Ransom s the name Basil Ransom Status, bachelor Occupation general brokerage, whatever the hell that means Occupation at the moment just having fun Let me tell you about my evening It was last evening The one before this one What a politico literary gathering that was The drinks were loaded and so were the dolls I narrowed my eyes and poured a stiff Manhattan and then I sawVerena Tarrant What a dame, a big, bountiful babe in the region of 38 23 36 One hell of a region. She was talking up some of that feminism thing like they do these days, and she was giving out that sexy librarian vibe She was so hot I had to stand back for fear of being burned My cousin Olive Chancellor introduced us I ve heard of you she said They say you re wanted in fifteen states Could be I quipped But notwithstanding, as of this particular instant in time I want to be wanted in just one state, the state I m in now, this one, right here, right now, you dig sister I hoped she followed the complicated syntax of my sentence Some of these feminists don t I ve noticed that There was a hint of first edition Proust coming off of her underclothing It was driving me crazy She said, Johnny, feminism is a deadly game You have a few laughs and you go home You can t win My eyes narrowed even further they were narrow to begin with, but women like that I ve noticed I like a challenge I said I felt my way towards another subjunctive clause I was sure I d find Verena somewhere in the middle of it. Henry James The Bostonians takes place in Boston a decade after the Civil War Basil Ransom and Mississippian and a former Confederate officer who now works in New York City as a lawyer plays a central role in the triangle of characters The story begins as he visits his cousin Olive Chancellor in Boston Olive is involved in the women s rights movement and a member of Boston Society During his visit, he attends a meeting with his cousin and falls in love with the voice of the speaker, Verena Tarrant Olive sees Verena as the future of the women s movement Basil, disagrees with Verena s politics but is drawn to her Olive and Basil compete for Verena throughout the novel The triangle that forms is not strictly platonic.The Bostonians and Henry James not only provides a bridge from realism to modernism it also opened the door for other works like The Well of Loneliness It is also the origin of the term Boston marriage The book did not fair well with American critics as it was suggested the characters were based off real people Written as satire, the book holds up well today, and maybe better than it was received at publication The exaggerated character of Basil seems to be something of a caricature of a rich southerner and likewise Olive that of a highbrow Yankee.The Dover Thrift Edition of this work is a quality paperback for 7.00 and less than a dollar Kindle ebook For those interested in historical satire and over the top characters this is the book for you. ,,Gutenberg Orbis Literae. Newsflash Henry James is funny Seriously, he likes to laugh And he s good at it Who knew The opening of this book reads like a farce, a comedy of manners, a vicious taking apart of characters worthy of Oscar Wilde It does diminish and get rather serious over the course of the novel, but it never entirely goes away Henry s vicious In a good way I mean, you may feel a little bad as he chooses to rip into the feminist movement as a target, but at least his chosen characters fully deserve it I will warn you that you will be thinking of creative ways for Olive Chancellor to die after the first fifty pages or so Or wishing that James sent her to a lesbian whorehouse to work out her issues Man And to be fair, it isn t just the feminists he attacks He attacks everyone But not only attack He does make the characters complex Olive s a fascinating study in repressed homosexuality, Verena s a beautiful contradiction that represents a question of what is important in life, Basil Ransom is a really attractive bastard who might not be totally wrong in his outlook on life As another note, his style here is very different from Portrait of a Lady He spends time describing ambiance, environment, surroundings, than is his reputation And when his turn of phrase turns much towards the witty and clever, it definitely sacrifices the tone that he created in Portrait and from what I understand, the majority of his other works.Unexpected page turner I picked it up and put it down, but once I picked it up again, I d read 50 pages in a blink Once again Henry James has a sense of humor No, seriously You have to read this to believe me It s amazing The Bostonians 1885 86 falls or less in the middle of Henry James s career as a novelist, ten years after his breezy debut, Roderick Hudson and sixteen years before The Wings of a Dove. Its nearest chronology mate is The Princess Casamassima, with which it shares its unusual for James political theme The Princess Casamassima is set in revolutionary socialist circles in London The Bostonians, in radical feminist circles in Boston and New York Both of these political novels are striking for their lack of knowledge and interest in the actual ideas the political groups represented might hold The socialists of The Princess Casamassima discuss political theory less, and in less detail, than any group of radicals known within the history of man, while the feminists of The Bostonians seem to limit their analysis to long evenings of weepily considering how very, very horrid men have been to women throughout history For a novel of this period that actually engages with the ideas and ideals of the nineteenth century feminist movement, I would decidedly recommend Gissing s 1893, London set The Odd Women over The Bostonians. Gissing is fascinated by ideas, and he handles them well within fiction James isn t that kind of novelist at all Where James excels is in the nebulous world of feelings and impulses and sensations, and he has plenty to work on, very absorbingly, in this novel The settings are very fine radical, shabby chic Boston I m thinking of the splendid early soir e at Miss Birdseye s in particular glossy, voracious New York the half way through soir e at Mrs Burrage s and the austere, gently declining Cape Cod resort town Marmion, evoked in a painterly manner, through its evanescent light effects and barely there seascapes I enjoyed the characters of the novel, as well, who are sharply and often satirically drawn The nervous, highly strung, fastidious, emotionally needy Boston feminist Olive Chancellor came alive for me, probably than the other two figures in the central triangle of the novel down at heel Mississippian would be lawyer and would be conservative essayist Basil Ransom, and young, beautiful, eloquent Verena Tarrant, conscripted first by her father and then by Olive as an inspirational feminist speaker, and romantically pursued by Ransom for motives in which the erotic and the ideological combine The minor Bostonian figures are a lot of fun the vague, kind, shambling octogenarian reformer Miss Birdseye whom initial American readers were outraged to suspect was a portrait of a real figure, Elizabeth Peabody and the scene stealing, no nonsense Dr Mary Prance.Above all, perhaps, what fascinated me in this novel was its use of the post Civil War context to lend poignancy and depth to its political theme and its emotional narrative The novel begins in the shadow of the war, when Olive welcomes Basil a distant cousin into her Bostonian home, having invited him for a visit in a spirit of reconciliation which rapidly dissolves as soon as she gets to know him Both have suffered in the conflict, Olive having lost two brothers, while Basil has lost his family wealth and his prospects The recentness of the war and the rawness of its memories are buried for much of the novel subsequently, but we never quite allowed to forget them A pivotal scene for me, one of the finest, and most complex and charged episodes in the novel is that where Verena takes Basil to visit the newly built Memorial Hall at Harvard, commemorating the university s war dead of the Union, but not the Confederacy, side. 6 10I ve never been so glad to put down an HJ Even though this rates higher than I listened to this on audible while driving to from work it took awhile, but the book allows itself to be read in chunks The story is certainly a bit too long typically Jamesian, I guess , often melodramatic but, in the end, quite good Magnficent characters Verena, Olive, BasilThe audible was narrated by a woman named Xe Sands pronounced ex y Sands she specializes in reading audible erotic romances so I guess Xe is not chinese probably her real name is Mildred or something That said, the reading was brilliant a pity she doesn t do serious reading.There is a great joke in the Wiki entry Another theme in the book, much discussed recently, is Olive s possible lesbian attraction to Verena The term Boston marriage, apparently first used here by James, came to connote just such an ambiguous co habiting long term relationship between two women James is not explicit here, partially due to the conventions of the time But this vagueness may actually enrich the novel because it creates possible ambiguity about Olive s motives possible Ha Ha Not much ambiguity about Olive s motives that I could see This Brilliant Satire Of The Women S Rights Movement In America Is The Story Of The Ravishing Inspirational Speaker Verena Tarrant And The Bitter Struggle Between Two Distant Cousins Who Seek To Control Her Will The Privileged Boston Feminist Olive Chancellor Succeed In Turning Her Beloved Ward Into A Celebrated Activist And Lifetime Companion Or Will Basil Ransom, A Conservative Southern Lawyer, Steal Verena S Heart And Remove Her From The Limelight The Bostonians Has A Vigor And Blithe Wit Found Nowhere Else In James, Writes A S Byatt In Her Introduction It Is About Idealism In A Democracy That Is Still Recovering From A Civil War Bitterly Fought For Social Ideals Written With A Ferocious, Precise, Detailed And Wildly Comic Realism I found The Bostonians repulsive on so many levels Where to even beginJames is creating a world where it seems he wants you to find certain things repulsive, and you do, as a 21st century reader, although not necessarily quite as he hopes The novel opens with Basil Ransom, a gallant Mississippian, paying a visit to his Boston cousin, the austere but still young spinster Olive Chancellor Olive has invited Basil north in the hopes that he will become interested in her widowed sister, Mrs Luna, and that they will marry Instead, Basil attends an evening salon featuring an impassioned oral recitation by Verena Tarrant, the young, beautiful daughter of a cheesy mesmerist, Selah Tarrant This is one of those 19th century scenes where the father must place his hands on the daughter s head in order to stimulate her gift for speechifying Basil finds the whole thing ridiculous, but is intrigued by Verena and slowly begins to fall in love with her Olive is a fierce feminist and brings Verena under her wing Olive is most likely a lesbian, which James hints at She is also a sick, controlling, manipulative fuck, extracting a promise from Verena that Verena will never marry and will devote her life to the feminist cause She expends much energy trying to keep Verena hidden from Basil.I don t know if it s a lack of imagination on the part of James, or on the part of the 19th century in general, that feminism, the emancipation of women, had to be such a harsh, man hating enterprise Along with Olive s manipulativeness, this is part of what makes the novel repulsive Olive writes a big check to Verena s parents in order to have Verena come live with her She s buying Verena A friendship does develop between the two, although given Olive s possessiveness and Verena s relative innocence, it s obviously not a partnership of equals Nor is Basil, though appealing on some levels, exempt from the disgust a modern reader will feel he is deeply anti feminist, feeling that any gifts a woman has should be used in the home, for the husband s exclusive benefit Including Verena s gift for speechifying before large audiences Verena never loses her affection for Olive, but she begins to feel the pull of Ransom, and the novel concerns itself with who will win Verena.I found the first 100 200 pages tough going, because everyone was so profoundly unappealing However, in the last chapters it was hard to put down.I see that A.S Byatt finds a blithe wit herein For her the novel is wildly comic I found it not a funny novel at all Maybe it s hard to be disgusted and amused at the same time.Oops, I bought this forgetting I already owned it I do that sometimes. , Henry James ,.
Henry James, OM, son of theologian Henry James Sr., brother of the philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James, was an American born author, one of the founders and leaders of a school of realism in fiction He spent much of his life in England and became a British subject shortly before his death He is primarily known for a series of major novels in which he portrayed the
- 448 pages
- The Bostonians
- Henry James
- 17 January 2018 Henry James