Tag Archives: ambassadors-background

Last Words, First Sentence

Never say you know the last words about any human heart.                                                             -Henry James, Louisa Pallant, 1888 Off Next Week: Back to blogging in February with The Cherry Orchard.

Oscar Wilde's Tomb

The Importance of Being Squeaky Clean

Famously Wilde, the gay writer best known for witty plays like The Importance of Being Earnest and An Ideal Husband, as well as the fittingly age-defying novel The Portrait of Dorian Gray died in 1900. While Oscar Wilde’s life and work, then, falls outside the purview of the 20th Century Unlimited, his influence and considerable […]


The Art of Consciousness

Incidentally, a brief scene from David Lodge’s novel about Henry James doubles as a pithy introduction to Colm Tóibín’s The Master. (And, really, since I excerpted Tóibín in Monday’s entry on Author, Author, it only seems fair to do the contrary here.) As a free-ranging discussion turns to Catholicism, James confides in his good friend […]


Tragedy or Comedy?

In the fall of 2003, on delivering the manuscript for his own fictionalized portrait of Henry James, the English novelist David Lodge learned that the writer Colm Tóibín would beat him to the punch. It turned out to be just the first unattended banana peel in a real-life literary farce. The minor tragedy of the […]

Madame X

Americans in Paris

Henry James plays a supporting role in Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough’s The Greater Journey, which might be said to describe the ‘middle act’ in Americans’ longtime liaison d’amour with Paris. After Benjamin Franklin’s crucially timed diplomatic mission to France in 1776, and (about 100 years) before the glittering social circle that swirled around Gertrude […]


The Enmity and the Ecstasy

In early January 1903, The New York Times deemed the serialization of a new James novel so noteworthy as to merit an article (PDF) about another article that itself heralded the debut of that serialization. Both the serialization and the commentary ran in the North American Review. As The Times reported, William Dean Howells, the […]


Friday Fun: The Woollett Question

Shortly after docking in Liverpool, The Ambassadors‘s Lambert Strether meets the cordial American expatriate Maria Gostrey, who, on hearing of his mission, inquires as to the nature of the industry that calls Chad Newsome back to Woollett, Massachusetts; Strether declines to name it. The little manufactured item is at once, he suggests, too “familiar, too […]


1903: The Ambassadors

As Henry James himself recounts in the preface to his 1903 novel, The Ambassadors, first serialized in twelve installments of the North American Review, “never can a composition of this sort have sprung straighter from a dropped grain of suggestion.” A few years earlier, a young American, Jonathan Sturges had shared an anecdote with James: […]