You are hereBack to top
Notes of a Son and Brother, Partial Portraits & English Hours (Paperback)
Notes of a Son and Brother is an autobiography by Henry James published in 1914. The book covers James' early manhood and tells of "the obscure hurt" that kept him out of the Civil War, his first efforts at writing fiction, and the early death of his beloved cousin, Minny Temple, from tuberculosis.
In this second installment of his autobiography James begins to use family letters, especially those of his brother William and his father Henry James, Sr. Scholarship has shown that James altered the letters with revisions of his own.
The book covers the Civil War years, which saw James' younger brother Wilky seriously injured and brought back to the family home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. James himself was exempted from service due to a back injury, the "obscure hurt" he suffered while putting out a fire with the local volunteer fire department. Meanwhile, James pursued his writing and earned his first fourteen dollars, which he looked at long and proudly. He began to place critical pieces and short stories in magazines like the North American Review, The Nation and The Atlantic Monthly.
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: "The only obligation to which in advance we may hold a novel, without incurring the accusation of being arbitrary, is that it be interesting." In particular, James is suspicious of restraining fiction with specific moral guidelines: "No good novel will ever proceed from a superficial mind; that seems to me an axiom which, for the artist in fiction, will cover all needful moral ground."
English Hours is a book of travel writing by Henry James published in 1905. The book collected various essays James had written on England over a period of more than thirty years, beginning in the 1870s. The essays had originally appeared in such periodicals as The Nation, The Century Magazine, Scribner's Magazine, The Galaxy and Lippincott's Magazine. James wrote a new introduction for the book and extensively revised many of the essays to create a more coherent whole.
England was James' adopted country, so it is not surprising that the essays in English Hours are primarily positive and sometimes downright cheerful. The essay on London which begins the book gives full play to the British capital's definitely non-beautiful impression on James when he arrived in 1869: