HENRY JAMES: Vol. IV The Treacherous Years (1895-1901) by Leon Edel
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HENRY JAMES: Vol. IV The Treacherous Years (1895-1901)

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James was past fifty in 1895 and suffering what Leon Edel calls a ""spiritual illness"" which would last until ""the beginning of the new century."" During those six ""treacherous years,"" James would ""rid himself of his private demons by writing about them."" This is a compact theme, and Edel makes the most of it in the penultimate volume of his celebrated biography. Professor Edel's powers of characterization, literary criticism, and selective research are well known, and his very carefully constructed Life of Henry James will undoubtedly be, when completed, a singular and lasting achievement, both as scholarship and psychological portraiture. It is not uncommon for writers dealing with the Master to adopt the Jamesian style, usually with rather pretentious results. Edel keeps the fastidiousness to a minimum, though he does skirt euphemistic absurdity in his detailed examination of James' relationship with a young sculptor, evidently the emotional peak of his life. (""The question that may be asked is whether the use of the term 'lover' and the verbal passion of the letters was 'acted out.'"") James, of course, was a puritan to his marrow: repression in one form or another looms large in all his work, and it is largely that which made the onslaught of middle age a self-questioning torture. Like Flaubert (and when will we have a comparative critique of these two monks of the writing table?), he quite consciously liberated himself through his art, the absolute seriousness of his craft. Here the turning point is ""The Turn of the Screw,"" splendidly directed by Edel to the past and the future.

Pub Date: April 28th, 1969
Publisher: Lippincott