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A promising young writer meets an older man whose works have inspired him, as well as a highly intelligent and attractive young woman, at a gathering in a country house. Anxious to learn all he can from the older writer, the young man seeks his views not only about art, but also the way in which a serious artist should live. By the end of the work, he has indeed learned his lessons, albeit not quite those that he was expecting. It's not giving anything away to say that this work bears some resemblance to James's later novel, The Ambassadors, which in many ways engages the same questions.
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