“When Catherine is about seventeen,” he said to himself, “Lavinia will try and persuade her that some young man with a moustache is in love with her. It will be quite untrue; no young man, with a moustache or without, will ever be in love with Catherine…”
Washington Square is considered by critics to be one of Henry James's most memorable achievements, and one of the finest novels in the English language.
James tells the story of Catherine Sloper a good-hearted young woman, only child of a rich widower, and her fortune-seeking suitor Morris Townsend, an unscrupulous con artist who seeks the wealth she will presumably inherit.
Her father, Dr. Austin Sloper, a wealthy Manhattan widower who was left a comfortable fortune by his wife, is condescending to his only child, disturbed by her lack of sophistication, and her simple-mindedness.
The story turns on his efforts to keep her from marrying Morris Townsend, a spendthrift who is after Catherine for her money.
Catherine is the turf over which two men, similarly motivated, battle: both Townsend and Sloper are gold-diggers. Sloper, after all, married Catherine’s mother for what she could provide.
This perceptively drawn human drama is an enduring literary triumph.
First published in 1880, Washington Square brought American novelist Henry James (1843–1916), further international success.
HENRY JAMES (1843-1916) was an American novelist, playwright, biographer and critic. He is considered one of the finest writers of his time, his masterworks including The American, The Turn of the Screw, Daisy Miller, The Portrait of a Lady, The Wings of the Dove, and The Aspern Papers.
“Henry James is as solitary in the history of the novel as Shakespeare is in the history of poetry.”