Essays in London and Elsewhere

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Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1893 - LITERARY COLLECTIONS - 305 pages
In this collection of critical essays, James discusses some of his favorite contemporary writers such as Robert Browning, Henrik Ibsen, Gustave Flaubert and many more. It also includes a general essay on the role of the critic in literature.

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Page 11 - ... don't say it is necessary to meet so absurd an allegation except for one's personal complacency. If indifference, in so gorged an organism, is still livelier than curiosity, you may avail yourself of your own share in it simply to feel that since such and such a person doesn't care for real...
Page 266 - He knows that the whole honor of the matter, for him, besides the success in his own eyes, depends upon his being indefatigably supple, and that is a formidable order. Let me not speak, however, as if his work were a conscious grind, for the sense of effort is easily lost in the enthusiasm of curiosity. Any vocation has its hours of intensity that is so closely connected with life. That of the critic, in literature, is connected doubly, for he deals with life at second-hand as well as at first; that...
Page 264 - That is, whether or no the French are always right as to what they do notice, they strike me as infallible as to what they don't. They publish hundreds of books which are never noticed at all, and yet they are much neater book-makers than we. It is recognized that such volumes have nothing to say to the critical sense, that they do not belong to literature, and that the possession of the critical sense is exactly what makes it impossible to read them and dreary to discuss them — places them, as...
Page 45 - This is the idea that his name most promptly evokes; and though it was not by any means the only idea he cherished, the unity of his career is surely to be found in it. He carried style — the style of literature — into regions in which we rarely look for it: into politics, of all places in the world, into diplomacy...
Page 150 - ... the martyrs of the plastic idea; but let him be still more considerately preserved and more fully presented as one of the most conspicuous of the faithless. For it was not that he went too far, it was on the contrary that he stopped too short. He hovered forever at the public door, in the outer court, the splendor of which very properly beguiled him, and in which he seems still to stand as upright as a sentinel and as shapely as a statue. But that immobility and even that erectness were paid...
Page 241 - We receive Hedda ripe for her catastrophe, and if we ask for antecedents and explanations we must simply find them in her character. Her motives are just her passions. What the four acts show us is these motives and that character— complicated, strange, irreconcilable, infernal — playing themselves out.
Page 242 - The distinguished thing is the firm hand that weaves the web, the deep and ingenious use made of the material. What material, indeed, the dissentient spirit may exclaim, and what "use," worthy of the sacred name, is to be made of a wicked, diseased, disagreeable woman? That is just what Ibsen attempts to gauge, and from the moment such an attempt is resolute the case ceases to be so simple. The "use
Page 262 - ... as an infectious disease; that literature lives essentially, in the sacred depths of its being, upon example, upon perfection wrought; that, like other sensitive organisms, it is highly susceptible of demoralization, and that nothing is better calculated than irresponsible pedagogy to make it close its ears and lips. To be puerile and untutored about it is to deprive it of air and light, and the consequence of its keeping bad company is that it loses all heart. We may, of course, continue to...

About the author (1893)

Henry James, American novelist and literary critic, was born in 1843 in New York City. Psychologist-philosopher William James was his brother. By the age of 18, he had lived in France, England, Switzerland, Germany, and New England. In 1876, he moved to London, having decided to live abroad permanently. James was a prolific writer; his writings include 22 novels, 113 tales, 15 plays, approximately 10 books of criticism, and 7 travel books. His best-known works include Daisy Miller, The Turn of the Screw, The Portrait of a Lady, The Ambassadors, and The American Scene. His works of fiction are elegant and articulate looks at Victorian society; while primarily set in genteel society, James subtlely explores class issues, sexual repression, and psychological distress. Henry James died in 1916 in London. The James Memorial Stone in Poet's Corner, Westminster Abbey, commemorates him.

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