Originally published in 1902 by Scribners, The Wings of the Dove tells the story of Milly Theale, an American heiress suffering from a terminal disease and how those two properties – riches and an imminent demise – influence those who are close to her. The 'close' friends are an unmarried couple, Kate Croy and Merton Densher, the latter a former suitor of Milly, the former a schemer who seeks to obtain some or all of the Theale inheritance.
The character of Milly Theale is based on the real life cousin of James, Minny Temple, who died of tuberculosis in 1870. Similarities in the name and in the circumstances make this association plain enough, but James was also happy to admit it, stating that the book was in part an effort to preserve her memory in the way he knew best.
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