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He and a fr Reviews The Bostonians Print Page Tweet One of the qualities I like best in the novels of Henry James is the way his characters talk and talk about matters of passion and the heart, and never quite seem to act. Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger? Roger Ebert This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland.

Popular Reviews Charlie's Angels. Ford v Ferrari. Maria Tatar, in Spellbound, a history of mesmerism and literature, remarks that the wandering mesmerists and trance maidens in America in the s and s "perfectly matched a central concern of American writers - the violation of innocence". In The Bostonians, the sleazy Selah Tarrant and the beautiful Verena are direct descendants of the mysterious Priscilla of The Blithedale Romance, which takes place in a utopian community based on the transcendentalist Brook Farm, where Hawthorne stayed, and which later became a Fourierist phalanx.

The feminist heroine of Blithedale, Zenobia, is based partly on Margaret Fuller. When, at the very beginning of The Bostonians, Basil Ransom discusses Olive Chancellor's "weird meetings" with Mrs Luna, he turns them into supernatural fantasy. You speak as if it were a rendezvous of witches on the Brocken. They are all witches and wizards, mediums, and spirit-rappers, and roaring radicals.

She's a female Jacobin - she's a nihilist. Whatever is, is wrong, and all that sort of thing. Mrs Luna gleefully coagulates the political and the occult. In the world Henry James grew up in, these were constituents of the surprising thin American air. All through both The Blithedale Romance and Little Women, there are references to "castles in the air". Louisa May Alcott also grew up in an idealist farming utopia, her father's Fruitlands - badly run, and productive of mud, poverty and hunger. The real fantasy in her world is the solid comfortable dailiness of the March sisters' home life.

American literature and thought in the midth century produced a concoction of "isms", often inhering in the same individual minds and fiercely earnest communities. Spiritualism, Mesmerism, communism, radicalism, Swedenborgianism, Fourierism, abolitionism, transcendentalism, feminism. James is able to report the phantasmagoria of spiritual and political abstractions, magnetisms and influences, with a surefooted realist solidity of specification to use his own phrase because it is what he knew best and first.

Verena was partly based on the lovely Cora Tappan, whose formless, enthusiastic, ultimately meaningless "lectures" were collected in an elegant book with her elegant blonde photograph as a frontispiece. James makes her plausible as the child of her subtly drawn seedy parents, the survivors of religious communities, with sexual freedom thrown in - she has warmth, responsiveness, and no instilled puritanical principles.

The character of Miss Birdseye, a perfect New England type of emancipated woman, caused James some problems, as his family, including William, and acquaintances, reacted very strongly to his presentation of her, seeing it as a lampoon of Miss Eliza Peabody, originally of Salem, Hawthorne's sister-in-law, who wrote on Swedenborg, stayed in Brook Farm, dabbled in mesmerism, and wrote for The Dial. James protested, as authors do, and gave her a beautiful death in a later episode, to conciliate critics. Basil Ransom is a southerner who has been in the west and has complicated and sceptical views about society.

He reads De Tocqueville, and knows his opinions "would probably not contribute to his prosperity in Mississippi any more than in New York". He understands himself drily. His belief that the age needed saving "from the most damnable feminisation", that "the masculine tone is passing out of the world; it's a feminine, a nervous, hysterical, chattering, canting age" is not James's though it bears some relation to some of James's views. The novel's colloquial realism goes with a use of a hinted allegorical scheme, a set of symbols and arcane references, which resonate both with the world of Swedenborgian and Fourierist cosmologies, and with the American tendency to think in parables, and fantastic tales, as Hawthorne noted of himself, and James observed about him.

The names of the main characters are part of some Christian structure. Basil Ransom is a parodic redeemer - Basil being king, or lord. Olive Chancellor is some kind of judicial authority figure - though I have not seen a satisfactory explanation for her first name. Verena is the spring, and also a Persephone figure, to be rescued from the depths of winter. She is woman as the moon. Swedenborg wrote, "Whence is the wisdom of wise women?

Their light might be very great but, is it not reflected from men to whom they act as moons. The motivations, both sociological and personal, rather than the political, move the plot forward. James' sentence structure is, at times distracting, even for a work of his time period. However, he does reach down into the depths of human conflict.

So, often our emotions rule our speech and action when it comes to social and political beliefs. It's still a book worth reading and discussing today. Some consider it feminist literature. What do you think?

What do you think we're James' personal views on women's rights. And why do you think Basil Ransom's dark Mississippian complexion was mentioned so often? I would recommend this novel to those interested in historical novel that deal with important social issues.

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I think it would do well book clubs and academic discussions. Going in I knew that Henry James was wordy and detailed. It continues in this book. Inner thoughts and motivations told from the narrator's perspective makes up the style here. All standard James. But this story could be used as a means to annoy anyone who is even remotely feminist.

It would work to test the patience and tolerance of most everyone I know.

The Bostonians (Unabridged)

I won't do a spoiler here but the conclusion is unnecessarily dismal. However, if you want to improve your vocabulary read this book with a dictionary handy. Henry James could certainly write and it's worth spending time with him. But choose a different book.

The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Bostonians, by Henry James.

I like Henry James very much. His story-telling technique, his detailed descriptions, and long, convoluted sentences may not appeal to everyone, but I find him to be a true wordsmith, and I marvel at his use of the English language. These are all very entertaining character studies, and I would unhesitatingly rate each of them 5-stars; most of his others that I have read are either 4- or 5-stars, too.

Perhaps it was regarded as a typical battle of the sexes "comedy" in the literary sense of that word when it was first written, but it now comes across as quite mean-spirited. But it's hard to imagine the protagonist not being regarded as monomaniacal even for its era. The plot essentially involves a self-centered cad with a scheming young woman confederate orchestrating a deliberate campaign in an attempt to persuade and otherwise bully a young and rising suffragette into giving up her feminist advocacy and especial talents therein to marry him.

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One need hardly wonder whether she would be happy or miserable were she to condescend to do either or both. Does she reject her cause? Does she marry him?

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The novel pretty much ends when she makes her decisions, yea or nay. You'll find out, but not from me. I always thought the story would have been much more interesting if we could've learned what happens to HIM after she makes her decision. How would HE have been affected by it?

Conversely, IF she refuses to marry him, would her loss cause him to mend his caddish ways, and thus reformed, desire to woo her anew? Either way, would he ever come around to see the light? Alas, we can only wonder, because James did not choose to tell that part of the story, and a cad whether single or married the protagonist remains. That this book is considered great and why I still, though reluctantly, gave it 4-stars is a tribute to James' literary style moreso than the actual plot itself, because no matter how well James tells it, it is still an unpleasant tale involving unbridled ego, an unmerited sense of superiority, deceit, and manipulation by one person attempting to gain dominance over another.

Sorry, but I am uncomfortable with that -- even from the great Henry James, whom I otherwise greatly admire. Henry James pens a magnificent tale of a power struggle between the sexes in the novel The Bostonians. It was a time when voices were rising as people tried to figure out what they believed. Their third cousin, Basil Ransom comes to visit them from New York where he works as a lawyer.