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Classic essay from the collection "Partial Portraits". According to Wikipedia: "Partial Portraits is a book of literary criticism by Henry James published in 1888. The book collected essays that James had written over the preceding decade, mostly on English and American writers. But the book also offered treatments of Alphonse Daudet, Guy de Maupassant and Ivan Turgenev. Perhaps the most important essay was The Art of Fiction, James' plea for the widest possible freedom in content and technique in narrative fiction. The Art of Fiction was a response to remarks by English critic Walter Besant, who wrote an article that literally attempted to lay down the "laws of fiction." For instance, Besant insisted that novelists should confine themselves to their own experience: "A young lady brought up in a quiet country village should avoid descriptions of garrison life." James argued that a sufficiently alert novelist could catch knowledge from everywhere and use it to good purpose: "The young lady living in a village has only to be a damsel upon whom nothing is lost to make it quite unfair (as it seems to me) to declare to her that she shall have nothing to say about the military. Greater miracles have been seen than that, imagination assisting, she should speak the truth about some of these gentlemen." James continually argues for the fullest freedom in the novelist's choice of subject and method of treatment..."
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About the Author
Henry James, OM, son of theologian Henry James Sr., brother of the philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James, was an American-born author, one of the founders and leaders of a school of realism in fiction. He spent much of his life in England and became a British subject shortly before his death. He is primarily known for a series of major novels in which he portrayed the encounter of America with Europe. His plots centered on personal relationships, the proper exercise of power in such relationships, and other moral questions. His method of writing from the point of view of a character within a tale allowed him to explore the phenomena of consciousness and perception, and his style in later works has been compared to impressionist painting.James insisted that writers in Great Britain and America should be allowed the greatest freedom possible in presenting their view of the world, as French authors were. His imaginative use of point of view, interior monologue and unreliable narrators in his own novels and tales brought a new depth and interest to realistic fiction, and foreshadowed the modernist work of the twentieth century. An extraordinarily productive writer, in addition to his voluminous works of fiction he published articles and books of travel writing, biography, autobiography, and criticism,and wrote plays, some of which were performed during his lifetime with moderate success. His theatrical work is thought to have profoundly influenced his later novels and tales.
Date of Birth:April 15, 1843
Date of Death:February 28, 1916
Place of Birth:New York, New York
Place of Death:London, England
Education:Attended school in France and Switzerland; Harvard Law School, 1862-63