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This volume, the sixth and final in The Library of America's edition of the complete novels of Henry James, brings together two masterpieces of his extraordinary late period---The Ambassadors (1903) and The Golden Bowl (1904)---as well as his last extended narrative work, The Outcry (1911), a short comic novel of social manners.
The idea for The Ambassadors came from James's friend William Dean Howells, who told of having given advice to a friend in France: "You have time. You are Young. Live!" In James's novel, a conscientious American, Lambert Strether, travels to Paris to convince Chad Newsome, the son of a friend, to return home and take charge of family business matters. Strether finds Newsome significantly altered---mature and sophisticated, and with a mistress. Strether himself eventually succumbs to the charms of the Old World and gives up his mission. Although others arrive from America to attempt to lure New-some home, only the older man recognizes the true nature of the young man's transformation.
James described The Golden Bowl as "the most done of my productions---the most composed and constructed and completed." In the novel an American woman, Maggie Verver, marries an Italian prince, while her wealthy father marries Maggie's girlhood friend, Charlotte Stant---neither Verver being aware that the Prince and Charlotte have been (and possibly continue to be) lovers. Maggie's eventual discovery of the nature of that relationship provides the basis for an exploration of the fragility and strength of human ties and further develops what James once called that "complex fate, being an American." This volume prints the New York Edition texts of The Ambassadors and The Golden Bowl, which include the prefaces that James wrote for each work as well as the illustrations he commissioned from photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn.
The Outcry, James's last completed novel, is a crisp and witty comedy of manners adapted from an unproduced stage play he had written in 1909. Its light plot serves as a platform for a more serious discussion of the ethics of art collecting.
Included as an appendix is "The Married Son," the chapter James contributed to The Whole Family (1908), a multi-author novel conceived by Howells and portraying a fractious family whose struggles mirror the frustrated collaborative efforts of the book's twelve contributors.
The Library Of America helps to preserve our nation's literary heritage by publishing, and keeping in print, authoritative editions of America's best and most significant writing. An independent nonprofit organization, it was founded in 1979 with seed funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Ford Foundation.
Library of America editions will last for generations and withstand the wear of frequent use. They are printed on lightweight, acid-free paper that will not turn yellow or brittle with age. Sewn bindings allow the books to open easily and lie flat. Flexible yet strong binding boards are covered with a closely woven rayon cloth. The page layout has been designed for readability as well as elegance.
Ross Posnock, editor, is professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University and the author of several books, including Henry James and the Problem of Robert Browning (1985) and The Trial of Curiosity: Henry James, William James, and the Challenge of Modernity (1991).
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