Within months of the outbreak of the American Civil War (1861-65), Henry James experienced what he described as an 'obscure hurt' while attempting to extinguish a fire in Newport. This event, and its impact on James's life and work, has for long been the subject of fierce debate. Freely interpreted and broadly construed, it serves as a point of departure and return for Peter Rawlings in Henry James and the Abuse of the Past as he explores aspects of the theory and practice of a writer who continues to attract critical attention on an international scale. Among the areas considered are ideas about history, the enigma of Shakespeare, time-travel and fiction, and the scandalous enthusiasm for military uniforms at the turn of the Nineteenth century.

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