Henry James

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Henry James, portrait by John Singer Sargent
Henry James signature (1907) .png

Henry James (born April 15, 1843 in New York , † February 28, 1916 in Chelsea , Great Britain ) was an American - British writer . He was the younger brother of the philosopher William James .


Henry James grew up in a wealthy family. His father, Henry James Sr., was one of the most respected intellectuals, whose friends and acquaintances included Henry David Thoreau , Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne . From a young age, James was introduced to the classics of British, American, French and German literature. In his youth, Henry Jr. toured Europe and studied in New York, London , Paris , Bologna , Bonn and Geneva . He began studying law at Harvard Law School at the age of nineteen , but soon found that he was closer to literature.

James began contributing to American magazines at the age of twenty . A year later he published his first short story, A Tragedy of Errors . From 1866 to 1869 and from 1871 to 1872 he was a contributor to The Atlantic Monthly magazine and the Nation newspaper . His first short story, Watch and Ward , appeared as a serialized story in the Atlantic Monthly in 1871 . James wrote them on his trip to Venice and Paris. The story is about a bachelor who adopts a twelve-year-old girl and later even wants to get married.

After living in Paris for a while, from where he wrote various articles for the New York Tribune , he settled in England in 1875 and became a British citizen in 1915. The shock of the beginning World War I had prompted James, among other things, to protest against the US policy of non-interference. In England he wrote for The Yellow Book, among others . During his first years in Europe, James mainly portrayed the lives of Americans abroad, particularly in Europe. In 1905 he visited his homeland for the first time in 25 years and wrote Jolly Corner , which is based on his observations in and around New York and tells the nightmarish story of a man who, after a long absence from New York, returns to his father's house and his inlive there Experience life as an American in the form of meeting a doppelganger.

Between 1906 and 1910 he revised various narratives and stories for the "New York Edition" of his collected works, which was published in 1911 by Charles Scribner's Son. The first two volumes of his autobiography , A Small Boy and Others and Notes of a Son and Brother were published between 1913 and 1914 . The third volume was published posthumously in 1917. Henry James died on February 28, 1916 at the age of 72, having recently suffered a heart attack.

James described himself as a "sexual self-sufficient", throughout his life he had many close friendships with men.

In 1898 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters .

Literary work

In James' multi-layered work, the antagonism between the "old world" Europe with its long cultural tradition and the naivety of the "new world" America plays an important, perhaps even the central role. Another characteristic of his work are the psychologically complex and carefully drawn female figures, such as in Portrait of a Lady .

He described Honoré de Balzac and George Eliot as special role models ; He once said of Balzac that he learned more about writing from him than from anyone else. Probably the best-known quote about his own writing comes from The Art of Poetry from 1885:

"A novel is in its broadest sense a personal, a direct impression of life: that, to begin with, constitutes its value, which is greater or less according to the intensity of the impression."

- Henry James : The Art of Fiction , 1885

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe also had a significant influence on the literary work of Henry James . James, who spoke excellent German, spent his life studying his writings in Bonn and was considered an excellent expert on Goethe's works. Wilhelm Meister in particular had a lasting meaning for James in all creative periods.

The extremely detailed description of the inner workings of his characters makes James appear as a modern writer. He is considered a master of indirect characterization and was among other things a model for the stream of consciousness style ; particularly well-known examples of this technique can be found in James Joyce ' Ulysses and in Manhattan Transfer by John Dos Passos .

While Henry James was practically a cult author in the Anglo-Saxon world, he has faded into the background in the German-speaking world. A smaller James renaissance was brought about not only by various publishing activities (Manesse, Aufbau Verlag, etc.), but also by the various film adaptations.


James published a total of 20 novels , 112 short stories , twelve dramas as well as various travel books and literary reviews. His most important publications include

  • Watch and Ward , 1871
  • Roderick Hudson , 1875
  • The American , 1875 (German: The American ; society novel)
  • Daisy Miller , 1878
  • The Europeans , 1878 (dt. The Europeans )
  • Confidence , 1879 (dt. Trust )
  • The Portrait of a Lady , 1881 (German Portrait of a Lady or Portrait of a Young Lady )
  • Washington Square , 1881 (German, depending on the translation, The Heiress of Washington Square or Washington Square )
  • Lady Barberina , 1884 (revised in 1908 as Lady Barbarina; translated by Karen Lauer)
  • The Bostonians , 1886 (German ladies in Boston )
  • The Princess Casamassima , 1886 (Eng. The Princess Casamassima )
  • The Aspern Papers , 1888, (German Aspern's estate , also: Die Aspern-Schriften )
  • The Reverberator , 1888
  • The Patagonia , 1888,
  • The Tragic Muse , 1890
  • Picture and Text , 1893
  • The Other House , 1896
  • The Way It Came , 1896. How it all came about
  • The Spoils of Poynton , 1897 (German: Die Kostbarkeiten von Poynton , translated by Nikolaus Stingl, with an afterword by Alexander Cammann. Manesse Verlag, Zurich 2017)
  • What Maisie Knew , 1897 (German Maisie in the translation by Hans Hennecke 1955; also: Was Maisie Knew in the translation by Gottfried Röckelein 2016)
  • The Turn of the Screw , 1898 (German, depending on the translation, The Turning of the Screw , The Angel of Innocence , The Secret of Bly , The Last Turn of the Screw or The Turn of the Screw .)
    There is also an opera version of the same name by Benjamin Britten
  • The Awkward Age , 1899
  • The Tone of Time , 1900 (German patina , ISBN 978-3-8391-0439-2 .)
  • The Sacred Fount , 1901 (German: The Wonder Fountain )
  • The Wings of the Dove , 1902 (Eng. The wings of the dove )
  • The Ambassadors , 1903 (Eng. The Ambassadors )
  • The Golden Bowl , 1904 (German: The Golden Bowl )
  • The American Scene , 1907 (as book)
  • The Outcry , 1911

Works translated into German

Film adaptations (selection)


  • Gabriele Botta: Henry James' heroines. Fictional design and pragmatic ethics . Königshausen u. Neumann, Würzburg 1993 (= Epistemata; Series Literaturwissenschaft; 100), ISBN 3-88479-768-9 .
  • Renate Brosch: Crises of Vision. Henry James and the Change in Perception in the 19th Century . Stauffenburg, Tübingen 2000 (= Transatlantic perspectives; 11), ISBN 3-86057-341-1 .
  • Victoria Coulson: Henry James, women and realism . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2007, ISBN 0-521-87981-7 .
  • Andrew Cutting: Death in Henry James . Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke et al. a. 2005, ISBN 978-1-4039-9336-6 .
  • Peter Dettmering: The motive of intrusion in Henry James . In: Psyche, Heft 12, 1976, pp. 1057-1080.
  • Leon Edel: Henry James. A life . Harper et al. Row, New York 1985, ISBN 0-06-015459-4 .
  • Caroline Eliacheff, Nathalie Heinich: Mothers and Daughters. A triangular relationship. Translated from the French by Horst Brühmann. Patmos, Düsseldorf 2004, ISBN 3-530-42175-8 , p. 214 ff. On The Awkward Age .
  • Robert L. Gale: A Henry James encyclopedia . Greenwood Press, New York et al. a. 1989, ISBN 0-313-25846-5 .
  • Edgar F. Harden: A Henry James chronology . Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke et al. a. 2005, ISBN 978-1-4039-4229-6 .
  • Tilman Höss: Poe, James, Hitchcock. The rationalization of art . Winter, Heidelberg 2003, (= American studies; 111), ISBN 3-8253-1611-4 .
  • Evelyn Ann Hovanec: Henry James and Germany . Amsterdam 1979. ISBN 90-6203-902-2 .
  • Mary J. Joseph: Suicide in Henry James's fiction . Lang, New York et al. a. 1994. (= American university studies; Series 24, American literature; 50) ISBN 0-8204-2140-5 .
  • John Kimmey: Henry James and London. The city in his fiction . Lang, New York et al. a. 1991. (= American university studies; Series 4; English language and literature; 121) ISBN 0-8204-1359-3 .
  • Frauke Lange: Salary and form of morality at Henry James . Lang, Frankfurt am Main a. a. 1996. (= European university publications; series 14; Anglo-Saxon language and literature; 319) ISBN 3-631-30704-7 .
  • Roger Lüdeke: Reread. Revision practice and authorship with Henry James . Stauffenburg, Tübingen 2002. (= ZAA studies; 14) ISBN 3-86057-743-3 .
  • Jürg Meier: Emotions and narrative in Jane Austen and Henry James . Utz, Wiss., Munich 2003. (= Language and Literature Studies; 16) ISBN 3-8316-0300-6 .
  • Robert B. Pippin: Morality and Modernity. The world of Henry James . Fink, Paderborn 2004. ISBN 3-7705-3786-6 .
  • Adrian Poole: Henry James . Harvester, New York et al. a. 1991. ISBN 0-7108-1311-2 .
  • Ursula Schaefer: The depiction of childhood and adolescence in Henry James . Lang, Frankfurt am Main a. a. 2001. (= European university publications; series 14; Anglo-Saxon language and literature; 385) ISBN 3-631-37912-9 .
  • Jeremy Tambling: Henry James . Macmillan et al. a., Basingstoke et al. a. 2000. ISBN 0-333-68734-5 .
  • Hazel Hutchison: Letter lives: Henry James , London: Hesperus, 2012, ISBN 978-1-84391-923-0 .
  • Hazel Hutchison: Henry James: Biography , Berlin: Parthas-Verl., 2015, ISBN 978-3-86964-097-6
  • Susan M. Griffin, Alan Nadel (eds.): The Men Who Knew Too Much: Henry James and Alfred Hitchcock , New York: Oxford University Press, 2012, ISBN 978-0-19-976443-3 .

Web links

Commons : Henry James  - Collection of Pictures, Videos and Audio Files
Wikisource: Henry James  - Sources and full texts (English)

Individual evidence

  1. Short biography of HJ
  2. ^ Members: Henry James. American Academy of Arts and Letters, accessed April 5, 2019 .
  3. See in the details Gustav H. Blanke: Henry James as a writer between America and Europe . In: Franz H. Link (Ed.): America · Vision and Reality, contributions to German research on American literary history . Athenäum Verlag, Frankfurt a. M. et al. 1968, pp. 212-228.
  4. See Jeremy Adler : Henry James and Goethe · «Live with all strength» . In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung , December 21, 2014. Accessed December 21, 2014. See also Evelyn A. Hovanec: Henry James and Germany. Amsterdam 1979, ISBN 90-6203-902-2 , p. 36f.
  5. Maisie : A Divorce Child , SWR2 September 5, 2018, accessed October 3, 2018
  6. The eponymous story was published in advance of 2013 in a limited and not over-the-counter exclusive edition of Edition 5plus.