Henry James, 1843 - 1916

portrait of Henry James
Oil on canvas by John Singer Sargent (1913)
Henry James signature
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Born: 15 April 1843, New York City
Died: 28 February 1916, London, England, UK

The wealthy Swedenborgian theologian Henry James, Sr highly valued education and his home was a magnet for intellectual activity. The elder James constantly sought better schools for Henry and his older brother William, including at least three years with tutors in Europe. Henry briefly attended Harvard Law School but left to pursue literature. Although he wrote essays and nonfiction, and occasionally wrote for newspapers on his travels, he primarily is known as a novelist, the novels were normally released first in monthly installments in magazines. James moved to Paris in 1876 and settled permanently at Rye, Sussex, returning to New York in 1905 to edit his earlier work for the "New York Edition" of his complete works. He did put aside novels for five years starting in 1890, attempting to increase his income by writing for the stage, but of his dozen plays only a handful were ever staged and none was very remunerative, so he returned to novels. In fact, he converted most of his plays into novels. In addition to his published work he was a great letter writer, over ten thousand of his letters are extant. His correspondence suggests strongly that he was a closeted homosexual. At the beginning of World War I he was disgusted with America's refusal to enter the war and became a British citizen in 1915 as a protest. He was awarded the Order of Merit by King George V on New Year's Day 1916, a month after his first stroke and two months before his death.

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