Writer and critic, born in New York City, New York, USA, the brother of Alice and William James. The son of the wealthy amateur philosopher, Henry James Sr, he was educated by private tutors until 1855. The family spent some years travelling in Europe (1855–60), where Henry continued his education, then settled in Newport, RI (1860–2), where he apparently suffered an unspecified injury in a stable fire. He attended Harvard Law School (1862–3), then withdrew to devote himself to writing. Starting in the mid-1860s his essays and critical reviews began appearing in The North American Review, while his first novel, Watch and Ward, was published in Atlantic Monthly (1871).
He divided his time between Cambridge, MA and Europe (1869, 1872–4, 1875), and in Paris (1875) he met Turgenev and Flaubert among other European writers. In 1876 he settled in England, where he would spend most of the rest of his life, chiefly in London and in Rye, Sussex. He never married but he was a sociable man, often in the company of other writers such as Edith Wharton. He travelled frequently on the Continent, and published several notable travel books during 1875–1909.
His first novels, of the so-called international period, dealing as they do with interactions between Americans and Europeans, include The American (1877), The Europeans (1878), Daisy Miller (1879), and The Portrait of a Lady (1881). The works of his second period stressed psychological and social relationships and include Washington Square (1881), The Bostonians (1886), What Maisie Knew (1897), and The Sacred Fount (1901). During the 1890s he also wrote plays but he never found much success in the theatre. He continued his examination of intricate psychological realities in works of his final period that include his three masterworks, The Wings of the Dove (1902), The Ambassadors (1903), and The Golden Bowl (1904). In 1904–5 he visited the USA, where he travelled, lectured, and arranged for the New York Edition of his works (1907–9), for which he made many revisions. His account of his visit, The American Scene (1907), was not always appreciative of his homeland; he returned to the USA in 1910–11. In 1915 he became an English citizen to show his solidarity with Britain during World War 1, and he became involved in war relief and the American volunteer ambulance corps, but soon suffered several strokes and died shortly after receiving Britain's Order of Merit.
He had been writing almost to the end, and in his long career, in addition to his many novels and travel books, he wrote many classic short novels, The Turn of the Screw (1898), short stories (‘The Beast in the Jungle’, 1903) and critical essays (‘The Art of Fiction’, 1885), as well as two memoirs. His intricate and complex sentence structure and delicately nuanced perceptions have never appealed to all readers, but ultimately they became the models for one ‘school’ of modern fiction.
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