The Altar of the Dead
was first published in the collection Terminations
in 1895. It is a fable of life and death significance which explores what happens when a man tries to keep the remembrance of his dead friends, to save them from being forgotten entirely in the rush of everyday events. He meets a woman who shares his ideals, only to find that the past places what seems to be an impassable barrier between them. Although James was not a religious man, at least in the conventional sense, this story shows a deep spirituality in its treatment of mortality and the transcendent power of unselfish love. Critics have generally rated this tale very high among James' works, with some calling it a "glorious fable," "magnificently written," and "one of his finest." James himself proudly placed the story at the head of volume 17 of the New York Edition (1907 - 09) of his fiction, before even "The Beast in the Jungle". The tale also appeared in a number of later anthologies.
(P)1986 Jimcin Recordings