By the 1890s, his own middle years, James was feeling particularly depressed by his lack of a sizeable, responsive audience in what he called 'an age of trash triumphant'. Fiction should be undertaken as an art or not at all. These stories, several of them elaborate Jamesian games, are all concerned with the art of fiction and the position of the artist in society. The Figure in the Carpet, the motif and title story, is an inspired joke, a masterpiece of double-entendre that demands the reader's undivided love and attention and continues to battle its critics.
The stories in this collection were written mostly between 1888 and 1897, a time when Henry Jamess writing was concerned with the art of fiction and the position of the artist in society. The motif and title story, The Figure in the Carpet, is an inspired joke, a masterpiece of double-entendre that demands the readers undivided love and attention and continues to baffle its critics. Also included are The Author of Beltraffio, an absorbing story of family infighting, authorship and tragedy, and The Private Life, a spirited tale that considers the contrast between the artist alone and at work. While many of these stories appear to be elaborate Jamesian games, all employ irony and humour to allegorize artistic creation.
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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.
Frank Kermode is among our greatest contemporary critics. He has written and edited many works, among themThe Sense of Ending and Shakespeares Language.