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Full text of "Henry James"

WRITERS OF THE DAY 



General Editor: Bertram Christian 



HENRY JAMES 



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Camera-Portrait 



HENRY JAMES 



Hopfii 



HENRY JAMES 



By 
REBECCA WEST-'W 



XonDon 
NISBET & CO. LTD. 

22 BERNERS STREET, W. 

3 



C37477 



First Published in iqi6 



P$> 
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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 Neiu York 
Edition of the Novels and Tales of Henry James. 

R W. 



i 



CONTENTS 



PAGB 



I. The Sources 9 

II. The International Situation . . 24 

III. Transition 55 

IV. The Crystal Bowl .... 86 
V. The Golden Bowl .■>•.'• 105 

11Q 

Bibliography iiy 

American Bibliography , . .124 



Index 



127 



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 civilisa- 
tion of the new country. The social life of 
old New York and Boston had its delicacy, 
9 



HENEY JAMES 



its homespun honesty of texture, its austerer 
sort of beauty; but plainly the American 
people were too preoccupied by their busi- 
nesses 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. 

10 



THE SOURCES 



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 gentle- 
men 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 Thor- 
waldsen'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 Diisseldorf 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 
11 



HENEY JAMES 



that hung in the Jameses' home was pro- 
nounced by a friend who had lived much in 
Italy not to be of Tuscany at all. Colours 
in Tuscany were softer ; but such brightness 
might be found in other parts of Italy. So 
Europe was as various as that — a place of 
innumerable changing glories like a sunrise, 
but better than a sunrise, inasmuch as every 
glory was encrusted with the richness of 
legend. 

But most powerful of all influences that 
made the Jameses rebel against the narrow- 
ness of Broadway and the provincial spare- 
ness of the old New York, which must have 
been something like a neat virgin Blooms- 
bury, was their father. The Keverend 
Henry James was wasted on young America ; 
it had developed neither the creative stream 
that would have inspired him nor the in- 
tellectual follies that he could slay with that 
beautiful wit which made him one of the 
great letter-writers of the world. " Carlyle 
is the same old sausage, fizzing and sputter- 
ing in his own grease, only infinitely more 
unreconciled to the blest Providence which 
12 



THE SOUECES 



guides human affairs. He names God fre- 
quently and alludes to the highest things as 
if they were realities, but all only as for a 
picturesque effect, so completely does he 
seem to regard them as habitually circum- 
vented and set at naught by the politicians." 
The man who could write that should 
have been a strong and salutary influence 
on English culture, and he knew it. It is 
probable that when he and his wife paid 
what Mr James tells us was their " first (that 
is our mother's first) visit to Europe, which 
had quite immediately followed my birth, 
which appears to have lasted some year and 
a half" — the last clause of this sentence is 
unfortunate for a novelist famous for his 
deliberation — he brought his babies with him 
with a solemnity of intention, as if to dip 
them in a holy well. Thus it was that the 
little Jameses not only bore themselves 
proudly through their childhood as became 
those who had lived as babies in Piccadilly, 
and read Punch with a proprietary instinct, 
but were also possessed in spirit by some- 
thing that was more than the discontent 
13 



HENRY JAMES 



with the flatness of daily life and the desire 
for a brighter scene that comes to the ordin- 
ary child. Prom their father's preoccupa- 
tion they gained a rationalised consciousness 
that America was an incomplete environ- 
ment, that in Europe there were many 
mines of treasure which they must find 
and rifle if they hoped for the health 
of their minds and the salvation of their 
souls. 

In 1855, when Henry James was twelve, 
the family yielded to its passion and crossed 
the Atlantic. The following four years were 
of immense importance to Mr James, and 
consequently to ourselves, for he had been 
born with a mind that received impressions 
as if they had been embraces and remem- 
bered them with as fierce a leaping of the 
blood; just as his brother William's mind 
acquired and created systems of thought as 
joyously as other men like meeting friends 
and establishing a family. He found London 
in the main jolly, rather ugly, but comfort- 
able and full of character, just as he had seen 
it in Punch, but here and there detected— 
14 



THE SOURCES 



notably on a drive from London Bridge — 
black outcrops of Hogarth's London. " It 
was a soft June evening, with a lingering 
light and swarming crowds, as they then 
seemed to me, of figures reminding me of 
George Cruikshank's Artful Dodger and his 
Bill Sykes and his Nancy, only with the 
bigger brutality of life, which pressed upon 
the cab, the Early Victorian four-wheeler, 
as we jogged over the Bridge, and cropped 
up in more and more gas-lit patches for all 
our course, culminating, somewhere far to 
the west, in the vivid picture, framed by the 
cab window, of a woman reeling backward 
as a man felled her to the ground with a blow 
in the face." He knew Paris, then being 
formed by the free flourish of Baron Hauss- 
mann into its present splendours of wide 
regularity, yet still homely with remnants 
of the dusty ruralism of its pre-Napoleonic 
state ; he saw all the pretty show of the 
Second Empire, he stood in the Champs- 
Ely sees and watched the baby Prince 
Imperial roll by to St. Cloud with his escort 
of blue and silver cent-gardes; and the 
15 



HENRY JAMES 



Galerie d'Apollon in the Louvre, its floors 
gleaming with polished wood, its walls 
glowing with masterpieces, and its pro- 
portions awesomely interminable and soar- 
ing, was the scene of his young imaginative 
life. Those were the great places ; but there 
were also Geneva and Boulogne and Zurich 
and Bonn, the differences of which he 
savoured, and above all the richness of 
desultory contact with arts and persons of 
the various countries. He gaped at the 
exquisiteness of ugly Rose Cheri at the 
Gymnase, copied Delacroix, read Evan 
Harrington as it came out in Once a 
Week; was at school with a straight- 
nosed boy called Henry Houssaye and a 
snub-nosed boy called Coquelin; was 
tutored by Robert Thompson, the famous 
Edinburgh teacher who was afterwards to 
instruct Robert Louis Stevenson and many 
other eminent Scots in Jacobite sympathies 
as well as the more usual subjects, and by 
M. Lerambert whose verse had been praised 
by Sainte-Beuve in his Causeries. " Im- 
pressions," writes Mr James of this period, 
16 



THE SOUECES 



" were not merely all right but were the 
dearest things in the world." 

And one must remember that not only 
were impressions much to young Henry 
James, they were all he had. His mental 
life consisted of nothing else. His natural 
inaptitude for acquiring systematised know- 
ledge was probably intensified by the study 
of foreign languages entailed by this travel ; 
for if a child spends its time learning several 
systems of naming things it plainly has less 
energy to spare for learning systems of 
arranging things. At any rate his inability 
to grasp the elements of arithmetic and 
mathematics led to his removal from the 
Polytechnic School at Zurich, and was the 
cause of despair in all his tutors. But most 
minds, however incapable they may be of 
following the exact sciences or speculative 
thought, have some sort of idea of the system 
of the universe inserted into them by early 
instruction in one or other of the religious 
faiths. This unifying influence was refused 
to Henry James by the circumstance that 
his father had found certain religious doubts 

B 17 



HENEY JAMES 



that had almost driven him from the ministry 
solved in the works of Swedenborg, which he 
found not at all incredible but — as he once 
said in a phrase that showed him his son's 
own father — fairly " insipid with veracity." 
On this foundation of Swedenborgianism he 
had built up for himself a religion which was 
" nothing if not a philosophy, extraordin- 
arily complex and worked out and original, 
intensely personal as an exposition, yet not 
only susceptible of application, but clamor- 
ous for it, to the whole field of consciousness, 
nature and society, history, knowledge, all 
human relations and questions, every pulse 
of the process of our destiny." This was no 
playground for the young intelligence, so 
young Henry James was told to prepare 
himself by drinking from such springs as 
seemed to him refreshing. When he was 
asked to what church he went he was bidden 
by his father to reply that " we could plead 
nothing less than the whole privilege of 
Christendom, and that there was no com- 
munion, even that of the Catholics, even that 
of the Jews, even that of the Swedenborgians, 
18 



THE SOUKCES 



from which we need find ourselves excluded." 
He certainly liked to exercise this privilege, 
but he admits that " my grounds may have 
been but the love of the exhibition in general, 
thanks to which figures, faces, furniture, 
sounds, smells and colours became for me, 
wherever enjoyed, and enjoyed most where 
most collected, a positive little orgy of the 
senses and riot of the mind." Which was 
to be expected ; as also was the fact that he 
never broke his childish habit of regarding 
his father's religion as a closed temple stand- 
ing in the centre of his family life, the general 
holiness of which he took for granted so 
thoroughly that it never occurred to him to 
investigate its particulars. 

This European visit came to an end in 
1859, and William and Henry James spent 
the next year or so at Newport studying art 
under the direction of their friend John La 
Parge, with the result that William painted 
extremely well in the style of Manet, and 
Henry showed as little ability in this direc- 
tion as he had shown in any other. In 1861 
the Civil War broke out; and had it not 
19 



HENBY JAMES 



been for an accident the whole character of 
Mr James' genius would have been altered. 
If he had seen America by the light of burst- 
ing shells and naming forest he might never 
have taken his eyes off her again, he might 
have watched her fascinated through all 
the changes of tone and organisation which 
began at the close of the war, he might have 
been the Great American Novelist in subject 
as well as origin. But it happened, in that 
soft spring when he and every other young 
man of the North realised that there was a 
crisis at hand in which their honour was 
concerned and they must answer Lincoln's 
appeal for recruits, that he was one day called 
to help in putting out a fire. In working the 
fire-engine he sustained an injury so serious 
that he could never hope to share the 
Northern glory, that there were before him 
years of continuous pain and weakness, that 
ultimately he formed a curious and on the 
whole mischievous conception of himself. 
For his humiliating position as a delicate and 
unpromising student at Harvard Law School 
while his younger brothers, Wilky and 
20 



THE SOURCES 



Robertson, were officers in the Northern 
Army and William was pursuing a brilliant 
academic career or naturalising with Agassiz 
in South America, seemed a confirmation of 
his tutors' opinion that he was an inarticulate 
mediocrity who would never be able to take 
a hand in the business of life. And so he 
worked out a scheme of existence, which he 
accepted finally in an hour of glowing resig- 
nation when he was returning by steamer to 
Newport from a visit to a camp of wounded 
soldiers at Portsmouth Grove, in which the 
one who stood aside and felt rather than acted 
acquired thereby a mystic value, a spiritual 
supremacy, which — but this was perhaps a 
later development of the theory — would be 
rubbed off by participation in action. 

It was, therefore, with defiant industry, 
with the intention of proving that such as 
he was he had his peculiar worth, that he 
set to work to become a writer. His first 
story was published in The Atlantic Monthly 
when he was twenty-one, and it was followed 
by a number of stories, travel sketches, and 
critical essays, some of which have been 
21 



HENKY JAMES 



reprinted, and a few farces which have not. 
He also went through a necessary preface of 
the literary life by reading the proofs of 
George Eliot's novels before they appeared 
in the Atlantic and reviewing ; the profes- 
sion of literature differs from that of the 
stage in that the stars begin instead of ending 
as dressers. In 1 8 69 he went to Europe and, 
gaining certain impressions that had been in- 
accessible to him as a child, finally fixed the 
dye in which his talent was to be immersed 
for the rest of his life. He stepped for the 
first time into " a private park of great oaks 
. . . where I knew my first sense of a matter 
afterwards, through fortunate years, to be 
more fully disclosed: the springtime in 
such places, the adored footpath, the first 
primroses, the stir and scent of renascence 
in the watered sunshine and under spreading 
boughs that were somehow before aught else 
the still reach of the remembered lines of 
Tennyson. ..." He was admitted to the 
homes of Euskin, Kossetti, Morris, Darwin, 
and George Eliot, and allowed to see the 
wheels go round. But the real significance 
22 



THE SOUECES 



of this journey to Mr James' genius is the 
part it played in the last days of his beautiful 
cousin, Mary Temple. She should have had 
before her a long career of nobility, for " she 
was absolutely afraid of nothing she might 
come to by living with enough sincerity and 
enough wonder. ' ' She pretended not to know 
that she had been cheated out of this, but 
as she lay on the death -bed that she would not 
admit to be even a sick-bed, her eyes were 
fixed intensely on the progress of her cousin 
through all the experiences that should have 
been hers. There came a day when all illusion 
failed, and she died dreadfully, clinging to 
consciousness. Her death was felt by Henry 
and William James as the end of their youth. 

That, as Mr James would have said, is the 
donnee. The must was trodden out, it had 
only to ferment, to be bottled, to be mellowed 
by time into the perfect wine. There is 
nothing in all the innumerable volumes that 
Mr James was to pour out in the next 
forty-five years of which the intimation is 
not present in these first adventures, 
23 



II 

THE INTERNATIONAL SITUATION 

IT is no use turning up those first stories 
that appeared in The Atlantic Monthly 
and The Galaxy unless one has formed 
an affection for the literary personality of 
Mr James. The image they provoke of the 
literary prentice bending over his task with 
the tip of his tongue reflectively protruding 
like a small boy drawing on his slate, is 
amusing enough; but they themselves are 
such pale dreams as might visit a New 
England spinster looking out from her snuff- 
coloured parlour on a grey drizzling day. 
Where there is any richness of effect, as in 
The Romance of Certain Old Clothes, it comes 
from the influence of Nathaniel Hawthorne. 
That story, which tells how a girl loved 
her sister's husband, waited eagerly for her 
death that she might marry him, and later 
wheedled from him the key of the chest 
24= 



THE INTERNATIONAL SITUATION 

in which the dead wife had left her finery 
to await her baby daughter's maturity, is 
seven-eighths prelude, and the catastrophe, 
which is the finding of the girl kneeling dead 
beside the chest with the mark of phantom 
fingers on her throat, comes with too short 
and small a report. But in spite of its pitiful 
construction it is the only one of the dozen 
stories which Mr James published before 
his visit to Europe in 1869 that shows any 
of the imaginative exuberance which one 
accepts as an earnest of coming genius. 

Hawthorne was not altogether a happy 
influence — it is due to him that Mr James' 
characters have " almost wailed " their way 
from The Passionate Pilgrim to The Golden 
Bowl — but he certainly shepherded Mr James 
into the European environment and lent 
him a framework on which to drape his 
emotions until he had discovered his own 
power to build up an imaginative structure. 
The plot of The Passionate Pilgrim, with its 
American who comes to England to claim a 
cousin' s estate, falls in love with the usurper' s 
sister, is driven from the door, and dies just 
25 



HENRY JAMES 



after the usurper's death has delivered to 
him all he wants, is very clumsy Hawthorne, 
but in those days Mr James could not draw 
normal events and he had to have some 
medium for expressing his wealth of feeling 
about England. It is amazing to see how 
rich that wealth already was, how much 
deeper than mere pleasure in travel was his 
delight in the parks and private grandeurs 
of England; and how, too, a fundamental 
fallacy was already perverting it to an almost 
Calvinist distrust of the activities of the 
present. 

" I entered upon life a perfect gentleman," 
says the American as he sits in Hampton 
Court. " I had the love of old forms and 
pleasant rites, and I found them nowhere — 
found a world all hard lines and harsh lights, 
without lines, without composition, as they 
say of pictures, without the lovely mystery 
of colour. . . . Sitting here, in this old park, 
in this old country, I feel that I hover on the 
misty verge of what might have been ! I 
should have been born here, not there; 
here my makeshift distinctions would have 
found things they'd have been true of. . . . 
26 



THE INTERNATIONAL SITUATION 

This is a world I could have got on with 
beautifully." 

There you have the first statement of the 
persistent illusion, to which he was helped by 
his odd lack of the historic sense and which 
confused his estimate of modern life, that the 
past would have been a happier home for 
those who like himself loved fastidious living. 
He had a tremendous sense of the thing that 
is and none at all of the thing that has been, 
and thus he was always being misled by such 
lovely shells of the past as Hampton Court 
into the belief that the past which inhabited 
them was as lovely. The calm of Canter- 
bury Close appeared to him as a remnant of 
a time when all England, bowed before the 
Church, was as calm ; whereas the calm is 
really a modern condition brought about 
when the Church ceased to have anything 
to do with England. He never perceived 
that life is always a little painful at the 
moment, not only at this moment but at all 
moments ; that the wine of experience always 
makes a raw draught when it has just been 
27 



HENRY JAMES 



trodden out from bruised grapes by the 
pitiless feet of men, that it must be subject 
to time before it acquires suavity. The lack 
of this perception matters little in his early 
work but it is vastly important in shaping 
his later phases. 

There are no such personal revelations in 
The Madonna of the Future, nor anything, 
indeed, at all characteristic of Mr James. 
There is beauty in the tale of the American 
painter who dreams over a model for twenty 
years, while he and she grow old, and leaves 
at his death nothing more to show for his 
dreams than a cracked blank canvas ; and 
the Florentine background is worked on 
diligently and affectionately. But it is 
admirable in quite an uncharacteristic way, 
like a figure picture painted with the utmost 
brilliance of technique and from perfect 
models by a painter whose real passion was 
for landscape. Yet it was only a year later, 
in Madame de Mauves, that Mr James found 
himself, both his manner and the core of the 
matter which was to occupy him for the 
happiest part of his literary life. Euphemia 



THE INTERNATIONAL SITUATION 

de Mauves, the prim young American who 
moves languidly through the turfy avenues 
of the French forest, her faith in decency of 
living perpetually outraged by her husband's 
infidelities and his odd demand that she 
should make him a cuckold so that at least 
he should not have the discomfort of looking 
up at her, is the first of the many exquisite 
women whom Mr James brought into being 
by his capacity to imagine characters 
solidly and completely, his perception of the 
subtle tones of life, and his extreme verbal 
delicacy. And she is given a still greater 
importance by the queer twist at the end of 
the story by which M. de Mauves blows his 
brains out for no reason at all but that he is 
hopelessly, helplessly, romantically in love 
with this cold wife who will be so unreason- 
able about trifles. Mr James writes her 
story not only as though he stood upon the 
Atlantic shores looking eastward at the plight 
of a compatriot domiciled with lewd men and 
light women, but also as though he sat in the 
company of certain gracious men and women 
of the world who could not get under way 



HENBY JAMES 



with their accomplishment of charm because 
the grim alien in the corner will keep 
prodding them with a disapproval as out of 
place in this salon as a deal plank. Madame 
de Mauves, in fine, is the first figure invented 
by Mr James to throw light upon what he 
called " the international situation." 

It took all Mr James' cosmopolitan train- 
ing to see that there existed an international 
situation, that the fact that Americans 
visited Europe constituted a drama. An 
Englishman who visited Italy did no more 
than take a look at a more richly coloured 
order of life that braced him up, as any gay 
spectacle might have done, to return to his 
own ; his travel was a pleasure, or, at most, 
if he happened to be a Landor or a Browning, 
an inspiration. It might reasonably be 
supposed that the visit to Europe of an 
American was no greater matter. But Mr 
James knew that the wealthy American was 
in the position of a man who has built a com- 
fortable house and has plenty of money over, 
yet cannot furnish it because furniture is 
neither made nor sold in his country ; until 
30 



THE INTEKNATIONAL SITUATION 

he has crossed the sea to the land where they 
do make furniture he must sleep and eat on 
the floor. 

" One might enumerate," he writes in 
those early days, " the items of high civilisa- 
tion as it exists in other countries, which 
are absent from the texture of American 
life, until it should become a wonder what 
was left. No State, in the European sense 
of the word, and indeed barely a specific 
national name. No sovereign, no court, no 
personal loyalty, no aristocracy. ..." 

There follows a long list, so long as to 
provoke the " natural remark . . . that if 
these things are left out everything is left 
out." And, Mr James goes on to complain, 
" it takes so many things — such an accumu- 
lation of history and custom, such a com- 
plexity of manners and types, to form a fund 
of suggestion for a novelist." He wrote 
novelist because at the moment he was 
criticising Hawthorne, but he would cer- 
tainly have applied his phrase to anyone who 
desired his life to be not a corduroy track 
31 



HENRY JAMES 



but a marble terrace with palaces on the one 
hand and fair gardens on the other. 

Since the pilgrimage for these items of 
high civilisation appeared to Europeans — 
as innumerable contemporary allusions 
show it did — as mere globe-trottings, the 
pilgrims themselves were likely to be as mis- 
understood. For one thing, although they 
were unorganised so far as culture went, they 
formed at home a very cohesive moral com- 
munity. The American women who came 
to Europe took for granted that however 
people might be habited — people, that is, 
whose manners showed them " nice" — and 
in whatever frivolous array they might be 
flounced and ribboned, they were certain to 
wear next their skin the hair-shirt of Puritan 
rectitude. The innocent freedoms which 
they permitted themselves because they 
held this supposition, and the terrifying sur- 
mises to which these gave rise in the mind of 
the Old World, unaware of the innocence of 
the New, made much material for drama. 
And more dramatic still was the moment, 
which came to so many of the travellers who 
32 



THE INTERNATIONAL SITUATION 

formed close personal relationships with 
Europeans, when they realised that the 
moral standards to which they had nation- 
ally pledged themselves, and which they 
individually obeyed with extraordinary 
fidelity, were here regarded as simply 
dowdy. " Compromise ! " was the cry of 
Latin and even English society. " Com- 
promise on every and any of the Command- 
ments you like ! Do anything you can, in 
fact, to rub down those rude angles you 
present to human intercourse ! " And yet 
it was not to be deduced that Europe was 
lax. One had only to look behind the super- 
ficial show to see that it had its own re- 
ligion, perhaps a more terrible religion than 
any New England ever knew, and that what 
seemed its laziest pleasures were sometimes 
its most dreadful rites. 

This last conception of Europe is the sub- 
ject of Roderick Hudson (1875). Roderick 
Hudson is not a good book. It throws a 
light upon the lack of attention given at 
that period to the art of writing that within 
a few years of each other two men of great 
o 33 



HENRY JAMES 



genius — Thomas Hardy and Henry James — 
wrote in their thirties first novels spoilt by 
technical blemishes of a sort that the most 
giftless modern miss with a subscription to 
Mudie's would never commit in her first 
literary experiment. Roderick Hudson is 
wooden, it is crammed with local colour like 
a schoolmistress's bedroom full of photo- 
graphs of Rome, it has a plain boiled suet 
heroine called Mary. But its idea is mag- 
nificent. An American of fortune takes 
Hudson, who has already shown talent as a 
sculptor, from his stool in a lawyer's office 
in Northampton, Massachusetts, and sets 
him up in a studio in Rome. It is the fear 
of old Mrs Hudson and of Mary, his fiancee, 
that European life will be too soft for him. 
But the very opposite occurs ; it is he who 
is too soft for European life. The business 
of art means not only lounging under the 
pines of the Villa Ludovisi and chiselling 
the noble substance of Carrara marble ; it 
means also the painful toil of creation, which 
demands from the artist an austerer re- 
nunciation of every grossness than was ever 
34 



THE INTERNATIONAL SITUATION 

expected of any law-abiding citizen of 
Northampton, which sends a man naked and 
alone to awful moments which, if he be 
strong, give him spiritual strength, but if 
he be weak heap on him the black weakness 
of neurasthenia. And when that has turned 
him into a raw, hurt, raging creature he is 
further snared by the loveliness of Christina 
Light, who is characteristically European in 
that her circumstances have not the same 
clear beauty as her face. She is being 
hawked over the Continent to find a rich 
husband by her mother and a Cavaliere 
who is really her father, and this ugly girl- 
hood has so corrupted her vigorous spirit 
that the young American's courtship 
provokes from her nothing but eccentric 
favours or perverse insults. After the 
collapse of his art and his love Eoderick 
falls over a precipice in a too minutely 
described Switzerland, hurled by a denoue- 
ment which has inspired Mr James to one of 
his broadest jokes. In the first edition 
Roderick, on hearing that, while he has been 
vexing his benefactor with his moods, that 
35 



HENRY JAMES 



gentleman has been manfully repressing a 
passion for Mary, exclaims, " It's like some- 
thing in a novel ! " which Mr James in the 
definitive edition has altered to, "It's like 
something in a bad novel ! " 

This conception of Europe as a complex 
organism which would have no use, or only 
a cruel use, for those bred by the simple 
organism of America, animates Four Meet- 
ings (1877), that exquisite short story which 
came first of all of the many masterpieces 
that Mr James was to produce. It is the 
tale of a little schoolmistress who, having 
long nourished a passion for Europe upon 
such slender intimations as photographs of 
the Castle of Chillon, at last collects a sum 
for the trip, is met at Havre by a cousin, 
one of those Americans on whom Conti- 
nental life has acted as a solvent of all decent 
moral tissues, and is tricked out of her money 
by his story of a runaway marriage with a 
Countess ; returns to New England hoping 
to "see something of this dear old Europe 
yet," and has that hope ironically fulfilled 
by the descent upon her for life of the said 
36 



THE INTERNATIONAL SITUATION 

Countess, who is so distinctly " something 
of this dear old Europe" that the very sight 
of her transports the travelled recounter of 
the story to " some dusky landing before 
a shabby Parisian quatrieme — to an open 
door revealing a greasy ante-chamber, and 
to Madame, leaning over the banisters, while 
she holds a faded dressing-gown together 
and bawls down to the portress to bring up 
her coffee." It is one of the saddest stories 
in the world, and one of the cleverest. 
There is not one of its simple phrases but 
has its beautiful bearing on the subject, and 
in the treatment of emotional values one 
sees that the essays on French Poets and 
Novelists (1878), which for some years he 
had been sending to America with the 
excited air of a missionary, were the notes 
of an attentive pupil. " Detachment" was 
the lesson that that period preached in its 
reaction against the George Sand method, 
whereby the author rolled through his pages 
locked in an embrace with his subject. We 
have forgotten its real significance, so fre- 
quently has it been used as an excuse for 
37 



HENRY JAMES 



the treatment of emotional situations with 
encyclopedic detail of circumstance and not 
a grain of emotional realisation, but here we 
can recover it. The author's pity for the 
schoolmistress is never allowed to make his 
Countess sinister instead of gross, and his 
sense of the comic in the Countess is never 
allowed to make the schoolmistress's woe 
more dreary; the situation stands as solid and 
has as many aspects as it would have in life. 
The American (1877) still holds this view 
of Europe. Its theme, to quote Mr James 
in the preface of the definitive edition, is 
" the situation, in another country and an 
aristocratic society, of some robust but 
insidiously beguiled and betrayed, some 
cruelly wronged compatriot; the point 
being in especial that he should suffer at the 
hands of persons pretending to represent 
the highest possible civilisation and to 
be of an order far superior to his own." 
Christopher Newman, the robust com- 
patriot, is such a large, simple, lovable 
person that the rest of the story leads one 
to suspect that one may say of Mr James, 
38 



THE INTERNATIONAL SITUATION 

as he said of Balzac, that " his figures, as a 
general thing, are better than the use he 
makes of them." He walks through Europe 
examining its culture with such an effect on 
the natives as an amiable buffalo traversing 
the Galerie d'Apollon might produce upon 
the copyists of the Louvre, and finally pre- 
sents himself at the house where he is least 
welcome in the world, the home of the de 
Bellegardes, a proud and ancient Royalist 
family. Thereafter, the novel is an exposi- 
tion of the way things do not happen. 
Claire de Cintre, the widowed daughter 
whom Newman desires to marry, is repre- 
sented as having above all things beauty 
of character ; but when her family snatches 
her from him in a frenzy of pride she allows 
herself to be bundled into a convent with a 
weakness that would convict of imbecility 
any woman of twenty-eight. And since 
her mother and brother had murdered her 
father by refusing him medicine at a physical 
crisis, and sustained themselves in the act 
by the reflection that after all they were only 
keeping up the good old family tone, one 
39 



HENRY JAMES 



wonders where she got this beauty of char- 
acter. The child of this damned house 
might have flamed with a strange fire, but 
she could not have diffused a rectory lamp- 
light. But the series of inconsistencies of 
which this is only one leads, like a jolting 
motor-bus that puts one down at Hampton 
Court, to an exquisite situation. Newman 
discovers the secret of the Marquis' murder 
and intends to publish it as a punishment 
for the cruel wrong the de Bellegardes have 
done him, but sacrifices this satisfaction 
simply because there can be no link — not 
even the link of revenge — between such 
as they and such as he. In all literature 
there is no passage so full of the very passion 
of moral exaltation as the description of how 
Newman stands before the Carmelite house 
in the Rue d'Enfer and looks up at the blank, 
discoloured wall, behind which his lost lady 
is immured, then walks back to Notre Dame 
and there, " the far-away bells chiming off 
into space, at long intervals, the big bronze 
syllables of the Word," decides that such 
things as revenge " were really not his 
40 



THE INTERNATIONAL SITUATION 

game." So it is with Mr James to the end. 
The foreground is as often as not red with 
the blood of slaughtered probabilities; a' 
gentleman at a dinner-party tells the lady 
on his left (a perfect stranger who never 
appears again in the story) that some years 
ago he proposed to the lady in white sitting 
opposite to them ; a curio dealer calls on a 
lady in Portland Place just to wind up the 
plot. But the great glow at the back, the 
emotional conflagration, is always right. 

The Europeans (1878) marks the first time 
when Mr James took the international situa- 
tion as a joke, and he could joke very 
happily in those days when his sentence 
was a straight young thing that could run 
where it liked, instead of a delicate creature 
swathed in relative clauses as an invalid 
in shawls. There is no other book by Mr 
James which has quite the clear, sunlit 
charm of this description of the visit of 
Eugenia, the morganatically married 
Baroness, and her brother Felix, the 
Bohemian painter, to their cousins' New 
England farm. There is nothing at all to 
41 



HENEY JAMES 



their discredit in the past of these two 
graceful young people, but they resemble 
Harlequin and Columbine in the instability 
of their existence and the sharp line they 
draw between their privacy and their 
publicity. It appears to them natural that 
the private life should be spent largely in 
wondering how the last public appearance 
went off and planning effects for the next, 
a point of view which arouses the worst 
suspicions in their cousins, who are accus- 
tomed to live as though the sky were indeed 
a broad open eye. So Felix has the greatest 
difficulty in persuading his uncle, who takes 
thirty -two bites to a moral decision, just as 
Mr Gladstone took thirty-two bites to a 
mouthful, that he is a suitable husband for 
his cousin Gertrude ; and poor Eugenia fails 
altogether in an environment where a lie 
from her lips is not treated as un petit piche 
(Tune petite femme, but remains simply a lie. 
The frame of mind this state of affairs 
produces in the poor lady is exquisitely 
described in a passage which shows her going 
wistfully through the house of the man who 
42 



THE INTERNATIONAL SITUATION 

did not propose to her because he detected 
her lie, after a visit to his dying mother. 

" Mrs Acton had told Eugenia that her 
waiting-woman would be in the hall to show 
her downstairs ; but the large landing out- 
side her door was empty, and Eugenia stood 
there looking about. . . . She passed slowly 
downstairs, still looking about. The broad 
staircase made a great bend, and in the 
angle was a high window, looking westward, 
with a deep bench, covered with a row of 
flowering plants in curious old pots of blue 
China-ware. The yellow afternoon light 
came in through the flowers and flickered 
a little on the white wainscots. Eugenia 
paused a moment ; the house was perfectly 
still, save for the ticking, somewhere, of a 
great clock. The lower hall stretched away 
at the foot of the stairs, half covered over 
with a large Oriental rug. Eugenia lingered 
a little, noticing a great many things. 
1 Comme c'est bien ! ' she said to herself ; 
such a large, solid, irreproachable basis of 
existence the place seemed to her to in- 
dicate. And then she reflected that Mrs 
Acton was soon to withdraw from it. The 
reflection accompanied her the rest of the 
43 



HENRY JAMES 



way downstairs, where she paused again, 
making more observations. The hall was 
extremely broad, and on either side of the 
front door was a wide, deeply-set window, 
which threw the shadows of everything 
back into the house. There were high- 
backed chairs along the wall and big Eastern 
vases upon tables, and, on either side, a 
large cabinet with a glass front and little 
curiosities within, dimly gleaming. The 
doors were open — into the darkened parlour, 
the library, the dining-room. All these 
rooms seemed empty. Eugenia passed 
along and stopped a moment on the thres- 
hold of each. ' Comme c'est bien I ' she 
murmured again ; she had thought of just 
such a house as this when she decided to 
come to America. She opened the front 
door for herself — her light tread had 
summoned none of the servants — and on 
the threshold she gave a last look. ..." 

That is the pure note of the early James, 
like a pipe played carefully by a boy. It 
sounds as beautifully in Daisy Miller, that 
short novel which, though it deals with 
conditions peculiar to a small section of 
44 



THE INTEKNATIONAL SITUATION 

Continental life forty years ago, will strike 
each new generation afresh as sad and lovely. 
Daisy, who is like one of those girls who 
smile upon us from the covers of American 
magazines, glaringly beautiful and healthy 
but without the " tone" given by diligent 
study of the grace of conduct, comes to 
Europe and plays in its sunshine like a 
happy child. She wants to go to the Castle 
of Chillon, so she accepts the escort for the 
afternoon of a young American who is stay- 
ing at the same hotel ; she likes to walk in 
the Pincian, so she takes a stroll there one 
afternoon with a certain liquid-eyed Eoman. 
The woman who does a thing for the sake 
of the thing in itself is always suspected 
by society, and the American colony, which 
professes the mellow conventions of Europe 
with all its own national crudity, accuses 
her of vulgarity and even lightness. They 
talk so bitterly that when the young 
American, who is half in love with Daisy, 
finds her viewing the Colosseum by moon- 
light with the Roman, he leaps to the con- 
clusion that she is a disreputable woman. 
45 



HENRY JAMES 



Why he does so is not quite clear, since 
surely it is the essential thing about a dis- 
reputable woman that her evenings are not 
free for visits to the Colosseum. Poor 
Daisy takes in part of his meaning and, say- 
ing in a little strange voice, " I don't care 
whether I get Roman fever or not ! " goes 
back to her hotel and dies of malaria. And 
the young American, " staring at the raw pro- 
tuberance among the April daisies" in the 
Protestant cemetery, learnsfrom the Roman's 
lips that Daisy was " most innocent." 

It is a lyric whose beauty may be 
measured by the attention which, in spite 
of its tragedy, it everywhere provoked. It 
was interesting to note how often in the 
obituary notices of Mr James it was said 
that he had never attained popularity, for 
it shows how soon London forgets its gifts 
of fame. From 1875 to 1885 (to put it 
roughly) all England and America were as 
captivated by the clear beauty of Mr 
James' work as in the nineties they were 
hypnotised by the bright-coloured beauty 
of Mr Kipling's art. On London staircases 
46 



THE INTEENATIONAL SITUATION 

everyone turned to look at the American 
with the long, silky, black beard which, I 
am told by one who met him then, gave him 
the appearance of "an Elizabethan sea 
captain." But for all the exquisiteness of 
Daisy Miller there were discernible in it 
certain black lines which, like the dark vein- 
ing in a crocus that foretells its decay, 
showed that this was a loveliness which was 
in the very act of passing. The young 
American might have been so worked upon 
by his friends that he could readily believe 
his Daisy a light woman, but he need not 
have manifested his acceptance of this belief 
by being grossly rude to her and by reflect- 
ing that if " after Daisy's return there 
had been an exchange of jokes between 
the porter and the cab -driver ... it had 
ceased to be a matter of serious regret to 
him that the little American flirt should be 
'talked about' by low-minded menials." 
When one remembers the grave courtesy 
with which Christopher Newman treated 
Mile Noemie Nioche, the little French 
drab who called herself un esprit libre, it is 
47 



HENRY JAMES 



plain that we are no longer dealing with the 
same Mr James. The Mr James we are to 
deal with henceforth had ceased to be an 
American and had lost his native reactions 
to emotional stimuli. He was becoming a 
European and for several years to come 
was to spend his time slowJy mastering its 
conventions; which meansMhat he was 
learning a new emotional language. 

The first works he produced when he was 
at once a finished writer and only the 
cocoon of a European, present the para- 
doxical appearance of being perfect in 
phrase and incredibly naive in their estim- 
ates of persons and situations. The Pension 
Beaurepas (1879), that melancholy tale of 
the ailing old American whose wife and 
daughter have dragged him off on an ex- 
pensive trip to Europe, while ruin falls on 
his untended business in New York, has its 
tone of pathos spoiled by extraordinarily 
cold-blooded and, to women of to-day, 
extremely unsavoury discussions of how a 
girl ought to behave if she wants to be 
married. The Siege of London (1883), which 
48 



THE INTERNATIONAL SITUATION 

is the story of a Texan adventuress of 
many divorces who marries into an English 
county family, fails to produce the designed 
effect of outrage, because the adventuress is 
the only person who shows any signs of 
human worth, and the life which she is 
supposed to have violated by her marriage 
is suggested simply by statements that the 
people concerned had titles and lived in 
large houses. In Pandora (1884), which 
describes a German diplomat's amazement 
that an unmarried girl can be a social success 
in America, we feel as bored as we would if 
we were forced to listen to the exclamations 
of a dog-fancier on finding that a Pekingese 
with regular features had got a prize at a 
dog show. In Lady Barbarina (1884), 
which tells how a peer's daughter who 
marries an American millionaire refuses to 
live in America, the American picture is 
painted with the flatness of a flagging inter- 
est, and we suspect Mr James of taking 
English architecture as an index of English 
character ; he had still to grasp the para- 
dox that the people who live in the solidities 
d 49 



HENRY JAMES 



of Grosvenor Square are the best colonising 
and seafaring stock in the world. In The 
Reverberator (1888), wherein an American 
girl guilelessly prattles to a newspaper 
correspondent about the affairs of her 
French fiance's family and is cast out by 
them when he publishes her prattlings in the 
States, we seem to see the international 
situation slowly fading from Mr James' 
immediate consciousness. In turning over 
its pages we see the author sitting down 
before a pile of white paper and finely in- 
scribing it with memories of past contacts 
with Americans ; we do not see him enter- 
ing his study with traces still on his lips of a 
smile provoked in the street outside by the 
loveliness and innocent barbarism of his 
compatriots. In those days he had lost 
America and had not yet found Europe, but 
he was to find it very soon. In A London 
Life (1889), the tale of an innocent American 
girl who comes over to live with her sister 
and her aristocratic English husband, and 
stands appalled at their debts, their de- 
baucheries, their infidelities, he has rendered 
50 



THE INTEKNATIONAL SITUATION 

beautifully the feeling caused by ill lives 
when led in old homes of elmy parks and 
honourable histories. It is a sense of dis- 
gust such as comes to the early-rising guest 
who goes into a drawing-room in the morn- 
ing and finds last night's coflee-cups and 
decanters and cigarette ends looking dread- 
ful in the sunlight. The house is being badly 
managed; it will go to rack and ruin. 
That is an aspect of England; but the 
American onlooker is just a clean-minded 
little thing that might have bloomed any- 
where, and all references to her Ameri- 
canness are dragged in with an effort. It 
is plain that he had lost all his love for the 
international situation. 

That Mr James continued to write about 
Americans in Europe long after their 
common motive and their individual ad- 
ventures had ceased to excite his wonder or 
his sympathy, was the manifestation of a 
certain delusion about his art which was 
ultimately to do him a mischief. He be- 
lieved that if one knew a subject one could 
write about it; and since there was no 
51 



HENEY JAMES 



aspect of the international situation with 
which he was not familiar, he could not see 
why the description of these aspects should 
not easily make art. The profound truth 
that an artist should feel passion for his 
subject was naturally distasteful to one 
who wanted to live wholly without violence 
even of the emotions; a preference for 
passionless detachment was at that date 
the mode in French literature, which was 
the only literature that he studied with any 
attention. The de Goncourts, Zola, and 
even de Maupassant thought that an artist 
ought to be able to lift any subject into art 
by his treatment, just as an advertising 
agent ought to be able to "float" any 
article into popularity by his posters. But 
human experience, which includes a realisa- 
tion of the deadness of most of the de Gon- 
courts' and Zola's productions, proves the 
contrary. Unless a subject is congenial to 
the character of the artist the subconscious 
self will not wake up and reward the busy 
conscious mind by distributions of its 
hoarded riches in the form of the right word, 
52 



THE INTERNATIONAL SITUATION 

the magic phrase, the clarifying incident. 
Why are books about ideas so commonly bad, 
since the genius of M. Anatole France and 
Mr Wells have proved that they need not be 
so, if it be not that the majority of people 
reserve passion for their personal relation- 
ships and therefore never "feel" an idea 
with the sensitive finger-tips of affection ? 

The absence of this necessary attitude to 
his subject explains in part the tenuity of 
Mr James' later novels on the international 
situation ; but there is also another element 
that irritates present-day readers and makes 
the texture of the life represented seem poor. 
That element, which is not peculiar to Mr 
James, but is a part of the social atmosphere 
of his time, is the persistent presentation of 
woman not as a human but as a sexual 
being. One can learn nothing of the 
heroine's beliefs and character for the 
hullabaloo that has been set up because she 
has come in too late or gone out too early 
or omitted to provide herself with that 
figure of questionable use — for the dove-like 
manners of the young men forbid the 
53 



u 



HENEY JAMES 



thought that she was there to protect the girl 
from assault, and the mild tongues of the 
young ladies make it unlikely that the duel 
of the sexes was then so bitter that they 
required an umpire — the chaperon. It 
appears that the young woman of that 
period could get through the world only by 
perpetually jumping through hoops held up 
to her by society, a method of progression 
which was more suited to circus girls than 
to persons of dignity, and which sometimes 
caused nasty falls. There is nothing more 
humiliating to women in all fiction than the 
end of A London Life, where the heroine, 
appalled at having been left in an opera box 
alone with a young man, turns to him and 
begs him, although she knows well that he 
does not love her, to marry her and save her 
good name. Purity and innocence are ex- 
cellent things, but a world in which they have 
to be guarded by such cramping contrivances 
of conduct is as ridiculous as a heaven where 
the saints all go about with their haloes 
protected by mackintosh covers. 



54 



Ill 

TRANSITION 

J T WASHINGTON SQUARE (1881), 
l/is Mr James' first important work 
that does not deal with the inter- 
national situation, is a work of great genius. 
Into the small mould of the story of how a 
plain and stupid girl was jilted by a fortune- 
hunter when he discovered that she would 
be disinherited by her contemptuous father 
on her marriage, Mr James concentrated all 
the sense which he had absorbed throughout 
his childhood of the simple, provincial life 
which went on behind the brown stone of 
old New York. It has in it a wealth of feel- 
ing that does not seem to have originated 
with Mr James, just as an old wives' tale 
told over and over again by the fireside 
becomes charged with a synthetic emotion 
derived from the comments and expressions 
of innumerable auditors; and one may 
56 



HENRY JAMES 



\i 



surmise that Catherine's tragedy was first 
presented to him as an item of local gossip, 
sympathetically discussed by his charming 
New York cousins and friends. Certainly 
the tale of this dull girl, who was " twenty 
years old before she treated herself, for 
evening wear, to a red satin gown trimmed 
with gold fringe," and progressed by such 
clumsinesses through a career of which the 
only remarkable facts were that " Morris 
Townsend had trifled with her affection, 
and that her father had broken its spring," 
is consecrated by an element of pity which 
was afterwards signally to disappear from 
Mr James' work. 

The book so beautifully expresses the woe 
of all those people to whom nothing ever 
happens, who are aware of the gay challenge 
of life but are prevented by something 
leaden in their substance from responding, 
that one is not surprised to find that like 
most good stories about inarticulate people 
— like Une Vie and Un Cceur Simple — it 
is written with the most deliberate cunning. 
The story is evoked according to Turgeniev's 
56 



TRANSITION 



method of calling his novels out of the 
inchoate real world ; and what that is had 
better, since Mr James had been using 
it with increasing power since Roderick 
Hudson, be stated in his own words. 

" I have always fondly remembered a 
remark that I heard fall years ago from the 
lips of Ivan Turgeniev in regard to his own 
experience of the usual origin of the fictive 
picture. It began for him almost always 
with the vision of some person or persons, 
who hovered before him, soliciting him, as 
the active or passive figure, interesting him 
and appealing to him just as they were and 
by what they were. He saw them, in that 
fashion, as disponibles, saw them subject to 
the chances, the complications of existence, 
and saw them vividly, but then had to find 
for them the right relations, those that 
would most bring them out ; to imagine, to 
invent and select and piece together the 
situations most useful and favourable to 
the sense of the creatures themselves, the 
complications they would be most likely to 
produce and to feel. 

" ' To arrive at these things is to arrive 
57 



HENKY JAMES 



at my " story," ' he said, ' and that's the 
way I look for it. The result is that 
I'm often accused of not having " story" 
enough. I seem to myself to have as much 
as I need — to show my people, to exhibit 
their relations with each other ; for that is 
all my measure. If I watch them long 
enough I see them come together, I see them 
f laced, I see them engaged in this or that 
act and in this or that difficulty. How they 
look and move and speak and behave, 
always in the setting I have found for 
them, is my account of them — of which I 
dare say, alas, que cela manque souvent 
a" architecture. . . .' " 

And as regards the statement in prose of 
the conception thus formed it is plain that, 
although Mr James had formed his irra- 
tional dislike of Flaubert many years before, 
it was that great master who had taught 
him his art of rubbing down the too brilliant 
phrase to tone with the quiet harmony of the 
whole, of obliterating the exotic effect that 
would compromise the lorn simplicity of the 
subject. This masterly use of technical 
resource to unfold an idea whose beauty 
58 



TRANSITION 



would to a lesser artist have seemed 
hopelessly sheathed in obscurity, makes 
Washington Square the perfect termination 
to Mr James' first period of genius. 

It was unfortunately quite definitely a 
termination ; for until ten years had passed 
Mr James was doomed to produce no work 
which was not to have the solidity of its 
characters and the beauty of its prose 
rendered slightly ridiculous by its lack of 
purpose and unity. In those days, when 
the international theme was slipping from 
Mr James' grasp and he was looking round 
for another, one could no more expect him 
to produce work completely and serenely 
formed by the imagination than one could 
ask an author to continue his industry on a 
journey from Paris to Madrid, with the jolt- 
ing of the train destroying his physical calm 
and the new land crying for his attention at 
the carriage window. For Mr James was 
literally travelling all through the eighties ; 
he was touring either the countries of Europe 
with his body or the art of Europe with his 
mind. It was his intention to find that 
59 



HENEY JAMES 



intellectual basis without which, his blood 
and upbringing assured him, he would be 
unable to use his genius with noble or 
permanent results. 

How difficult this search was to be, and 
yet how ultimately fruitful, can be judged 
from A Little Tour in France ( 1 884) . That is 
one of the happiest and sunniest travel books 
in all literature. Ccelum non animum mutant 
qui trans mare currunt ; but Mr James did, 
and it is as pleasant to see his intelligence 
sunning itself on the hot Latin soil, fresh 
and cool as though he had not years of the 
creative struggle behind him and years more 
to come, as it is to see a lizard crawl from 
the crevice of a Provencal rock and play 
among the tufts of rosemary. Yet when- 
ever Mr James has to note some detail in 
his description of French towns which refers 
to the life which has formed them, the 
reader's fury mounts. It is horrible that his 
references to the Franco-Prussian War should 
be faintly jocular, and one burns with shame 
for them until one comes to an amazing 
sentence about the French Revolution, 
• 60 



TRANSITION 



in which it is plainly implied that the 
Tightness and necessity of that declaration 
of the principle of freedom are still debat- 
able questions. One perceives with relief 
that he said these things because, as one 
guessed in The Passionate Pilgrim, his strong 
sight of the thing that is was accompanied 
by blindness to the thing that has been. 
He did not know whether the Franco- 
Prussian War was horrible or not, because 
he had been out of Europe when it raged ; 
and because he had not been born at the 
time he could no more speak well of the 
French Eevolution than he could propose 
for his club a person whom he had never met. 
And for the same reason he failed to envis- 
age the Roman Empire save as a source of 
agreeable ruins which, since he did not 
understand the spirit that built them, he 
imagined might have been made still more 
agreeable. Their vastness did not impress 
him as the merging-point of the geological 
record and history, but stirred in him that 
benevolence which is often aroused by 
clumsy largeness. He patted the Roman 
61 



HENRY JAMES 



Theatre at Aries as though it were Jumbo 
at the Zoo, and remarked, quite in the 
manner of Horace Walpole, that the pave- 
ment of coloured marble " gives an idea of 
the elegance of the interior " ; but the arena 
at Nimes and that vast, high, yellow aque- 
duct, whose three tiers appal the valley of 
the Gardon, were too much for him, and he 
pronounced them " not at all exquisite" 
The man who could write those phrases was 
incapable of forming a philosophy, for no 
man can fully understand his kind unless he 
have a revelation of old Rome and perceive 
in its works a record of the pride men felt 
in serviceable labour for the State. And 
yet what, in this particular case, did all 
that matter? What need was there for 
Mr James to know anything but that ink 
makes black, expressive marks on paper, 
when he could tell so exquisitely how the 
Chateau de Chenonceaux sends out its 
white galleries across the clear water of 
the Cher, how the crenellated ramparts of 
the Chateau d'Amboise look down over 
hanging gardens to the far-shining Loire, 



TEANSITION 



and with what peculiar wonder Carcassonne, 
Aigues-Mortes and all the other towns with 
lovely names, glow in the clear bright light 
of France? It was enough that there 
was no beauty on earth that could daunt 
his power of description. 

The record of his mental wanderings is 
not quite so happy. Mr James has an 
immense prestige as critic, but a certain 
sentence that occurred more than once 
in his obituary notices made it doubtful 
whether this does not merely mean that 
people have run their eyes over the titles of 
Mr James' essays and have accepted the 
fact that he dealt with authors rarely read 
by the British as a guarantee of their rare- 
ness of merit. That it should be reverently 
remarked on that most solemn occasion 
that Flaubert was Mr James' adored master, 
when he had written more than one ex- 
quisitely feline essay to delicately convey 
what a fluke it was that this fellow who 
panted under his phrase like a bricklayer 
under his hod should have produced Madame 
Bovary, is just such an ironic happening as 
63 



HENRY JAMES 



he would have liked to be introduced into 
one of his humorous studies of the literary 
life. Such intimations make one guess 
that the homage which England loves to 
pay to the unread is responsible for half Mr 
James' reputation as a critic ; and probably 
he owed the other half to the gratitude of 
his readers for a pleasure which is un- 
doubtedly given by his critical writings, but 
V which nevertheless does not prove them 
great criticism. It is true that French Poets 
and Novelists are the best reviews ever 
written, and that it is good to listen to the 
old author gossiping in Notes on Novelists 
(1914) about the authors he had known long 
ago and to watch him tracing, with all his 
supreme genius for detecting personality, 
the imprint of dead masters on the fading 
surface of old work. But he is always 
entirely lacking in that necessary element 
of great criticism, the capacity for universal 
reference. The eye that judges a work of 
art should have surveyed the whole human 
field, so that it can tell from what clay this 
precious thing was made, in what crafts- 
64 



TRANSITION 



man's cot that trick of fashioning was 
learned, what natural beauty suggested to 
the creative impulse this appropriate form, 
what human institution helped or hindered 
its making. Of that general culture Mr 
James was so deficient that he was capable 
of inserting in quite an intelligent essay on 
Theophile Gautier this amazing sentence: 
" Even his aesthetic principles are held with 
a good-humoured laxity that allows him, 
for instance, to say in a hundred places the 
most delightfully sympathetic and pictorial 
things about the romantic or Shakespearean 
drama, and yet to describe a pedantically 
classical revival of the Antigone at Munich 
with the most ungrudging relish." And 
while this ignorance was perpetually blind- 
ing him to the purpose of many fair artistic 
structures his literary power was perpetu- 
ally betraying him into the graceful and 
forceful publication of his blindness. Long 
after one has forgotten all the deliverances 
of critics with greater wisdom but less craft 
of phrase, one remembers his extraordi- 
nary opinion that Flaubert's La Tentation 
e 65 



HENEY JAMES 



/ 



\/ 



de Saint Antoine, that book which will 
appeal in every generation to those who 
have been visited by the angel of speculative 
thought, which is not only itself a beautiful 
growth but has borne beautiful fruit in 
Thais, is merely " strange" and has no more 
reference to life than the gimcrack Eastern 
Pavilion at an Exposition. And he lacked, 
moreover, that necessary attribute of the 
good critic, the power to bid bad authors 
to go to the devil. There are certain 
Victorian works of art which, however 
much esteemed by the many, are no more 
matter for criticism than a pair of elastic - 
sided boots ; yet there is a paper in Essays 
in London (1893) in which Mr James talks 
of " the numbers of sorts of distinction, 
the educated insight, the comprehensive 
ardour of Mrs Humphry Ward. . . ." It 
recalls that the art which he privately 
cultivated was courtesy, but it suggests 
that his criticism was bound to consist for 
the most part of just such pleasant foot- 
notes to the obvious as Partial Portraits 
(1888) which, with the exception of some 
66 



TRANSITION 



interesting personal recollections of Tur- 
geniev, tell us nothing more startling than 
that de Maupassant wrote a hard prose and 
that Daudet was a Provencal. 

How greatly he needed the intellectual 
basis which he found in none of these re- 
searches becomes increasingly plain in each 
novel that he published during this period. 
The Portrait of a Lady (1881) is given a 
superficial unity by the beauty of its 
heroine; on the first reading one cannot 
take one's eyes off the clear gaze that 
Isabel Archer levels at life. As she moves 
forward to meet the world, holding her 
fortune in hand without avarice yet very 
carefully, lest she should buy anything 
gross with it, one thinks that there never 
was a heroine who deserved better of life. 
" She spent half her time in thinking of 
beauty, and bravery, and magnanimity; 
she had a fixed determination to regard 
the world as a place of brightness, of free 
expansion, of irresistible action ; she thought 
it would be detestable to be afraid or 
ashamed. She had an infinite hope that 
67 



u 



HENRY JAMES 



she would never do anything wrong." One 
is glad to see that the girl has the most 
wonderful friend, a woman who is at once 
the most flexible femme du monde and the 
freshest and most candid soul ; and among 
the kindnesses this friend does her is her 
introduction to a certain Tuscan villa that 
looks down on the valley of the Arno, where 
on a mossy stone bench tangled with wild 
roses there sits Gilbert Osmond, a gentle- 
man of great dignity who has been too 
fine to partake in the common struggle 
and so lives in honest poverty, with his 
daughter Pansy, a little girl from whose 
character conventual training has removed 
every attribute save whiteness and sweet- 
ness, so that she lies under life like a fine 
cloth on a sunny bleacliing-green. Here, 
of all places in the world, she is least likely 
to meet the jealousy and falseness and 
cruelty which were the only things she 
feared, and so she marries Osmond in the 
happy faith that henceforth nothing will 
be admitted to her life save nobility. But 
all her marriage brings the girl is evidence 
68 



TRANSITION 



of increasing painfulness that her friend is 
a squalid adventuress who has preserved 
her appearance of freshness as carefully as 
a strolling musician his fiddle, in order that 
she might charm such honest fools as Isabel ; 
that Osmond has withdrawn from the 
world, not because he is too fine for it, but 
because he is a hating creature, and hates 
the world as he now hates his wife; that 
Pansy is the illegitimate child of these two, 
and her need of a dowry the chief reason 
why Osmond has married Isabel. It is a 
tale which would draw tears from a re- 
viewer, and yet the conduct invented for 
Isabel is so inconsistent and so suggestive 
of the nincompoop, and so clearly proceed- 
ing from a brain whose ethical world was 
but a chaos, that it is a mistake to subject b 
the book to the white light of a second read- 
ing. When we are told that Isabel married 
Osmond because " there had been nothing 
very delicate in inheriting seventy thousand 
pounds, and she hoped he might use her 
fortune in a way that might make her 
think better of it and would rub off a certain 



HENKY JAMES 



grossness attaching to the good luck of an 
unexpected inheritance," we feel that this 
is mere simpering; for there could be 
nothing less delicate than to marry a person 
for any reason but the consciousness of 
passion. And the grand climax of her con- 
duct, her return to Osmond after the full 
revelation of his guilt has come to augment 
her anguish at his unkindness, proves her 
not the very paragon of ladies but merely 
very ladylike. If their marriage was to be 
a reality it was to be a degradation of the 
will whose integrity the whole book is an 
invitation to admire ; if it was to be a sham 
it was still a larger concession to society 
than should have been made by an honest 
woman. Yet for all the poor quality of 
the motives which furnish Isabel's moral 
stuffing, The Portrait of a Lady is entirely 
successful in giving one the sense of having 
met somebody far too radiantly good for 
this world. 

While that novel reminds one, in the way 
it " comes off," of a sum in which the right 
answer is got by wrong working, The 
70 



TRANSITION 



Bostonians (1886) reminds one of a foolish 
song set to a good tune in the way it fails to 
" come off." The beauty of the writing is 
so great that there are descriptions of the 
shabby petticoats of a pioneer, or the vesti- 
bule in a mean block of flats, that one would 
like to learn by heart, so that one might 
turn the phrases over in the mind when one 
wants to hear the clinking of pure gold. 
And the theme, the aptness of young persons 
possessed of that capacity for contagious 
enthusiasm which makes the good propa- 
gandist to be exploited by the mercenary 
and to deteriorate under the strain of public 
life, is specially interesting to our genera- 
tion. Few of us there are who have not 
seen with our own eyes elderly egoists 
building up profitable autocracies out of the 
ardour of young girls, or fierce advocates 
of the brotherhood of man mellowing into 
contemplative emptiers of pint-pots. But, 
just as the most intellectual conversation 
may be broken up by the continued 
squeal of a loose chimney-cowl, so this 
musical disclosure of fine material is inter- 
71 



HENRY JAMES 



rupted past any reader's patience by a 
nagging hostility to political effort. This 
is not so disgraceful to Mr James as it 
might seem, for it is simply the survival 
of an affectation which was forced upon 
the cultured American of his youth. The 
pioneers who wanted to raise the small 
silvery song of art had to tempt their 
audiences somehow from the big brass band 
of America's political movements; and so 
straining was this task that even Emerson, 
who vibrated to the chord of reform as to 
no other, was sometimes vexed into such 
foolish inquiries as " Does he not do more 
to abolish slavery who works all day in his 
own garden than he who goes to the aboli- 
tion meetings and makes a speech ? " It 
was just one of the results of Mr James' 
condition at this period that he pre- 
sented to the world so deliberately and 
so vividly, and with such an air of feel- 
ing, what was no more than the misty 
reflection of some dead men's transitory 
irritations. 
Politics play a very great part, and in the 
72 



TKANSITION 



same sense, in The Princess Casamassima 
(1886), but it is the peculiar magic of that 
strange book which is at once able and dis- 
traught, wild and meticulous, that in it all 
perversities are somehow transmuted into 
loveliness. It is one of the big jokes in 
literature that it was the writer who among 
all his contemporaries held the most 
sophisticated view of his art, who prided 
himself that on him there gleamed no 
drop of the dew of naivete, that brought 
back to fiction the last delicious breath of 
the time when even the best books ran on 
like this: "It happened that one dark 
and stormy night in March I, Sebastian 
Melmoth, was traversing the plain of La 
Mancha. . . . ' Have at you ! ' cried the 
guard. . . . ' Seat yourself,' said the 
stranger, signing to his Hindu attendant 
that the bodies should be removed, and com- 
mencing to cleanse the blood from his sword 
with a richly embroidered handkerchief, 
' and I will tell you the story of my 
life.' ' There is always something doing 
in The Princess Casamassima, and it is 
73 



HENRY JAMES 



usually something great, and as a rule it is 
doing it quite on its own. As a portal to 
the disordered tale there stands one of the 
finest short stories in the world ; how Miss 
Pynsent, the shabby little dressmaker who 
has brought up Hyacinth, the bastard child 
of a French work-girl now in Millbank for 
the murder of the peer who betrayed her, 
is suddenly bidden to bring the boy to his 
mother's prison deathbed, and how the poor 
woman drags him up to the brown, window- 
less walls, the vast blank gate, the looming 
corridors infused with sallow light, is such a 
study of the way the institutions devised 
by man in the interests of justice and order 
make a child's soul scream, that the reader 
will for ever after think a great deal less of 
Pip's adventures on the marshes in Great 
Expectations. Dickens could never have 
suffused his story with so exquisite and so 
relevant an emotional effect as the aching 
of poor Miss Pynsent' s heart over this rough 
introduction of her cherished lamb to the 
horrible ; nor could he have invented that 
wonderful moment when the child turns 
74 



TRANSITION 



from the ravenous embrace of the wasted 
and disfigured stranger with, " I won't kiss 
her; Pinnie says she stole a watch!" at 
which the murderess screams, " Ah ! quelle 
in jamie ! I never stole anything!" and 
the wardress says with dignity: "I'm sure 
you needn't put more on her than she has 
by rights," to which the poor virgin, quite 
unable to understand the peculiar cachet 
attaching to a crime passionel, cries con- 
tritely, " Mercy, more ! I thought it so 
much less! " 

And from this portal the book goes on to 
incidents and persons not less exquisite but 
still disconcertingly mere portals. It is as 
though in a mad dream one found oneself 
passing through the arch in the mellow 
redness of Hampton Court and straightway 
emerged on the colonnade of St Paul's, 
through whose little swing-doors one surpris- 
ingly stepped to the prim front of Kensington 
Palace. There is M. Poupin, the exiled 
Communist who cannot communicate with 
the world, or the moustached female com- 
panion with whom he dwells in a scrupu- 
75 



HENRY JAMES 



lously unmarried state, save by platitudes 
concerning the social organisation : "I'm 
suffering extremely, but we must all suffer 
so long as the social question is so abomin- 
ably, so iniquitously neglected," is his way 
of intimating a sore throat. There is poor 
Lady Aurora Langrish, the aristocratic 
precursor of the sad Miss Huxtables in The 
Madras House : " My father isn't rich, and 
there's only one of us, Eva, married, and 
we're not at all handsome. . . . They go 
into the country all the autumn, all the 
winter, when there's no one here (except 
three or four millions) and the rain drips, 
drips, drips from the trees in the big dull 
park where my people live, and nothing to 
do but to go out with three or four others 
in mackintoshes. . . ." There is dry old 
Mr Vetch who plays the fiddle in the 
orchestra at night and fills all the rest of the 
empty day with love for Hyacinth; and 
there is Captain Sholto, the Piccadilly 
swell; and Miss Hennings, the sales-lady, 
and half-a-dozen admirable others casually 
affixed by the stretched string of circum- 
76 



TRANSITION 



stance or the glue of coincidence. And quite 
the preciousest " piece" in the collection is 
the account of how the Princess Casamas- 
sima, who is Christina Light of Roderick 
Hudson , grown to perilous maturity of beauty 
and perversity, calls young Hyacinth to her 
country house, and there in the beeGhy park 
and flowery lanes makes him talk of the plots 
against the rich which later are to cause his 
death, and brings him nearer to it by lifting 
a face wonderfully pale and pure with 
enthusiasm. It is so like that Titian in the 
Prado which shows, against a window look- 
ing on a park where lovers walk in golden 
air under silver poplars, Venus lying on a 
satin couch while a young man makes 
music for her at an organ; her eyes are 
softly intent, and the youth thinks she is 
suspended over the world in his music, but 
really she is brooding on the whiteness of 
his skin beneath his black beard. That like- 
ness suggests that The Princess Casamassima 
should be taken, not as a novel, but as the 
small, fine picture gallery that Mr James 
thought fit to add to his mental palace, 
77 



HENKY JAMES 



already so rich in mere sane living 
rooms. 

It is unpleasant to travel in a runaway- 
motor-car, even if it ultimately spills one 
into a rose-garden, and when Mr James 
produced a picture gallery when he had 
intended a grave study of social differences, 
he was in much that case. But already in 
The Author ofBeltraffio (1884) he had shown 
his awareness of a movement which had 
started with the intention of destroying 
both Christian morality and rationalism, 
and otherwise making us fearfully gay, and 
which actually achieved the slight mitiga- 
tion of the offensiveness of plumbers' shop 
windows and the recovery by Mr Henry 
James of control over his machine. That 
story is not one of Mr James' best; the 
author makes his readers regard his scene 
through so small a peephole that even the 
characters who are to be conceived as above 
all retiring have to come grossly near if 
their audience is to make anything of 
the drama at all. The theme is that an 
author's wife who considers her husband's 
78 



TRANSITION 



books objectionable lets her child die rather 
than that he should grow up in the com- 
panionship of one so utterly without re- 
serve ; yet, since the tale is told by a total 
stranger who is visiting them for the week- 
end, she has necessarily to behave with a 
lack of reserve that makes her imputed 
motive incredible. The special value of 
the story lies in the moments when the 
author of Beltraffio, whose affectation of a 
velveteen coat and a remote foreign air 
makes us desire to scream out to the week- 
end visitor that he is being fooled, and this 
is no writer but an artistic photographer, 
remarks with some complacency that to 
the conventional he appears " no better 
than an ancient Greek" and professes a 
thirst for " the cultivation of beauty with- 
out reserve or precautions." Our happy 
generation cannot understand these phrases 
which doubtless had their salutary meaning 
for that distant day when England fed her- 
self on so low a diet that Jude the Obscure 
seemed to her a maddening draught. But 
they interest us by showing that even Mr 
79 



HENRY JAMES 



James, who ordinarily turned aside with 
so chill a wince from the ridiculous, had 
exposed his consciousness to the aesthetic 
movement which had been remotely en- 
gendered by Leigh Hunt's Cockney crow 
of joy at Italy and afterwards fostered by 
Ruskin as one of his wild repartees to the 
railway train, and which was then being 
given the middle-class touch by Oscar 
Wilde. 

We feel surprised at Mr James' cognisance 
of anything so second-rate as this Decadent 
Movement of the late eighties and early 
nineties, because most of us basely judge it 
by its lack of worldly success instead of by 
its moral mission. The elect of the move- 
ment, if one delves in the memory of older 
Londoners, were certainly silly young men 
who were careful about the laundering of 
their evening shirts and who tried to intro- 
duce the tone of public -school life into 
ordinary society. And it is true that for all 
their talk of art they produced nothing but 
one good farce and a cartload of such weak, 
sweet verse as schoolgirls copy into exercise- 
80 



TBANSIT10N 



books, and that from this small effort they 
sank exhausted down to prison, drink, 
madness, suicide ; and struck whatever other 
notes there be in the descending scale of 
personal disgrace. And yet, for all its 
fruitlessness, that prattle about art gave 
them a valid claim on our respect. Never 
had beauty been so forgotten; style was 
poisoned at the fount of thought by Car- v 
lyle, whose sentences were confused dis- 
asters like railway accidents, and by Herbert 
Spencer, who wrote as though he were the 
offspring of two Times leaders; among 
novelists only Kobert Louis Stevenson loved 
words, and he had too prudent a care to 
water down his gruel to suit sick England's 
stomach; and in cricicism Andrew Lang, 
who had admired Scott and Dickens in his 
schooldays and was not going to let himself 
down by admiring anybody nearer his own 
generation, greeted every exponent of the 
real with a high piercing northern sneer. 
It was of inestimable value that it should be 
cried, no matter in how pert a voice, that 
words are jewels which, wisely set, make by 
p 81 



HENRY JAMES 



their shining mental light. That the cry 
could not save the young men who raised it, 
bore out their contention of the time's need 
for it; if they, seeking new beauty, could 
but celebrate the old dingy sins of towns, it 
showed in what a base age they had been 
bred. And if they could not save them- 
selves they saved others. Arnold Bennett 
and H. G. Wells set off in the nineties in a 
world encouragingly full of talk about good 
writing. Conrad, mouthing his difficult 
strange tales about the sea, found an 
audience that would sit hushed. And in 
the brain of one who, being then between 
forty and fifty years of age, might have been 
thought inaccessible to new conceptions of 
the art that had for so long preoccupied him, 
there passed important thoughts. 

" That idea I picked up when I corrected 
George Eliot's proofs, oh ! so long ago ! " 
one can imagine Mr James saying, " that 
idea that art must be ballasted by didactic- 
ism can't be true for me. I've fined it 
down, in my reading of the French, to an 
opinion that the artist should use his fancy 
82 



TRANSITION 



work to decorate useful articles; but still 
it isn't true for me. For I must, before I 
can decorate them, make the useful articles 
of thought my own, and they are just the 
one thing that for all my mental wealth I 
can't acquire. I see them often enough in 
the shop-windows — the moral and political 
and philosophical problems so prodigiously 
produced by my age — and many times have 
tried the door, but to my touch it never 
opens, so I have to describe them as I see 
them through the glass, without having felt 
or known them with the intimacy of posses- 
sion ! It's true I did once deal with a 
situation in the history of two peoples, but 
I see now that in its international character 
there was an intimation that it was the last 
with which I should ever effectively concern 
myself. For I'm destructively Dot national; 
my mind is engraved with the sights and 
social customs of half-a-dozen countries, 
and with the deep traditions of not one, and 
how can I deal deeply with the conduct of a 
people when I haven't a notion of the quality 
or quantity of the traditions which are, 
83 



HENRY JAMES 



NV 



after all, its mainspring ? It seems to me 
that the cry of " Art for Art's sake," which 
is being raised by those young men, and 
which certainly isn't true for them, may be 
true for me. What if henceforth I release 
the winged steed of my recording art from 
the obligation of dragging up the steep hill 
of my inaptitude the dray filled with the 
heavy goods which I have amassed in my 
perhaps so mistaken desire for a respectably 
weighty subject, and let the poor thing just 
beautifully soar ? " 

One perceives how far this mood had gone 
^ ' with Mr James when the hero of The Tragic 
s Muse (1890) refuses a seat in Parliament 
and the hand of a wealthy widow in order 
that he might go on painting. From Mr 
James, to whom marrying a widow appeared 
as much superior to marrying a spinster 
as privately acquiring a " piece" from the 
dispersed collection of a deceased connois- 
seur of repute is to buying old furniture 
with no guarantee but one's own approval, 
this was a portentous incident. And there 
is vast significance in his sympathetic re- 
84 



TRANSITION 



presentation of Miriam Rooth, the young 
actress to whom the title refers, for before 
this period he would never have accepted 
the genius of the black-browed, untidy girl 
as an excuse for her lack of money and social ^ 

position and manners. It had hitherto been r^ 4 . 

his grimly expressed opinion that " the life 
of a woman is essentially an affair of private 
relations," and he had refused to dramatise \ 
in his imagination anything concerning 
women save their failures and successes as 
sexual beings ; [which is like judging a cutlet 
not by its flavour, but by the condition of its 
pink -paper frill. That time had gone. He 
had abandoned all his prejudices in despair, 
and for many years to come was to show 
a divine charity, freely permitting every 
encountered thing to impress its essence on 
the receptive wax of his consciousness. 
For the next twelve years " impressions," 
as in his happy foreign childhood, " were 
not merely all right, but were the dearest 
things in the world." 



85 



IV 
THE CRYSTAL BOWL 

IN that octagonal room at the Prado, 
where each wall is an altar raised to 
beauty, because it is hung with pictures 
by Velasquez, in all the lesser works one 
finds some intimation of the grave, fine 
personality who produced all this wonder. 
At the sacred picture that was his first one 
says, " He was a pupil, and very proud of 
painting the old things better than the old 
men could, even though they meant nothing 
to him" ; at the squat, black dwarfs, " He 
was so sure that the truth about the world 
was kind that he could look upon horror 
without fear " ; and at the sketches of the 
Villa Medici Gardens, " After hot, bleak 
Spain he loved Italy as one who has known 
passion loves a passionless girl." And the 
recreated personality, tangible enough to be 
liked, passes with one about the gallery 
86 



THE CRYSTAL BOWL 



until suddenly, before the masterpieces, it 
vanishes. With those it had nothing to do ; 
the thing that was his character, shaped out 
of the innate traits of his dark stock by the 
raw beauty of the land and the stiff rich life 
of the court, brought him to the conception 
of these works but lay sleeping through 
their execution. When he was painting Las 
HUanderas he knew nothing save that the 
weavers' flesh glowed golden in the dusty 
sunlight of the factory; for the state of 
genius consists of an utter surrender of the 
mind to the subject. The artist at the 
moment of creation must be like a saint 
awaiting the embrace of God, scourging 
appetite out of him, shrinking from sensa- 
tion as though it were a sin, deleting self, 
lifting his consciousness like an empty cup 
to receive the heavenly draught. 

And so, with the beginning of his second 
period of genius, the reading of Mr James 
ceased to give us the companionship of the 
gentle, very pleasant American who seemed 
homeless but quite serene, as though he were 
tired of living in his boxes, but on the other 
87 



HENRY JAMES 



hand was very fond of travelling, that we 
had grown to like in his books of the eighties. 
He went away and sent no letter; but 
instead, with a lavishness one would never 
have suspected from his uneasy bearing, 
sent a succession of jewels, great globed 
jewels of experience, from which marvel- 
lously conceived characters gave out their 
milky gleams or fiery rays. The first tenta- 
tive try at the mere impression, The Astern 
Payers (1888), gave an earnest of his gener- 
osity. There one passes into the golden 
glow of Venice, " where the sky and the sea 
and the rosy air and the marble of the 
palaces all shimmer and melt together. . . . 
The gondola stopped, the old palace was 
there. . . . How charming! it's grey and 
pink ! " And under the painted ceiling of 
the old palace sits bleached and shrivelled 
Juliana Bordereau, the memory of her love 
affair with the great poet Aspern hanging 
in the air like incense and rilling the mind 
with tears that such splendid lovers buy no 
immortality, but grow old like the rest. 
Above its mere amusing story the tale 
88 



THE CRYSTAL BOWL 



breathes an elegy on the many good things 
that are slain by age before death comes and 
decently inters the body. For one watches, 
with a kind of comic horror that such 
grimaces should touch the face that Jeffery 
Aspern kissed, the grin of senile irony with 
which she meets the young American who 
comes to wheedle her lover's letters out of 
her, with which she wheedles money out of 
him that she may provide for the future of 
the poor spinster niece who moves tremu- 
lously about her chair like a silly baaing 
sheep ; with which, one thinks, she possibly 
anticipates the dreadful moment after her 
death when the spinster dodderingly in- 
forms the American that she could give him 
her aunt's papers only " if you were a 
relation . . . if you weren't a stranger. . . ." 
Every drop of beauty is squeezed out of the 
material by a pressure so cool and con- 
trolled that, remembering how Benvenuto 
Cellini " fell in his clothes and slept" after 
he had taken similar small masterpieces from 
the furnace, one waits for his exhaustion. 
But it was given to Mr James, perhaps 



HENRY JAMES 



because he was an American and so of a 
stock oxygenated by contact with the free 
airs of the new free lands, to swim longer in 
the sea of perfection than any other writer. 
It was not until fifteen years later, when 
he was old and the disciples of the move- 
ment which had stimulated him all shabbily 
dead, and talk about art locked away in a 
dusty cupboard with the Japanese fans and 
the blue china pots, that he turned tired and 
came to shore. 

He was sustained in this long swim by 
two beloved subjects, one bitter and one 
sweet. The literary life was written about 
in those days almost as much as it was 
talked about, and it was continually being 
used by the young decadents as the occa- 
sion for predictions of their own later 
squalor in which morphia and dark ladies, 
moulded in the likeness of beautiful young 
Mrs Patrick Campbell, played parts which 
in the subsequent realisation were taken by 
plain beer and plainer barmaids. Mr James 
took up the poor, scribbled-about thing 
and turned it over very reverently, none 
90 



THE CRYSTAL BOWL 



knowing better than he that the artist was 
the sacer vates of his time, and very sadly, 
because he had now close on thirty years of 
intimacy with artists behind him. He had 
known Turgeniev, the most " beautiful 
genius" of his age, and had found him 
rather lonely and pre-eminently not eminent 
in the eyes of the world ; he had seen the 
dark days of Rossetti ; he had trod so close 
on the heels of Alfred de Musset as to know 
that il s'absente trop de VAcademie parcequ'il 
s' absinthe troy ; he had seen poor, fat little 
Zola, who thought that though one could 
not build Rome in a day one could describe 
it in less, plodding and sweating up the 
wrong road to art. And so, in a mood of 
clear melancholy, with an occasional flash 
of irony which was doubtless the sole com- 
ment wrung from his urbanity by the fact 
that that age, when the change of the 
novel's price from thirty -one and sixpence to 
six shillings had enormously increased the 
reading public, had brought no enlargement 
of his circle of readers, he wrote that 
wonderful series of stories which began with 
91 



HENEY JAMES 



The Lesson of the Master (1888) and included 
The Middle Years (1893), The Next Time 
(1895), and The Death of the Lion (1894). 
Save for that roaring joke, The Coxon Fund 
(1894), where one sees Frank Saltram,a "free 
rearrangement of Coleridge," charming 
and sponging on the rich, bringing into their 
drawing-rooms a swaying body that should 
be taken home at once in a cab and a mind 
" like a crystal suspended in the moral 
world — swinging and shining and flashing 
there," these are all sad stories. The 
master is bullied out of being a master by 
the financial importunities of a smart wife 
and comely children; the author of The 
Middle Years dies with none but an acquaint- 
ance picked up at the seaside to hold his 
hand; Kalph Limbert is killed by worry 
because he could not stop producing master- 
pieces when it was the damned marketable 
asset that was required to pay the wages of 
his wife's maid; the lion dies in a cold 
country house, with no fire in his bedroom, 
while his hostess gets paragraphed for her 
charity to the wild literary, and his last 
92 



THE CRYSTAL BOWL 



manuscript goes astray downstairs some- 
where between Lord Dorimont's man and 
Lady Augusta's maid. One knows next to 
nothing at all about the faith consciously 
rejected or adopted by Henry James, and 
whether the atmosphere of speculative theo- 
logy in which he was bred had made him 
think religion as far beyond his mental range 
as mathematics, or whether Christianity 
seemed to him just the excuse of the Latin 
races for building high cool places, very 
grateful in the heat, and filling them with 
incense and images of kind, interceding 
people. But in this melancholy series, and 
indeed in all his later works — for right on 
to The Golden Bowl (1905) he presents his 
characters as being worthy of treatment just 
because they are in some way or other 
struggling to preserve some decency from 
engulfment in the common lot of nastiness 
— one perceives that he had been born with 
the grim New England faith like a cold drop 
in his blood. The earth was a vale of tears, 
and all one could do was to go on, unin- 
fluenced by weeping or the fear of weeping, 
93 



HENRY JAMES 



to some high goal. This sad belief, accom- 
panied by so intense a consciousness that 
his particular goal, the art of great writing, 
was reached by a stonier and longer path 
than any, might have been expected to pro- 
voke him rather to the fury of Landor or 
the gloomy pomposity of Wordsworth than 
to the unhurried, unimpassioned production 
of these wonderful stories, these exquisite 
vessels that swaggeringly hold and clearly 
show the contained draught of truth, like 
tall-stemmed goblets of Venetian glass. 
But glass is the wrong image ; for no hand 
could ever break these, no critical eye detect 
a crack. They are so truthfully conceived 
that one could compare them only to some 
nobly infrangible substance, so realistic and 
yet so charged with significance by their 
fashioning that their likeness must be some- 
thing which is transparent and yet gives the 
light a white fire as it passed through. It 
is of crystal they are made, hard, luminous 
crystal. 

Mr James' second subject, which began 
to show its white flowers in The Other House 
94 



THE CRYSTAL BOWL 



(1896) and went on blossoming long after 
winter had fallen on his genius in The Golden 
Bowl, also showed him a son of New England. 
For it consists of nothing else than the 
demonstration, in varying and exquisitely 
selected circumstances, that blessed are the 
pure in heart ; and that was certainly the 
beatitude that New England, with its fear 
of passion and publicity and its respect for 
spinsters and pastors of bleached lives, most 
regarded. Mr James demonstrated it in 
no spirit of moral propaganda, but for the 
technical reason that a situation is greatly 
elucidated if one of the persons engaged 
presents a consciousness like a polished silver 
surface, unobscured by any tracery of selfish 
preoccupations, which clearly mirrors the 
other participients and their movements. 
Perhaps he thereby discovered the real mean- 
ing of the beatitude, which may be no more 
than an expression of the obvious truth that 
he who receives the fullest impression of 
the world is likely to react most valuably 
to it. Certainly he invented a technical 
trick which in its way was as important as 
95 



HENRY JAMES 



the discovery which Ibsen was making about 
the same time and which he himself used 
later in his last masterpiece, that if one had 
a really " great " scene one ought to leave it 
out and describe it simply by the full relation 
of its consequences. He showed that all sorts 
of things that are amusing enough to write 
about and are yet too ignoble for dignified 
art are lent the required nobility by being 
witnessed by grave candour ; and that char- 
acters whose special claim is that they are 
" strange," but whose strangeness cannot be 
laboured by direct description lest they be- 
come crude, can have the gaps in their repre- 
sentation filled out by their effect on the 
simple. Rose Armiger, in The Other House, 
is made much more horrible because she 
exposes her dreadful passion before the 
simplicity of Tony Bream, just as a striped 
poisonous snake would seem more striped 
and poisonous if it flickered its black fang 
from an English rose-bush. The awfulness 
of Ida Farange, whose handsome appear- 
ance constituted " an abuse of visibility," 
of Beale Farange, whose vast scented beard 
96 



THE CRYSTAL BOWL 



was, since odd ladies liked to play with it, 
ultimately his chief source of income, would 
never have been important enough to be 
recorded if they had not formed a part of 
What Maisie Knew (1897) ; and the en- 
snarement of Sir Claude, her first step- 
parent, who was such a good fellow to talk 
to when his gaze didn't wander to the dark 
young woman in red who was sweeping into 
dinner or to the shining limbs of a Dieppe 
fishwife, by the beautiful, genteel young 
trollop who was her second step-parent, 
would have been a matter too louche for 
representation if Maisie had not so beauti- 
fully cared for him. The battle over The 
Spoils ofPoynton (1897), where the greedy 
mother tries to defend the fine "things" 
of her dead husband's house from her 
imbecile son's vulgar bride, would be too 
unrelievedly a history of greed to be borne 
were not exquisite Fleda Vetch in the fore- 
ground, being fond of the mother, loving the 
son. The best ghost story in the world, 
The Turn of the Screw (1898), is the more 
ghostly because the apparitions of the valet 
g 97 



HENRY JAMES 



and the governess, appearing at the 
dangerous place, the top of the tower on the 
other side of the lake, that they may tempt 
the children they corrupted in their lives to 
join them in their eternal torment, are seen 
by the clear eyes of the honourable and fear- 
less lady who tells the tale. And In the 
Cage (1898) has no subject but the purity 
of the romantic little telegraphist who sits 
behind the wire netting at the grocer's. 
Her heart is like a well of clear water, 
through which, when the handsome Guards- 
man comes in to send a telegram to his 
mistress, love strikes down like a shaft of 
light. 

One pauses, horrified to find oneself tick- 
ing off these masterpieces on one's fingers, 
as though they were so many books by Mrs 
Humphry Ward or buns by Lyons. And 
yet what can one do ? Criticism must break 
down when it comes to masterpieces. For 
if one is creative one wants to go away and 
spend oneself utterly on this sacred business 
of creation, wring out of oneself every drop 
of this inestimable thing art ; and if one is 
98 



THE CRYSTAL BOWL 



not creative one can only put out a tremu- 
lous finger to touch the marvellous shining 
crystal, and be silent with wonder. Deep 
wonder, since these are not, as fools have pre- 
tended, merely rich treatments of the trivial. * * 
For although he could not grasp a compli- 
cated abstraction, was teased by the impli- 
cations of a great cause, and angered by an 
idea that could be understood only by the 
synthesis of many references, he could dive 
down serenely, kke-e. -pr ac l ised ttiver going 
under -the—sear for pearls, into the twilit 
depths of the heart to seize his secrets* 
There is in humanity an instinct for ritual, \ 
there lies in all of us a desire to commemor- 1 
ate our deep emotions, that would otherwise J 
glow in our bosoms and die down for ever, 
by some form that adds to the beauty of 
the world ; but there is only one expression 
of it in literature that is not poisonously 
silly. Newman and the Tractarians and 
Monsignor Benson make the ritualist seem 
as big a fool as the old woman who carries a 
potato in her pocket to ward off rheumat- 
ism. Sabatier makes him seem the kind of 
99 



HENEY JAMES 



person who takes sugar in his tea, paints in 
water-colour and likes The Roadmender. 
But there is a story by Henry James called 
The Altar of the Dead, rejected again and 
again by the caste of cretins who edit the 
magazines and reviews of this unhappy 
country, although of so perfect a beauty 
that one can read every separate paragraph 
every day of one's life for the music of the 
sentences and the loveliness of the pre- 
sented images, which takes ritual from the 
trembling hands of the coped old men and 
exhibits it as something that those who love 
the natural frame of things and hate super- 
stition need not fear to accept. It tells 
how an ageing man acquires an altar in a 
Roman Catholic church and burns at it 
candles to his many dead, and by worship- 
ping there keeps so close company with their 
charity and sweetness that, at his end, the 
blaze of white lights inspires him to a last 
supreme act of forgiveness to an enemy; 
and the beautiful recital makes one's mind 
no longer fear to admit that the splendour 
of a Cathedral Mass may, although one's 
100 



THE CRYSTAL BOWL 



unbelief fly like an arrow through the show 
and transfix even the Cross itself, fulfil a 
noble need. Once at least Henry James 
poured into his crystal goblet the red wine 
that nourishes the soul. 

And it held, too, a liberal draught of the 
least trivial distillation of man's mind, which 
is tragedy, in The Wings of the Dove (1902). 
That story is the perfect example of what 
he had declared in The Tragic Muse the 
artistic performance should always be : 
11 the application, clear and calculated, 
crystal-firm, as it were, of the idea conceived 
in the glow of experience, of suffering, of 
joy." For Milly Theale, the American 
heiress, " who had arts and idiosyncrasies 
of which no great account could have been 
given, but which were a daily grace if you 
lived with them ; such as the art of being 
almost tragically impatient and yet making 
it light as air; of being inexplicably sad 
and yet making it clear as noon ; of being 
unmistakably sad and yet making it soft 
as dusk," whose hopeful progress through 
Europe stops suddenly at the dark portal 
101 



HENEY JAMES 



in Harley Street, is but the ghost of Mary 
Temple, whose death thirty years before 
had been felt by Henry and William James 
as the end of their youth. All those years 
he had held in his heart the memory of that 
poor girl, " conscious of a great capacity for 
life, but early stricken and doomed, con- 
demned to die under short respite while also 
enamoured of the world; aware, moreover, of 
the condemnation and passionately desiring 
to ' put in' before extinction as many of the 
finer vibration as possible and so achieve, 
however briefly and brokenly, the sense of 
having lived " ; but with the prescience of 
the artist he had delayed until he had per- 
fected his art to undertake the heavy task of 
presenting her tragedy without mitigation 
and yet making it bearable and beautiful. 
Then he lavished his technical resources on 
her history as he might have laid flowers on 
her grave. There is nothing more miracu- 
lous in all his works than the way he con- 
trives that, when her agony becomes too 
great to be directly represented and has to 
be suggested by its effect upon others, he 
102 



THE CRYSTAL BOWL 



yet breaks no link of the intimacy between 
the reader and his heroine, but provides 
that her increasing physical absence shall 
be so compensated for by her spiritual 
presence that her rare appearances are like 
long-expected visits from a distant friend. 
One's knowledge of her glows into love when 
one sees her holding a reception in the faded 
golden splendours of the Venetian palace to 
which she has dragged herself to die, smiling 
bravely at her guests, bidding musicians 
strike up to keep them gay, playing, to pre- 
serve her hands from any gesture of anguish 
or appearance of lassitude, with the rope 
of pearls that seems to weigh down her 
wasted body. Yet one gets one's vision i 
through the hard, envious eyes of Kate \ 
Croy, who is the hawk circling over the poor \ 
dying dove, and the appalled gaze of Merton 
Densher, Kate's secret lover, whom she has 
trapped into a profession of love for Milly j' 
so that the deluded girl will leave him her 
fortune. And one sees her most radiantly 
of all in the interview which she grants to 
Densher when she has discovered the cruel 
103 



HENRY JAMES 



fraud practised on her and is dying of the 
knowledge, although one is told no more 
than that " she received me just as usual, 
in that glorious great salone, in the dress she 
always wears, from her inveterate corner of 
her sofa." From the love it lit in his heart, 
a love so great that for very shame Kate 
cannot marry him even when her machina- 
tions have achieved complete success at 
Milly's death, one perceives that this was 
the dying girl's assumption, that her sweet- 
ness and strength must at that hour have 
flowered so divinely that the skies opened 
and they were no longer matter for a human 
history. But about this masterpiece, too, 
there can be nothing said. One just sits 
and looks up, while the Master lifts his old 
grief, changed by his craftsmanship into 
eternal beauty as the wafer is changed to the 
Host by the priest's liturgy, enclosed from 
decay, prisoned in perfection, in the great 
shining crystal bowl of his art. 



104 



THE GOLDEN BOWL 

THE signs of age appeared in Mr 
James' work like white streaks in 
a black beard ; between two vital 
and vigorous books there would appear one 
that in its garrulity and complacent sur- 
render to mannerism predicted decay. It 
became olear, first of all, that he was no 
longer able to bear up with serenity under 
his deep sense that life was a vale of tears. 
How much he wished it would all stop is 
manifest in that strangest of all visions of 
Paradise, The Great Good Place (1900). We 
all have our hopes of what gifts the hereafter 
may bring us, and in most cases we desire 
some compensation for the limitations of 
our human knowledge; we promise our- 
selves that when we lean over the gold bar 
of heaven a competent angel will bustle up, 
clasping innumerable divinely clear text- 
105 



HENKY JAMES 



books under its wings, to tell us absolutely 
everything about physics, with special re- 
ference to the movements of the heavenly 
bodies spinning below. But it is the essence 
of Mr James' Paradise that there is nothing 
there at all but a climate, a sweet soft 
climate in which the most that happens is 
one of those summer sprinkles that brings 
out smells. This fatigue of life, this hunger 
for the peace of nothingness, showed itself 
in his increasing preference for laying the 
scene of his novels in the great good places 
of this earth, where there is nothing more 
dangerous in the parks and on the terraces 
than deer and peacocks, and nothing more 
disturbing to the soul in the high rooms 
and interminable galleries than well-bred 
women. It was not a gain to his art ; under 
its influence he committed the twittering 
over teacups which compose the collection 
of short stories called The Better Sort 
(1903), and the incidentally beautiful but 
devastatingly artificial The Awkward Age 
(1899), in which the reader is perpetually 
confused because Nanda Brookenham, one 
106 



THE GOLDEN BOWL 



of the most charming of Mr James " pure 
in heart," is wept over as though she had 
been violated body and soul, when all that 
has happened is that she has been brought 
up in a faster set than the world thinks 
desirable for a young unmarried girl. And 
it was peculiarly unfortunate that, while his 
subjects grew flimsier and his settings more 
impressive, his style became more and more 
elaborate. With sentences vast as the 
granite blocks of the Pyramids and a scene 
that would have made a site for a capital 
he set about constructing a story the size of 
a hen-house. The type of these unhappier 
efforts of Mr James' genius is The Sacred 
Fount (1901), where, with a respect for the 
mere gross largeness and expensiveness of 
the country house which almost makes one 
write the author Mr Jeames, he records 
how a week-end visitor spends more in- 
tellectual force than Kant can have used 
on The Critique of Pure Reason in an 
unsuccessful attempt to discover whether 
there exists between certain of his fellow- 
guests a relationship not more interesting 
107 



HENEY JAMES 



among these vacuous people than it is 
among sparrows. The finely wrought de- 
scriptions of the leisured life make one feel 
as though one sat in a beautiful old castle, 
granting its beauty but not pleased, because 
one is a prisoner, while the small, mean 
story worries one like a rat nibbling at the 
wainscot. One takes it as significant that 
the unnamed host and hostess of the party 
never appear save to " give signals." The 
tiny, desperate figures this phrase shows to 
the mind's eye, semaphoring to each other 
across incredibly extended polished vistas 
to keep up their courage under these loom- 
ing, soaring vaults, may be taken as symbols 
of the heart and intellect which Mr James 
had now forgotten in his elaboration of their 
social envelope. 

But with this method, as in every form 
of literary activity save only playwriting, 
in which he was rather worse than Sidney 
Grundy in much the same way, Mr James 
gained his radiant triumphs. There could 
be nothing more trivial than the donnee of 
The Ambassadors (1903) ; there is no dignity 
108 



THE GOLDEN BOWL 



or significance in the situation of Lambert 
Strether, an American who is engaged, in 
that odd way common to Mr James' char- 
acters, to a woman whom he certainly does 
not love and hardly seems to like, and goes 
at her bidding to Paris to cut her cubbish 
son clear from an entanglement with a 
Frenchwoman. And yet so artfully is the 
tale displayed in the setting of lovely, clean, 
white Paris and green France, lifting her 
poplars into the serene strong light of the 
French sky, that the reader holds his breath 
over the story of how Strether " had come 
with a view that might have been figured by 
a clear, green liquid, say, in a neat glass 
phial ; and the liquid, once poured into the 
open cup of application, once exposed to the 
action of another air, had begun to turn from 
green to red, or whatever, and might, for all 
he knew, be on its way to purple, to black, 
to yellow" ; how, in fact, the old " inter- 
national situation " acted on the new genera- 
tion of Americans. But that book is not 
typical of this period, for it is singularly free 
from those great sentences which sprawl 
109 



HENKY JAMES 



over the pages of The Golden Bowl with such 
an effect of rank vegetable growth that one 
feels that if one took cuttings of them one 
could raise a library in the garden. And it 
is those sentences which absorb, at the last, 
the whole of Mr James' attention. 

For he ceased, as time went on, to pay any 
attention to the emotional values of his 
stories; it is one of the strangest things 
about The Golden Bowl that the frame 
on which there hangs the most elaborate 
integument of suggestion and exposition 
ever woven by the mind of man is an ugly 
and incompletely invented story about 
some people who are sexually mad. Adam 
Verver, an American millionaire, buys an 
Italian prince for his daughter Maggie, and 
in her turn she arranges a marriage between 
her father and Charlotte, her school friend, 
because she thinks he may be lonely without 
her. And although it is plain that people 
who buy " made-up" marriages are more 
awful than the admittedly awful people 
who buy " made-up" ties, they are pre- 
sented to one as vibrating exquisitely to 
110 



THE GOLDEN BOWL 



every fine chord of life, as thinking about 
each other with the anxious subtlety of 
lovers, as so steeped in a sense of one another 
that they invent a sea of poetic phrases, 
beautiful images, discerning metaphors that 
break on the reader's mind like the unceas- 
ing surf. And when one tries to discover 
from the recorded speeches of these people 
whether there was no palliation of their 
ugly circumstances one finds that the 
dialogue, usually so compact a raft for the 
conveyance of the meaning of Mr James' 
novels, has been smashed up on this sea 
of phrases and drifts in, a plank at a time, 
on the copious flood: 

" Maggie happened to learn, by some 
other man's greeting of him, in the bright 
Koman way, from a street corner as we 
passed, that one of the Prince's baptismal 
names, the one always used for him among 
his relations, was Amerigo ; which — as you 
probably don't know, however, even after 
a lifetime of me — was the name, four 
hundred years ago, or whenever, of the 
pushing man who followed, across the sea, 
111 



HENRY JAMES 



in the wake of Columbus and succeeded, 
where Columbus had failed, in becoming 
godfather, or name-father, to the new con- 
tinent; so the thought of any connection 
with him can even now thrill our artless 
breasts." 



And as if it was not enough that these 
people should say literally unspeakable 
sentences like that, and do incredible things, 
the phrases make them do things which they 
never did. For the metaphors are so beauti- 
fully and completely presented to the mind 
that it retains them as having as real 
and physical an existence as the facts. 
When we learn that the relationship between 
Charlotte and the Prince had reared itself 
in Maggie's life like " some wonderful, 
beautiful, but outlandish pagoda, a structure 
plated with hard, bright porcelain, coloured 
and figured and adorned, at the overhanging 
eaves, with silver bells that tinkled ever so 
charmingly, when stirred by chance airs," 
and the simile is cunningly developed for 
seven or eight hundred words, one is left 
112 



THE GOLDEN BOWL 



with a confused impression that a pagoda 
formed part of the furniture at Portland 
Place and that Maggie oddly elected to keep 
her husband inside it. And to cap it all 
these people are not even human, for their 
thoughts concerning their relationships are 
so impassioned and so elaborate that they 
can never have had either energy or time 
for the consideration of anything else in the 
world. A race of creatures so inveterately 
specialist as Maggie Verver could never 
have attained man's mastery over environ- 
ment, but would still be specialising on the 
cocoa-nut or some such simple form of diet. 
Decidedly The Golden Bowl is not good 
as a novel ; but what it is supremely good 
ai can be discovered when one learns how, 
in these later days, Mr James used to com- 
pose his novels. He began by dictating a 
short draft which, even in the case of such a 
cartload of apes and ivory as The Golden 
Bowl, might be no longer than thirty 
thousand words. Then he would take this 
draft in his hand and would dictate it all 
over again with what he intended to be 
h 113 



HENEY JAMES 



enlightening additions, but which, since the 
mere act of talking set all his family on to 
something quite different from the art of 
letters, made it less and less of a novel. 
For the James family had, as was shown 
by their father's many reported phrases, by 
William James 5 charm as a lecturer, and by 
the social greatness of Kobertson James, 
a genius for conversation. For long years it 
had remained latent in Henry James, who 
had in youth suffered much from that 
stockishness which often comes to those 
who are burning all their energy for creative 
purposes and have none left for personal 
display; but latterly it had been liberated 
by the consciousness of maturity and fame. 
At last it became a passion with him, and 
he decided to converse, not only with his 
friends, but with his public. This was bad 
for his novels, so long as one considered 
them as such, since a novel should be the 
presentation and explanation of a subject 
while a conversation is a fantasia of enter- 
taining phrases on themes the essentials 
of which are to some extent already in the 
114 



THE GOLDEN BOWL 



possession of the interlocutors. But once 
one considers them as a flow of bright things 
said about people Mr James knows and that 
one rather thinks one has met, but is not 
quite sure, one perceives that the crystal 
bowl of Mr James' art was not, as one 
had feared, broken. He had but gilded its 
clear sides with the gold of his genius for 
phrase -making, and now, instead of lifting 
it with a priest-like gesture to exhibit a 
noble subject, held it on his knees as a 
treasured piece of bric-a-brac and tossed 
into it, with an increasing carelessness, any 
sort of subject — a jewel, a rose, a bit of 
string, a visiting-card — confident that the 
surrounding golden glow would lend it 
beauty. Indiscriminately he dropped into 
it his precious visions of his revisited 
motherland, in The American Scene (1907) ; 
the dry little anecdotes of The Finer Grain 
(1910) ; the tittering triviality of The Out- 
cry (1911) ; and his judgment of his own 
works in the prefaces to the New York 
edition of the Novels and Tales of Henry 
James (1908-1909). 

115 



HENRY JAMES 



Always it was good, rambling talk, 
although fissured now and then with an old 
man's lapses into tiresomeness, when he split 
hairs until there were no longer any hairs to 
split and his mental gesture became merely 
the making of agitated passes over a 
complete baldness. 

And here and there the prose achieves 
a beauty of its own ; but it is no longer 
the beauty of a living thing, but rather 
the " made" beauty which bases its claims 
to admiration chiefly on its ingenuity, like 
those crystal clocks with jewelled works 
and figures moving as the hours chimed, 
which were the glory of mediaeval palaces. 

William James died in 1910, and Henry 
James, who had already begun to savour 
the bitterness of outliving brothers and 
friends and pets, whiled away the next few 
years of separation from his adored brother 
in the composition of two beautiful books 
about their childhood and youth, A Small 
Boy (1913), and Notes of a Son and Brother 
(1914), and a third autobiographical volume 
116 



THE GOLDEN BOWL 



which is not yet published. Then came the 
European War, in which he enlisted as a 
spiritual soldier. By innumerable beautiful 
acts, by kindly visits to French and Belgian 
refugees and wounded soldiers, by gifts of 
money and writings to war charities, he 
raised an altar to the dead who had died for 
the countries which he had always loved at 
the hands of the country which, ever since 
he was a student at Bonn, he had always 
loathed. In July, 1915, he took the great 
step, fraught for him with the deepest 
emotions, of renouncing his American 
citizenship and becoming a naturalised 
British subject; and in January, 1916, he 
did England the further honour of accepting 
the Order of Merit. And on 28th February, 
1916, he died, leaving the white light of his 
genius to shine out for the eternal comfort 
of the mind of man. 



117 



A SHORT BIBLIOGRAPHY OF MR 
HENRY JAMES' PRINCIPAL WORKS 

[A complete bibliography of the works of Mr James would 
form a much thioker volume than this book. A 
useful bibliography up to 1906, compiled by Mr 
Frederick Allen King, is included as an appendix in 
Miss Elisabeth Luther Cary's The Novels of Henry 
James (Putnam) ; and a complete bibliography 
oovering the same period, which gives an interesting 
list of his early unsigned contributions to periodicals, 
has been compiled by Mr Leroy Phillips and published 
by Messrs Constable. The following bibliography 
reoords only the first editions of publications in book 
form.] 

The Amerioan {Ward, Lock). 1877. 

French Poets and Novelists (Macmillan). 1878. 

The Europeans {Macmillan). 1878. 

Roderick Hudson {Macmillan). 1879. 

Daisy Miller. An International Episode. Four Meetings 

{Macmillan). 1879. 
The Madonna of the Future. Longstaff's Marriage. 

Madame de Mauves. Eugene Pickering. The Diary 

of a Man of Fifty. Benvolio {Macmillan). 1879. 
Hawthorne (Macmillan). Included in English Men of 

Letters Series, edited by John Morley. 1879. 
Confidence (Chatto dk Windus). 1880. 
Washington Square. The Pension Beaurepas. A Bundle 

of Letters {Macmillan). 1881. 

119 



HENRY JAMES 



The Portrait of a Lady (Macmillan). 1881. 

Portraits of Places (Macmillan). 1883. ~~ 

Tales of Three Cities : The Impressions of a Cousin. Lady 
Barbarina. A New England Winter {Macmillan). 
1884. 

Stories Revived: Vol. I. The Author of Beltraffio. 
Pandora. The Path of Duty. A Day of Days. A 
Light Man. Vol. II. Georgina's Reasons. A Passion- 
ate Pilgrim. A Landscape Painter. Rose-Agathe. 
Vol. III. Poor Richard. The Last of the Valerii. 
Master Eustace. The Romance of Certain Old 
Clothes. A Most Extraordinary Case (Macmillan). 
1885. 

The Bostonians (Macmillan). 1886. 

The Princess Casamassima (Macmillan). 1886. 

The Reverberator (Macmillan). 1888. 

The Aspern Papers. Louisa Pallant. The Modern 
Warning (Macmillan). 1888. 

Partial Portraits (Macmillan). 1888. 

A London Life. The Patagonia. The Liar. Mrs 
Temper ley (Macmillan). 1889. 

The Tragio Muse (Macmillan). {g9J£ 

The Lesson of the Master. The Marriages. The Pupil. 
Brooksmith. The Solution. Sir Edmund Orme 
(Macmillan). 1892. 

The Real Thing. Sir Dominick Ferrand. Nona Vincent. 
The Chaperon. Greville Fane (Macmillan). 1893. 

The Private Life. The Wheel of Time. Lord Beaupre. 
The Visits. Collaboration. Owen Wingrave (Osgood, 
Mcllvaine). 1893. 

Essays in London (Osgood, Mcllvaine). 1893. 

Theatricals : Two Comedies. Tenants. Disengaged 
(Osgood, Mcllvaine). 1894. 

Theatricals : Second Series. The Album. The Repro- 
bate (Osgood, Mcllvaine). 1895. 

120 



BIBLIOGKAPHY 



Terminations : The Death of the Lion. The Coxon Fund. 
The Middle Years. The Altar of the Dead (Heine- 
mann). 1895. 

Embarrassments : The Figure in the Carpet. Glasses. The 
Next Time. The Way it Came (Heinemann) 1896. 

The Other House (Heinemann). 1896. 

The Spoils of Poynton (Heinemann). 1897. 

What Maisie Knew (Heinemann). 1897. 

In the Cage (Duckworth). 1898. 

The Two Magics. The Turn of the Screw. Covering End 
(Macmillan). 1898. 

The Awkward Age (Heinemann). 1899: 

The Soft Side : The Great Good Place. " Europe." 
Paste. The Real Right Thing. The Great Condition. 
The Tree of Knowledge. The Abasement of the 
Northmores. The Given Case. John Delavoy. The 
Third Person. Maud-Evelyn. Miss Gunton of 
Poughkeepsie (Methuen). 1900. 

The Sacred Fount (Methuen). 1901. 

The Wings of the Dove (Constable). 1902. 

The Better Sort: Broken Wings. The Beldonald Hol- 
bein. The Two Faces. The Tone of Time. The 
Special Type. Mrs Medwin. Flickerbridge. The 
Story in It. The Beast in the Jungle. The Birth- 
place. The Papers (Methuen). 1903. 

The Ambassadors (Methuen). 1903. 

William Wetmore Story and his Friends (Blackwood). 
1903. 

The Golden Bowl (Methuen). 1905. 

English Hours (Heinemann). 1905. 

The Amerioan Soene (Chapman & Hall). 1907. 

Italian Hours (Heinemann). 1909. 

The Finer Grain : The Velvet Glove. Mora Montravers. 
A Round of Visits. Crapy Cornelia. The Bench of 
Desolation (Methuen). 1910. 

121 



HENEY JAMES 



The Outcry (Methuen). 1911. 

A Small Boy (Macmillan). 1913. 

Notes of a Son and Brother (Macmillan). 1914. 

Notes on Novelists {Dent). 1914. 

A Collection of Novels and Tales by Henry James was 
published by Messrs Maomillan in 1883. This consisted of 
reprints of The Portrait of a Lady, Roderick Hudson, The 
American, Washington Square, The Europeans, Confidence, 
Madame de Mauves, An International Episode, The 
Pension Beaurepas, Daisy Miller, Four Meetings, Long- 
staff's Marriage, Benvolio, The Madonna of the Future, A 
Bundle of Letters, The Diary of a Man of Fifty, and Eugene 
Pickering ; and two stories, The Siege of London and The 
Point of View, which had not before been published in 
England. 

The New York Edition of the Novels and Tales of Mr 
Henry James was published by Messrs Macmillan during 
1908-1909. Each novel and each volume of short stories 
has a critical preface by the author, and each volume has 
a photograph by Alvin Langdon Coburn as frontispiece. 
The following is the order : — 

1. Roderick Hudson. 2. The Amerioan. 3, 4. The 
Portrait of a Lady. 5, 6. The Princess Casamassima. 
7, 8. The Tragic Muse. 9. The Awkward Age. 10. The 
Spoils of Poynton ; A London Life ; The Chaperon. 
11. What Maisie Knew ; In the Cage ; The Pupil. 12. The 
Aspern Papers ; The Turn of the Screw ; The Liar ; 
The Two Faces. 13. The Reverberator ; Madame de 
Mauves ; A Passionate Pilgrim ; The Madonna of the 
Future ; Louisa Pallant. 14. Lady Barbarina ; The 
Siege of London ; An International Episode ; The Pension 
Beaurepas ; A Bundle of Letters ; The Point of View. 
15. The Lesson of the Master ; The Death of the Lion ; 

122 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 



The Next Time ; The Figure in the Carpet ; The Coxon 
Fund. 16. The Author of Beltraffio ; The Middle Years ; 
Greville Fane ; Broken Wings ; The Tree of Knowledge ; 
The Abasement of the Northmores; The Great Good 
Place ; Four Meetings ; Paste ; Europe ; Miss Gunton 
of Poughkeepsie ; Fordham Castle. 17. The Altar of 
the Dead ; The Beast in the Jungle ; The Birthplace ; 
The Private Life ; Owen Wingrave ; The Friends of the 
Friends ; Sir Edmund Orme ; The Real Right Thing ; 
The Jolly Corner ; Julia Bride. 18. Daisy Miller ; Pan- 
dora ; The Patagonia ; The Marriages ; The Real Thing ; 
Brooksmith ; The Beldonald Holbein ; The Story in It ; 
Fliokerbridge ; Mrs Medwin. 19, 20. The Ambassadors. 
21, 22. The Wings of the Dove. 23, 24. The Golden 
Bowl. 

Fordham Castle, The Jolly Corner and Julia Bride had 
not previously been published. All the early works have 
been subjected to a revision which in several cases, notably 
Daisy Miller and Four Meetings, amounts to their ruin. 



123 



AMERICAN BIBLIOGRAPHY 

[When the contents of collections of short stories have 
been given in full in the English bibliography they 
are entered here by their title only.] 
A Passionate Pilgrim and Other Tales : The Last of the 
Valerii. Eugene Pickering. The Madonna of the 
Future. The Romance of Certain Old Clothes. 
Madame de Mauves {James R. Osgood; present pub- 
lisher, Houghton, Mifflin). 1875. 
/ Transatlantic Sketches : Articles reprinted from The 
Nation, The Atlantic Monthly, and The Galaxy 
{James R. Osgood ; present publishers, Houghton, 
Mifflin). 1875. 
Roderick Hudson {James R. Osgood ; present publisher, 

Houghton, Mifflin). 1876. 
The Amerioan {James R. Osgood ; present publisher, 

Houghton, Mifflin). 1877. 
Watch and Ward {Houghton, Osgood ; present publisher, 
Houghton, Mifflin). 1878. 
.-The Europeans {Houghton, Osgood ; present publisher, 
' Houghton, Mifflin). 1878. 

Daisy Miller {Harper). 1878. 
An International Episode {Harper). 1878. 
^Hawthorne {Harper). 1880. 

^ The Diary of a Man of Fifty and A Bundle of Letters 
{Harper). 1880. 
Confidence {Houghton, Osgood ; present publisher, Houghton 
Mifflin). 1880. 
^.Washington Square. Illustrated by George du Maurier 
S {Harper). 1881. 

x The Portrait of a Lady {Houghton, Mifflin). 1881. 

^ 124 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 



Daisy Miller : A Comedy. Privately printed. 1882. 
The Siege of London, The Pension Beaurepas, and The 

Point of View (James R. Osgood ; present publisher, 

Houghton, Mifflin). 1883. 
Portraits of Places (James R. Osgood ; present publisher, 

Houghton, Mifflin). 1883. 
Tales of Three Cities (James R. Osgood ; present publisher, 

Houghton, Mifflin). 1884. 
yh Little Tour in France (James R. Osgood ; present 

publisher, Houghton, Mifflin). 1884. 
The Author of Beltraffio. Pandora. Georgina's Reasons. 

The Path of Duty. Four Meetings (James R. Osgood ; 

present publisher, Houghton, Mifflin). 1885. 
-^The Bostonians (Macmillan). 1886. 

The Prinoess Casamassima (Macmillan). 1886. 

The Reverberator (Macmillan). 1888. 

The Aspern Papers (Macmillan). 1888. 

Partial Portraits (Macmillan). 1888. 

A London Life (Macmillan). 1889. 

The Tragio Muse (Houghton, Mifflin). 1890. 

The Lesson of the Master (Macmillan). 1892. 

The Real Thing (Macmillan). 1893. 

The Private Life. Lord Beaupre. The Visits (Harper). 

1893. 
The Wheel of Time. Collaboration. Owen Wingrave 

(Harper). 1893. 
Picture and Text. Essays on Art (Harper). 1893. 
Essays in London (Harper). 1893. 
Theatricals (Harper). 1894. 
Theatricals : Seoond Series (Harper). 1895. 
Terminations (Harper). 1895. 
Embarrassments (Macmillan). 1896. 
The Other House (Macmillan). 1896. 
The Spoils of Poynton (Houghton, Mifflin). 1897. 
What Maisie Knew (Herbert 8. Stone). 1897. 
125 



HENRY JAMES 



In the Cage {Herbert S. Stone). 1898. 
The Two Magics [Macmillan). 1898. 
The Awkward Age {Harper). 1899. 
The Soft Side {Macrt Allan). 1900. 
The Sacred Fount {Scribner's). 1901. 
The Wings of the Dove {Scribner's). 1902. 
emm The Better Sort {Scribner's). 1903. 
The Ambassadors {Harper). 1903. 
William Wetmore Story {Houghton, Mifflin). 1903. 
The Golden Bowl {Scribner's). 1904. 
^English Hours {Houghton, Mifflin). 1905. 

The Question of our Speech. The Lesson of Balzac 

{Houghton, Mifflin). 1905. 
The American Scene {Harper). 1907. 
Italian Hours {Houghton, Mifflin). 1909. 
The Finer Grain {Scribner's). 1910. 
The Outcry {Scribner's). 1911. 
y& Small Boy {Scribner's). 1913. 

Notes of a Son and Brother {Scribner's). 1914. 
Notes on Novelists {Scribner's). 1914. 

The New York Edition of the Novels and Tales of 
Mr Henry James was published in America by Messrs 
Scribner's Sons. 



126 



INDEX 

Altar of the Dead, The, 100 
Ambassadors, The, 108-110 
American Scene, The, 115 
American, The, 38-40 
Aspem Papers, The, 88-89 
Atlantic Monthly, The, 21, 24 
Author of Beltraffio, The, 78-80 
Awkward Age, The, 106-107 
Better Sort, The, 106 
Bostonians, The, 71-72 

Civil War, 19, 21 

Coxon Fund, The, 92 

Criticism, 63-71 

Daisy Miller, 44-48 

Death of the Lion, The, 92-93 

Decadent Movement, 79-84, 90 

Eliot, George, 22, 82 
Emerson, 10, 72 
Essays in London, 66 
European War, 117 
Europeans, The, 41-44 

Finer Grain, The, 115 
Flaubert, 58, 63, 65-66 
French literature, 38, 52, 58, 91 
French Poets and Novelists, 37, 64 

Galaxy, The, 24 

Golden Bowl, The, 25, 93, 95, 110-113 

Great Good Place, The, 105 

Hawthorne, 10, 24, 31 
Historic sense, 60-63 

International situation, 30-33, 109 
In the Cage, 98 

James, Rev. Henry, 12-13, 17-19, 114 

Lady Barbarina, 49 

Lesson of the Master, The, 92 

127 



HENRY JAMES 



Little Tour in France, A, 60-61 
London Life, A, 50, 54 

Madame de Mauves, 28-30 
Madonna of the Future, The, 28 
Middle Years, The, 92 

Naturalisation, 117 

Next Time, The, 92 

New York Edition of, Novels and Tales, The, 115 

Notes of a Son and Brother, 116 

Notes on Novelists, 64 

Other House, The, 96 

Outcry, The, 115 

Pandora, 49 

Partial Portraits, 67 

Passionate Pilgrim, The, 25-27, 61 

Pension Beaurepas, The, 48 

Playwriting, 108 

Pnrtra.it qf a. frgflfc The A7.70 

Princess Casamassima, The, 73-78 

Religion, 17-19, 93, 99-101, 105-106 
Reverberator, The, 50 
Roderick Hudson, 33-36 
Romance of Certain Old Clothes, 24 

Sacred Fount, The, 107 
/Siegre of London, The, 48 
Small Boy, A, 116 
£poi7s of Poynton, The, 97 

Temple, Mary, 23, 102 
%ic Jl/wse, TAe, 84, 101 
Turgeniev, 56-59, 91 
Turn of the Screw, The, 97 

Velasquez, 86 

Ward, Mrs Humphry, 66 
Washington Square, 55-59 
What Maisie Knew, 97 
Wings of the Dove, 101, 104 



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