It will be necessary, for several reasons, to give this short sketch the form rather of a critical essay than of a biography. The data for a life of Nathaniel Hawthorne are the reverse of copious, and even if they were abundant they would serve but in a limited measure the purpose of the biographer. Hawthorne's career was probably as tranquil and uneventful a one as ever fell to the lot of a man of letters; it was almost strikingly deficient in incident, in what may be called the dramatic quality. Few men of equal genius and of equal eminence can have led on the whole a simpler life. His six volumes of Note-Books illustrate this simplicity; they are a sort of monument to an unagitated fortun...
"No one, among American writers, was more contemporary or had a more powerful grasp of American history and American myth," writes Leon Edel of Henry James. This collection of James's essays on American letters, together with some of his miscellaneous writings on other American subjects, is a pivotal document in the reassessment of James as less cloistered--and more American--than previously supposed. James is relaxed and informal as he writes of Emerson, Hawthorne, Lowell, Godkin, Norton, and Howells: he is fondly recalling--but also criticizing--the cultural orthodoxy in which he was reared. The American Essays remarkably prefigures current efforts to revise and challenge the aesthetic idealism of the Emersonian tradition.
In this, the second volume of Leon Edel's superb edition of the letters, we see Henry James in his thirties, pursuing his writing in Paris and London and finding his first literary successes in Daisy Miller and The Portrait of a Lady. The letters of these years, describing for family and friends in Boston the expatriate's days, reveal the usual wit and sophistication, but there is a new tone: James is relentlessly building a personal career and begins to see himself as a professional writer. Few other letters so fully document the process of an artist in the making. James was a social success in London: in Mr. Edel's words, "England speedily opened its arms to him, as it does to anyone who is at ease with the world." The letters of this period pull us into the atmosphere of Victorian England, its drawing rooms, manors, and clubs, and James's keen American eyes give us views of this world probably unique in our literary annals. He used these observations to forge his great international theme, the confrontation of the Old and New Worlds.
The Complete Letters of Henry James fills a crucial gap in modern literary studies by presenting in a scholarly edition the complete letters of one of the great novelists and letter writers of the English language. Comprising more than ten thousand letters reflecting on a remarkably wide range of topics--from James's own life and literary projects to broader questions on art, literature, and criticism--this edition is an indispensable resource for students of James and of American and English literature, culture, and criticism as well as for research libraries throughout North America and Europe and for scholars who specialize in James, the European novel, and modern literature.
Melville's short stories are masterpieces. The best are to be appreciated on more than one level and those presented here are rich with symbolism and spiritual depth. Set in 1797, Billy Budd, Foretopman exploits the tension of this period during the war between England and France to create a tale of satanic treachery, tragedy and great pathos that explores human relationships and the inherently ambiguous nature of man-made justice. Tales such as Bartleby, Benito Cereno, The Lightning Rod Man, The Tartarus of Maids or I and My Chimney, show the timeless poetic power of Melville's writing as he consciously uses the disguise of allegory in various ways and to various ends.
This collection of new essays relates James's work to the political and social issues of his day, making this outstanding literary figure accessible to a broader reading public. Contributors include Richard Godden and Charles Swann, Millicent Bell and Deborah Phillips.