Basil Ransom, an attractive young Mississippi lawyer, is on a visit to his cousin Olive, a wealthy feminist, in Boston when he accompanies her to a meeting on the subject of women’s emancipation. One of the speakers is Verena Tarrant, and although he disapproves of all she claims to stand for, Basil is immediately captivated by her and sets about ‘reforming’ her with his traditional views. But Olive has already made Verena her protégée, and soon a battle is under way for exclusive possession of her heart and mind. The Bostonians is one of James’s most provocative and astute portrayals of a world caught between old values and the lure of progress.
Richard Lansdown’s introduction discusses The Bostonians as James’s most successful political work and his funniest novel. This edition contains extracts from Tocqueville and from James’s ‘The American Scene’, which illuminate the novel’s social context. There are also notes and a bibliography.