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High Bid


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A: Henry James Pf: 1908, Edinburgh Pb: 1949 G: Com. in 3 acts S: Hall of an English country house, 1900s C: 4m, 2f, extrasProdmore is a vulgar, expansive, well-to-do businessman, who invites his daughter Cora and Captain Clement Yule to join him at a large country house in rural England, looked after by an elderly servant. Yule has recently inherited this elegant pile, but the property is heavily mortgaged to Prodmore, who wants to use this as a lever to get Yule to wed Cora. Yule arrives, and as a man of socialist principles, is only too happy to allow the outraged Prodmore to keep the ancestral home. Prodmore urges Yule to use his family name to stand as Conservative candidate for the local constituency, settle down, and marry his daughter. Mrs Gracedew, an attractive American widow who appreciates art and architecture, visits the house, then shows round some sightseers, expounding its merits. She persuades Yule to accept Prodmore's offer, but Cora is determined to reject Yule in favour of Hall Pegg, with whom she is in love. Mrs Gracedew then urges Prodmore to let his daughter marry Pegg, and when he refuses, buys the house off him. Yule, relieved to be freed of his ‘High Bid’, asks Mrs Gracedew to become his wife.

A: Henry James Pf: 1908, Edinburgh Pb: 1949 G: Com. in 3 acts S: Hall of an English country house, 1900s C: 4m, 2f, extras

After the failure of his Guy Domville in 1895, Henry James devoted himself mainly to the novel. However, prompted by Johnston Forbes-Robertson, who played Yule, with his wife Gertrude Elliott playing Gracedew, James expanded his one-act play Summersoft (written 1895) into The High Bid, which became his most popular comedy. It is a literary piece, proceeding by set pieces of duologue, betraying especially in its lengthy stage directions the novelist's interest in visual detail.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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