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Henry James-Life and Work

            The life of Henry James, born 15 April 1843 (Notebooks xxvii), was one lived out of place with his world. Born the second son to wooden-legged Henry James Sr. (Biography 9), Henry James Jr. lived behind legacies of his grandfather and of his older brother, William. Henry Jr. succeeded in writing twenty-one novels (Henry James 11) as well as many critical works and short stories, but America was insufficient for him (7), and he wanted fame (Biography 3), more fame than he would ever receive. Michael Swan records James commenting to W.W. Jacobs, "I should so much have loved to be popular- (HJ 5). .
             Despite James' meager popularity, he, in some ways, managed to follow in his father's life path. Henry Sr. was born to a very controlling William James in 1811. Henry was unwilling to become the practical professional that his father wanted him to be. Whereas his father was a driven businessman and staunch Presbyterian, Henry Sr. was a rebellious young man who developed a drinking habit by the age of ten. Henry continued to disgrace his family with his reckless living at Union College, for whom William was a primary benefactor, to the point that when William died of a stroke in 1832, his will was set up to "discourage prodigality and vice."" The rigidity of the will almost left the James family destitute, and it was eventually broken in March of 1837. Henry was to receive $10,000 per year from the disbursement. This sum was, doubtless, helpful, but would not be enough to provide for his own family after his death in 1882 (Biography 5-11). .
             Henry Jr., though he did not live the wild life of his father, also did not live the conventional life of a young man of his time. Henry was a young man when the American Civil War broke out, but Henry would not fight in it, though his younger brothers did. His primary interest was in artistic expression (Biography 3). Henry Sr. raised his children "to preserve their minds as tabulae rasae to receive whatever stamp their individual experience was to give to them- (HJ 6).

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