Postbellum America, 1866-1913: Literature


Henry James, 1843-1916 

By Anna Thompson, Steven Byrd, Pam McInnis, Rebecca Price 
Students, University of North Carolina at Pembroke

Henry James was highly talented and displayed wonderful craftsmanship of writing during his time.  Growing up in Manhattan, James was exposed to tremendous knowledge from his father, Henry James Sr., one of the best known-intellectuals of his time.  As the young  James became older and more exposed to his father's vast knowledge, he too became very educated.  During James's teen years and early twenties, he traveled extensively, mainly back and forth between America and Europe.  In 1862 James briefly attended Harvard Law School for a year and shortly afterward published his first story, "A Tragedy of Errors."   This was the beginning of James's creative work as a writer. It wasn't until 1871 that James published his first novel, Watch and Ward, the story of a bachelor who adopts a young girl and then plans to marry the child.  Though the novel stirred up conflict, it did not stop James from continuing his work.  James lived in Paris and England.  Even though he was across the world, he still found time to contribute to the New York Tribune and also was able to write other short stories and novels.  In 1875, James settled in Paris, where he wrote The American.  In 1876, James moved to London, where he wrote his award-winning novel Daisy Miller.   Over the next several decades, he wrote a number of other important novels, including Washington Square, The Turn of the Screw, The Wings of the Dove, and The Ambassadors.  James died in February of 1916, but he left behind many great novels that are still being read and studied. 

Many of the themes in James's work were centered around the innocence of the New World, which was in constant conflict, and the corruption and wisdom of the Old World.  James had a consciousness of persuading his readers into the novels psychologically, and yet he brought awareness to the surface concerning many everyday social issues.  James's style has been studied over the years, and many critics believe he shaped the modern novel.  For example, Debora Sherman, professor at Harvard University, states: "To look at the very considerable work of Henry James, one can explore his influence upon the shaping of the modern novel as an instrument of consciousness." 


"Henry James" 

    This World Wide Web page, devoted exclusively to the life and works of Henry James, houses sections for critical essays, discussion forums, and electronic publications of popular Henry James texts. One of the few pages devoted to both the man and his work, it is a prime source for all things Jamesian and a fine example of the educational power of the Internet.
"Henry James and the Atlantic Monthly"
    This World Wide Web page features all of James's contributions to very influential literary magazine, The Atlantic Monthly. The Monthly published much of James' work and helped him, along with many other writers, launch successful literary careers.
Kirkpatrick, D.L., ed. Reference Guide to American Literature, 2nd Ed. Chicago:  St. James Press, 1987.

Kunitz, Stanley, and Haycraft, Howard, ed. American Authors, 1600-1900. New York: The H. W. Wilson Company, 1938.

Published in 1938, American Authors, 1600-1900 is a massive volume covering the origins of American literature. Spanning three centuries and 1300 authors, this resource attempts to find a clear lineage in the American literary tradition, showing how the literature progresses. This volume is invaluable in the study of pioneering American authors and American literature itself. 
Trotsky, Susan M., ed. Contemporary Authors Vol. 132. Detroit: Gale Research Inc.,
Contemporary Authors has been a well-respected literary research tool since its first edition was published in 1962. The Contemporary Authors series is completely updated every five years, thereby staying abreast of current trends, theories, and thoughts and allowing modern critics and readers to look over classic authors with a new pair of eyes. This volume treats the reader to postmodern, feminist, Marxist, and Fredian perspectives on James.
  • Unger, Leonard, ed. "Henry James." American Writers, A Collection of Literary Biographies. Vol. II Ralph Waldo Emerson to Carson McCullers. New York: Charles Scribner’s Son, 1974.
  • Major Works

    • Wings of the Dove
    • The Ambassadors
    • The Golden Bowl
    • The American
    • The Europeans
    • Daisy Miller
    • Portrait of a Lady
    • The Turn of the Screw
    • The Sacred Fount


    • Wrote for Nation 
    • Wrote for Atlantic Monthly
    • Writer for the New York Tribune
    • Novelist


    • New York City
    • England
    • Geneva
    • London
    • Paris
    • Boulogne
    • Bonn
    • Newport, Rhode Island
    • Cambridge, Massachusetts
    • Rye, Sussex


    • 1843: Born in New York
    • 1843: First trip to Europe
    • 1844: Returns to America
    • 1861: Back ailment keeps him from entering Civil War
    • 1862: Enters Harvard Law School
    • 1864: First debut in print- short story in Continental Monthly
    • 1869: First adult trip to Europe
    • 1871: Returns to Boston
    • 1871: Watch and Ward
    • 1872: Journey to Europe
    • 1875:  Travels to New York
    • 1875: Roderick Hudson
    • 1875: Short story "A Passionate Pilgrim & Other Tales
    • 1875: Settled in Paris
    • 1877: The American
    • 1878: Short story "Daisy Miller"
    • 1879: The Europeans
    • 1879: An International Episode
    • 1880: Confidence
    • 1880: Washington Square
    • 1881: Travels to Ireland
    • 1882: Portrait of a Lady
    • 1882:  Mother and father die within months of each other
    • 1883: Home abroad
    • 1883: Novels and Tales of Henry James published
    • 1884: Visits Paris
    • 1886: Travels to Italy
    • 1886: Bostonians
    • 1886: The Reverberator
    • 1890: The Tragic Mouse
    • 1891: Returns to Ireland
    • 1893: Returns to America after 20 years abroad
    • 1894: Returns to England
    • 1895: Withdraws from London
    • 1895: Purchases Lamb House- Rye, Sussex
    • 1896: The Other House
    • 1897: The Spoils of Poynton published
    • 1897: What Maisie Knew
    • 1899: The Awkward Age
    • 1901: The Sacred Fount
    • 1902: The Wings of the Dove
    • 1903: The Ambassadors
    • 1904: The Golden Bowl
    • 1907: The Novels and Tales of Henry James
    • 1911: The Outcry
    • 1911: Honored by Harvard University
    • 1912: Honored by Oxford University
    • 1915: Volunteers for American cause
    • 1915: Volunteers for the British cause
    • 1915: First stroke followed by pneumonia
    • 1916: Order of Merit by King George V
    • 1916: Die- from edema and series of strokes. Ashes brought to Cambridge, Massachusetts
    • 1917: The Ivory Tower 
    • 1917: The Sense of the Past 

    Study Questions

    The American