Sarah Orne Jewett House

Henry James

Henry James (1843-1916), considered one of great American novelists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, was born in New York but lived much of his adult life in England.

Henry James said of Jewett that she was “surpassed only by Hawthorne as a producer of the most finished and penetrating of the numerous ‘short stories’ that have the domestic life of New England for their general and their doubtless somewhat lean subject.” (Henry James, “Mr. and Mrs. James T. Fields,” The Atlantic Monthly, July 1915)

Henry James met Jewett through Annie Fields, with whom he had a longstanding friendship. The couple visited James at his home in England their third tour of Europe in 1898; Henry James visited Jewett’s home with William Dean Howells in 1905. James visited Fields’ Boston and Manchester-by-the-Sea homes many times.

After Jewett wrote what would be her last novel, The Tory Lover (1899), a romance novel set in colonial America, James wrote to Jewett urging her to return to contemporary work.

It was James who coined the phrase, “Boston Marriage,” though he didn’t use the term himself—it arose from two characters in his novel The Bostonians, whom some critics believe were based on Jewett and Fields.