Quotes by Henry James
We work in the dark — we do what we can — we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.
The critical sense is so far from frequent that it is absolutely rare, and the possession of the cluster of qualities that minister to it is one of the highest distinctions... In this light one sees the critic as the real helper of the artist, a torchbearing outrider, the interpreter, the brother... Just in proportion as he is sentient and restless, just in proportion as he reacts and reciprocates and penetrates, is the critic a valuable instrument.
In the long run an opinion often borrows credit from the forbearance of its patrons.
The superiority of one man's opinion over another's is never so great as when the opinion is about a woman.
My choice is the old world — my choice, my need, my life.
Whatever question there may be of his Thoreau's talent, there can be none, I think, of his genius. It was a slim and crooked one; but it was eminently personal. He was imperfect, unfinished, inartistic; he was worse than provincial — he was parochial; it is only at his best that he is readable.
However incumbent it may be on most of us to do our duty, there is, in spite of a thousand narrow dogmatisms, nothing in the world that anyone is under the least obligation to ''like'' — not even (one braces one's self to risk the declaration) a particular kind of writing.
It takes a great deal of history to produce a little literature.
I hold any writer sufficiently justified who is himself in love with his theme.
To take what there is, and use it, without waiting forever in vain for the preconceived — to dig deep into the actual and get something out of that — this doubtless is the right way to live.
Vereker's secret, my dear man — the general intention of his books: the string the pearls were strung on, the buried treasure, the figure in the carpet.
I still, in presence of life... have reactions — as many as possible... It's, I suppose, because I am that queer monster, the artist, an obstinate finality, an inexhaustible sensibility. Hence the reactions — appearances, memories, many things, go on playing upon it with consequences that I note and "enjoy" (grim word!) noting. It all takes doing — and I ''do.'' I believe I shall do yet again — it is still an act of life.
Deep experience is never peaceful.
So here it is at last, the distinguished thing!
The only success worth one's powder was success in the line of one's idiosyncrasy. Consistency was in itself distinction, and what was talent but the art of being completely whatever it was that one happened to be?
The real offence, as she ultimately perceived, was her having a mind of her own at all. Her mind was to be his — attached to his own like a small garden-plot to a deer-park.
True happiness, we are told, consists in getting out of one's self; but the point is not only to get out — you must stay out; and to stay out you must have some absorbing errand.
We must know, as much as possible, in our beautiful art...what we are talking about — and the only way to know is to have lived and loved and cursed and floundered and enjoyed and suffered. I think I don't regret a single "excess" of my responsive youth — I only regret, in my chilled age, certain occasions and possibilities I didn't embrace.
People talk about the conscience, but it seems to me one must just bring it up to a certain point and leave it there. You can let your conscience alone if you're nice to the second housemaid.
If the artist is necessarily sensitive, does that sensitiveness form in its essence a state constantly liable to shade off into the morbid? Does this liability, moreover, increase in proportion as the effort is great and the ambition intense?
I'm glad you like adverbs — I adore them; they are the only qualifications I really much respect.
There are two kinds of taste in the appreciation of imaginative literature: the taste for emotions of surprise and the taste for emotions of recognition.
She was a woman who, between courses, could be graceful with her elbows on the table.
Though there are some disagreeable things in Venice there is nothing so disagreeable as the visitors.
Young men of this class never do anything for themselves that they can get other people to do for them, and it is the infatuation, the devotion, the superstition of others that keeps them going. These others in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred are women.
The face of nature and civilization in this our country is to a certain point a very sufficient literary field. But it will yield its secrets only to a really ''grasping'' imagination... To write well and worthily of American things one need even more than elsewhere to be a ''master.''
Everything about Florence seems to be coloured with a mild violet, like diluted wine.
The effect, if not the prime office, of criticism is to make our absorption and our enjoyment of the things that feed the mind as aware of itself as possible, since that awareness quickens the mental demand, which thus in turn wanders further and further for pasture. This action on the part of the mind practically amounts to a reaching out for the reasons of its interest, as only by its ascertaining them can the interest grow more various. This is the very education of our imaginative life.
It is, I think, an indisputable fact that Americans are, as Americans, the most self-conscious people in the world, and the most addicted to the belief that the other nations of the earth are in a conspiracy to undervalue them.
You wanted to look at life for yourself — but you were not allowed; you were punished for your wish. You were ground in the very mill of the conventional!
He would agree that life is a little worth living — or worth living a little; but would remark that, unfortunately, to live little enough, we have to live a great deal.
Summer afternoon — summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.
Cats and monkeys — monkeys and cats — all human life is there!
One might enumerate the items of high civilization, as it exists in other countries, which are absent from the texture of American life, until it should become a wonder to know what was left.
The time-honored bread-sauce of the happy ending.
Don't mind anything anyone tells you about anyone else. Judge everyone and everything for yourself.
Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.
A tradition is kept alive only by something being added to it.
He is outside of everything, and an alien everywhere. He is an aesthetic solitary. His beautiful, light imagination is the wing that on the autumn evening just brushes the dusky window.
The practice of "reviewing"... in general has nothing in common with the art of criticism.
It is art that ''makes'' life, makes interest, makes importance, for our consideration and application of these things, and I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process.
She ordered a cup of tea, which proved excessively bad, and this gave her a sense that she was suffering in a romantic cause.
The full, the monstrous demonstration that Tennyson was not Tennysonian.
She had an unequalled gift, especially pen in hand, of squeezing big mistakes into small opportunities.
It's a complex fate, being an American, and one of the responsibilities it entails is fighting against a superstitious valuation of Europe.
If I were to live my life over again, I would be an American. I would steep myself in America, I would know no other land.
Henry James's Biography
American-born writer‚ gifted with talents in literature‚ psychology‚ and philosophy. James wrote 20 novels‚ 112 stories‚ 12 plays and a number of literary criticism. His models were Dickens‚ Balzac‚ and Hawthorne. James once said that he learned more of the craft of writing from Balzac "than from anyone else".

Henry James was born in New York City into a wealthy family. His father‚ Henry James Sr.‚ was one of the best-known intellectuals in mid-nineteenth-century America‚ whose friends included Thoreau‚ Emerson and Hawthorne. James made little money from his novels. Once his friend‚ the writer Edith Wharton‚ secretly arranged him a royal advance of $8‚000 for THE IVORY TOWER (1917)‚ but the money actually came from Wharton's royalty account with the publisher. When Wharton sent him a letter bemoaning her unhappy marriage‚ James replied: "Keep making the movements of life."

In his youth James traveled back and forth between Europe and America. He studied with tutors in Geneva‚ London‚ Paris‚ Bologna and Bonn At the age of nineteen he briefly attended Harvard Law School‚ but was more interested in literature than studying law. James published his first short story‚ 'A Tragedy of Errors' two years later‚ and then devoted himself to literature. In 1866-69 and 1871-72 he was contributor to the Nation and Atlantic Monthly.

From an early age James had read the classics of English‚ American‚ French and German literature‚ and Russian classics in translation. His first novel‚ WATCH AND WARD (1871)‚ appeared first serially in the Atlantic. James wrote it while he was traveling through Venice and Paris. Watch and Ward tells a story of a bachelor who adopts a twelve-year-old girl and plans to marry her.

After living in Paris‚ where James was contributor to the New York Tribune‚ he moved to England‚ living first in London and then in Rye‚ Sussex. "It is a real stroke of luck for a particular country that the capital of the human race happens to be British. Surely every other people would have it theirs if they could. Whether the English deserve to hold it any longer might be an interesting field of inquiry; but as they have not yet let it slip the writer of these lines professes without scruple that the arrangement is to his personal taste. For after all if the sense of life is greatest there‚ it is a sense of the life of people of our incomparable English speech." (from London‚ 1888) During his first years in Europe James wrote novels that portrayed Americans living abroad. James's years in England were uneventful. In 1905 he visited America for the first time in twenty-five year‚ and wrote 'Jolly Corner'. It was based on his observations of New York‚ but also a nightmare of a man‚ who is haunted by a doppelgänger.

Between 1906 and 1910 James revised many of his tales and novels for the so-called New York Edition of his complete works. It was published by Charles Scribner's Sons. His autobiography‚ A SMALL BOY AND OTHERS (1913) was continued in NOTES OF A SON AND BROTHER (1914). The third volume‚ THE MIDDLE YEARS‚ appeared posthumously in 1917. The outbreak of World War I was a shock for James and in 1915 he became a British citizen as a loyalty to his adopted country and in protest against the US's refusal to enter the war.

James suffered a stroke on December 2‚ 1915. He expected to die and exclaimed: "So this is it at last‚ the distinguished thing!" However‚ James died three months later in Rye on February 28‚ 1916. Two novels‚ The Ivory Tower and THE SENSE OF THE PAST (1917)‚ were left unfinished at his death.

Characteristic for James novels are understanding and sensitively drawn lady portraits; James himself was a homosexual‚ but sensitive to basic sexual differences and the fact that he was a male. His main themes were the innocence of the New World in conflict with corruption and wisdom of the Old. Among his masterpieces is DAISY MILLER (1879)‚ where the young and innocent American Daisy finds her values in conflict with European sophistication. In THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY (1881) again a young American woman is fooled during her travels in Europe. James started to write the work in Florence in 1879 and continued with it in Venice. The definitive version appeared in 1908. "I had rooms on Riva Sciavoni‚ at the top of a house near the passage leading off to San Zaccaria; the waterside life‚ the wondrous lagoon spread before me‚ and the ceaseless human chatter of Venice came in at my windows‚ to which I seem to myself to have been constantly driven‚ in the fruitless fidget of composition‚ as if to see whether‚ out in the blue channel‚ the ship of some right suggestion‚ of some better phrase‚ of the next happy twist of my subject‚ the next true touch for my canvas‚ mightn't come into sight."

The protagonist is Isabel Archer‚ a penniless orphan. She goes to England to stay with her aunt and uncle‚ and their tubercular son‚ Ralph. Isabel inherits money and goes to Continent with Mrs Touchett and Madame Merle. She turns down proposals of marriage from Casper Goodwood‚ and marries Gilbert Osmond‚ a middle-aged snobbish widower with a young daughter‚ Pansy. "He had a light‚ lean‚ rather languid-looking figure‚ and was apparently neither tall nor short. He was dressed as a man who takes little other trouble about it than to have no vulgar thing." Isabel discovers that Pansy is Madame Merle's daughter‚ it was Madame Merle's plot to marry Isabel to Osmond so that he‚ and Pansy can enjoy Isabel's wealth. Caspar Goodwood makes a last attempt to gain her‚ but she returns to Osmond and Pansy.

THE BOSTONIANS (1886)‚ set in the era of the rising feminist movement‚ was based on Alphonse Daudet's novel L'Évangéliste. WHAT MAISIE KNEW (1897) depicted a preadolescent young girl‚ who must chose between her parents and a motherly old governess. In THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (1902) a heritage destroys the love of a young couple. James considered THE AMBASSADORS (1903) his most "perfect" work of art. The novel depicts Lambert Strether's attempts to persuade Mrs Newsome' son Chad to return from Paris back to the United States. Strether's possibility to marry Mrs Newsome is dropped and he remains content in his role as a widower and observer. "The beauty that suffuses The Ambassadors is the reward due to a fine artist for hard work. James knew exactly what he wanted‚ he pursued the narrow path of aesthetic duty‚ and success to the full extent of his possibilities has crowned him. The pattern has woven itself‚ with modulation and reservations Anatole France will never attain. But at what sacrifice!" (from Aspects of the Novel by E.M. Forster‚ 1927)

Although James is best-known for his novels‚ his essays are now attracting audience outside scholarly connoisseurs. In his early critics James considered British and American novels dull and formless and French fiction "intolerably unclean". "M. Zola is magnificent‚ but he strikes an English reader as ignorant; he has an air of working in the dark; if he had as much light as energy‚ his results would be of the highest value." (from The Art of Fiction) In PARTIAL PORTRAITS (1888) James paid tribute to his elders‚ and Emerson‚ George Eliot‚ and Turgenev. His advice to aspiring writers avoided all theorizing: "Oh‚ do something from your point of view". H.G. Wells used James as the model for George Boon in his Boon (1915). When the protagonist argued that novels should be used for propaganda‚ not art‚ James wrote to Wells: "It is art that makes life‚ makes interest‚ makes importance‚ and I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process. If I were Boon I should say that any pretense of such a substitute is helpless and hopeless humbug; but I wouldn't be Boon for the world‚ and am only yours faithfully‚ Henry James."

James's most famous tales include 'The Turn of the Screw'‚ written mostly in the form of a journal‚ was first published serially in Collier's Weekly‚ and then with another story in THE TWO MAGICS (1898). The protagonist is a governess‚ who works on a lonely estate in England. She tries to save her two young charges‚ Flora and Miles‚ two both innocent and corrupted children‚ from the demonic influence of the apparitions of two former servants in the household‚ steward Peter Quint and the previous governess Miss Jessel. Her employer‚ the children's uncle‚ has given strict orders not to bother him with any of the details of their education. Although the children evade the questions about the ghosts but she certain is that the children see them. When she tries to exorcize their influence‚ Miles dies in her arms. The story inspired later a debate over the question of the "reality" of the ghosts‚ were her visions only hallucinations. In the beginning of his career James had rejected "spirit-rappings and ghost-raising"‚ but in the 1880s he become interested in the unconscious and the supernatural. James wrote in 1908 that "Peter Quint and Miss Jessel are not "ghosts" at all‚ as we now know the ghost‚ but goblins‚ elves‚ imps‚ demons as loosely constructed as those of the old trials for whichcraft; if not‚ more pleasingly‚ fairies of the legendary order‚ wooing their victims forth to see them dance under the moon." Virginia Woolf thought that Henry James's beings have nothing in common with the violent old ghosts - "the blood-stained captains‚ the white horses‚ the headless ladies of dark lanes and windy commons." Edmund Wilson was convinced that the story was "primarily intended as a characterization of the governess".


Some rights reserved Petri Liukkonen (author) & Ari Pesonen. Kuusankosken kaupunginkirjasto 2008


 Add Comments  


Read Henry James Books Online. Henry James Book List. Henry James Book Reviews, Read Henry James eBooks Online to Save Paper. Read Top Henry James Books Online From your PC, iMac or iPhone.