Life and Legacy of Henry James Essay

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  8
Wordcount:  1968 Words
Date:  2022-05-17


Henry James is a known American author, born on April 15th, 1843 in New York, United States. He died on February 28th, 1916 in London, England. Being born and raised in America and later relocating to England gave him great insight into the transatlantic culture. The main fundamental theme in most of his poems was the incorruptibility and liveliness of the new world and how it clashed how corrupt the old world was and the wisdom that it portrayed. This theme was demonstrated in works such as The Bostonians written in 1886, The Ambassadors written in 1903 and Daisy Miller wrote in 1879 among other works. This essay, therefore, seeks to explain the life of Henry James and the legacy that he left behind.

Trust banner

Is your time best spent reading someone else’s essay? Get a 100% original essay FROM A CERTIFIED WRITER!

His Life and Works Done

Henry James was baptized after his dad the late Henry James Senior, who was a renown public theorist and teacher, the little brother of the theorist and psychologist William James and his sister Alice was also known for her diaries. Growing up Henry was shy and addicted to reading books and he presumed the role of silent witness alongside his energetic senior brother. Both of them were taken abroad as toddlers, where they were educated by teachers and coaches, and spent their preteen days in Manhattan. They later went back to Geneva, then to Paris, and later on, embarked to London during their teenage years. Henry and William acquired languages from the different countries they visited and a cognizance of Europe known by very little Americans in their eras. The day before the American Civil War, Henry and his family stayed at Rhode Island, Newport and later they relocated to Boston. It is from there that he began to recognize New England more intimately. When he attained 19 years and was old enough to go to college, he joined the Law School of Harvard, however, he devoted his education time to reading works by Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Honore de Balzac.

Reading the works written by those people inspired him to write his own work as he had always admired the poetic arts. His first story was published secretly after two years in the New York Continental Monthly and his first book analyses in the North American Review. Later on, William Dean Howells turned out to be the new editor of The Atlantic Monthly and Henry found in him a mentor and also a friend who published him frequently. Between them, Henry and Howells initiated the era of American "realism." And by the time Henry was in his mid-20s he was seen as one of the most skilled writers of short tales in America.

Nevertheless, critics criticized his predisposition to write on the life of the cognizance, instead of action. He wrote tales, articles, and reviews for closely a decade beforehand he tried to write a full-length book. His years traveling in England, Italy, and France, set the stage for a period of travel in those republics. Henry not once got married as he was always careful as he avoided very close involvement and relations with people. However, by nature, he was very friendly, outgoing, an active observer and participant in society.

From the experiences in his life, that is traveling and the relations he had with his family and friends, Henry got most of the inspiration to write his works from these experiences. Most of his works were written between the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century and between this time Henry had observed many cultural and socio-economic changes between the two places that he had called home, that is America and England.

Henry's works are well known by the people, however, some of his works including his non-fictional analyses, disparagements, memories and travel writing, are often unfamiliar and, to some extent downgraded by the general public. One of the most outstanding characteristic features of Henry was the element of self-consciousness and awareness. He wrote most of his works based on this feature and he showed great interest in making his art more theoretical.

This feature manifests itself in most of the role that he played as a critic. Henry, however, referred to it by other terms instead of the fact that it was a critic, he referred to it as being an aid to the artists, the interpreter, a fellow artistic brother and sometimes a torch-bearing guard. He, therefore, collected his fictitious criticism in four volumes: French Poets and Novelists written in 1878, Partial Portraits written in 1888, Essays in London and Elsewhere written in 1893 and Notes on Novelists written in 1914. Lovers of James also composed two other volumes, namely Views and Reviews in 1908 and Notes and Reviews in 1921.

In these works, James was mostly interested in the French fictional production. An author by the name Leon Edel 1956 attributes this to a mixture of real and logical reasons. In the real sense, the market was more open to articles on French literature than English literature. Besides the commercial purpose, the French novelists were also more alluring to Henry because they were also self-consciously intricate with issues on art and form. It is through his critic notes on these French authors that he conveyed much of his dialogue on the art of fiction. This feature of discussion was primal for James since he considered critic reflections as a vital part of the overall advance of art and of fiction in precise.

Art lives upon discussion, upon experiment, upon curiosity, upon variety of attempt,upon the exchange of views and the comparison of standpoints; and there is apresumption that those times when no one has anything particular to say about it andhas no reason to give for practice or preference, though they may be times of honor,are not times of development - are times, possibly even, a little of dullness. Thesuccessful application of any art is a delightful spectacle, but the theory of isinteresting [...]. [...] Discussion, suggestion, formulation, these things are fertilizingwhen they are frank and sincere. (James, 376-377).

Above is an excerpt from one of James' works and it shows some sort of conflict as he feels called upon to do impartiality to both sides of the coin. On one hand, he calls for the application of art being a novelist. On the other hand, he works as a critic who gases the conversation which keeps the always varying stream of art flowing. This is perfectly illustrated by the prefaces that accompany his stories in The New York Edition, that were first published between 1907 and 1909. In these prologues, Henry informs his readers not only with regard to his creativity applied to that specific story but he, additionally, broadens his dissertation on fiction in general.

The fact that Henry dedicated his courtesy to his whole profession as a critic pre-eminently to the field of literature and its counterparts corresponds with the advantages he attributed to the category of the novel and its form. He 407 considers it a form which is unrestricted from the stiff settings under which other arts have to function. This freedom is a code that James considers of supreme importance and which he highlights strongly in his critical reflections on fiction.

James's non-fictional dissertation on works of fiction portrayed his thoughts and it is was possible to distill a kind of philosophy. This incorporates James's laborious attempts at dismembering and describing the essence of his art and, thus, providing himself and his equals with a structure of ideologies that try to explain the art of fiction.

There are four general groups that review best the vision that Henry had. First of all, there is the general principle of freedom that institutes the very starting point of the novel for James. Secondly, there is his demand for approaching life and being true to it in all its parts, especially in the execution of the character's mortality. Thirdly, there is Henry's model of unity which ascends from the well-adjusted accord between the story and the form. Fourthly, James provided some guidelines on the nature of the novelist (Victoria, 67).

Identifying the beauty and heritage of Europe, provided with his multicultural background, Henry made a cautious determination to see whether he might perhaps leave and find work in the United States. After spending two years in Europe, mainly in Rome, two years in Boston and a wintertime of continuous hackwork in New York City persuaded him that he might write well and live extra modestly abroad. Hence, commenced his long extradition signaled by a periodical in 1875 of the novel Roderick Hudson, which was based on an American sculptor's brawl by the Tiber banks amid his art and his desires and long-haul drafts, which were his initial assemblage of travel literature and an assembly of tales (Jonathan, 89).

Given those three extensive novels, he initiated a profession that saw nearly 100 volumes completed by the press through the following 40 years. During 1875-1876 James resided in Paris, scripting fictional and current literatures for the New York Tribune and at the same time working on his novel The American written in 1877, which was the story of a self-sought American billionaire whose candid and straightforward character differentiates with that of the egotistical and astute household of French nobles whose spawn he futilely tries to marry.

In Paris, James pursued the Russian author Ivan Turgenev, whose effort fascinated him, and it is by Turgenev that he was brought into Gustave Flaubert's coterie, where he grew to know some renown writers like Edmond de Goncourt, Alphonse Daudet, Emile Zola and Guy de Maupassant. From Turgenev, he got validation of his own opinion that a writer need not concern themselves about the buildup of the story and that, in concentrating on character, he would come to the life involvement of his character.

Even though he adored France, James had this feeling that he would forever be a foreigner in France, and therefore at the end of 1876, he decided to cross to London. It is while he was there, in the small rooms in Bolton Street off Piccadilly, where he wrote the major literature of his youth years. In the year 1878, he attained universal fame when he wrote his story of an American philander in Rome, called Daisy Miller, and further progressed his standing with The Europeans that similar year.

While in England he was punctually taken up by the leading royal family and he turned out to be a regular at Lord Houghton's branches, where he consorted with Alfred Tennyson, Robert Browning, William Gladstone and others. He became a great societal lion, James ate out 140 times between 1878 and 1879 and stayed in numerous of the great Victorian houses and country places. He was voted to London clubs, printed his tales at the same time in both English and American publications, and mingled with George Meredith, Edmund Gosse, Robert Louis Stevenson among other writers, thus launching himself as an important figure in Anglo-American fictional and artistic relations.

James's standing was initiated on his handy study and explanations of the American girl. In a sequence of humorous tales, he visualized the self-built young lady, the brave and foolhardy American naive woman who contends upon American values in European culture. James finished this first stage of his profession by creating his work of art, The Portrait of a Lady in 1881, a research of a young lady from Albany who conveys to Europe her slim narrow-mindedness and pretenses but also her sagacity of her personal control, her able spirit and her denial to be itemized, in the Victorian world, simply as a woman who was meant to be married only.

As a representation of Americans rendering in the colonial society of England and of Italy, this book has no alike in the antiquity of current literature. It is an outstanding research of a group of egomaniacs although at the similar time presenting...

Cite this page

Life and Legacy of Henry James Essay. (2022, May 17). Retrieved from

Free essays can be submitted by anyone,

so we do not vouch for their quality

Want a quality guarantee?
Order from one of our vetted writers instead

If you are the original author of this essay and no longer wish to have it published on the ProEssays website, please click below to request its removal:

didn't find image

Liked this essay sample but need an original one?

Hire a professional with VAST experience and 25% off!

24/7 online support

NO plagiarism