Joseph Leon Edel was born September 9, 1907 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He received a master's degree in English from McGill University in Montreal in 1928 and a doctorate in literature from the University of Paris in 1932. In 1932, he was an assistant professor of English at Sir George Williams University in Montreal. Between 1934 and 1943, he worked as a freelance writer and journalist and in broadcasting. During World War II, he served in the Army. He was a professor of English at New York University from 1953 to 1972 and at the University of Hawaii from 1972 to 1978. His five-volume biography of Henry James, published between 1953 and 1972, has been considered among the finest biographies by and about an American author. Two of the volumes won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 1963. He also edited books on James's letters, plays, essays, criticism and stories and wrote introductions to new editions of James's novels. He also wrote critical biographies of Willa Cather and Henry David Thoreau, a book about the Bloomsbury circle entitled A House of Lions, and Wartime Memoir. He was the editor of four volumes of Edmund Wilson's papers. He died on September 5, 1997 at the age of 89.