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The Jolly Corner

The Jolly Corner by Henry James
By: (1843-1916)

“The Jolly Corner,” published in 1908, is considered by many to be a ghost story ranking second only to “The Turn of the Screw.” James’s protagonist, Spencer Brydon, is an American of 56, returned to New York after 33 years in Europe, where he has apparently accomplished little while living off his New York rentals. His friendship with Alice Staverton, and his engagement in the development of a property awaken him to the possibilities that might have been his, had he chosen a different course of life. The “ghost,” if that’s what it is, is that other self that might have been, and his confrontation with that self and its possibilities leads to a deeply unsettling, yet ambiguous, conclusion.

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THE JOLLY CORNER by Henry James

CHAPTER I

"Every one asks me what I 'think' of everything," said Spencer Brydon; "and I make answer as I can begging or dodging the question, putting them off with any nonsense. It wouldn't matter to any of them really," he went on, "for, even were it possible to meet in that stand and deliver way so silly a demand on so big a subject, my 'thoughts' would still be almost altogether about something that concerns only myself." He was talking to Miss Staverton, with whom for a couple of months now he had availed himself of every possible occasion to talk; this disposition and this resource, this comfort and support, as the situation in fact presented itself, having promptly enough taken the first place in the considerable array of rather unattenuated surprises attending his so strangely belated return to America. Everything was somehow a surprise; and that might be natural when one had so long and so consistently neglected everything, taken pains to give surprises so much margin for play. He had given them more than thirty years thirty three, to be exact; and they now seemed to him to have organised their performance quite on the scale of that licence... Continue reading book >>


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