• The Wings of the Dove – Henry James in Venice led by Sheridan Hay (Members)

  • $150.00 $175.00

  • Share this product


Lead by:  Sheridan Hay

Meets: Every other Thursday

Time: 6 – 7:30pm

Dates: April 9, April 23, May 7, May 21, June 4, June 18

April 9, April 23, May 7, May 21, June 4, June 18
April 9, April 23, May 7, May 21, June 4, June 18



Ranked 26th on the Modern Library’s 100 best English language novels of the 20th century, The Wings of the Dove was first published in 1902 and is one of James’ most satisfying novels.  Taking inspiration from his beloved cousin, Minny Temple, whose death at twenty-four haunted his life, James creates in the orphan heiress, Milly Theale, a heroine as memorable as Isabel Archer in The Portrait of a Lady.  The novel sets in counterpoint two women and two divergent plots: one, in the character of Kate Croy, the common novelistic plot of the marriage market, of materialism and profit. The other, in Milly Theale, the biblical plot of spiritual transcendence, of the promise of a life transfigured by generosity and love.  Croy’s plot is to persuade her fiancé, Merton Densher, to make up to Milly, marry her, and inherit her fortune when she dies.  Milly’s plot draws on the older genre of allegory or sermon which once dominated early American writing. Milly is the dove of the Psalms: “And I said, oh that I had wings like a dove: for then I would fly away …” The novel ends set against the magnificence of Venice, presenting a heightened reality all its own.

In the final meeting, to continue the Venetian setting, we’ll read The Aspern Papers, for fun.

Please read Book First (two chapters) and Book Second (two chapters) for the first meeting.  I will refer to page numbers from the Penguin Classics edition, but any edition will do.  Please do not read James’ own preface to the New York Edition before beginning The Wings of the Dove.  


Sheridan Hay holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. Her first novel, The Secret of Lost Things (Doubleday / Anchor) was a Booksense Pick, A Barnes and Noble Discover selection, short listed for the Border's Original Voices Fiction Prize, and nominated for the International Impac Award. A San Francisco Chronicle bestseller and a New York Times Editor's Choice, foreign rights have been sold in fourteen countries.  Sheridan has lead Center reading groups on Melville, Hawthorne, George Eliot and Henry James, and leads the monthly Literarians.  She is returning from two months in Venice.