A novel by H. James, published 1886.
Basil Ransom, a young lawyer fresh from Mississippi and the humiliations of the Civil War, has come north in search of a career. In Boston he calls on his cousin Olive Chancellor and her widowed sister Mrs Luna. Olive, a wealthy chill feminist, introduces him to a reformist group (acidly portrayed by James) at the house of the well‐meaning Miss Birdseye. Selah Tarrant, a charlatan faith‐healer and showman, is presenting his young daughter Verena. She is an ‘inspirational’ speaker, and while Basil Ransom is attracted by her prettiness Olive sees her as a valuable instrument for the cause. She removes Verena from her unacceptable parents and sets about her education. She attempts to instil in the girl her own loathing for men. Ransom, contemptuous of reform, opens a battle for possession of Verena. Olive, now passionately attached to the girl, tries to freeze him out. But Verena is now attracted by Ransom and frightened by Olive's intensity; she has begun to doubt her role. As she is about to make her first public appearance Verena, schooled to be the banner of the suffragette movement, is carried off by Ransom, who believes that women's highest achievement is to be agreeable to men.
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Henry James (1843—1916) writer