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Henry James reads George Eliot
Lindsey Traub

This chapter traces the progress of an important and far-reaching lesson Henry James drew from this literary mentor along a trail to be found in his essays and reviews of the older novelist. The anxiety of the young, male, would-be novelist in mid-century America arose from a painful mixture of morality, financial necessity and gender role-modelling. Well beyond the Americana, James showed that he had learned to place a woman, in her own right, in the centre of his stage, and through her begin to dramatise the growth and transformation of consciousness itself. In James's account of his own growth in both Notes of a Son and Brother and The Middle Years and in his notebooks, George Eliot and her work were very early part of his emotional and aesthetic consciousness. In October 1856, Eliot reviewed a very different group of texts: novels which included Harriet Beecher Stowe's Dred.

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