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Reading Groups

The Wings of the Dove: A Henry James Reading Group with Sheridan Hay

Once a week Thursdays, 6:00 pm EDT - 7:30 pm EDT October 6 to October 27, 2022

Online via Zoom

The ‘With Book’ option includes the title required for this group at a 10% discount.


The Henry James reading group returns to consider one of James’s great, late novels: The Wings of the Dove. First published in 1902, and revised for the New York Edition in 1907, it is the text of this latter edition I recommend to readers. The plot is typically Jamesian: beautiful, penniless Kate Croy will not succumb to a life of poverty. Passionately in love with a London journalist, Merton Densher, whom her family encourages her to drop, Kate is pursued by the titled Lord Mark and encouraged by her aunt to negotiate a fine marriage. Rich, orphaned and gravely ill, Milly Theale and her friend Susan Stringham leave New York (where they happened to meet Densher) for Europe. Milly and Kate become friends, meeting in the London home of Kate’s aunt. Kate sees an opportunity to exploit Milly’s vulnerability and devises a plan that will ensure her and Densher’s financial future, allowing them to marry. But Kate’s scheming has not taken into account the incalculable nature of love. The denouement in a haunted Venice, where Milly, “shamelessly human,” dies, leaves Kate and Densher inescapably changed and the reader open to what James called “varieties of interpretation”.

For the first meeting, participants should read Book First, Second and Third (from pages 55 to 146). Page numbers correspond to the Penguin Classic edition, do check the copyright page and, if you have a choice, select the 1907 New York Edition of the text.

9780141441283

Led by

  • Sheridan Hay Photo

    Sheridan Hay

    Sheridan Hay

    Sheridan Hay holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. Her first novel, The Secret of Lost Things (Doubleday/Anchor), which features a lost novel by Herman Melville, was a Booksense Pick, a Barnes and Noble Discover selection, shortlisted for the Borders 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 led The Center’s Moby-Dick reading group many times, as well as leading the popular Henry James reading groups.