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The Ambassadors (Everyman's Library (Cloth)) Hardcover – September 20, 2016
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The Ambassadors, which Henry James considered his best work, is the most exquisite refinement of his favorite theme: the collision of American innocence with European experience. This time, James recounts the continental journey of Louis Lambert Strether--a fiftysomething man of the world who has been dispatched abroad by a rich widow, Mrs. Newsome. His mission: to save her son Chadwick from the clutches of a wicked (i.e., European) woman, and to convince the prodigal to return to Woollett, Massachusetts. Instead, this all-American envoy finds Europe growing on him. Strether also becomes involved in a very Jamesian "relation" with the fascinating Miss Maria Gostrey, a fellow American and informal Sacajawea to her compatriots. Clearly Paris has "improved" Chad beyond recognition, and convincing him to return to the U.S. is going to be a very, very hard sell. Suspense, of course, is hardly James's stock-in-trade. But there is no more meticulous mapper of tone and atmosphere, nuance and implication. His hyper-refined characters are at their best in dialogue, particularly when they're exchanging morsels of gossip. Astute, funny, and relentlessly intelligent, James amply fulfills his own description of the novelist as a person upon whom nothing is lost. --Rhian Ellis --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'... the Cambridge Edition reproduces James's fiction as it originally appeared to his contemporary book-buying public, collectively charting a half century of artistic development, stylistic invention, and cultural history. It gives readers options, and in the case of The Ambassadors the choice of the Cambridge Edition is a deeply satisfying one. ... One of the Cambridge Edition's many strengths is the attention the editors pay to textual history and the historical development of James's fiction within biographical, literary, and cultural contexts ... many will agree that the Cambridge Edition is 'quite the best, 'all round' edition ...' Sarah Wadsworth, Review of English Studies --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The narrative follows "ambassador" Lambert Strether to Paris in pursuit of his widowed fiancée, Mrs. Newsome's, son Chad--whom she believes to be romantically involved with an undesirable woman. Strether's mission is to extricate the wayward youth and return with him to Massachusetts directly. Once in Paris, however, Strether falls under the spell of the city and finds Chad refined rather than corrupted by its influence and that of his charming companion, Madame de Vionnet. The summer wears on with little correspondence between Strether and the Newsomes waiting at home. Impatient to see her son returned and suitably married, Mrs. Newsome sends yet another envoy, Chad's cynical sister Sarah Pocock, to confront the errant Chad and a Strether whose view of the world has changed profoundly. In the end, it is Strether who prevents Chad from returning to America.
The highlight of the text is certainly Strether's speech to Chad's friend Little Bilham in Book Fifth, in which he gives voice to his new sense of things: "Live all you can; it's a mistake not to. It doesn't so much matter what you do in particular, so long as you have your life. If you haven't had that what have you had? Do what you like so long as you don't make my mistake. For it was a mistake. Live!" It is an expanded vision of life, an affirmation that seems an appealing climax to Strether's confrontation with the realities of his circumstance. The sentiments of Strether's speech, however, are tested in the remaining two-thirds of the narrative.