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Henry James: The Mature Master

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Review-A-Day

"Novick's ambition...has been to see James afresh, to replace the 'querulous old maid' of Leon Edel's five-volume biography...with 'the active, passionate, engaged man his contemporaries knew.. Like many such revisions, this entails a drastic caricature of the earlier work...and a somewhat wishful or idealized notion of what is replacing it." Alan Hollinghurst, The New York Review of Books (read the entire New York Review of Books review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The New York Times compared Sheldon M. Novick’s Henry James: The Young Master to “a movie of James’s life, as it unfolds, moment to moment, lending the book a powerful immediacy.” Now, in Henry James: The Mature Master, Novick completes his super, revelatory two-volume account of one of the world’s most gifted and least understood authors, and of a vanished world of aristocrats and commoners.

Using hundreds of letters only recently made available and taking a fresh look at primary materials, Novick reveals a man utterly unlike the passive, repressed, and privileged observer painted by other biographers. Henry James is seen anew, as a passionate and engaged man of his times, driven to achieve greatness and fame, drawn to the company of other men, able to write with sensitivity about women as he shared their experiences of love and family responsibility.

James, age thirty-eight as the volume begins, basking in the success of his first major novel, The Portrait of a Lady, is a literary lion in danger of being submerged by celebrity. As his finances ebb and flow he turns to the more lucrative world of the stage–with far more success than he has generally been credited with. Ironically, while struggling to excel in the theatre, James writes such prose masterpieces as The Wings of the Dove and The Golden Bowl.

Through an astonishingly prolific life, James still finds time for profound friendships and intense rivalries. Henry James: The Mature Master features vivid new portraits of James’s famous peers, including Edith Wharton, Oscar Wilde, and Robert Louis Stevenson; his close and loving siblings Alice and William; and the many compelling young men, among them Hugh Walpole and Howard Sturgis, with whom James exchanges professions of love and among whom he thrives. We see a master converting the materials of an active life into great art.

Here, too, as one century ends and another begins, is James’s participation in the public events of his native America and adopted England. As the still-feudal European world is shaken by democracy and as America sees itself endangered by a wave of Jewish and Italian immigrants, a troubled James wrestles with his own racial prejudices and his desire for justice. With the coming of world war all other considerations are set aside, and James enlists in the cause of civilization, leaving his greatest final works unwritten.

Hailed as a genius and a warm and charitable man–and derided by enemies as false, effeminate, and self-infatuated–Henry James emerges here as a major and complex figure, a determined and ambitious artist who was planning a new novel even on his deathbed. In Henry James: The Mature Master, he is at last seen in full; along with its predecessor volume, this book is bound to become the definitive biography.

Review:

"This second and final volume (after Henry James: The Young Master) of Novick's epic James biography covers the period beginning immediately following the 1881 publication of The Portrait of a Lady and ends with James's extended final illness and death in 1916. In between, James's personal and literary life is exhaustively chronicled in a meticulous fashion. Novick's goal is to show James as an 'active, passionate, engaged' man of his time, rather than as the repressed, passive man of literary myth, and he achieves this goal resoundingly by allowing the reader access to James on almost a daily level, often through his frequent letters to friends and family. Novick's first volume caused a small stir through its elucidation of James's romantic feelings toward Oliver Wendell Holmes, and this conclusion offers a similar opinion of his 'romantic friendship' with the poet Arthur Benson. Despite the occasional dramatic flareups, however, including the recounting of a literary rivalry with Oscar Wilde and James's pledge of loyalty to the king of England during WWI, the book is most concerned with the day-to-day politics and publishing practices of James's lifetime, and any reader interested in the master's political development or prolific working methods would do well to turn to this definitive work." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"The faintly redundant subtitle is easily explained: The fifth and last volume of Leon Edel's classic Henry James biography was called simply 'The Master,' echoing the honorific conferred on the great storyteller by his friends. James has remained 'The Master,' and Edel's biography (1953-1972) is among the greatest in the language. Nonetheless, the short verdict on this concluding volume of Sheldon... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Synopsis:

Sheldon M. Novick portrays Henry James as a man of great emotional depth--powerful, confident, generous, and above all, courageous. This landmark life follows the author's exceptional biography of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, of which Edmund Morris said in The New York Times, " masterly . . . perfected to the point of art." of photos.

Synopsis:

With this follow-up to "Henry James: The Young Master," Novick completes his revelatory two-volume account of one of the worlds most gifted and least understood authors. Henry James is seen anew, as a passionate and engaged man of his times, driven to achieve greatness and fame.

About the Author

Sheldon M. Novick is the author of Henry James: The Mature Master, Henry James: The Young Master and Honorable Justice: The Life of Oliver Wendell Holmes, and is the editor of The Collected Works of Justice Holmes. He is Adjunct Professor of Law and History at Vermont Law School, and lives in Norwich, Vermont.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780679450238
Publisher:
Random House
Subject:
Literary
Author:
Novick, Sheldon M.
Subject:
Authors, American
Subject:
19th century
Subject:
James, Henry
Subject:
Authors, American -- 20th century.
Publication Date:
20071113
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
16-PP B/W PHOTO INSERT
Pages:
640
Dimensions:
9.60x6.54x1.53 in. 2.25 lbs.

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Henry James: The Mature Master
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Product details 640 pages Random House - English 9780679450238 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "This second and final volume (after Henry James: The Young Master) of Novick's epic James biography covers the period beginning immediately following the 1881 publication of The Portrait of a Lady and ends with James's extended final illness and death in 1916. In between, James's personal and literary life is exhaustively chronicled in a meticulous fashion. Novick's goal is to show James as an 'active, passionate, engaged' man of his time, rather than as the repressed, passive man of literary myth, and he achieves this goal resoundingly by allowing the reader access to James on almost a daily level, often through his frequent letters to friends and family. Novick's first volume caused a small stir through its elucidation of James's romantic feelings toward Oliver Wendell Holmes, and this conclusion offers a similar opinion of his 'romantic friendship' with the poet Arthur Benson. Despite the occasional dramatic flareups, however, including the recounting of a literary rivalry with Oscar Wilde and James's pledge of loyalty to the king of England during WWI, the book is most concerned with the day-to-day politics and publishing practices of James's lifetime, and any reader interested in the master's political development or prolific working methods would do well to turn to this definitive work." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "Novick's ambition...has been to see James afresh, to replace the 'querulous old maid' of Leon Edel's five-volume biography...with 'the active, passionate, engaged man his contemporaries knew.. Like many such revisions, this entails a drastic caricature of the earlier work...and a somewhat wishful or idealized notion of what is replacing it." (read the entire New York Review of Books review)
"Synopsis" by , Sheldon M. Novick portrays Henry James as a man of great emotional depth--powerful, confident, generous, and above all, courageous. This landmark life follows the author's exceptional biography of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, of which Edmund Morris said in The New York Times, " masterly . . . perfected to the point of art." of photos.
"Synopsis" by , With this follow-up to "Henry James: The Young Master," Novick completes his revelatory two-volume account of one of the worlds most gifted and least understood authors. Henry James is seen anew, as a passionate and engaged man of his times, driven to achieve greatness and fame.
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