The American

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 1/4/2005
  • Publisher: Signet Classics

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The text reprinted in this volume is based on an examination of the five printed versions of The American (first published in 1877) which appeared in James's lifetime, and it is preceded by his "Preface to the New York Edition" (1907). The textual history of the novel is traced in A Note on the Text; a list of substantive variants and emendations; a facsimile manuscript page showing James's method of revision; and a list of the installments of the novel as they appeared in The Atlantic. "Backgrounds and Sources" includes relevant extracts from correspondence, reviews, and articles by James and others, and from his Notebooks and Hawthorne. "Contemporary Reception" of the novel is illustrated by twenty-one American and English reviews. "Twentieth-Century Criticism" is represented in essays by Leon Edel, Oscar Cargill, Irving Howe, Richard Poirier, Royal A. Gettmann, and James W. Tuttleton. A Selected Bibliography is included for further study.

Author 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.

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