Writing to his friend William Dean Howells, James characterized The Sacred Fount, the only one of his novels to be told in the first person, as “a fine flight into the high fantastic.” While traveling to the country house of Newmarch for a weekend party, the nameless narrator becomes obsessed with the idea that a person may become younger or cleverer by tapping the “sacred fount” of another person. Convinced that Grace Brissenden has become younger by drawing upon her husband, Guy, the narrator seeks to discover the source of the newfound wit of Gilbert Long, previously “a fine piece of human furniture.” His perplexing and ambiguous quest, and the varying reactions it provokes from the other guests, calls into question the imaginative inquiry central to James’s art of the novel.
James described the essential idea of The Wings of the Dove as “a young person conscious of a great capacity for life, but early stricken and doomed, condemned to die under short respite, while also enamoured of the world.” The heroine, a wealthy young American heiress, Milly Theale (inspired by James’s beloved cousin Minny Temple), is slowly drawn into a trap set for her by the English adventuress Kate Croy and her lover, the journalist Morton Densher. The unexpected outcome of their mercenary scheme provides the resolution to a tragic story of love and betrayal, innocence and experience that has long been acknowledged as one of James’s supreme achievements as a novelist. This volume prints the New York Edition text of The Wings of the Dove, and includes the illuminating preface James wrote for that edition.
About the Author
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.
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
Table of Contents
|The Sacred Fount||1|
|The Wings of the Dove||195|
|Note on the Texts||708|