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Henry James: Complete Stories (Library of America)

Henry James: Complete Stories 1864-1874 (Library of America) (Hardcover) by Henry James (Author), Jean Strouse (Editor), Henry James: Complete Stories 1874-1884 (Library of America) (Hardcover), Henry James : Complete Stories 1884-1891 (Library of America) (Hardcover) by Henry James (Author) Henry James: Complete Stories, 1892-1898 (Library of America) (Hardcover) by Henry James (Author), John Hollander (Author), David Bromwich (Editor), &  Henry James: Complete Stories 1898-1910 (Library of America) (Hardcover) by Henry James (Author), Denis Donoghue (Editor)

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Summary

Product Description (Volume 1)

For the first time in 30 years, the Master's complete stories are again available--in a handsome, authoritative collector's edition

With this fifth and final volume of The Library of America's historic new edition, Henry James's world-famous stories are again available in their entirety.

Complete Stories 1864-1874 brings together his first 24 published stories, 13 never collected by James. Here are the first explorations of some of James's most significant themes: the force of social convention and the compromises it demands; the complex and often ambiguous encounter between Europe and America; the energies of human passion measured against the rigors of artistic discipline. Encompassing a wide range of subjects, settings, and formal techniques, these stories show the young James exploring contemporary events, as in three stories that treat the effects of the Civil War on civilians, and exhibiting his famous psychological acuity, as in "Guest's Confession," where the ferociously comic portrayal of an arrogant businessman hints at the narcissism and sadism that motivate him. Early examples of James's lifelong fascination with art and artists include "A Landscape Painter," which explores a young painter's distorted attraction to a family living in a desolate coastal town, and "The Madonna of the Future," where an aging artist avoids the inevitable unveiling of his "masterpiece." Adumbrating later triumphs, and compelling in their own right, the stories in this volume reveal an accomplished young talent mastering the art of the short story.

Contemporary Reviews

Short review of a story collection from the November 1893 issue of The Atlantic Monthly

"The Story of a Year," one of the stories included in Volume 1 of this collection from the March 1865 issue of The Atlantic Monthly

Other Reviews

Volume 1

5 out of 5 stars Each story is unique, October 17, 2001

By Patricia A. Powell (gladstone, nj USA) (REAL NAME)       

Most of us discover Henry James in an English or American Literature class. I dont think that I appreciated Henry James stories a student. He required too much attention from me as a reader. Now I continuously marvel at the two things that make him such a joy to read 1. He writes so well. He has to be read slowly; every word counts; every sentence leads inevitability to the next; every paragraph is complete, and 2. He has so much to say. Each story is unique. Unlike many lesser writers, Henry James never repeats himself. He never wastes his talent.

A previous reviewer states that some of these stories are amateurish. I fail to see that. It was such a pleasure to read even his first story, A Tragedy of Error, which was published unsigned. Its main characters are a woman and her lover. The womans long absent husband is about to return, and they are about to be discovered. In just 22 pages, we can feel their fear of discovery and their evil as the lovers plot the husbands murder.

In comparison, The Madonna of the Future, is a serene story set in Florence, Italy. It is told in the first person singular, with the narrator presented as an observer until close to the end. He encounters a painter whose masterpiece is much talked about but not seen. He quietly befriends Theobald, the painter, and through him meets the model for the Madonna, Serafina. Unintentionally, the narrator is a catalyst for the final actions of Theobald. The ending is compassionate, but as much of a surprise as that in A Tragedy of Error.

Other stories include sweet characters that turn out to be manipulative gold diggers, spoiled children who control loving parents, and polite fiends. Many of these characters have secrets that need to be disclosed to the reader; some are just romantic. Some characters behave well; many do not. James writes mostly of the upper classes, excessively polite, judgmental, repressed, and full of secrets.

This volume contains his earliest stories. Ive never read a review that holds any of these stories to be a masterpiece. But James is such a brilliant writer that any of his work is worth the time to read. I highly recommend this volume as a start.

5 out of 5 stars A good place to begin, April 16, 2000

By A Customer

This book, which collects the first ten years of Henry James' short stories is, I think, a good place to begin with James--after all, it's where he himself started. The stories vary in quality, and some of the earliest are rather amateurish compared to later James, but each has its rewards, and in reading them you can experience the development of a truly remarkable writer. Story by story it's a pleasure to read his almost liquid descriptions of people and places. Once in a while he almost seems surreal, as in this sentence from a story about the Civil War that he wrote in his early 20s: "The blood that has been shed gathers itself into a vast globule and drops into the ocean." Some of the stories are ghost tales rather in the line of Edgar Allen Poe, while others are romances or character studies. James rarely gives us a perfectly happy ending, but once in a while, as in the story "Travelling Companions," he lets himself write a charmingly Austinesque love story ending in marriage.

The price of this book is a bit high, but (...) it's actually a bargain. As with all Library of America books, it's really the equivalent of at least 3 or 4 regular length books rolled into one. By using top quality thin acid free paper, they've somehow fit 960 pages of Henry James stories into a fine quality hardback book not much larger than a thick paperback. It's the kind of book you can take with you on the plane, and without the dustjacket it looks and feels as 19th century as the work inside. I find reading Henry James immensely relaxing and thought-provoking, and I can strongly recommend this book to any James fan, or anyone who is ready to make the plunge.

4 out of 5 stars A good place to begin, April 16, 2000

By A Customer

This book, which collects the first ten years of Henry James'short stories is, I think, a good place to begin with James--afterall, it's where he himself started. The stories vary in quality, and some of the earliest are rather amateurish compared to later James, but each has its rewards, and in reading them you can experience the development of a truly remarkable writer. Story by story it's a pleasure to read his almost liquid descriptions of people and places. Once in a while he almost seems surreal, as in this sentence from a story about the Civil War that he wrote in his early 20s: "The blood that has been shed gathers itself into a vast globule and drops into the ocean." Some of the stories are ghost tales rather in the line of Edgar Allen Poe, while others are romances or character studies. James rarely gives us a perfectly happy ending, but once in a while, as in the story "Travelling Companions," he lets himself write a charmingly Austinesque love story ending in marriage.

The price of this book is a bit high, but with your Amazon discount it's actually a bargain. As with all Library of America books, it's really the equivalent of at least 3 or 4 regular length books rolled into one. By using top quality thin acid free paper, they've somehow fit 960 pages of Henry James stories into a fine quality hardback book not much larger than a thick paperback. It's the kind of book you can take with you on the plane, and without the dustjacket it looks and feels as 19th century as the work inside. I find reading Henry James immensely relaxing and thought-provoking, and I can strongly recommend this book to any James fan, or anyone who is ready to make the plunge. END

Volume 2

5 out of 5 stars 19 mini-masterpieces, May 28, 2000

By Patricia A. Powell (gladstone, nj USA) (REAL NAME)       

The Library of America has published 5 volumes of Henry Jame stories, covering 1864 - 1910, and I'm hooked. Henry James has to be read slowly; every word he writes seems to matter to the story. He is a master craftman of the English language, and can say so much without being explicit.

James wrote most of these 19 short stories while living in London and visiting the continent. This volume of his stories starts with "Professor Fargo" and ends with "The Author of 'Beltraffio'". But, perhaps the most famous of the stories included here is "Daisy Miller: A Study." Few, if any, of these stories will disappoint a 20th century reader.

Unlike some fortunate reviewers, who have had careers as librarians or who have degrees in English Literatue, I started reading authors like Henry James on my own. I approach a author just for the pleasure of reading his/her work. I started reading Henry James with these short stories and have graduated to his novels. At first his writing seemed slow and stiff. But, once I settled into the cadence of his writing, I concluded that this suited the formality of the upper classes he wrote about. Now, I can't seem to put down one of his stories until the end.

James wrote so much during his life that it seems impossible to read all that he wrote, but I think I'll try.

5 out of 5 stars Misleading Advertisement, July 26, 2006

By S. Greer (Ohio) (REAL NAME)    

Why is Amazon listing this book, Henry James: Complete Stories 1874-1884 as available new? I ordered it in February and never received it. Amazon notified me frequently of continuing delays and, then, a few weeks ago cancelled the order, the book being unavailable.

I have since ordered a used copy and received it without delay!

The stories, of course, all five volumes, are perfection, delight, wondrous! The edition is beautiful and feels good to hold: print is very small and on thin paper but still easy to read. The hardback bindings hold the pages together securely yet allow the reader to hold the book open without a lot of effort. The little ribbon marker is a nice touch.

Volume 3

4 out of 5 stars Easy reading but his stories are not always fulfilling, September 17, 2007

By Croy (Powder Springs, Ga United States)

Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)

You get the impression that you are shortchanged at the end on several of his stories; some endings do not bring a lot of satisfaction. Others float here and there without really getting anywhere and there's rarely any action. But when it does occur it's usually at the end. It's not to say that I really do not like Henry James, quite the contrary. I like him because he shows the values that were important in his time. And there is enough variation in the stories to make it worth purchasing and reading. This is a book to bring on vacation. You can read through one story in about two sitting depending on how fast you read. The type is a bit small for me, it would be nice if it were a bit bigger.

5 out of 5 stars Great Short Story Book, January 4, 2007

By  Patricia A. Fair "Amazon Book Shopper" (Nashville, TN USA) (REAL NAME)    

This book was purchased as part of the required reading of selected short stories for a Retirement Learning at Vanderbilt course on the art of the short story.

The book is a nice size with excellent type and format and is one of a series of Henry James' short stories catalogued by date. The book has a classy look and has additional information about the other books in the series and lists the stories in each.

There is a wonderful Chronology in the back of the book which tells all about Henry James, his travels and life in general.

The only draw back is that the pages are thin so the book can hold a lot and they can sometimes be a little difficult to separate when turning.

All in all a great volume at a modest price.

Volume 4

5 out of 5 stars Little Gems from The Master, February 6, 2000

By Paul Bloede (Denver)

Henry James (1843-1916) was nicknamed The Master by admiring fellow-authors towards the end of his life. He is truly a noble, gifted, psychological author depicting a by-gone era but including timeless insights about human beings and their general and mental situations in his writings. He is a master of lengthy prose (too lengthy for some!) These Library of America editions of James's writings are wonderful, high-quality, unabridged books with expert editing (notes) at the back of the volume. They have a knack for selecting the best editions of the author's writings where more than one version was published in the author's lifetime. The short stories of this volume are from the mature period but before James' final developed style of fictional writing. There are a large number of stories including many wonderful gems such as "Owen Wingrave," "The Coxon Fund" and "In the Cage." To be fair, most of the stories were written quickly for magazines, and a few ("Glasses" comes to mind) just aren't good stories at all, in my opinion. However, most of the stories do succeed quite well. "Owen Wingrave" (criticized by Bernard Shaw as being too deterministic and neglecting free will) is actually a penetrating tale about military culture, military values, and the role of the military in the nineteenth-century world. "The Coxon Fund" is about a brilliant lecturer supported by the fund but whose life and the lives of his supporters are full of pitfalls outside of the Fund's influence. The story shows how the successes and failures of the Fund (and the Lecturer) have subtle and not-so-subtle ramifications for each of the characters. With "In the Cage", the author steps outside of his accustomed higher-class and higher-educated mix of characters to present the plight of a penetrating lower-class telegram processor and her insights on life and her suitor. I found it a nice rendition of late-nineteenth century London. I encourage readers to explore this and other Library of America editions of James' writings.

5 out of 5 stars The Short Stories of Henry James: Worth the Effort, August 15, 2006

By Martin Asiner (jersey city, nj United States) (TOP 500 REVIEWER) (REAL NAME)    

The short stories of Henry James are a microcosm of his novels: bafflingly complex, syntactically convoluted, and thematically multi-layered. He wrote more than 100 between 1864 and 1910, of which perhaps a few dozen are much read today. Complicating any discussion of his short prose is to define "short." Many of his short stories are long enough to qualify as novellas but regardless of the length, any fiction of Henry James promises to take the reader into the world of the microverse, a highly stylized and internalized arena where action counts less than thought and "how" far more than "what." For those who come to his short fiction after having read, say THE GOLDEN BOWL or THE AMBASSADORS, such readers have learned patience, secure in the knowledge that the inner workings of the mind are surely more interesting than the slam-bang world of reality.

There are a few themes that James uses often both in his short and long fiction. He likes to place cultured and intelligent protagonists in an alien environment just to watch them squirm on a foreign alter, or what is more sinister, to maintain them in a familiar ground, only to change the laws of physics or rationality--and then watch them squirm. He employs the doppelganger, or double of the protagonist, one who might be his present or future version, or again more sinister, one who might be a spectral reincarnation. Many of James' heroes fear marriage and must battle an encrusted society that demands it. James was also fascinated with innocence, especially in children and child-like adults. In such stories, the world exists only to corrupt such innocence. Finally, James rarely used one theme in isolation. He much preferred to onion his stories with overlapping themes, all of which are centered on James' rich and allusive prose style, allowing him to meld the complexity of content with the complexity of style. I have chosen a few of his short prose fiction as examples of the quintessential Henry James.

In "The Aspern Papers," James writes of a narrator who must balance the need to obtain art (the papers of the deceased American poet Aspern) while maintaining his ethics while so doing. The narrator travels to Venice for these papers only to discover that their current owners are quite unwilling to give them up. He promises to marry one of them in return for their delivery to him, thinking all the while they are too naïve to see through his scheme. In the end, he tries to steal them, only to learn that they have burned them, one page at a time. James' narrator is one of a long series of such who speak of integrity more than show it.

In "The Jolly Corner," James uses the "double" of the protagonist to point out how one man's life could have been had things been different. Spencer Brydon, an American expatriate returns to America, only to meet his ghostly alter ego, one who Brydon might have become had he stayed at home. Perhaps James had in mind Lambert Strether of THE AMBASSADORS, who is also the model of what the alter ego might have been: a money-grubbing capitalist with no one to tell him "Live!"

James uses "The Pupil" to depict the loss of childhood innocence. The caddish and grifting transplanted American Moreen family hires fellow American Pemberton to tutor their son. They refuse to pay him agreed on wages, all the while exhorting him with the nobility of his task. They offer him custody of their son, which he understandably refuses, but the boy is crushed since he favors Pemberton over his parents.

Art versus life come into conflict in "The Real Thing." The narrator is hired by a couple, punningly named the Monarchs, to paint them as exemplars of the "real thing" of nobility. It is his realization that the reality of their claim does not allow him to create the illusion of a second-rate knock off. He is unwilling to further society's need to measure a life by glorifying its phony aspect.

In these stories and in Henry James' others, he presents the reader with a subjective examination of the inner workings of the mind. For those readers who wish to enter such a microverse, they will find that James' admittedly baffling style will be seen as more as a part of that journey than an impediment.

5 out of 5 stars Misleading Information, July 26, 2006

By S. Greer (Ohio) (REAL NAME)    

Why is Amazon listing this book, Henry James: Complete Stories 1892-98 as available new? I ordered it in February and never received it. Amazon notified me frequently of continuing delays and, then, a few weeks ago cancelled the order, the book being unavailable. This is one of two volumes of James's stories which Amazon lists but has been unable to provide. I've written the same review for the other one.

I have since ordered a used copy and received it without delay!

The stories, of course, all five volumes are perfection, delight, wondrous! The edition is beautiful: print is very small and on thin paper but still easy to read. The hardback bindings hold the pages together securely yet allow the reader to hold the book open without a lot of effort. The little ribbon marker is a nice touch.

Volume 5

5 out of 5 stars Love those long paragraphs!, April 8, 2009

By Little Dorrit "ldorrit" (WA state)

After reading the other review here I had to laugh, it is exactly because of such 'extracts' they posted that I knew I had to read this book! So while they meant it as a criticism, it was pure advertisement for me and I'm so glad they posted it for the book has met all of my expections, James was an incredibly gifted writer and I'm so happy to have 'discovered' him. How glad I am too that he was so prolific!

2 out of 5 stars Writing style unreadable IMHO, July 2, 2008

By DM (ORegon)

This is the first two paragraphs from the last story "A Round of Visits"

If you like this kind of writing then you'll like Henry James.

I didn't care for it.

"He had been out but once since his arrival, Mark Monteith; that was the next day after -- he had disembarked by night on the previous; then everything had come at once, as he would have said, everything had changed. He had got in on Tuesday; he had spent Wednesday for the most part down town, looking into the dismal subject of his anxiety -- the anxiety that, under a sudden decision, had brought him across the unfriendly sea at mid-winter, and it was through information reaching him on Wednesday evening that he had measured his loss, measured, above all, his pain. These were two distinct things, he felt, and, though both bad, one much worse than the other. It wasn't till the next three days had pretty well ebbed, in fact, that he knew himself for so badly wounded. He had waked up on Thursday morning, so far as he had slept at all, with the sense, together, of a blinding New York blizzard and of a deep sore inward ache. The great white savage storm would have kept him at the best within doors, but his stricken state was by itself quite reason enough.

He so felt the blow indeed, so gasped, before what had happened to him, at the ugliness, the bitterness, and, beyond these things, the sinister strangeness, that, the matter of his dismay little by little detaching and projecting itself, settling there face to face with him as something he must now live with always, he might have been in charge of some horrid alien thing, some violent, scared, unhappy creature whom there was small joy, of a truth, in remaining with, but whose behaviour wouldn't perhaps bring him under notice, nor otherwise compromise him, so long as he should stay to watch it. A young jibbering ape of one of the more formidable sorts, or an ominous infant panther smuggled into the great gaudy hotel and whom it might yet be important he shouldn't advertise, couldn't have affected him as needing more domestic attention. The great gaudy hotel -- The Pocahontas, but carried out largely on 'Du Barry' lines -- made all about him, beside, behind, below, above, in blocks and tiers and superpositions, a sufficient defensive hugeness; so that, between the massive labyrinth and the New York weather, life in a lighthouse during a gale would scarce have kept him more apart. Even when in the course of that worse Thursday it had occurred to him for vague relief that the odious certified facts couldn't be all his misery, and that, with his throat and a probable temperature, a brush of the epidemic, which was for ever brushing him, accounted for something, even then he couldn't resign himself to bed and broth and dimness, but only circled and prowled the more within his high cage, only watched the more from his tenth story the rage of the elements."


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