Princess Casamassima

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Novel by Henry James, published in 1886. The Princess also appears in Roderick Hudson.

Hyacinth Robinson, an illegitimate orphan, is raised by the quiet spinster Miss Pynsent in lower-class London, where he is influenced by the anarchist musician Anasta-sius Vetch and the French Communist bookbinder M. Pupin, who teaches him his trade. The youth's sympathy for the downtrodden is further stimulated by the realistic revolutionary Paul Muniment, who leads him to pledge his life to the cause. He also meets the Princess Casmassima, who is separated from her wealthy Italian husband, and in her Hyacinth encounters for the first time a spirit like his own, combining an artistic and aristocratic temperament with a profound, restless sympathy for the oppressed. After Miss Pynsent's death, he uses her small legacy to travel in Europe, where he discovers values whose existence he has never suspected, and returns realizing that revolution cannot effect his personal salvation. He is determined, however, to devote himself to the cause, and is soon called upon by Muniment to assassinate a certain duke. The Princess, partly to save Hyacinth, partly to associate herself more closely with the revolutionaries, sets herself to fascinate Muniment, who nevertheless refuses to interfere. Hyacinth is in despair, believing that the two have abandoned him. Finally the Princess offers herself as a substitute in the assassination, and goes to inform Hyacinth. On arriving at his rooms, she finds that he has committed suicide.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Henry James (1843—1916) writer

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