The Lesson of the Master

Lesson of the Master

Part of The Art of the Novella

Exemplifying Henry James’s famous belief that “Art makes life,” The Lesson of the Master is a piercing study of the life that art makes. When the tale’s protagonist—a gifted young writer—meets and befriends a famous author he has long idolized, he is both repelled by and attracted to the artist’s great secret: the emotional costs of a life dedicated to art.

With extraordinary psychological insight and devastating wit, the novella asks the question of whether art is, ultimately, demeaning or ennobling for the artist, while capturing the ambiguities of a life devoted to art, and the choices artists must make. The expatriate James knew these choice well by the time he published the novella in the Universal Review in 1888, and the work reveals him at the height of his powers.

article00

HENRY JAMES was born in New York City in 1843, the son of theologian Henry James, Sr., and brother of philosopher William James. He entered Harvard Law School at nineteen but soon quit to write and travel in Europe – to Paris, for example, where he met Flaubert, Turgenev, George Eliot, and Zola. Settling in London in 1876, he gained international fame with Daisy Miller, which scandalized Victorian society and sold thousands of copies. Never again would he equal its popularity, but his increasingly sophisticated and meticulously observed works, such as The Golden Bowl and The Ambassadors, established him as the first master of psychological fiction. He died in England in 1916.

Close
MobyLives