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August 07 , 2010

Master Eustace


 The five stories in this volume, together with the four included in "A Landscape Painter," appeared originally in American periodicals, but for some unknown reason were never issued by Henry James in book form in this country. The present volume, along with "A Landscape Painter," makes accessible to the American public the nine short stories of Henry James which hitherto have been accessible only in English editions of his works. I hardly need to emphasize the literary value of the stories in this volume—all of them written later than "A Landscape Painter." Both critics and public have expressed surprise at the amazing precocity of Henry James as shown in the tales of "A Landscape Painter," all of which were written before the author was twenty-five. The stories in the present collection are more mature in matter, yet they retain his earlier simplicity of style. Two of them were written when he was almost verging towards "the middle years."

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Henry James: Autobiographies: A Small Boy and Others / Notes of a Son and Brother / The Middle Years / Other Writings

The most extensive collection of Henry James's autobiographical writings ever published offers a revelatory self-portrait from one of America's supreme novelists and his famous family. In 1911, deeply affected by the death of his brother William the year before, Henry James began working on a book about his early life. As was customary for…

"Longstaff's Marriage (Scribner's Monthly, August 1878) and "Benvolio" (Galaxy, August 1875) appeared in the "Madonna of the Future and Other Tales," published in London, 1879. "Benvolio" also appeared in the English edition of Henry James's "Collection of Novels and Tales" brought out in 1883. The other three tales in this volume, "Master Eustace" (Galaxy, November 1871), "Théodolinde" (Lippincott's Magazine, May 1878), and "A Light Man" (Galaxy, July 1869) appeared in "Stories Revived" issued in three volumes in London in 1885. The tale "Théodolinde" was published there with the title "Rose Agathe." "A Light Man" has also been reprinted from The Galaxy in America in a collection of short stories, "Stories by American Authors," Volume V, 1884, but not in any American editions of Henry James's works.

From an autobiographical point of view, the most interesting tale in this volume is "Benvolio." The poet Benvolio is evidently a bit of self-portraiture. Not that Henry James had the identical experience of his character. But the reader will scarcely fail to recognize in Benvolio the restless type divided between love and literature, for which James was his own model. Henry James himself tells us that he drew on autobiographical material in writing his early tales.

It is interesting to observe the picture of the young James as he shows it to us in his early works. For it is safe to assume that the type of character he draws most frequently is the one that approximates most closely to himself. The young man we meet oftenest in the pages of James's early tales and works is a romantic, gentlemanly, persistent wooer, a young man travelling in Europe, interested in art or literature. He falls in love, often with no encouragement, and is invariably baffled in his love. In almost every case, however, the youth takes his medicine, for he is chivalrous to the point of annoyance, and he never forgets that he is a gentleman. There are several such types in "The Portrait of a Lady." Roderick Hudson is of that type. Sometimes the young man has his affection returned but is thwarted in the end, like Christopher Newman in "The American." And in many of James's shorter stories the plot centers round the ill success of a man desiring marriage.

Such then, in the large, must have been our young author himself. This view of him we find confirmed in his letters, though those so far published belong mainly to the late period of his life. In his letters we see James a lonely bachelor, thirsting for love and friendship, clinging tenaciously with beautiful veneration and affection to relatives, old and young friends, and not excluding the fair sex in his Platonic admiration. In a word he is very much like the young men we meet oftenest in the tales of "A Landscape Painter" and "Master Eustace."

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