Jane Campion's film adaptation of The Portrait of a Lady has rekindled public interest in the lapidary, demanding novels of Henry James (1843-1916). This April 15th, on the 154th anniversary of James's birth, we've gathered together writing by and about James that has appeared over the years in The Atlantic Monthly.
From the time that James's first published short story appeared in The Atlantic ("The Story of a Year", March, 1865), William Dean Howells and subsequent Atlantic editors championed James's literary talents. This support was critical for James, as his difficult fiction demanded more attention of readers than the popular illustrated periodicals of the day were willing to court. Several of James's novels were serialized in The Atlantic—including The Portrait of a Lady, the first installment of which appeared in November, 1880. After Portrait appeared in book form The Atlantic gave it a glowing review.
James has continued to fascinate The Atlantic's readers, writers, and editors. In "Henry James as Landlord" (August 1946), Louise Boit shares letters she received from James while renting Lamb House, his English home in Sussex. The letters show James as the best sort of landlord: full of good cheer and generous with both his household and his friendship. In "The Deathbed Notes of Henry James" (June, 1968), Leon Edel charts the aged novelist's attempts to comprehend his own decline. Excerpts from James's notes express his struggle to meet death—which he referred to as "the distinguished thing"—with characteristic eloquence. Most recently, Donald Justice gracefully elegized James in his sonnet "Henry James at the Pacific" (January, 1986).