Synopses & Reviews
‘There was nothing weak about Miss Olive, she was a fighting woman, and she would fight him to the death’
Basil Ransom, an attractive young Mississippi lawyer, is on a visit to his cousin Olive, a wealthy feminist, in Boston when he accompanies her to a meeting on the subject of women’s emancipation. One of the speakers is Verena Tarrant, and although he disapproves of all she claims to stand for, Basil is immediately captivated by her and sets about ‘reforming’ her with his traditional views. But Olive has already made Verena her protégée, and soon a battle is under way for exclusive possession of her heart and mind. The Bostonians is one of James’s most provocative and astute portrayals of a world caught between old values and the lure of progress.
Richard Lansdown’s introduction discusses The Bostonians as James’s most successful political work and his funniest novel. This edition contains extracts from Tocqueville and from James’s ‘The American Scene’, which illuminate the novel’s social context. There are also notes and a bibliography.
One of James's most contentious novels and one of the few to be set wholly in America, The Bostonians also stands out from James's other fictions because it focuses on a burning social issue-the woman question-and explores its ramifications both within the lives of the individual characters and in the greater context of American society.
Touching on a wealth of subjects that resonate today-including the seeming contradictions between feminism and sexuality, lesbianism, and male chauvinism-The Bostonians is at once a witty dissection of human follies and foibles and a serious contemplation of the human condition and the eternal battle of the sexes.
In addition to the Introduction, this edition includes a chronology, explanatory notes, and two appendices: an extract from De Tocqueville on democratic despotism and a chapter from James's The American Scene (1907).
Basil, an ambitious lawyer, comes to Boston to seek his fortune. Through his suffragette cousin, Olive, he meets Verena, the beautiful daughter of a showman. Olive hopes to recruit Verena for the feminist cause, but Basil is attracted to her, and the battle for her possession begins.
This month's additions to the "Penguin Classics" series. This particular title is a new edition.
About the Author
Henry James (1843-1916), born in New York City, was the son of noted religious philosopher Henry James, Sr., and brother of eminent psychologist and philosopher William James. He spent his early life in America and studied in Geneva, London and Paris during his adolescence to gain the worldly experience so prized by his father. He lived in Newport, went briefly to Harvard Law School, and in 1864 began to contribute both criticism and tales to magazines.
In 1869, and then in 1872-74, he paid visits to Europe and began his first novel, Roderick Hudson. Late in 1875 he settled in Paris, where he met Turgenev, Flaubert, and Zola, and wrote The American (1877). In December 1876 he moved to London, where two years later he achieved international fame with Daisy Miller. Other famous works include Washington Square (1880), The Portrait of a Lady (1881), The Princess Casamassima (1886), The Aspern Papers (1888), The Turn of the Screw (1898), and three large novels of the new century, The Wings of the Dove (1902), The Ambassadors (1903) and The Golden Bowl (1904). In 1905 he revisited the United States and wrote The American Scene (1907).
During his career he also wrote many works of criticism and travel. Although old and ailing, he threw himself into war work in 1914, and in 1915, a few months before his death, he became a British subject. In 1916 King George V conferred the Order of Merit on him. He died in London in February 1916.