A New England Winter

tutorial, critical comment, plot, and study resources

A New England Winter first appeared in magazine form in The Century Magazine for August—September 1884. It was then reprinted in book form amongst Tales of Three Cities in England and America in 1884. The setting for this tale is the New England capital of Boston, Massachusetts: the other two cities in the collection were New York and London.

New England Winter

A New England winter scene

A New England Winter – plot summary

Part I.   Susan Daintry, a fastidious Boston widow, is awaiting a visit from her son Florimond, who has been studying art in Paris for six years. She is intensely concerned with the moral issues arising from microscopic niceties of protocols regarding her servant girl.

Part II.   She visits her sister-in-law Lucretia, whose furnishings she inspects in a critical manner. The two women are subtly competitive with each other in terms of social ‘correctness’. Susan wants Lucretia to accept Rachel Torrence (Florimond’s cousin) as a lodger over the winter months in order to tempt him to stay at home – even though she would not wish Florimond to marry her. Lucretia thinks it would be wrong to make use of Rachel in this way.

Part III.   In the days that follow however, both women change their minds, feeling that they have been in the wrong. Lucretia writes to Susan, offering alternative accommodation for Rachel. The letter crosses with a message from Susan apologising for having asked for the favour.

Part IV.   When Florimond arrives at his mother’s house, he becomes increasingly critical of the disruption caused by his sister’s children. There are serious social protocols considered about the order of precedence in which people should visit each other. Florimond walks through a wintry Boston landscape to his aunt’s house.

Part V.   Florimond egotistically tells his aunt all about his life in Paris, in an affected manner. She recommends that he meet Rachel, secretly hoping that the girl’s influence will challenge his pretensions, because Rachel is a spirited girl. Lucretia also secretly hopes that Florimond will fall in love with Rachel and be snubbed by her.

Part VI.   Florimond becomes a habitué of a relative Mrs Pauline Mesh, and falls under the spell of Rachel, who becomes the celebrity of the winter season. He begins to see positives in Boston life and society. However, Mrs Mesh starts to tire of Rachel’s company. Susan Daintry arrives at Mrs Mesh’s house to find her son there, and feels guilty for what might be perceived as ‘spying’ on him. She is still in the dark regarding Florimond’s intentions. Rachel turns up and jousts verbally with Florimond. Later, his mother questions him about Rachel, but he is non-committal in his responses.

Part VII.   Florimond increasingly appreciates the visual life of Boston, and travels to Cambridge. Lucretia worries about the relationship between Florimond and Rachel, but Rachel suddenly declares that she is due to go back to Brooklyn. She explains that she has been keeping Florimond occupied from a sense of duty whilst he is secretly enamoured of Pauline Mesh. Lucretia insists that Rachel come to stay with her.

Susan Daintry arrives at Lucretia’s with the stale news that Rachel is going back to New York – and all her winter’s worries are over. Lucretia reveals to her the latest true state of affairs. Florimond continues to visit Pauline Mesh’s house, and nothing changes – until Susan Daintry decides to go to Europe for the summer, and takes Florimond with her.

Principal characters
Mrs Susan Daintry a Boston widow
Beatrice her servant
Florimon Daintry a young impressionist painter who lives in Paris
Joanna Merriman Susan’s daughter-in-law with six children
Miss Lucretia Daintry Susan’s sister-in-law
Rachel Torrance Florimond’s cousin, a poor would-be painter from New York
Mrs Pauline Mesh a relative of the Daintry family from Baltimore

Study resources

A New England Winter The Complete Works of Henry James – Kindle edition – Amazon UK

A New England Winter The Complete Works of Henry James – Kindle edition – Amazon US

A New England Winter Complete Stories 1884—1891 – Library of America – Amazon UK

A New England Winter Complete Stories 1884—1891 – Library of America – Amazon US

A New England Winter A New England Winter – paperback edition – Amazon UK

A New England Winter A New England Winter – paperback edition – Amazon US

A New England Winter A New England Winter – read the original publication

Red button The Cambridge Companion to Henry James – Amazon UK

Red button Henry James at Wikipedia – biographical notes, links

Red button Henry James at Mantex – tutorials, biography, study resources

A New England Winter - Henry James portrait

Henry James – portrait by John Singer Sargeant

Further reading


Red button Theodora Bosanquet, Henry James at Work, University of Michigan Press, 2007.

Red button F.W. Dupee, Henry James: Autobiography, Princeton University Press, 1983.

Red button Leon Edel, Henry James: A Life, HarperCollins, 1985.

Red button Philip Horne (ed), Henry James: A Life in Letters, Viking/Allen Lane, 1999.

Red button Henry James, The Letters of Henry James, Adamant Media Corporation, 2001.

Red button Fred Kaplan, Henry James: The Imagination of Genius, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999

Red button F.O. Matthieson (ed), The Notebooks of Henry James, Oxford University Press, 1988.

Critical commentary

Red button Elizabeth Allen, A Woman’s Place in the Novels of Henry James London: Macmillan Press, 1983.

Red button Ian F.A. Bell, Henry James and the Past, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1993.

Red button Millicent Bell, Meaning in Henry James, Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press, 1993.

Red button Harold Bloom (ed), Modern Critical Views: Henry James, Chelsea House Publishers, 1991.

Red button Kirstin Boudreau, Henry James’s Narrative Technique, Macmillan, 2010.

Red button J. Donald Crowley and Richard A. Hocks (eds), The Wings of the Dove, New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1978.

Red button Victoria Coulson, Henry James, Women and Realism, Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Red button Daniel Mark Fogel, A Companion to Henry James Studies, Greenwood Press, 1993.

Red button Virginia C. Fowler, Henry James’s American Girl: The Embroidery on the Canvas, Madison (Wis): University of Wisconsin Press, 1984.

Red button Jonathan Freedman, The Cambridge Companion to Henry James, Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Red button Judith Fryer, The Faces of Eve: Women in the Nineteenth Century American Novel, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976

Red button Roger Gard (ed), Henry James: The Critical Heritage, London: Routledge, 1968.

Red button Tessa Hadley, Henry James and the Imagination of Pleasure, Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Red button Barbara Hardy, Henry James: The Later Writing (Writers & Their Work), Northcote House Publishers, 1996.

Red button Richard A. Hocks, Henry James: A study of the short fiction, New York: Twayne Publishers, 1990.

Red button Donatella Izzo, Portraying the Lady: Technologies of Gender in the Short Stories of Henry James, University of Nebraska Press, 2002.

Red button Colin Meissner, Henry James and the Language of Experience, Cambridge University Press, 2009

Red button John Pearson (ed), The Prefaces of Henry James, Pennsylvania State University Press, 1993.

Red button Richard Poirer, The Comic Sense of Henry James, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967.

Red button Hugh Stevens, Henry James and Sexuality, Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Red button Merle A. Williams, Henry James and the Philosophical Novel, Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Red button Judith Woolf, Henry James: The Major Novels, Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Red button Ruth Yeazell (ed), Henry James: A Collection of Critical Essays, Longmans, 1994.

Other works by Henry James

Henry James The BostoniansThe Bostonians (1886) is a novel about the early feminist movement. The heroine Verena Tarrant is an ‘inspirational speaker’ who is taken under the wing of Olive Chancellor, a man-hating suffragette and radical feminist. Trying to pull her in the opposite direction is Basil Ransom, a vigorous young man from the gallant South to whom Verena becomes more and more attracted. The dramatic contest to possess her is played out with some witty and often rather sardonic touches, and as usual James keeps the reader guessing about the outcome until the very last page.

A New England Winter Buy the book at Amazon UK
A New England Winter Buy the book at Amazon US


Henry James What Masie KnewWhat Masie Knew (1897) A young girl is caught between parents who are in the middle of personal conflict, adultery, and divorce. Can she survive without becoming corrupted? It’s touch and go – and not made easier for the reader by the attentions of an older man who decides to ‘look after’ her. This comes from the beginning of James’s ‘Late Phase’, so be prepared for longer and longer sentences. In fact it’s said that whilst composing this novel, James switched from writing longhand to using dictation – and it shows if you look carefully enough – part way through the book.

Henry James What Masie Knew Buy the book at Amazon UK
Henry James What Masie Knew Buy the book at Amazon US


Henry James The AmbassadorsThe Ambassadors (1903) Lambert Strether is sent from America to Paris to recall Chadwick Newsome, a young man who is reported to be compromising himself by an entanglement with a wicked woman. However, Strether’s mission fails when he is seduced by the social pleasures of the European capital, and he takes Newsome’s side. So a second ambassador is dispatched in the form of the more determined Sarah Pocock. She delivers an ultimatum which is resisted by the two young men, but then an accident reveals unpleasant truths to Strether, who is faced by a test of loyalty between old Europe and the new USA. This edition presents the latest scholarship on James and includes an introduction, notes, selected criticism, a text summary and a chronology of James’s life and times.

Longstaff's Marriage Buy the book at Amazon UK
Longstaff's Marriage Buy the book at Amazon US

© Roy Johnson 2013

Henry James – web links

Henry James  web links Henry James at Mantex
Biographical notes, study guides, tutorials on the Complete Tales, book reviews. bibliographies, and web links.

Henry James web links The Complete Works
Sixty books in one 13.5 MB Kindle eBook download for £1.92 at Amazon.co.uk. The complete novels, stories, travel writing, and prefaces. Also includes his autobiographies, plays, and literary criticism – with illustrations.

Henry James web links The Ladder – a Henry James website
A collection of eTexts of the tales, novels, plays, and prefaces – with links to available free eTexts at Project Gutenberg and elsewhere.

Red button A Hyper-Concordance to the Works
Japanese-based online research tool that locates the use of any word or phrase in context. Find that illusive quotable phrase.

Henry James web links The Henry James Resource Center
A web site with biography, bibliographies, adaptations, archival resources, suggested reading, and recent scholarship.

Henry James web links Online Books Page
A collection of online texts, including novels, stories, travel writing, literary criticism, and letters.

Henry James web links Henry James at Project Gutenberg
A major collection of eTexts, available in a variety of eBook formats.

Henry James web links The Complete Letters
Archive of the complete correspondence (1855-1878) work in progress – published by the University of Nebraska Press.

Henry James web links The Scholar’s Guide to Web Sites
An old-fashioned but major jumpstation – a website of websites and resouces.

Henry James web links Henry James – The Complete Tales
Tutorials on the complete collection of over one hundred tales, novellas, and short stories.

Henry James web links Henry James on the Internet Movie Database
Adaptations of James’s novels and stories for the cinema and television – in various languages. Full details of directors and actors, production features, film reviews, box office, and even quizzes.

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