In 1914, Henry James began work on a major novel about the immense new fortunes of America’s Gilded Age. After an absence of more than twenty years, James had returned for a visit to his native country; what he found there filled him with profound dismay. In The Ivory Tower, his last book, the characteristic pattern underlying so much of his fiction—in which American “innocence” is transformed by its encounter with European “experience”—receives a new twist: raised abroad, the hero comes home to America to confront, as James puts it, “the black and merciless things that are behind the great possessions.”
James died in 1916 with the first three books of The Ivory Tower completed. He also left behind a “treatment,” in which he charted the further progress of his story. This fascinating scenario, one of only two to survive among James’s papers, is also published here together with a striking critical essay by Ezra Pound.
“Late, piercing, morally incisive look at the unscrupulous rich.” —The Guardian
“In The Ivory Tower, James was still experimenting with the impressions of his American tour….There is a vivid sense conveyed of the bright sea and summer air and the great, crazy, overdecorated “villas,” but the keenest impression is of the various people that the hero meets….The effect is as remarkable as anything that James ever achieved.” —Louis Auchincloss
“James’s last novel…denounced, with all the delicacy and subtlety of his style, the world he had seen, at Biltmore, at Lenox, in the great houses of New York and Newport. He had reclaimed his American heritage, but he seems to have felt it wasn’t worth reclaiming. “You seem all here so hideously rich,” says his hero. [The Ivory Tower is] a dense and powerfully conceived work.” —Leon Edel