the new james


Henry James (1843-1916) presents a special set of problems to the biographer. On the face of it, his life was uneventful — no wars fought in, no fortune made or lost, no marriages or children or interruptions to the work. He wrote and wrote and wrote. In addition to James’ own continuous and inward-facing reportage, Leon Edel’s five-volume biography might seem to have sufficed. Those books appeared from 1953 to 1972, and in recent years more information has emerged. A critical industry has been established whose raw material is that of the artist’s notebooks and correspondence; more than 10,000 of his letters are preserved. And little would seem left to say.

“James’s surviving letters are now open to all scholars, however, and many contemporaneous accounts have been identified and published,” writes Sheldon M. Novick in his new book, “Henry James: The Mature Master.” “A new generation of scholars has been at work in these fertile fields and has portrayed James as the active, passionate, engaged man his contemporaries knew. The picture that is emerging is essentially that which James himself seems to have tried to convey and is quite different from the canonical account to which we all had grown accustomed.”

more from the LA Times here.