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James, Henry - Novels 1896–1899


Henry James

Novels 1896–1899

The Other HouseThe Spoils of PoyntonWhat Maisie KnewThe Awkward Age

 
"These novels sneakily inaugurate modernism in English."
— Atlantic Monthly
 
 

This Library of America volume collects four novels written by Henry James in the period immediately following his unsuccessful five-year-long attempt to establish himself as a playwright on the London stage. Hoping to convert his "infinite little loss" into "infinite little gain," James returned to the novelistic examination of English society with a new appreciation for what he called the "divine principle of the Scenario," "a key that, working in the same general way fits the complicated chambers of both the dramatic and the narrative lock."

His continued interest in dramatic form is demonstrated in The Other House (1896), which was derived from the scenario for a three-act play. Set in two neighboring houses and told mostly through dialogue, the novel explores the violent and tragic consequences of jealousy and frustrated passion. In The Spoils of Poynton (1897), one of the most tightly constructed of James's late novels, a house and its exquisite antique furnishings and artwork become the source of a protracted struggle involving the proud and imperious Mrs. Gereth, her amiable son, Owen, his philistine fiancée, Mona Brigstock, and the sensitive Fleda Vetch, whose moral judgment is tested by her conflicting allegiances.

What Maisie Knew (1897) explores with perception and sensitivity the effect upon a young girl of her parents' bitter divorce and their subsequent remarriages. In writing the novel James chose as his point of view what he described as "the consciousness, the dim, sweet, scared, wondering, clinging perception of the child." The Awkward Age (1899) examines the complicated relations among the members of a sophisticated London social circle almost entirely through dialogue as it depicts the shifting marital prospects of a young woman poised on the verge of adult life. Both of these novels insightfully explore the ambiguity of childhood "innocence" amid adult struggles over money, power, and love.

Myra Jehlen, volume editor, is Board of Governors Professor of Literatures at Rutgers University. She is the author of American Incarnation: The Individual, the Nation, and the Continent (1986) and Readings at the Edge of Literature (2002).

Also by Henry James:
Collected Travel Writings: Great Britain and America
Collected Travel Writings: The Continent
Complete Stories 1864–1874
Complete Stories 1874–1884
Complete Stories 1884–1891
Complete Stories 1892–1898
Complete Stories 1898–1910
Complete Stories (5 volumes)
Literary Criticism: Essays on Literature, American Writers & English Writers
Literary Criticism: French Writers, Other European Writers, The Prefaces to the New York Edition
Novels 1871–1880
Novels 1881–1886
Novels 1886–1890
Novels 1901–1902
Novels 1903–1911

Also Available:
William James: Writings 1878–1899
William James: Writings 1902–1910

Copyright 1995–2011 Literary Classics of the United States, Inc.
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