Publisher: The Copyright Group Ltd.
Date: May 2017
Duration: 2 hours 24 minutes
The Bostonians is set ten years after the end of the American Civil War. The North had been victorious because of its industrial strength, but could not live up to the ideals for which it fought. James satirizes the North's moral decline in Olive Chancellor's fervent idealism and Basil Ransom's reactionary stance, both of which are equally inappropriate. When first published the novel was a resounding failure. The Americans could not accept such criticism and many were offended by the latent lesbianism in Olive's relationship with Verena.
1 . NORTH AND SOUTH. Basil Ransom, a lawyer from Mississippi now settled in New York, calls on his Boston cousin Olive Chancellor. He is first greeted by her sister, the flirtatious widow Adeline Luna, who tells him that Olive is a radical. Olive and Basil dine together, then got to a meeting at the home of the celebrated feminist and reformer Miss Birdseye. There, the youthful Verena Tarrant speaks. Basil notices her beauty, but Olive is completely overwhelmed by her and asks Verena to visit.
2. PASSIONATE FRIENDS. The next day, encouraged by her mother, Verena calls on Olive, who makes an impassioned plea to the girl, asking her to be a special friend and suggesting that she come and live with her. Basil arrives and makes clear both his attraction to Verena and his anti-feminist beliefs. From then on, Verena visits Olive frequently, and at last prevails upon her friend to take tea with her parents. Matthias Pardon, a young journalist and admirer of Verena's, is also invited. After tea, another suitor, Mr Burrage, a rich and fashionable Harvard law student, calls on them with his friend Mr. Gracie.
3. UNWELCOME ATTENTIONS. Olive dislikes Verena's beaux, and asks her to promise not to marry. Mr. Pardon offers to assist Olive in managing Verena's career but, offended, she rebuffs him. Verena rejects his proposal of marriage. Henry Burrage invites her to tea with his mother and later proposes to her, but his offer is also refused. Olive provides Selah Tarrant, Verena's father, with money to include him to agree to his daughter coming to live with her in Charles Street. She then takes Verena on an extended trip to Europe in order to remove her from so much male attention, and to keep the girl to herself.
4. A SECRET MEETING. In New York Basil learns from Mrs. Luna that Olive and Verena have returned from their visit to Europe. He goes to Boston intent on meeting again the object of his desire. He learns from Miss Birdseye that Verena has gone to see her parents in Cambridge and persuades her not to tell Olive of his intention to call on the girl. Flattered that he has come so far to see her, Verena shows Basil around Cambridge. When she realizes that his interest is in her alone and not in debating women's rights and that she wishes her to keep his visit secret from Olive, she brings their meeting to the end.
5. JEALOUSY SURFACES. Basil is invited to hear Verena talk at Mrs. Burrage's home in New York. Olive and Mrs. Luna are also there. Adeline suspects him of corresponding with Verena, and tells Olive. When Olive challenges Verena, she makes light of it. However, Henry Burrage is still taking an interest in her. Verena receives a note from Basil, and Mrs. Burrage writes to Olive requesting an interview. As a result, Olive asks Verena whether, if she were to stay in New York, she would see much of Basil. The girl accuses Olive of not trusting her.
6. CONFLICTING EMOTIONS. Mrs. Burrage tells Olive that she wishes Verena to stay with her on the hope that she will in time returns Henry's love. She suggested that it would put a stop to her work as a public speaker on women's rights. Meanwhile Verena and Basil argue their opposing views and Verena challenges him to have his writing published. He tells her that her public speaking is an illusion and that she does it to please others, rather than because she believes in the cause. Verena walks home much disturbed, aware of her attraction to him.
7. THE DEMANDS OF THE HEART. Basil follows Olive, Verena and Miss Birdseye to their holiday cottage at Cape Cod. He tells Verena that one of his articles is to be published, and also asks her to be his wife. Verena tells Olive all that has happened and that Basil demands she give up her working altogether. She asks Olive to help her resist him, but Olive is prostrate with grief. When Basil next calls Verena has gone, and Olive refuses to reveal her whereabouts to him.
8. THE ULTIMATUM. Verena is to begin a major lecture tour at the Boston Music Hall. On the day of her first speech, Basil goes to see Mrs. Luna to ask her to help him find Verena, but she jealously refuses his request. He then goes to the Music Hall and hands his card to the policemen guarding Verena's dressing- room door. At long last she opens it to him. Olive is distraught that all her plans are coming to nothing and that she is to lose her treasured companion. Verena asks Basil's permission to be allowed to do just this one performance for Olive's sake, but he refuses to compromise. As he takes her away, she tells him that she is glad, but he discovers that beneath her hood she is in tears.