is a novel
by Henry James
, first published as a serial in The Century Magazine
in 1885–1886 and then as a book in 1886. This bittersweet tragicomedy
centers on an odd triangle of characters
: Basil Ransom, a political conservative
; Olive Chancellor, Ransom's cousin and a Boston feminist
; and Verena Tarrant, a pretty, young protégée
of Olive's in the feminist movement
. The storyline concerns the struggle between Ransom and Olive for Verena's allegiance and affection, though the novel also includes a wide panorama of political activists, newspaper
people, and quirky eccentrics.
and Civil War
veteran, Basil Ransom, visits his cousin Olive Chancellor in Boston. She takes him to a political meeting where Verena Tarrant delivers a feminist speech. Ransom, a strong conservative, is annoyed by the speech but fascinated with the speaker. Olive, who has never before set eyes on Verena, is equally fascinated. She persuades Verena to leave her parents' house, move in with her and study in preparation for a career in the feminist movement. Meanwhile, Ransom returns to his law
practice in New York
, which is not doing well. He visits Boston again and walks with Verena through the Harvard
College grounds, including the impressive Civil War memorial. Verena finds herself attracted to the charismatic Ransom.
Basil eventually proposes to Verena, much to Olive's dismay. Olive has arranged for Verena to speak at the Boston Music......