Osborne’s Revenge

tutorial, critical comment, plot, and study resources

Osborne’s Revenge first appeared in The Galaxy magazine for July 1868. Its next appearance was many years later as part of Eight Uncollected Tales of Henry James published by Rutgers University Press in 1950.


Osborne's Revenge

Newport Rhode Island – 19th century


Osborne’s Revenge – plot summary

Part I.   Philip Osborne’s friend Robert Graham has fallen in love with Henrietta Congreve who then rejected him for someone else. To take his mind off the pain of rejectionOsborne sends him on a business errand to Minnesota, but when he gets there Graham shoots himself. Osborne is very distressed by the loss of his close friend, and he feels that Henrietta ought to be taught a lesson for what she has done. He follows her to Newport for the summer holidays.

Part II.   Osborne rescues Henrietta’s nephew from a rock on the shore, and thereby meets Henrietta, who he finds very charming, despite the nature of his mission to avenge Graham’s hurt feelings. Yet he somehow feels that his friend is more of a positive presence than he was when alive. Osborne is enjoying his holiday, and he drops his plan of revenge.

He sees Henrietta acting successfully in a play she has herself translated from the French. Then he meets her on a boating party outing, and finally broaches the subject of his friend Graham. Henrietta asks him not to talk about the subject, and Osborne returns to feeling hostile towards her. He discusses her talents with an admirer Reverend Stone. He tries once again to engage Henrietta on the subject of Graham, but she rebuffs him.

Part III.   Mrs Dodd arrives at Newport, supporting the cause for Graham’s memory – but Osborne finds her silly. However, she guesses correctly that Osborne is infatuated with Henrietta. Osborne feels deeply conflicted, torn between loyalty to his dead friend and his accelerating appreciation of Henrietta’s talents and virtues. He nevertheless believes that he is attracting Henrietta with a view to rejecting her as a punishment for what she did to Graham. Hoping to make her jealous, h acquires a photograph of a pretty girl he doesn’t know, and invents an identity for her when Henrietta sees the photograph.

When he is called back to his office in New York, he regrets all the time he has spent on his fruitless campaign. He goes to say goodbye to Henrietta, and at that very moment Mr Holland (Henrietta’s lover) arrives. The two men discuss Graham, and Holland reveals that his death was suicide (though Henrietta that it was a natural death).

On the ship back to New York, Osborne talks with Mrs Dodd’s cousin Major Dodd, who knew Graham. The major claims that Graham had become deranged, and that Henrietta hardly knew him. Osborne later marries – to a girl who looks exactly like the girl in the photograph.


Principal characters
Philip Osborne a large, handsome American lawyer
Robert Graham his small, sickly close friend
Mrs Dodd a widow, friend of Osborne’s
Henrietta Congreve a talented and attractive young woman
Mr Holland Henrietta’s fiancé
Mrs Wilkes Henrietta’s sister, an invalid
Reverend Stone an admirer of Henrietta’s

Study resources

Osborne's Revenge The Complete Works of Henry James – Kindle edition – Amazon UK

Osborne's Revenge The Complete Works of Henry James – Kindle edition – Amazon US

Osborne's Revenge Complete Stories 1864—1874 – Library of America – Amazon UK

Osborne's Revenge Complete Stories 1864—1874 – Library of America – Amazon US

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


Osborne's Revenge - Henry James portrait

Henry James – portrait by John Singer Sargeant


Further reading

Biographical

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 Washington SquareWashington Square (1880) is a superb early short novel, It’s the tale of a young girl whose future happiness is being controlled by her strict authoritarian (but rather witty) father. She is rather reserved, but has a handsome young suitor. However, her father disapproves of him, seeing him as an opportunist and a fortune hunter. There is a battle of wills – all conducted within the confines of their elegant New York town house. Who wins out in the end? You will probably be surprised by the outcome. This is a masterpiece of social commentary, offering a sensitive picture of a young woman’s life.
Henry James Washington Square Buy the book from Amazon UK
Henry James Washington Square Buy the book from Amazon US

 

Henry James The Aspern PapersThe Aspern Papers (1888) is a psychological drama set in Venice which centres on the tussle for control of a great writer’s correspondence. An elderly lady, ex-lover of the writer, seeks a husband for her daughter. But the potential purchaser of the papers is a dedicated bachelor. Money is also at stake – but of course not discussed overtly. There is a refined battle of wills between them. Who will win in the end? As usual, James keeps the reader guessing. The novella is a masterpiece of subtle narration, with an ironic twist in its outcome. This collection of stories also includes three of his accomplished long short stories – The Private Life, The Middle Years, and The Death of the Lion.
Henry James The Aspern Papers Buy the book from Amazon UK
Henry James The Aspern Papers Buy the book from Amazon US

 

Henry James The Spoils of PoyntonThe Spoils of Poynton (1896) is a short novel which centres on the contents of a country house, and the question of who is the most desirable person to inherit it via marriage. The owner Mrs Gereth is being forced to leave her home to make way for her son and his greedy and uncultured fiancee. Mrs Gereth develops a subtle plan to take as many of the house’s priceless furnishings with her as possible. But things do not go quite according to plan. There are some very witty social ironies, and a contest of wills which matches nouveau-riche greed against high principles. There’s also a spectacular finale in which nobody wins out.
Henry James The Spoils of Poynton Buy the book from Amazon UK
Henry James The Spoils of Poynton Buy the book from Amazon US


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.

© Roy Johnson 2013


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