James, HenryHenry James Jr. was born on 15th April 1843 in New York, son to Henry and Mary James. His brother, William James, had been born the year before. The family came from a very wealthy background, and moved among the fashionable circles of New York; Henry James’s early exposure to such groups would later form an influence on the topics of his literary work.
Henry James Sr.’s various publishing interests meant that the family were constantly moving between different homes and locations, and in 1851 they moved to Europe. The James boys had a relatively unstable education throughout the 1850s, as the family’s continuous relocation meant that they were shifted between a number of different schools and private tutors. Nonetheless, they gained the advantage of an early exposure to various cultures, and Henry Jr. soon became fluent in French.
In 1860 the family returned to America and settled in Rhode Island, where Henry James Jr. befriended the artist John La Farge. La Farge introduced James to a variety of French literature, which became an inspiration to his own work. After a brief and unhappy spell studying at Harvard Law School, Henry James decided to pursue a career in literature, following his true passion rather than the expectations of his family. From 1863 onwards, he regularly had fictional and non-fictional works published in journals such as The Nation and The Atlantic Monthly. In 1869, he relocated to London, where he established connections with a number of recognised authors and publishers. His own first novel was published in America in 1871.
Another key period of Henry James’ life came when he moved to Paris. This furthered his literary exposure, as he came into contact with leading European authors such as Zola and Turgenev. The Portrait of a Lady (1880) is today considered to be one of the author’s finest works, and was strongly inspired by the manners and principles that James observed in European culture and literature. One of the recurrent interests of his work was the relationship between cultural life in Europe and his homeland, the USA.
The final years of James’ existence saw him publish a number of memoirs about his various experiences. In 1905, he took the chance to revisit the USA for the first time in over 25 years, adding to his reflections on how cultural life there differed from in Europe. In 1915, he demonstrated his appreciation for what Britain had offered him by formally becoming a British citizen. In December of the same year, however, he suffered a terrible stroke, which he never truly recovered from. On 28th February 1916, Henry James died in London.
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Moved to New York City
Moved to Europe
Returned to America
Enrolled at Harvard
First work published
Settled in London
First novel published
Moved to Paris
The Portrait of a Lady published
The Turn of the Screw published
Became a British citizen