Philip Horne’s editorial and critical work on Henry James has shaped contemporary engagement with this major figure of 19th and early 20th century literature.
For Tales from a Masters’ Notebook contributing author Jonathan Coe, ‘Writing my story ‘Canadians Can’t Flirt’ [...] was an important experience for me. First of all, it made me attempt to write short-form narrative, a form which I normally shy away from.’ It also influenced the genesis of Coe’s critically acclaimed novel Middle England, which went on to win the 2020 Costa Book Award and the 2019 Prix du Livre Européen: ‘above all, it made me create two characters – most notably the fictitious English novelist Lionel Hampshire – who subsequently appeared in my novel Middle England, which would thereby have been a poorer and lesser book without the inspiration and stimulation that came from Phil’s commission’.
Horne began the Henry James Reading Group in 2014, which led to this collection, and which has met 90 times from 2014-2021 (and has continued online through the Covid-19 pandemic). The group has approximately 100 members and includes authors Hadley and Boyt, alongside journalists, lawyers and senior public servants. These sessions provide unusually fertile occasions for contemporary novelists to reflect on their own work as James-inspired writers, as well as being an accessible and egalitarian forum for enhancing understanding among non-academic audiences.
Horne has humanised James for modern audiences – presenting him as a biographical subject on one of BBC Radio 4’s flagship programmes, Book of the Week, and in articles in the Times Literary Supplement – and demonstrated his continuing contemporary vitality through a dozen public events commemorating the centenary of James’s death in 2016. These cumulatively reached an audience of at least 2,055,000.