Henry James, born in 1843 in Washington Place, New York, was a writer whose literary gifts were obvious. Using his natural talents in literature, psychology and philosophy, Henry James wrote 20 novels, 112 stories, 12 plays and a number of literary criticisms. James came from a family influential in the world of writing, as his father, Henry James, Sr., was a well-known intellectual in the 1800s. With his father’s friends (Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne) James’ love for writing was nurtured and given room to grow. Furthermore, James had the privilege of writing for love of the work and not for money, as his grandfather had provided wealth that allowed James and his relatives social comfort and affluence. James died in 1916.
The American made its first appearance in the The Atlantic Monthly in June 1875 and continued monthly until May 1876. As it began appearing in The Atlantic Monthly, it was not completely written, according to James, in his Preface to The American: “It started on its course while much was still unwritten, and there again come back to me . . . . what would happen if anything should happen.” In the Preface James explained that the fact that his work was yet unfinished was a point of great apprehension, though “in some degree the habit of confidence that one would pull through.” This Preface, which was added to the novel in its New York edition, was James’ chance, as a critic, to analyze his work while also reflecting upon the process he took in writing it.