Equally adept at ironic comedy, muted tragedy, and supernatural fantasy, at lively social satire and nuanced portraiture, James in his shorter works explores a staggering variety of situations and emotions. Here are courtships and legacies; the worlds of literature, theater, and the popular press; the paradoxes of temperament and the constraints of custom; the clash of conscience and desire. Stylistically, the stories allowed James to experiment with tones and devices quite different from his novels—dramatic plot twists and surprise endings, swift pacing and ebullient humor. The brilliance of his technical command allowed him to transform the tiniest of suggestions—a fleetingly observed gesture, an anecdote dropped at a dinner party—into fiction remarkable for its lambent surfaces and intricate psychological counterpoint.
The twenty-one stories in this volume represent James at the peak of his storytelling powers. Among them are “The Turn of the Screw,” one of his most popular works, and a terrifying exercise in psychological horror centering on the corruption of childhood innocence; “The Real Thing,” a playful consideration of the illusion of art and the paradoxes of authenticity; “The Figure in the Carpet,” “The Death of the Lion,” and “The Middle Years,” three very different expositions of the mysteries of authorship, embodying some of James’s most profound insights into the nature of his own art; “The Altar of the Dead,” a somber, ultimately wrenching meditation on the relation of the living to the dead; and “In the Cage,” an extended evocation of the inner life of a young woman trapped in a dehumanizing job at a postal-and-telegraph office.
About the Author
In 1869, and then in 1872-74, he paid visits to Europe and began his first novel, Roderick Hudson. Late in 1875 he settled in Paris, where he met Turgenev, Flaubert, and Zola, and wrote The American (1877). In December 1876 he moved to London, where two years later he achieved international fame with Daisy Miller. Other famous works include Washington Square (1880), The Portrait of a Lady (1881), The Princess Casamassima (1886), The Aspern Papers (1888), The Turn of the Screw (1898), and three large novels of the new century, The Wings of the Dove (1902), The Ambassadors (1903) and The Golden Bowl (1904). In 1905 he revisited the United States and wrote The American Scene (1907).
During his career he also wrote many works of criticism and travel. Although old and ailing, he threw himself into war work in 1914, and in 1915, a few months before his death, he became a British subject. In 1916 King George V conferred the Order of Merit on him. He died in London in February 1916.
Date of Birth:April 15, 1843
Date of Death:February 28, 1916
Place of Birth:New York, New York
Place of Death:London, England
Education:Attended school in France and Switzerland; Harvard Law School, 1862-63