The Ambassadors is arguably the greatest of Henry James’ late works, and his own favourite of his novels. In it, Lambert Strether is sent by his wealthy fiancée to Paris to rescue her son from what is presumed to be the clutches of a gold-digging temptress. When he arrives, he discovers Chad needs very little rescuing, and far from being a den of iniquity, Paris – and the people he meets – is sophisticated, cultured and charming.
I met with Sarah Churchwell to talk about Henry James,her introduction to the new Everymans Library edition of the novel, Americans in Paris, and why reading Henry James is infinitely less daunting than one might suppose.
The Ambassadors, Henry James. With an introduction by Sarah Churchwell. Everymans Library
Dorothy Richardson is one of modernism’s unsung heroes: a pioneer of Stream of Consciousness, her experimental approach to writing was driven by desire to express a specifically female experience. This impressed Virginia Woolf, who, in 1923, wrote that Richardson ‘has invented, or if she has not invented, developed and applied to her own uses, a sentence which we might call the psychological sentence of the feminine gender‘. Her greatest literary achievement is a sequence of thirteen novels, Pilgrimage, of which the first, Pointed Roofs – the first complete stream of consciousness novel in English – was published in 1915.
In 1907 she began a relationship with H.G.Wells, and it’s this period in her life that Louisa Treger chronicles in her novel, The Lodger. Wells was a notorious if rather unlikely philanderer – in addition to Richardson, his literary lovers include Rebecca West, Martha Gellhorn, Violet Hunt (on whom Ford Madox Ford modelled Sylvia Tietjens in Parade’s End), and Elizabeth Von Arnim, and you can hear Louisa and I talk about H.G.Well’s surprising role in their literary lives, and about the strange genius of Dorothy Richardson in this podcast, either here on iTunes, or on soundcloud.
August 9th is National Book Lover’s Day – to celebrate, I had a look at the books most frequently chosen by authors at The Books That Built me so that I could compile a list of authors’ favourite authors – the top five are below
- Nancy Mitford
- Leo Tolstoy
- Virginia Woolf
- George Eliot
- Evelyn Waugh