Henry James (1843-1916)
Henry James, though American born, was the most famous European writer in his soul and in his art. His first theme was the study of the American people, eager for knowledge and self-fulfillment, so different from the conventional
and often corrupt European society. In his mature phase he studied the individual mind, trying to penetrate the inner development of a character. The author stands apart, while the unfolding of a personality is seen from
different perspective , from different points of view. Henry James was born in New York City on April 15, 1843, in a house of Washington Square , a rich and respectable area of the town. His father was a cultured man, his elder brother William was a psychologist and philosopher. He spent his early years and boyhood in the United States , with several sojourns in Europe. He attended the Harvard Law School for a short period, but soon gave it up, devoting himself to writing.
At first he wrote short stories for magazines and reviews; when he was only 25 he was considered the best short story writer in America. In 1870 he revisited Europe and went for the first time to Italy, which provides the setting for many of his novels. Back from Europe he lived in Boston for two years (1870-72) , but in 1872 he returned to Europe, where he
In 1875 he returned to New York, but the rich European culture attracted him so deeply that in the same year he realized that Europe was the place his mind and soul had chosen. In a personal memorandum in 1881 he wrote: "I have
made my choice and God knows that I have no time to waste". His choice was England, where he settled in 1876, with periodic trips to Europe (France and Italy ). He returned to america only twice in 1881 an in 1904 , but all his
friends were now in the sophisticated European world, with its old traditions ,its love of art and culture, its refined though sometimes corrupt and ambiguous way of life.
He never married ; he was not interested in the social changes of his time or in public affairs. He only cared for his art and wrote 20 full-length novels, about a dozen short novels, more than one hundred short stories, travel
books , essays, and two volumes of autobiography. He died in London on February 28th 1916. At first his ashes were taken to America, but they were later removed to London and buried in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey, London.