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Altar of the Dead

Author: James, Henry

Genre: Novel

Year: 1895


The Altar Of The Dead - Henry James

Fifty-five-year-old George Stransom is obsessed with observing the anniversary of his fiancée Mary Antrim's death, a fact that leads him to expand his commemorative pantheon to include all the other departed friends who live on in his memory. Imbued from an early age with what he terms “the religion of the Dead,” he decides to provide a material sign of his remembrance in the form of a private altar in a church, which he endows on the condition that he be allowed to stipulate the number of candles to be lit there. Later he notices a woman who regularly appears at the church and sits before his altar, and they become friends. He eventually finds out that Hague had also wronged her but that she has forgiven him. Stransom can never absolve Hague, so this knowledge splits them apart. When Stransom, now dying, visits his altar one last time, it seems that Mary Antrim is asking him to forgive. He turns and sees his unnamed woman friend, who has become reconciled to him. There is a strong suggestion that Stransom is ready to forgive Hague—he feels how, "the descent of Mary Antrim opened his spirit with a great compunctious throb for the descent of Acton Hague." But the story ends with his face showing "the whiteness of death

Written by English author Henry James. Published in 1895 it is based on a psychological plot and set in London. Its main characters George Stransom, The young lady, Mary Antrim, Acton Hague deal with Emotions, Obsession, Death or dying, Funeral rites or ceremonies.

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