Daisy Miller: Biography:Henry James
Henry James was born April 15, 1843, in New York City, to the wealthy James family. His father, Henry James, Sr., was a well-known religious philosopher whose acquaintances included such notables as Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Thackeray, Washington Irving, and Thomas Carlyle. James's older brother, William James, was an important scholar in the emerging field of psychology, and was a prominent member of the Harvard faculty for much of his life. His fame was almost equal to his brother's throughout their lives. Henry James's sister Alice James also achieved some notoriety after her death for her posthumously published diary.
The James family made frequent and extended visits to Europe during Henry James's childhood, and some of his education occurred in places such as Paris and Geneva. His father scorned material pursuits, and James's education was often unorthodox, including public schooling, private tutoring, and some training as a painter. James spent a year studying law at Harvard, though he quickly left to pursue writing.
At about this time, in late 1861, when James was about eighteen, he was injured in a stable fire. Though some critics speculate that this incident might have rendered him impotent, most people agree with Leon Edel that James sustained an obscure back injury. James, in later life, tried to use this injury as his reason for not volunteering for service in the Civil War.
James published his first short story at about this time, and he soon acquired an important friendship with William Dean Howells, the rising young editor of the Atlantic Monthly. James became a successful journalist quite quickly because of his social connections with the Boston and New York elite. His relationship with Howells became an important connection between two public intellectuals and writers. They read each other's work and promoted each other, and the two are considered prominent exponents of American literary Realism-though James would later become something other than a Realist.
James took his first trip to Europe as an adult in 1869. It was during this trip that his close friend and cousin Minny Temple died of tuberculosis. James became ill on this trip, and he sought a cure in Italy, where he fell in love with Italian art in general, and with Rome in particular. He returned in 1870, only to leave again in 1872 with his sister Alice and his aunt. Before leaving, he wrote his first novel, Watch and Ward. His visit became an extended stay, mostly in Rome, where he began work on Roderick Hudson (1875), his first important novel, about an aspiring young sculptor. He returned to the United States to live in New York for a few more years, but his next visit to Europe would be permanent. Daisy Miller was published in a British magazine in 1878, and in an American magazine in the same year with several other works of short fiction.
James published a few more important novels while still living in the United States (or at least the novels were set in the United States), including Portrait of a Lady (1881), The American (1877), Washington Square (1880), and The Bostonians (1886). These novels are usually considered part of his American period.
James eventually settled in Paris, and then in London. He began publishing novels every few years, and would end his career with more than twenty novels to his name. His novels would eventually drift away from the literary realism of The Bostonians toward something more modern, beginning with The Spoils of Poynton (1897), What Maisie Knew (1897), and one of his most famous novels, The Turn of the Screw (1898). His later novels culminated with his masterpieces, The Wings of the Dove (1902), The Ambassadors (1903), and The Golden Bowl (1904).
James returned to the United States as a visitor late in life and wrote a collection of travel sketches, The American Scene. His work was republished in this period as well, and James wrote new prefaces to most of his novels for these new editions. He began writing autobiographical fragments, including A Small Boy and Others in 1913, Notes of a Son and Brother in 1914, and The Middle Years after his death in 1916. Living in London, James became unhappy with the American government and its decision to remain neutral during the early years of the Great War (World War I), so he asked and became a British subject in 1915, which caused considerable outrage in the United States.
Because of his transatlantic life, both British literature specialists and American literature specialists claim him. He is at once a British and American writer. Some critics split his work into an early, American period and a later, British period.
James died in 1916 of a stroke.