Sheldon M. Novick's Henry James:
The Mature Master

The second and concluding volume of a new biography of Henry James and a tour of the trans-Atlantic world in the age of Victoria from James's first great success with Portrait of a Lady to his deathbed struggle to preserve his civilization in a time of war.


Henry James

Henry James: The Mature Master

Henry James: The Young Master

Justice Holmes

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More about the preceding volume,

Henry James: The Young Master

Henry James: The Mature Master

From the dust jacket:

The New York Times compared Sheldon M. Novick’s Henry James: The Young Master to “a movie of James’s life, as it unfolds, moment to moment, lending the book a powerful immediacy.” Now, in Henry James: The Mature Master, Novick completes his revelatory two-volume account of one of the world’s most gifted and least understood authors, and of a vanished world of aristocrats and commoners. Using hundreds of letters only recently made available and taking a fresh look at primary materials, Novick reveals a man utterly unlike the passive, repressed, and privileged observer painted by other biographers. Henry James is seen anew, as a passionate and engaged man of his times, driven to achieve greatness and fame, drawn to the company of other men, able to write with sensitivity about women as he shared their experiences of love and family responsibility. James, age thirty-eight as the volume begins, basking in the success of his first major novel, The Portrait of a Lady, is a literary lion in danger of being submerged by celebrity. As his finances ebb and flow he turns to the more lucrative world of the stage–with far more success than he has generally been credited with. Ironically, while struggling to excel in the theatre, James writes such prose masterpieces as The Wings of the Dove and The Golden Bowl. Through an astonishingly prolific life, James still finds time for profound friendships and intense rivalries. Henry James: The Mature Master features vivid new portraits of James’s famous peers, including Edith Wharton, Oscar Wilde, and Robert Louis Stevenson; his close and loving siblings Alice and William; and the many compelling young men, among them Hugh Walpole and Howard Sturgis, with whom James exchanges professions of love and among whom he thrives. We see a master converting the materials of an active life into great art.

Here, too, as one century ends and another begins, is James’s participation in the public events of his native America and adopted England. As the still-feudal European world is shaken by democracy and as America sees itself endangered by a wave of immigrants, a troubled James wrestles with his own racial prejudices and his desire for justice. With the coming of world war all other considerations are set aside, and James enlists in the cause of civilization, leaving his greatest final works unwritten. Hailed as a genius and a warm and charitable man–and derided by enemies as false, effeminate, and self-infatuated–Henry James emerges here as a major and complex figure, a determined and ambitious artist who was planning a new novel even on his deathbed. In Henry James: The Mature Master, he is at last seen in ful
The New York Times Book Review  "editors' choice" and front page review:
"Novick . . . challenges the received image of James as an effete, fussy figure.  Far from a fussy celibate, Novick's James  was an  authentic cosmopolite who led a life as emotionally, sexually and financially  complex as those of the characters in his fiction. . . .  Novick superbly parses James's sometimes contradictory political views . .  . And when Novick discusses the late novels - the genius of James sometimes inhabits and energizes his prose. . . . eloquent . . . left me eager to reread James's novels."

Publishers Weekly (starred review):
"Novick’s goal is to show James as an “active, passionate, engaged” man of his time, rather than as the repressed, passive man of literary myth, and he achieves this goal resoundingly . . . [a] definitive work."

Harold Bloom:
"True to the mode of Henry James, Novick is always dicreet yet irrefutable in his scholarship and literary skill.  Perhaps in another generation or two, Novick may be supplemented by others, but he will not be surpassed nor replaced."

Linda Simon, author of Genuine Reality: A Life of William James:
"In the final volume of his masterly biography, Sheldon Novick has created a fresh, shrewd, and indelible portrait of Henry James as literary lion. Ridiculed by some, cherished by many, James emerges vividly: complex, contradictory, yearning for fame, fortune, and, not least, for love. Novick writes with an elegance worthy of his subject in this compelling, fascinating life of one of the world’s most esteemed authors."

Megan Marshall, author of The Peabody Sisters:  Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism:
"Sheldon Novick's vivid accounting stands out, giving us a 'mature' Henry James we can truly know:  a passionate man, fully engaged not just with his work, but with friendships and with life itself. . . . [a] rare, intimate portrait of a gentleman." 

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