What Lurks Beneath Henry James’s Style

Colm Tóibín at Bookforum:

Henry James did not wish to be known by his readers. He remained oddly absent in his fiction. He did not dramatize his own opinions or offer aphorisms about life, as George Eliot, a novelist whom James followed closely, did. Instead, he worked intensely on his characters, offering their consciousness and motives a great deal of nuance and detail and ambiguity.

James was concerned with his privacy, burning many of the letters he received. Most of the time, he conducted his own correspondence with caution and care. But at the end of the nineteenth century and in the early years of the twentieth, when James was in his late fifties and early sixties, he began to write letters to younger men whose tone had a mixture of open affection and something that is more difficult to define.

more here.