13 Having it all and “The Great White House” of Matcham in Henry James’s Last Novels
This paper explores the significance of the mansion of Matcham in Henry James’s two final major novels, The Wings of the Dove (1902) and The Golden Bowl (1905). In many ways, these works represent variations on a theme, the first a tragedy, the second—especially if one accepts one classic definition of comedy as tragedy in which nobody dies—a comedy. In each, two impecunious lovers who cannot afford to marry each other encounter the possibility of massively improving their own lives by their ability to attract and charm the possessors of colossal American wealth. In each case, the fortunes involved prove a profound source of danger to their American owners and to those who would exploit them, distorting the lives of everyone involved. And in each story, the same exclusive English country house—dazzlingly charming, luxurious, even sybaritic, and ultimately sinister—is the fulcrum of the plot.