The Ambassadors [NOOK Book]

Overview

Introduction by Colm Tóibín

One of the final masterpieces from one of the world’s greatest authors, Henry James’s The Ambassadors is now available for the first time in a Modern Library edition, with a new Introduction by acclaimed novelist Colm Tóibín. A keenly observed tale of a man’s awakening to life, this dark comic novel follows Lewis Lambert Strether, a middle-aged widower, on a mission to Europe to convince his fiancée’s wayward son to...
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The Ambassadors

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Overview

Introduction by Colm Tóibín

One of the final masterpieces from one of the world’s greatest authors, Henry James’s The Ambassadors is now available for the first time in a Modern Library edition, with a new Introduction by acclaimed novelist Colm Tóibín. A keenly observed tale of a man’s awakening to life, this dark comic novel follows Lewis Lambert Strether, a middle-aged widower, on a mission to Europe to convince his fiancée’s wayward son to forsake the pleasures of Paris and return to America. Rich with fin de siècle detail, The Ambassadors brims with finely drawn character portraits, including one of the Master’s most unforgettable heroines—the beguiling Madame de Vionnet. This was the novel that Henry James himself considered his finest, and no one is better equipped to put it into literary and historical context than Colm Tóibín, whose award-winning novel The Master depicted the inner life of James in the final years of the nineteenth century.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

The second of James's three late masterpieces, was, in the author's opinion, "the best, all round, of my productions."

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Editorial Reviews

Graham Greene
He is as solitary in the history of the novel as Shakespeare in the history of poetry.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781412157148
  • Publisher: eBooksLib
  • Publication date: 4/21/2010
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 480 KB

Meet the Author

Henry James was an American author, essayist, and critic known for his contributions to both literary criticism and the realist movement, which focused on presenting everyday life as it actually was. In creating realistic portrayals of life and society, James often included elements of social and political commentary in his works, notably his depiction of the feminist movement in The Bostonians, and the exploration of culture clash between America and Europe in Daisy Miller. James’s best known works also include The Portrait of a Lady, The Ambassadors, and the novella The Turn of the Screw. American by birth, James spent much of his time in England and eventually moved to London. He became a British subject just before his death in 1916.

Biography

Henry James (1843-1916), born in New York City, was the son of noted religious philosopher Henry James, Sr., and brother of eminent psychologist and philosopher William James. He spent his early life in America and studied in Geneva, London and Paris during his adolescence to gain the worldly experience so prized by his father. He lived in Newport, went briefly to Harvard Law School, and in 1864 began to contribute both criticism and tales to magazines. 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.

Author biography courtesy of Penguin Group (USA).

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    1. Date of Birth:
      April 15, 1843
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Death:
      February 28, 1916
    2. Place of Death:
      London, England
    1. Education:
      Attended school in France and Switzerland; Harvard Law School, 1862-63

Read an Excerpt

I

Strether's first question, when he reached the hotel, was about his friend; yet on his learning that Waymarsh was apparently not to arrive till evening he was not wholly disconcerted. A telegram from him bespeaking a room "only if not noisy," reply paid, was produced for the enquirer at the office, so that the understanding they should meet at Chester rather than at Liverpool remained to that extent sound. The same secret principle, however, that had prompted Strether not absolutely to desire Waymarsh's presence at the dock, that had led him thus to postpone for a few hours his enjoyment of it, now operated to make him feel he could still wait without disappointment. They would dine together at the worst, and, with all respect to dear old Waymarsh—if not even, for that matter, to himself—there was little fear that in the sequel they shouldn't see enough of each other. The principle I have just mentioned as operating had been, with the most newly disembarked of the two men, wholly instinctive—the fruit of a sharp sense that, delightful as it would be to find himself looking, after so much separation, into his comrade's face, his business would be a trifle bungled should he simply arrange for this countenance to present itself to the nearing steamer as the first "note," of Europe. Mixed with everything was the apprehension, already, on Strether's part, that it would, at best, throughout, prove the note of Europe in quite a sufficient degree.

That note had been meanwhile—since the previous afternoon, thanks to this happier device—such a consciousness of personal freedom as he hadn't known for years; such a deep taste of change and of having above all for the moment nobody and nothing to consider, as promised already, if headlong hope were not too foolish, to colour his adventure with cool success. There were people on the ship with whom he had easily consorted—so far as ease could up to now be imputed to him—and who for the most part plunged straight into the current that set from the landing-stage to London; there were others who had invited him to a tryst at the inn and had even invoked his aid for a "look round" at the beauties of Liverpool; but he had stolen away from every one alike, had kept no appointment and renewed no acquaintance, had been indifferently aware of the number of persons who esteemed themselves fortunate in being, unlike himself, "met," and had even independently, unsociably, alone, without encounter or relapse and by mere quiet evasion, given his afternoon and evening to the immediate and the sensible. They formed a qualified draught of Europe, an afternoon and an evening on the banks of the Mersey, but such as it was he took his potion at least undiluted. He winced a little, truly, at the thought that Waymarsh might be already at Chester; he reflected that, should he have to describe himself there as having "got in" so early, it would be difficult to make the interval look particularly eager; but he was like a man who, elatedly finding in his pocket more money than usual, handles it a while and idly and pleasantly chinks it before addressing himself to the business of spending. That he was prepared to be vague to Waymarsh about the hour of the ship's touching, and that he both wanted extremely to see him and enjoyed extremely the duration of delay—these things, it is to be conceived, were early signs in him that his relation to his actual errand might prove none of the simplest. He was burdened, poor Strether—it had better be confessed at the outset—with the oddity of a double consciousness. There was detachment in his zeal and curiosity in his indifference.

After the young woman in the glass cage had held up to him across her counter the pale—pink leaflet bearing his friend's name, which she neatly pronounced, he turned away to find himself, in the hall, facing a lady who met his eyes as with an intention suddenly determined, and whose features—not freshly young, not markedly fine, but on happy terms with each other—came back to him as from a recent vision. For a moment they stood confronted; then the moment placed her: he had noticed her the day before, noticed her at his previous inn, where—again in the hall—she had been briefly engaged with some people of his own ship's company. Nothing had actually passed between them, and he would as little have been able to say what had been the sign of her face for him on the first occasion as to name the ground of his present recognition. Recognition at any rate appeared to prevail on her own side as well—which would only have added to the mystery. All she now began by saying to him nevertheless was that, having chanced to catch his enquiry, she was moved to ask, by his leave, if it were possibly a question of Mr. Waymarsh of Milrose Connecticut—Mr. Waymarsh the American lawyer.

"Oh yes," he replied, "my very well—known friend. He's to meet me here, coming up from Malvern, and I supposed he'd already have arrived. But he doesn't come till later, and I'm relieved not to have kept him. Do you know him?" Strether wound up.

It wasn't till after he had spoken that he became aware of how much there had been in him of response; when the tone of her own rejoinder, as well as the play of something more in her face—something more, that is, than its apparently usual restless light—seemed to notify him. "I've met him at Milrose—where I used sometimes, a good while ago, to stay; I had friends there who were friends of his, and I've been at his house. I won't answer for it that he would know me," Strether's new acquaintance pursued; "but I should be delighted to see him. Perhaps," she added, "I shall—for I'm staying over." She paused while our friend took in these things, and it was as if a good deal of talk had already passed. They even vaguely smiled at it, and Strether presently observed that Mr. Waymarsh would, no doubt, be easily to be seen. This, however, appeared to affect the lady as if she might have advanced too far. She appeared to have no reserves about anything. "Oh," she said, "he won't care!"—and she immediately thereupon remarked that she believed Strether knew the Munsters; the Munsters being the people he had seen her with at Liverpool.

But he didn't, it happened, know the Munsters well enough to give the case much of a lift; so that they were left together as if over the mere laid table of conversation. Her qualification of the mentioned connexion had rather removed than placed a dish, and there seemed nothing else to serve. Their attitude remained, none the less, that of not forsaking the board; and the effect of this in turn was to give them the appearance of having accepted each other with an absence of preliminaries practically complete. They moved along the hall together, and Strether's companion threw off that the hotel had the advantage of a garden. He was aware by this time of his strange inconsequence: he had shirked the intimacies of the steamer and had muffled the shock of Waymarsh only to find himself forsaken, in this sudden case, both of avoidance and of caution. He passed, under this unsought protection and before he had so much as gone up to his room, into the garden of the hotel, and at the end of ten minutes had agreed to meet there again, as soon as he should have made himself tidy, the dispenser of such good assurances. He wanted to look at the town, and they would forthwith look together. It was almost as if she had been in possession and received him as a guest. Her acquaintance with the place presented her in a manner as a hostess, and Strether had a rueful glance for the lady in the glass cage. It was as if this personage had seen herself instantly superseded.

When in a quarter of an hour he came down, what his hostess saw, what she might have taken in with a vision kindly adjusted, was the lean, the slightly loose figure of a man of the middle height and something more perhaps than the middle age—a man of five—and-fifty, whose most immediate signs were a marked bloodless brownness of face, a thick dark moustache, of characteristically American cut, growing strong and falling low, a head of hair still abundant but irregularly streaked with grey, and a nose of bold free prominence, the even line, the high finish, as it might have been called, of which, had a certain effect of mitigation. A perpetual pair of glasses astride of this fine ridge, and a line, unusually deep and drawn, the prolonged pen—stroke of time, accompanying the curve of the moustache from nostril to chin, did something to complete the facial furniture that an attentive observer would have seen catalogued, on the spot, in the vision of the other party to Strether's appointment. She waited for him in the garden, the other party, drawing on a pair of singularly fresh soft and elastic light gloves and presenting herself with a superficial readiness which, as he approached her over the small smooth lawn and in the watery English sunshine, he might, with his rougher preparation, have marked as the model for such an occasion. She had, this lady, a perfect plain propriety, an expensive subdued suitability, that her companion was not free to analyse, but that struck him, so that his consciousness of it was instantly acute, as a quality quite new to him. Before reaching her he stopped on the grass and went through the form of feeling for something, possibly forgotten, in the light overcoat he carried on his arm; yet the essence of the act was no more than the impulse to gain time. Nothing could have been odder than Strether's sense of himself as at that moment launched in something of which the sense would be quite disconnected from the sense of his past and which was literally beginning there and then. It had begun in fact already upstairs and before the dressing—glass that struck him as blocking further, so strangely, the dimness of the window of his dull bedroom; begun with a sharper survey of the elements of Appearance than he had for a long time been moved to make. He had during those moments felt these elements to be not so much to his hand as he should have liked, and then had fallen back on the thought that they were precisely a matter as to which help was supposed to come from what he was about to do. He was about to go up to London, so that hat and necktie might wait. What had come as straight to him as a ball in a well—played game—and caught moreover not less neatly—was just the air, in the person of his friend, of having seen and chosen, the air of achieved possession of those vague qualities and quantities that collectively figured to him as the advantage snatched from lucky chances. Without pomp or circumstance, certainly, as her original address to him, equally with his own response, had been, he would have sketched to himself his impression of her as: "Well, she's more thoroughly civilized—!" If "More thoroughly than whom?" would not have been for him a sequel to this remark, that was just by reason of his deep consciousness of the bearing of his comparison.

The amusement, at all events, of a civilization intenser was what—familiar compatriot as she was, with the full tone of the compatriot and the rattling link not with mystery but only with dear dyspeptic Waymarsh—she appeared distinctly to promise. His pause while he felt in his overcoat was positively the pause of confidence, and it enabled his eyes to make out as much of a case for her, in proportion, as her own made out for himself. She affected him as almost insolently young; but an easily carried five—and-thirty could still do that. She was, however, like himself, marked and wan; only it naturally couldn't have been known to him how much a spectator looking from one to the other might have discerned that they had in common. It wouldn't for such a spectator have been altogether insupposable that, each so finely brown and so sharply spare, each confessing so to dents of surface and aids to sight, to a disproportionate nose and a head delicately or grossly grizzled, they might have been brother and sister. On this ground indeed there would have been a residuum of difference; such a sister having surely known in respect to such a brother the extremity of separation, and such a brother now feeling in respect to such a sister the extremity of surprise. Surprise, it was true, was not on the other hand what the eyes of Strether's friend most showed him while she gave him, stroking her gloves smoother, the time he appreciated. They had taken hold of him straightway, measuring him up and down as if they knew how; as if he were human material they had already in some sort handled. Their possessor was in truth, it may be communicated, the mistress of a hundred cases or categories, receptacles of the mind, subdivisions for convenience, in which, from a full experience, she pigeon—holed her fellow mortals with a hand as free as that of a compositor scattering type. She was as equipped in this particular as Strether was the reverse, and it made an opposition between them which he might well have shrunk from submitting to if he had fully suspected it. So far as he did suspect it he was on the contrary, after a short shake of his consciousness, as pleasantly passive as might be. He really had a sort of sense of what she knew. He had quite the sense that she knew things he didn't, and though this was a concession that in general he found not easy to make to women, he made it now as good—humouredly as if it lifted a burden. His eyes were so quiet behind his eternal nippers that they might almost have been absent without changing his face, which took its expression mainly, and not least its stamp of sensibility, from other sources, surface and grain and form. He joined his guide in an instant, and then felt she had profited still better than he by his having been, for the moments just mentioned, so at the disposal of her intelligence. She knew even intimate things about him that he hadn't yet told her and perhaps never would. He wasn't unaware that he had told her rather remarkably many for the time, but these were not the real ones. Some of the real ones, however, precisely, were what she knew.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 7
Note on the Text 31
Preface to the New York Edition 33
The Ambassadors 53
Notes 513
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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 25 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 1, 2009

    outstanding edition

    I suspect the review above was written by an Oxford editor. I say this because I possess the B&N Classic edition of The Ambassadors as well as the Oxford version, since I am a college professor and like to compare books before having the store order them in bulk for my classes. Not only is the B&N Classic $2 cheaper than Oxford -- no small consideration for my students -- it contains several editorial features found no place else: about a dozen book reviews from the early 1900s, a fascinating short essay on books "Inspired By" The Ambassadors (with a discussion of Woolf and Hemingway's reaction), and an introduction that is twice as long as Oxford's. Moreover, the B&N Classics intro is far more up-to-date, modern, and relevant to today's readers, whether they are students or a general audience. I found the Oxford introduction a bit outdated and skimpy, to be honest. As for Kate Croy's complaint about the footnotes -- it's true that the B&N Classics edition has fewer of them, but the other amenities of the book more than make up for it, and the Oxford notes are really not that interesting anyway. I don't usually comment on these sites, but wanted to balance what I felt was an unfair review by the pseudonymous Kate Croy.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2006

    The Master

    Although I wasn't riveted initially, the Master had plans for the patient reader. Even during the slow murky start (murky because it was probably over my head) I could proclaim that the prose was stellar, the best I've come across. This guy was a master of his craft. Ultimately, a fine fine book.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2001

    Americans who won't leave Paris

    James captures the ambiance and ambivalence of Paris at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century. He places Americans (as he often does) in the seductive milieu strikingly new to them--particularly to New Englanders--and shows us, in his slow, difficult prose (intentionally difficult, like Faulkner's, I think) how some yield to it and blossom; others are repelled and find the boat for home. The novel ends, not tragically quite, but wistfully, in regretful melancholy.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 21, 2009

    Get a new editor!

    Henry James' masterpiece deserves a better editor than Kyle Patrick Smith. While most Barnes & Noble editions are edited by professors, Smith's sole qualification for this job is his bachelor's degree from Harvard; must we imagine that James' own brief attendance there confers the missing laurels? (He does inform us, however, that he was "raised in San Diego," and "lives in Manhattan." Ah, well never mind then.) Smith's annotations are almost sublimely poor. He tells us that the "Café Riche is a popular Parisian theater" and that "nearby is the Gymnase, a well known restaurant." One need look no farther than James' own text (and common sense. and historical sense.) to know that of course the reverse is true. Equally bad is his Spanish spelling of France's famous Opéra National de Paris: Smith gives us the comical Opéra Nacional. The list of errors continues, but before you discover them for yourself, I recommend you select the wonderful Oxford edition instead. Unless of course you want your copy of The Ambassadors to assure you that you too could be an editor. But then again, where do you live?

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 14, 2013

    The Ambassadors (1903) is one of the later works of Henry James,

    The Ambassadors (1903) is one of the later works of Henry James, one of the great American writers of the late19th and early 20th century. The central character, Lambert Strether, is the consumate Jamesian hero; an American in Europe in the mould of Christopher Norman, Daisy Miller and Isabel Archer, who, for better or worse, finds himself at the mercy of more worldly Europeans and expatriots.

    The traditional and dependable Strether is a fifty-five year old widower who also lost a young son many years prior. His code of honour and open-mindedness, along with his insecurities, complicate and prolong his mission to retrieve his fiancee's twenty-eight year old son, Chad Newsome, whom the family believes has lingered too long in Paris (perhaps romantically detained) and ought to be home in Massachusetts minding the family business.
    Romantic interests surface and Strether himself is drawn to the two central female characters. It is easy to cheer for this very model of a New England gentleman, as well as the deep and perceptive Maria Gostrey and the charming and glamorous Marie de Vionnet.

    As an aside, this novel is excessively descriptive and requires careful reading. Sentences often extend for several lines and paragraphs frequently run in excess of a page. Subordinate clauses are the order of the day, especially in the middle of sentences:. often they are separated by dashes instead of commas. Perhaps it is best to read entire passages, including subordinate clauses, in order to appreciate nuances; then reread the main passages while omitting the csubordinate clauses, so as to better grasp the important aspects of the plot or subplots.

    In essence, readers who approach The Ambassadors in a workmanlike manner should come away with a sense of accomplishment derived from mastering a great masterpiece, which includes several well developed, three dimensional characters who enrich a well crafted plot

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2012

    Poorly formatted edition

    Very poorly formatted. Extraneous punctuation marks and illegibility.

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  • Posted March 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A little wordy but a good read.

    While I like Jame's fantasy/horror works like The Turning of the Screw a little more, this was an interesting book to read.
    His writing style is a little to verbose (it's a little like reading Dickens) but the style works for the plot.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2010

    This is volume II - not the whole book

    this is only part of the story

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    Posted December 28, 2009

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    Posted December 20, 2009

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