HENRY JAMES: The Master 1901-1916 by Leon Edel
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HENRY JAMES: The Master 1901-1916

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This beautifully sustained last volume brings to a majestic close Leon Edel's biography of Henry James. Whatever was faltering in the earlier volumes is here strengthened and made straight. All that was previously impressive -- the ample psychology, the fineness of narrative line, the clarity of details -- is here surpassed. James, in his declining years, seems, in Edel's portrait, more exacting, more masterful, and yet appealingly human and terribly vulnerable. What a lonely man he was, how singular, how triumphantly persevering. The long residence at Lamb House, the upsetting return to America, his sudden self-doubt on the eve of the world war, his keen friendships, the guarded sexuality, the experiences and manners and repressions of a lifetime converge on a protuberant imagination, producing The Beast In the Jungle, The Wings of the Dove, The Ambassadors, The Golden Bowl, each work more striking than the next. James' last years are a success story, unique in American history, the artist as an old man at the height of his powers, a blessed and exhilarating vindication of what James called the sacredness of the literary calling. And what an inspiration he has been to later generations, to all those concerned with the eclipse of culture under the impact of the commercial or the demotic. When Eliot famously wrote that ""we fight rather to keep something alive than in the expectation that anything will triumph,"" he could not have done so without the example of James. James was one of the most subtle and seminal figures in literature, a difficult man to grasp and honor. In Edel's work, happily, there is no featherbedding, none of those billows, as James says, ""in which one sinks and is lost."" Here fiction and life are exquisitely matched.

Pub Date: Feb. 9th, 1971
Publisher: Lippincott