Felony : The Private History of "The Aspern Papers"

2.9 (22 ratings by Goodreads)
  • Paperback
By (author) 

List price: US$8.93

Currently unavailable

Add to wishlist

AbeBooks may have this title (opens in new window).

Try AbeBooks


Felony is the story of the literary treachery that took place at no. 43 via Romana, Florence, where Claire Clairmont, once lover of Lord Byron and mother of his daughter Allegra, lived until her death in 1879. It is also the story of Henry James's brilliant novella The Aspern Papers, which is based on that household and the nefarious doings of the lodger there, Edward Augustus Silsbee, thief and Shelleyite. In Emma Tennant's novel, Claire Clairmont is nearly eighty years old. Looked after by her niece Paula and paid an exorbitant rent by Silsbee - who becomes Paula's lover to further his aim of acquiring the Shelley papers and letters at her aunt's death - Claire dotes on her great-niece Georgina. It is Georgina who narrates this story from the perspective of a thirteen-year-old girl, in turn baffled and entranced by the gallery of rogues and blackmailers who batten on her great-aunt. Who will extort the most from poor Claire, be it money, undiscovered poems by Shelley or simply anecdotes about Byron? Henry James will set The Aspern Papers in Venice, not Florence, while Claire and her niece are transformed into the American Misses Bordereau.
James's narrator will 'lead on' the niece but there will be no love affair. With the setting and chief protagonists of the real story behind The Aspern Papers disguised, James cannot conceal his growing unease at the knowledge of the existence of letters he has written to the woman who loves him more than any other, Constance Fenimore Woolson, writer of novels and romances. Will the price of reclaiming their correspondence be marriage - will his portrait of dim Miss Tina, the niece rejected by the pilfering narrator, be seen to have been stolen from Constance herself? Felony is about the misdemeanours inherent in writing - theft, false memory, plagiarism and greed for celebrity - and it demonstrates too the embarrassment and shame suffered by those who steal from and exploit others in their quest - but who go on and do it all the same.
show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 256 pages
  • London, United Kingdom
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 009945209X
  • 9780099452096

About Emma Tennant

Emma Tennant was born in London and spent her childhood in Scotland. Her most recent books were Strangers, Girlitude, Burnt Diaries and A House in Corfu.
show more

Rating details

22 ratings
2.9 out of 5 stars
5 9% (2)
4 14% (3)
3 41% (9)
2 32% (7)
1 5% (1)
Book ratings by Goodreads
Goodreads is the world's largest site for readers with over 50 million reviews. We're featuring millions of their reader ratings on our book pages to help you find your new favourite book. Close X