Originally published in 1880 as a serial in Cornhill Magazine and Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Washington Square is a structurally simple tragicomedy that recounts the conflict between a dull but sweet daughter and her brilliant, domineering father.
The plot of the novel is based upon a true story told to James by his close friend, British actress Fanny Kemble. The book is often compared to Jane Austen's work for the clarity and grace of its prose and its intense focus on family relationships.
James was not a great fan of Washington Square itself. Other readers, though, have sufficiently enjoyed the book to make it one of the more popular works of the Jamesian canon.