HENRY JAMES: The Untried Years by Leon Edel
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HENRY JAMES: The Untried Years

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An important book -- this sensitive and sensible first of a projected three volume biography of Henry James, written by a Guggenheim Fellow and lecturer in the English department at Princeton, is the result of some 25 years of research and derived from a great deal of hitherto unpublished material furnished by descendants of James' brother William. The novelist's own autobiographical works contribute to a feeling of familiarity as does Mathieson's brilliant The James Family but this is not a piecemeal study; It is completed and whole and integrated with enthusiasm, proportion and reverent understanding. This portrait of the artist as a young man is a scholarly piece of work and exceedingly well planned -- and if, in relation to its subject, it seems to lack something of lustre and distinction, it is only to say that the biographer is not as great a stylist as the novelist. The early chapters mark out the psychological themes and Edel is at his best in describing and dramatizing the Jacob-Esau leit-motif of Henry's drive to surpass his older brother, William: again he seems fully to grasp that for James in particular the life of the mind can be more vivid, more full, more exciting, more colourful than real life ever could be and shows this in the enduring splendor of James' love for his dead cousin, Mary Temple. Edel refutes many criticisms -- ably and convincingly; he integrates the writings with admirable insight and his Henry James is revealed as an artist for today as a reciprocal interpreter for Europe and America. This volume takes James to his 27th year and reaches its climax with the death of Mary Temple: it not only follows the current fashion of interest in Henry James but adds much of moment to it and its audience should be wide among scholars and Jamesian followers, and should induce a controversial interest in the critical field.

Publisher: Lippincott