave Flaubert.
James’s first major novels were focused on the “international theme,” taking their American protagonists to England, France, and Italy. Among such works are The American (1877), Daisy Miller (1878), and The Portrait of a Lady (1881), considered by many his greatest novel. James experienced a creative rebirth in the early years of the 20th century, producing three astounding novels—The Wings of the Dove (1902), The Ambassadors (1903), and The Golden Bowl (1904)—all now famous for their close attention to the workings of human consciousness. He lived in England for more than 40 years and became a British citizen in 1915. Recently, he has become the subject of other people’s fiction, taking the lead role in two interesting novels: Colm Tóibin’s The Master (2004) and David Lodge’s Author, Author (2004).
[Courtesy: Professor Timothy Spurgin]