This Day In Literary History
On November 20th, 1875, Roderick Hudson, the first novel by the legendary American writer Henry James, was published. James was an American who emigrated to England, where he lived, wrote, and became a British subject.
He had previously written a novella, Watch and Ward (1871), which was published in serial format by the Atlantic Monthly magazine. This early work, overly melodramatic and primitive in technique, would prove an embarrassment to James, and he disowned it.
Watch and Ward would not be published in book form until 1878, in a revised version. Thus, Roderick Hudson is considered by the author to be his first published novel.
The novel opens with Rowland Mallet, a wealthy patron of the arts, visiting his cousin Cecilia before leaving on a trip to Europe. He becomes enamored with a bust he sees. Later, he meets the sculptor, Roderick Hudson, a poor young law student and aspiring artist.
The two men strike up a friendship. Rowland offers to take Roderick to Italy, where he can concentrate on his art. He visits Roderick's mother and explains his intentions. She agrees to let him give up his law studies and go to Rome.
After a rough start, Roderick's technique improves and his artistic development takes off. Unfortunately, despite his talent, Roderick is an immature man-child who has trouble coping with his artistic genius. He is also distracted by the women around him.
Engaged to one woman, (Mary Garland) but attracted to another, (Augusta Blanchard) Roderick's romantic entanglements get worse when he meets Christina Light, a coquettish flirt who becomes his muse.
Although she likes Roderick, he's poor, and Christina is interested in marrying for wealth and position. She eventually marries a prince, and Roderick's life plunges into a downward spiral.
Roderick Hudson is considered to be Henry James' most accessible novel, though it does contain his trademark complexities and erotic overtones - in this case, homoerotic overtones in the relationship between Rowland and Roderick.
Christina Light - one of James' favorite creations - would return as the title character in his novel The Princess Casamassima (1886).
Henry James would go on to become of one of the greatest writers of his generation, famous for his masterful novels and novellas such as The American (1877), Daisy Miller (1878), Washington Square (1880), The Portrait of a Lady (1881), and The Bostonians (1886).
His most famous work was the classic horror novella The Turn of the Screw (1898). He also wrote plays, literary criticisms, travelogues, biographies, and memoirs. He died in 1916 at the age of 72.
Quote Of The Day
"The advantage, the luxury, as well as the torment and responsibility of the novelist, is that there is no limit to what he may attempt as an executant — no limit to his possible experiments, efforts, discoveries, successes." - Henry James
Today's video features a complete reading of Henry James' first novek, Roderick Hudson. Enjoy!