Henry James

It’s not one of the big ones but The Spoils of Poynton is a novel by Henry James and I read it!

Let’s stop and consider Henry James. Difficult to read; never-ending, complex, convoluted sentences; known more for avoidance than for having actually been read; more painful than a Merchant Ivory production. Scary, even. Except for a brief stint, I have successfully avoided Henry James and, until fairly recently, almost all classical American Literature. I never took a college level course in American Literature. I did maintain a great interest in American poets and American playwrights, but I thought the fiction writers were worthy of my disdain, at least the older ones. Oddly, I considered experimental writers as being outside of any nationalistic concerns in many instances, I probably didn’t even know the author’s nationality … experimental writers were their own literary species.

But I have over the last ten or twenty years been trying to catch up on American Literature, having discovered that it’s not all bad. Still, the stories about Henry James haven’t enticed me to start reading his works. The few that I have read haven’t really left me with fond memories. But I got a copy of The Spoils of Poynton at the Book Exchange and since it wasn’t too long, I started reading. What I discovered was a moderately interesting drama by the proponent of Trans-Atlantic Literature … an American writing about society in England and Europe. Thinking back, I seem to remember another novel which was about a New England family that was visited by members of the English society. Exciting?

Not really, but I found the novel read easily with long, luxurious sentences, and enough lack of action to relax me and take away the tensions of the day. Imagine the angst generated by a son who intends to marry and then move into the ancestral home, relegating his still-living mother off to a smaller house that once belonged to an aunt. The intrigue is a woman named Fleda Vetch who becomes the mother’s spy and bait to lure her son away from his unfortunate choice of a bride. And as the society in the 19th century might expect, this reluctant bride dictates that her undying love will only be consummated if she gets the big house with all its furniture and bric-a-brac. Ah, true love … but what about Fleda?

I enjoyed this novel and will be pulling down a few of those Henry James novels that have been gathering dust on my bookshelves. But I’m not sure I’ll actually read the books since I can drop them off at the book exchange and just use Project Gutenberg to fill my iPad with Henry James. The Reverberator intrigues me.

How is your experience reading Henry James? Here is the author’s bibliographic information (taken from Wikipedia):

Novels

  • Watch and Ward (1871)
  • Roderick Hudson (1875)
  • The American (1877)
  • The Europeans (1878)
  • Confidence (1879)
  • Washington Square (1880)
  • The Portrait of a Lady (1881)
  • The Bostonians (1886)
  • The Princess Casamassima (1886)
  • The Reverberator (1888)
  • The Tragic Muse (1890)
  • The Other House (1896)
  • The Spoils of Poynton (1897)
  • What Maisie Knew (1897)
  • The Awkward Age (1899)
  • The Sacred Fount (1901)
  • The Wings of the Dove (1902)
  • The Ambassadors (1903)
  • The Golden Bowl (1904)
  • The Whole Family (collaborative novel with eleven other authors, 1908)
  • The Outcry (1911)
  • The Ivory Tower (unfinished, published posthumously 1917)
  • The Sense of the Past (unfinished, published posthumously 1917)

Short stories and novella

  • A Tragedy of Error (1864)
  • The Story of a Year (1865)
  • A Landscape Painter (1866)
  • A Day of Days (1866)
  • My Friend Bingham (1867)
  • Poor Richard (1867)
  • The Story of a Masterpiece (1868)
  • A Most Extraordinary Case (1868)
  • A Problem (1868)
  • De Grey: A Romance (1868)
  • Osborne’s Revenge (1868)
  • The Romance of Certain Old Clothes (1868)
  • A Light Man (1869)
  • Gabrielle de Bergerac (1869)
  • Travelling Companions (1870)
  • A Passionate Pilgrim (1871)
  • At Isella (1871)
  • Master Eustace (1871)
  • Guest’s Confession (1872)
  • The Madonna of the Future (1873)
  • The Sweetheart of M. Briseux (1873)
  • The Last of the Valerii (1874)
  • Madame de Mauves (1874)
  • Adina (1874)
  • Professor Fargo (1874)
  • Eugene Pickering (1874)
  • Benvolio (1875)
  • Crawford’s Consistency (1876)
  • The Ghostly Rental (1876)
  • Four Meetings (1877)
  • Rose-Agathe (1878, as Théodolinde)
  • Daisy Miller (1878)
  • Longstaff’s Marriage (1878)
  • An International Episode (1878)
  • The Pension Beaurepas (1879)
  • A Diary of a Man of Fifty (1879)
  • A Bundle of Letters (1879)
  • The Point of View (1882)
  • The Siege of London (1883)
  • Impressions of a Cousin (1883)
  • Lady Barbarina (1884)
  • Pandora (1884)
  • The Author of Beltraffio (1884)
  • Georgina’s Reasons (1884)
  • A New England Winter (1884)
  • The Path of Duty (1884)
  • Mrs. Temperly (1887)
  • Louisa Pallant(1888)
  • The Aspern Papers (1888)
  • The Liar (1888)
  • A Modern Warning (1888)
  • A London Life (1888)
  • The Patagonia (1888)
  • The Lesson of the Master (1888)
  • The Solution (1888)
  • The Pupil (1891)
  • Brooksmith (1891)
  • The Marriages (1891)
  • The Chaperon (1891)
  • Sir Edmund Orme (1891)
  • Nona Vincent (1892)
  • The Real Thing (1892)
  • The Private Life (1892)
  • Lord Beaupré (1892)
  • The Visits (1892)
  • Sir Dominick Ferrand (1892)
  • Greville Fane (1892)
  • Collaboration (1892)
  • Owen Wingrave (1892)
  • The Wheel of Time (1892)
  • The Middle Years (1893)
  • The Death of the Lion (1894)
  • The Coxon Fund (1894)
  • The Next Time (1895)
  • Glasses (1896)
  • The Altar of the Dead (1895)
  • The Figure in the Carpet (1896)
  • The Way It Came (1896, also published as The Friends of the Friends)
  • The Turn of the Screw (1898)
  • Covering End (1898)
  • In the Cage (1898)
  • John Delavoy (1898)
  • The Given Case (1898)
  • Europe (1899)
  • The Great Condition (1899)
  • The Real Right Thing (1899)
  • Paste (1899)
  • The Great Good Place (1900)
  • Maud-Evelyn (1900)
  • Miss Gunton of Poughkeepsie (1900)
  • The Tree of Knowledge (1900)
  • The Abasement of the Northmores (1900)
  • The Third Person (1900)
  • The Special Type (1900)
  • The Tone of Time (1900)
  • Broken Wings (1900)
  • The Two Faces (1900)
  • Mrs. Medwin (1901)
  • The Beldonald Holbein (1901)
  • The Story in It (1902)
  • Flickerbridge (1902)
  • The Birthplace (1903)
  • The Beast in the Jungle (1903)
  • The Papers (1903)
  • Fordham Castle (1904)
  • Julia Bride (1908)
  • The Jolly Corner (1908)
  • The Velvet Glove (1909)
  • Mora Montravers (1909)
  • Crapy Cornelia (1909)
  • The Bench of Desolation (1909)
  • A Round of Visits (1910)

Other

  • Captaine John Smith (1867)
  • A Passionate Pilgrim and Other Tales (1875)
  • Transatlantic Sketches (1875)
  • French Poets and Novelists (1878)
  • Hawthorne (1879)
  • Portraits of Places (1883)
  • A Little Tour in France (1884)
  • Partial Portraits (1888)
  • Essays in London and Elsewhere (1893)
  • Picture and Text (1893)
  • Terminations (1893)
  • The Real Thing and Other Tales (1893)
  • Theatricals (1894)
  • Theatricals: Second Series (1895)
  • Guy Domville (1895)
  • The Soft Side (1900)
  • William Wetmore Story and His Friends (1903)
  • The Better Sort (1903)
  • English Hours (1905)
  • The American Scene (1907)
  • Views and Reviews (1908)
  • New York Edition (1907–1909), selected “definitive” edition of James’s fiction
  • Italian Hours (1909)
  • A Small Boy and Others (1913)
  • Notes on Novelists (1914)
  • Notes of a Son and Brother (1914)
  • Within the Rim (1918)
  • Travelling Companions (1919)
  • Notebooks (various, published posthumously)
  • The Middle Years (unfinished, published posthumously 1917)
  • A Most Unholy Trade (1925, published posthumously)
  • The Art of the Novel : Critical Prefaces (1934)

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