Henry James died 100 years ago today. Arguably the greatest American novelist, and one of the finest writers of his time, James died in England, after having adopted British citizenship. Long an expatriate, James hadn’t returned to his native United States in many years, but in the later years of his life, he returned to his memories, writing a series of autobiographical works, such as A Small Boy and Others, Notes of a Son and Brother, and The Middle Years (unfinished). The Library of America has recently published these essential works in a volume entitled Henry James: Autobiographies. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)
I made a pilgrimage to James’ final residence, Lamb House, in Rye, a couple of years ago. It’s not much of a memorial, even less of a museum, but James’ memory lives on there. Ducked away on a corner of a narrow street, this unassuming house hides an attractive garden, which Henry enjoyed a great deal.
After traveling a great deal – especially during his youth; he was never stable for more than a few years at a time – and living in a succession of major cities, Henry settled in the sleepy town of Rye to live out his final years, and to write his greatest novels.
If you’ve never read Henry James, you should certainly delve into his fiction. There is a great deal of it, and it’s hard to know where to start. This bibliography lists a number of different volumes of his works, and perhaps those new to James should begin with his “tales,” or stories (some short, some novella-length). This inexpensive Library of America paperback (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) or this Penguin Classics collection (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) are both good collections for those new to James’ works.