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The Tragic Muse

by Henry James

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Work by the prolific American-born author and literary critic of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He spent much of his life in Europe and became a British subject shortly before his death. He is primarily known for novels, novellas and short stories based on themes of consciousness and morality.

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Lady Agnes's idea had been that her son should go straight from the Palais de l'Industrie to the Hôtel de Hollande, with or without his mother and his sisters, as his humour should seem to recommend. Much as she desired to see their brilliant kinswoman and as she knew that her daughters desired it, she was quite ready to postpone their visit, if this sacrifice should contribute to a speedy confrontation for Nick.

The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature
Novel by Henry James, published serially in The Atlantic Monthly from 1889 to 1890 and in book form in 1890. This study of the conflict between the demands of art and those of the "real world" is set in London and Paris in the 1880s. Nicholas Dormer, an Englishman, gives up a career in Parliament and marriage to a beautiful, wealthy woman to become a portrait painter. He is encouraged by his actress friend Miriam Rooth, the "tragic muse" of the title. Although by the end of the novel Nicholas has still not achieved his goal, James implies that he made the right decision in choosing to live at a higher level of consciousness, whether or not he achieves material success. Written when James himself was suffering setbacks in his career as a playwright, the novel reflects many of the author's concerns about personal sacrifice for the sake of art.



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