The Princess Casamassima

The Princess Casamassima

by Henry James


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Henry James conceived the character of Hyacinth Robinson—his 'little presumptuous adventurer with his combination of intrinsic fineness and fortuitous adversity'—while walking the streets of London. Brought up in poverty, Hyacinth has nevertheless developed aesthetic tastes that heighten his awareness of the sordid misery around him. He is drawn into the secret world of revolutionary politics and, in a moment of fervour, makes a vow that he will assassinate a major political figure. Soon after this he meets the beautiful Princess Casamassima. Captivated by her world of wealth and nobility, art and beauty, Hyacinth loses faith in radicalism, 'the beastly cause'. But tormented by his belief in honour, he must face an agonizing, and ultimately tragic, dilemma. The Princess Casamassima is one of James's most personal novels and yet one of the most socially engaged.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9783743406476
Publisher: Bod Third Party Titles
Publication date: 05/04/2019
Pages: 260
Product dimensions: 5.83(w) x 8.27(h) x 0.59(d)

About the Author

Henry James (1843-1916) was born in New York and settled in Europe in 1875. He was a regular contributor of reviews, critical essays, and short stories to American periodicals. He is best known for his many novels of American and European character.

Date of Birth:

April 15, 1843

Date of Death:

February 28, 1916

Place of Birth:

New York, New York

Place of Death:

London, England


Attended school in France and Switzerland; Harvard Law School, 1862-63

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The Princess Casamassima 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Henry James can be a difficult writer to read. This is because he demands utmost attention from the reader, which is perhaps a little unfair in this day and age. The Princess Casamassima, however is perhaps the most readable of his works. It is the story of Hyacinth Robinson, a poor/working class bookbinder nee illegitimate offspring of an English Noblemen and a French Prostitute circa towards the end of the nineteenth century London. It traces his relationship with an expatriate American woman estranged from her husband who is an Italian prince and the Anarchic revolutionaries in Europe that were gaining popularity at that time, especially with lower classes and the disfranchised. His discontentment with his station in life, alongwith passionate search for his place in the world propel him into extraordinary circumstances. I read this book after encountering a review by a professor in a local paper who had in the wake of the September 11 bombing, hastily replaced his usual Henry James entry in his Classics course with this novel. After having finished this book I feel passionate enough to announce, that I have to include it with my erstwhile collection of livres extraordinaires; Anna Karenina, Bleak House, The Star Rover, The Trial, Journey to the End of the Night, Laughter in the Dark etc. These are books that actually change your state of consciousness; i.e. reading these books may be dangerous to your complacency about the state of the world. Be warned then, this is one of those books that may leave you a tormented soul, your mind like the waves of a stormy ocean. But then again perhaps it may be necessary to achieve such turbulence before the 'peace that passes all understanding'. And if Nirvana never comes then at least one lived to one's human capacity. But I digress, back to the Princess; if you want categorization then you could say that this is a Political Novel, A Love Story, A Study of the Human Condition but that would be less meaningful than to say that this an entertaining and yet disturbing novel. That this story is highly personal for James wherein the protagonist, Hyacinth, embodies the writer's innermost yearnings both conscious and unconscious lends it a certain authenticity which is rare and the remarkably sympathy displayed by the author towards every character, however lowly, is rarer still in Literature. Most remarkable, given James patrician background, is the realistic depiction of poor sans patronizing. One could very well read this novel in the context of recent terrorist events as an insightful study of what makes an otherwise sane young man take the aforementioned path. And while the creed and doctrines of the novel's protagonist are certainly quite different from his contemporary peers, there is the same idealism, the discontent and the quest for glory that ends dismally but which has its roots not in some spontaneous mutation of the soul but its organic evolvement from circumstance and day to day, even mundane encounters. In a world that offers on the one hand the slow death of the submission to the status quo and on the end the quick violence of lopsided revolutions, and where the very human soul (Or if you are Buddhist, the authentic self), which is diminutive to begin with, is daily diminished in its encounters with the loveless, the possibility of earthly happiness may be only available in one's complete absorption in something genuinely artistic. It would not be to far-fetched to say that in his heart of heart, James too wanted to wanted to blow up a building. But he chooses to be an artist instead...
jlelliott on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Can a person love the fine creations of culture while reviling the class disparities that make such luxuries possible? How can one decide which side to choose when you are beguiled by fine things and easy living but repulsed by the inaccessibility of this lifestyle to the greater populace (including yourself)? These are the questions faced by our young hero Hyacinth, a poor but talented man with unfortunately good taste. Not unexpectedly for a young man, these ideals become entangled in Hyacinth¿s love affairs with a low-class but entertaining working girl and the beautiful title character, who has forsaken her fortune and her husband and embraced the liberation of the masses. James has perfectly portrayed the hypocrisy in which most educated people still live today, and the near futility of trying to absolve that hypocrisy. (As a side note, I was fascinated by his descriptions of the art of book binding, and would love to learn more about it.)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gave up after a few pages. Unreadable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago