The Ambassadors

The Ambassadors


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The Ambassadors by Henry James

Sent from Massachusetts by the formidable Mrs Newsome to recall her son, Chad, from what she assumes to be a corrupt life in Paris, Strether finds his intentions subtly and profoundly transformed as he falls under the spell of the city and of his charge. He is quick to perceive that Chad has been not so much corrupted as refined, and over the course of the hot summer months in Paris he gradually realizes that this discovery and acceptance of Chad's unconventional new lifestyle must alter his own ideals and ambitions. One of Henry James's three final novels, all of which have sharply divided modern critics, The Ambassadors is the finely drawn portrait of a man's late awakening to the importance of morality that is founded not on the dictates of convention but on its value per se.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780141441320
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/24/2008
Edition description: Revised
Pages: 544
Sales rank: 1,248,619
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

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.

Philip Horne
 has spent a decade looking at the thousands of James's letters in archives in the United States and Europe. A Reader in English Literature at University College, London, he is the author of Henry James and Revision and the editor of the Penguin Classics edition of James's The Tragic Muse.

Date of Birth:

April 15, 1843

Date of Death:

February 28, 1916

Place of Birth:

New York, New York

Place of Death:

London, England


Attended school in France and Switzerland; Harvard Law School, 1862-63

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The Ambassadors 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Professor_J_Denning More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
comett More than 1 year ago
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
ConfuzzledShannon More than 1 year ago
A young man, Chad, has been traveling Europe ending up in Paris, France.  His family wants him home to the States as they fear France has corrupted him. As you see above the rating for this is a one star and a DNF(Did Not Finish).  This is a first for me.  I really tried to get into The Ambassadors and to understand it.  I got to about 200 pages in and just could not continue.  Never have read a book like this where the words that are used I understand on their own but when they are combined with others I know do not comprehend  them together. I do not know if it is just the way Henry James writes since this the first I have read by him but I will not be returning to this book again.
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jgodpstr More than 1 year ago
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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Guest More than 1 year ago
I wish I could be as kind as the reviewer below, but I can't. James's rambling went on far TOO long and I didn't find any of the characters particularly sympathetic. You're not missing much.
KateCroy More than 1 year ago
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?