'They are hopelessly vulgar [...]. Whether or no being hopelessly vulgar is being "bad" is a question for the metaphysicians. They are bad enough to dislike, at any rate; and for this short life that is quite enough.'
First published in 1878, Daisy Miller was the first truly popular work by Henry James, an American novelist and playwright who spent most of his years in Europe. The obvious differences and conflicts between American and European high society and culture near the end of the 19th century are evident in a number of his novels, and Daisy Miller is no exception.
The novel, or novella, tells the story of a young American girl, Daisy Miller, who is travelling around Europe with her mother and younger brother in an attempt to become more civilized and "cultured" in the old-fashioned sense of the word. However, her nouveau riche family's vulgar, unorthodox manners and lack of propriety soon attract negative attention from the more traditional high society of Europeanized Americans. But one American gentleman, Winterbourne, finds Daisy's simple innocence and her way of breaking the musty manners entirely captivating.
Daisy Miller is what some would call a highly readable book, once you get past James' way of writing complicated, multi-layered sentences that seem to branch off in a dozen directions before making an actual point. The novella is also one of Henry James' best-known works and is considered a classic, depicting the problematic relationship of old Europe and the new world through a modern, tragic heroine.
Henry James: Daisy Miller. Penguin Books. 1995.
Wikipedia: Daisy Miller
Wikipedia: Henry James
Author's calendar: Henry James