Henry James (1843 – 1916)
An outstanding personality in the world of fiction, and a critic as well as a novelist, Henry James was born in New York in 1843. He started his education under the supervision of his father, an eclectic philosopher, whose vivid sense of words and psychological insight he inherited.
The James's family had frequent sojourns in Europe, and Henry attended schools in London, Paris and Geneva. After attending Harvard law school for a short time, he decided to devote himself entirely to writing, and his short stories made him famous when he was only 25.
In 1869 James came to Europe; He visited England, where He met George Eliot and He went to France and tally, the background of so many of his works. During his stay in Europe, his cousin Minnie Temple died. She was the only woman of whom he had a strong, attachment, and James later portrayed her in two of his major novels, "The portrait of a Lady", and "The Wings of the Dove".
James made more visits to Europe, and in 1875 settled in Paris, where He met the leading writers of the time, like Zola, Maupassant, Daudet, Flaubert and the Russian Turgenev. From the latter he learnt that it is not so much the story but the character that matters in fiction.
In 1876 He settled in London, where He produced some of his major works: "The American" (1877), "Daisy Miller" (1879) which won hi man international reputation, and "The Portrait of a Lady (1881)", with which He became an important figure in the world of literature. These novels are considered international in that they present two worlds, or societies – the American and the European – in contrast with each other. "Washington Square" (1881) and "The Bostonian" (1886) are different from the rest of his works because they present exclusively "American life".
After a short visit to America in 1881, James spent the rest of his life in Europe, mainly in England, in contact with writers, critics and painters. In particular, He was on friendly terms with R.L Stevenson, E. Gosse, and later J.Conrad, H.G Wells and R. Kipling. The second phase of his literary career was marked by such works as "The Spoils of Poynton" (1897), "What Maisie Knew" (1897) and "The Turn of the screw" (1899), a ghost story.
"The Wings of the Dove" (1902), "The Ambassadors" (1903) and "The Golden Bowl" (1904) marked a return to the international theme. James also spent years revising his works, which testifies to his concern for style as well as his great professional awareness.
World War I aroused in James a strong feeling of love for England, prompting him to take British citizenship in 1915. He received the Order of Merit from the King in the same year. He died in 1916 and his ashes were taken tot eh United States and buried in the family plot.
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