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The Bostonians (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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The Bostonians, by Henry James, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a ...
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The Bostonians (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Overview

The Bostonians, by Henry James, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

 

Nearly a century before the birth of the contemporary feminist movement, Henry James dealt with its nineteenth-century forerunner in The Bostonians. Mixing acute social observation and psychological analysis with mordant humor, James hangs his story on a unique instance of the traditional romantic triangle. At its apex stands the vibrantly beautiful Verena Tarrant, an intense public speaker who arouses the passions of two very different people. Olive Chancellor, a Boston-bred suffragette, dreams of turning Verena into a fiery campaigner for women’s rights. Basil Ransom, a Mississippi-bred lawyer, dreams of turning her into his wife. As these two struggle for possession of Verena’s soul—and body—their confusions, crises, and conflicts begin almost preternaturally to prefigure today’s sexual politics. In fact, James’s complex portrait of Olive and her ideals, savagely satirical yet sympathetic and so controversial when it first appeared, continues to evoke both anger and admiration. But he treats Verena and Basil with equal complexity, climaxed by the novel’s quietly haunting final sentence.

Siri Hustvedt earned a Ph.D. in English from Columbia University in 1986 and is the author of a book of poetry, Reading to You; three novels: The Blindfold, The Enchantment of Lily Dahl, and What I Loved; and a book of essays, Yonder.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781593082970
  • Publisher: Barnes & Noble
  • Publication date: 5/1/2005
  • Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 165,548
  • Product dimensions: 5.19 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Siri Hustvedt earned a Ph.D. in English from Columbia University in 1986 and is the author of a book of poetry, Reading to You; three novels: The Blindfold, The Enchantment of Lily Dahl, and What I Loved; and a book of essays, Yonder.

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

From Siri Hustvedt’s Introduction to The Bostonians

 

In the novel, two ideologies and two people are pitted against each other. In its simplest terms, the book presents us with a conflict between a reformer and a reactionary, between a triumphant North and a defeated South, between a woman and a man. The Bostonians is a novel of ideas, but the ideas articulated by James’s two battling characters, who are also distant cousins—Olive Chancellor, a Boston spinster and champion of women’s rights, and Basil Ransom, a bitter archconservative from Mississippi—are not the ideas the book probes. Indeed, both characters are guilty of mouthing sentimental or clichéd tripe, and I don’t think their creator was terribly interested in their beliefs per se. He was drawn by something infinitely more complex than a conflict between two hardened ideological positions. Like all of James’s novels, The Bostonians is an investigation of what happens between and among people, and how that arena of interaction can take on a life of its own and determine the fates of those involved.

 

Miss Chancellor and Mr. Ransom are ferocious rivals in what becomes a love triangle. Both want possession of Verena Tarrant, the pretty, weak, and very charming product of a Cambridge quack healer and the daughter of an abolitionist. The innocent Verena, who has a "gift” for inspirational speaking, is nothing if not a child of the new ideas. "She had sat on the knees of somnambulists, and had been passed from hand to hand by trance-speakers; she was familiar with every kind of 'cure,’ and had grown up among lady-editors of newspapers advocating new religions, and people who disapproved of the marriage-tie.” Through this tug-of-war over a person, Verena, who is also the creature of a particular New England subculture, James explores the psychological implications of belief—how a climate of ideas can invade, affect, mingle with, and be used, both consciously and unconsciously, by a person in the throes of passion.

The book’s intellectual vigor, then, is not located in what the characters say they believe, in their dogmatic positions, but rather in a dialectical tension between the "personal” and the "impersonal,” the "private” and "the public,” "the particular” and "the general.” These words in their various forms occur so often in the novel that they become a conspicuous and pointed refrain. What they mean, however, is another, far more complicated business. Because The Bostonians skips from one person’s point of view to another’s, the narrator gives us access to the thoughts of all his major characters and to each one’s idiosyncratic uses of these words, a fact that further complicates their meaning. When Basil first meets his cousin Olive, he notes the bourgeois opulence of her house and feels that he has never found himself "in the presence of so much organised privacy.”. This is exactly the realm in which he hopes to place Verena. He emphatically believes that she is meant "for privacy, for him, for love.” On the other hand, the narrator tells us that Mrs. Farrinder, formidable spokeswoman for the emancipation of women, has "something public in her eye, which was large, cold, and quiet.”

 

The foggy, attenuated Miss Birdseye, relic of an earlier abolitionist age, is also a being of generalities, a person who, though rumored to have had a Hungarian lover in her youth, could never, the narrator tells us, "have entertained a sentiment so personal. She was in love, even in those days, only with causes.” Dr. Prance, on the other hand, devoted physician and living proof of female competence in a profession usually reserved for men, has no use for causes: "She looked about her with a kind of near-sighted deprecation, and seemed to hope that she should not be expected to generalise in any way.” The society matron Mrs. Burrage, only marginally involved in causes, is also a woman whose "favours” are "general, not particular.” Selah Tarrant stresses that his daughter’s success as a speaker is "thoroughly impersonal,” and Verena herself insists that when she addresses an audience, "It is not me. . . .” In sharp contrast, Ransom, as he watches Verena’s performance, thinks to himself that what he is witnessing is "an intensely personal exhibition.” And while Olive Chancellor hopes and believes that she will never be like her frivolous sister, Mrs. Luna, who is "so personal, so narrow.” Basil Ransom finds Olive to be "intensely, fearfully, a person.” Verena, too, discovers "how peculiarly her friend” Olive is "constituted, how nervous and serious . . . how personal, how exclusive.” The words slip according to each character’s perceptions, blind spots, and feelings, and only through their interplay can we begin to make sense of James’s meaning.

 

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  • Posted January 16, 2011

    A great read--and a good place to start reading Henry James

    This is early James--although this particular edition has the revisions that he made for the New York Edition in 1907. Heavily influenced by Balzac, this novel nevertheless contains many pleasures that are purely Jamesian. I had not read it for years, and enjoyed my return to its pages immensely.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2006

    BN should care more care over their descriptions

    Barnes & Noble should take greater care over the description and reviews that they attach to the books they sale. This text is not a Dove Classic it is not about the romance of a woman with an Italian. This error should embarrass and call for greater care and honor to each text.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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