It is January 1895 and Henry James's play Guy Domville, from which he hoped to make a fortune, has failed on the London stage. The Master opens with this disaster and takes James through the next five years, as having found his dream retreat, he moves to Rye in Sussex. It is there he writes his short masterpiece, The Turn of the Screw, in which he used much of his own life as an exile in England and a member of one of the great eccentric American families. He is impelled by the need to work and haunted by sections of his own past, including his own failure to fight in the American Civil War, the golden summer of 1865, and the death of his sister Alice. He is watchful and witty, relishing the England in which he has come to live and regretting the New England he has left.