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HENRY JAMES

[Illustration: Photo portrait of Henry James]

HENRY JAMES

By

REBECCA WEST

KENNIKAT PRESS, INC. / PORT WASHINGTON, N. Y.

HENRY JAMES

First Published in 1916 Reissued in 1968 by Kennikat Press

Library of Congress Catalog Card No: 67 27663

Manufactured in the United States of America

AUTHOR'S NOTE

I wish to acknowledge my indebtedness for help in compiling the bibliography to Mr James B. Pinker, Miss Wilma Meikle, and Messrs Constable; and to Messrs Macmillan for the loan of the New York Edition of the Novels and Tales of Henry James.

R. W.

CONTENTS

PAGE

I. THE SOURCES 9

II. THE INTERNATIONAL SITUATION 24

III. TRANSITION 55

IV. THE CRYSTAL BOWL 86

V. THE GOLDEN BOWL 105

BIBLIOGRAPHY 119

AMERICAN BIBLIOGRAPHY 124

INDEX 127

I

THE SOURCES

At various times during the latter half of the eighteenth century there crossed the Atlantic two Protestant Irishmen, a Lowland Scotsman, and an Englishman, and thereby they fixed the character of Mr Henry James' genius. For the essential thing about Mr James was that he was an American; and that meant, for his type and generation, that he could never feel at home until he was in exile. He came of a stock that was the product of culture and needed it as part of its environment. But at the time of his childhood and youth he was born in 1843 culture was a thing that was but budding here and there in America, in such corners as were not being used in the business of establishing the material civilisation of the new country. The social life of old New York and Boston had its delicacy, its homespun honesty of texture, its austerer sort of beauty; but plainly the American people were too preoccupied by their businesses and professions to devote their money to the embellishment of salons or their intelligence to the development of manners. Hawthorne and Emerson and Margaret Fuller and their friends were trying to make a culture against time; but any record of their lives which gives a candid account of how desperately these people had to struggle to make the meanest living shows that the poor American ants were then utterly unable to form the leisured community which is the necessary environment for grasshoppers. "The impression of Emerson's personal history is condensed into the single word Concord," wrote Mr James later, "and all the condensation in the world will not make it rich." There was no blinking the fact that in attempting to set up in this unfinished country Art was like a delicate lady who moves into a house before the plaster is dried on the walls; she was bound to lead an invalid existence.

This incapacity of America to supply the colour of life became obvious to Henry and William James, the two charming little boys in tight trousers and brass buttoned jackets, one of whom grew up to write fiction as though it were philosophy and the other to write philosophy as though it were fiction, at a very early age. It did not escape their infant observation that the ladies and gentlemen who fascinated them by dancing on the tight rope at Barnum's Museum always bore exotic names, and when they grew older and developed the youthful taste for anecdotic art they found it could be gratified only by such European importations as Thorwaldsen's Christ and His Disciples , the great white images of which were ranged round the maroon walls of the New York Crystal Palace, or Benjamin's Haydon's pictures in the Düsseldorf collection in Broadway. And when they grew older still and began to show a fine talent for painting and drawing their unfolding artistic sense found more and more intimations of the wonder of Europe. A View of Tuscany that hung in the Jameses' home was pronounced by a friend who had lived much in Italy not to be of Tuscany at all... Continue reading book >>






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