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Sterile, bland New England culture clashes with lavish, exciting old Europe in The Ambassadors, Henry James’s 1903 masterpiece. The story tells of the travels of Lewis Lambert Strether, a nondescript American and the “ambassador” of the title, as he journeys to Europe to rescue his fiancée’s son Chad from a life of Parisian debauchery. What seems to be a simple mission becomes complicated, though, once Strether arrives in Paris. There he is seduced by the luxurious European lifestyle: the lavish parties, beautiful women, and endless wealth are intoxicating, and addicting. Once Strether has witnessed Chad’s prosperity and his relationship with the mysterious Madame de Vionnet, Strether doubts that can convince Chad to go home—and is not even sure if he wants to return himself. James’s elegant prose brings this, what the author considered his best novel, to vivid life.
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Henry James (1843-1916) was born in New York City to a wealthy and prominent family. His father was a well-known writer and thinker, and James’s parents offered their son a solid education and frequent travel to Europe. James began to write as a young man, publishing his first novel, Watch and Ward, in 1871. Over the next several years, James produced a wealth of short stories, novels, plays, and non-fiction prose, among them such celebrated titles as The Portrait of a Lady, Roderick Hudson, The Bostonians, and What Maisie Knew. Living most of his life abroad, James moved in many prominent intellectual circles, befriending many of the great artists, writers, and thinkers of his day. In a move that shocked many, James took British citizenship in 1915 in order to express his disappointment with the United States for not yet having entered the First World War. Feeling more at home abroad than in America, James spent the rest of his life in England. To this day, he is known as “the Master” for his intelligent, intricate writing that explores the dramatic psychological machinations beneath even the simplest of human interactions and events.Back to top
Opening Lines (Experimental)
by Henry James.
New York Edition (1909).
Strether's first question, when he reached the hotel, was about his friend; yet on his learning that Waymarsh was apparently not to arrive till evening he was not wholly disconcerted. A telegram from him bespeaking a room "only if not noisy," reply paid, ...
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