Cover image for A ring of conspirators : Henry James and his literary circle, 1895-1915
A ring of conspirators : Henry James and his literary circle, 1895-1915
Seymour, Miranda.
Personal Author:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1989.

Physical Description:
327 pages ; 25 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS2123 .S48 1989 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Novelist Henry James, though American born, lived his adult life in Europe, primarily in England. Seymour sensitively probes the last two decades of James' life, when, presiding from his seat at Lamb House in the village of Rye, he was the center of a group of writers H. G. Wells felt were out to completely alter the nature of English literature. Seymour bases her account on the premise that a person is known by the company he or she keeps. It is by looking at how James dealt personally with his fellow members of this "ring of conspirators" that Seymour fathoms many of his disparate dimensions. From James' dealings with Ford Madox Ford, Joseph Conrad, and Stephen Crane, all of whom resided within close proximity to Rye, Seymour leads the reader through James' dualities: malicious but kind, a lover of privacy but in no way a hermit, a man fascinated with interesting women but entranced by handsome young men. Wells was wrong, insists Seymour, in his feeling that these writers were out to change English literature among themselves; but the author shows that, as a group, they are perfectly suitable touchstones for arriving at further clarification of James' depths. Notes, bibliography; index. --Brad Hooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

Henry James left London in 1897 to spend the last two decades of his life in the southeastern corner of England. His neighbors in East Sussex included H. G. Wells, Stephen Crane, Ford Madox Ford, Joseph Conrad. In her intriguing portrait gallery, British author Seymour aims to cut through ``the mass of evasions . . . and misrepresentations'' about their relationships to which James contributed. She finds that James was cruelly patronizing to protege Wells and to Conrad; that he was annoyed by Ford, an incorrigible romancer; that he envied his rich friend Edith Wharton for her wide readership; that he snubbed Cora Taylor, Crane's lover, after she fled the U.S. when her railway-conductor husband was found guilty of murder. Seymour, a descendant of James's close friend, the novelist Howard Sturgis, records how James's critiques of fellow writers often amounted to annihilation. She chronicles his infatuations with handsome young men, including sculptor Hendrik Andersen and poet Rupert Brooke. Photos. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This is neither conventional literary biography nor criticism. Seymour, who has written several works of fiction (e.g., Medea , LJ 5/15/82), is primarily interested in telling a story--and the story is an interesting one to tell. The ``Rye mafia,'' as they have been called, consisted of predominantly non-British writers and centered on Henry James, who spent the last couple of decades of his life at Lamb House, Rye. Others of this group included H.G. Wells, Stephen Crane, Ford Madox Ford, Joseph Conrad, and W.H. Hudson. Seymour uses letters and published works to re-create the uneasy alliance of writers and personalities. Appropriate for most academic libraries and public libraries with strong literature collections.-- John Budd, Graduate Lib. Sch., Univ. of Arizona, Tucson (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

To this reviewer's knowledge nothing exists quite like this very readable account of the last 20 years of James's life at Lamb House, Rye. Brought together by propinquity and mutual literary interests, Seymour's cast of characters is large and wonderful: William James, Joseph Conrad, H.G. Wells, Ford Madox Ford, Edith Wharton, Stephen Crane, Howard Sturgis, and other less incandescent luminaries of the Anglo-American literary scene in the years leading up to and embracing WW I. Although many of these figures have been dealt with in relatively recent full-length biographies (Stallman's Crane, Edel's James, R.B.W. Lewis's Wharton, and Watts's Conrad, to mention only the most well known), the author's treatment of them all as "a literary circle" with Henry James as the focal point is fascinating in its own right and illuminating as regards each individual writer. Humane, witty, and perceptive, Seymour brings a large fund of scholarship to bear in an eminently entertaining and insightful fashion. The portrait that emerges, warts and all, of the ageing master of Rye in the closing years of his life is deeply touching. By applying a novelist's eye and ear to letters, published works, and biographical materials, Seymour both instructs and delights. A rare book, useful to scholars and entertaining to a wider reading public. Good notes and bibliography. Highly recommended. -S. R. Graham, Nazareth College of Rochester