Henry James E-Texts


A more or less recently acquired literary taste, Henry James rewards the careful reader with delights beyond number. His books are not light, nor are they immediately accessible by all. However, every single book or story I have read by him has been worth the effort in far greater measure than might be said for more recent literary figures.

So, I was delighted to find at one of the best of Henry James e-text sites (that of Adrian Dover) the following three works:

The Private Life-- a collection of Short Stories, not featuring his best know work, but still, some fine stories.
The Princess Casamassisma which Dover notes is unique amongst Henry James's work in that it features a character from a previous, much earlier work (Roberick Hudson) as the title character.
Tales of Three Cities--once again, short stories, and not his more famous work, but then, perhaps more of his work should be justly applauded. His stories are small gems, intricate and elaborate works that reward rereading in nearly every case.

Anyway, I hope I've intrigued you by my own interest. If you have not yet read or started to read Henry James, set aside a block of time and take up his famous "Christmas Story" The Turn of the Screw. Or look into another, more social realist work such as The Golden Bowl. But be warned--you must be willing to spend time to really enjoy Henry James. If you're looking for a quick read, you'd do better to look up Bret Harte or Mark Twain.

And just for the record, I will note that one of the finalists for the Naitonal Book Award was an Irish Author's novel based on Henry James's life--titled The Master --I haven't read it yet, but I am looking forward to it.

Just located at another site:

The Passionate Pilgrim and Other Tales --an early collection of short stories which includes both "A Romance of Certain Old Clothes" and "The Madonna of the Future." Henry James's early works are much more accessible and straight forward than some of the more mature work.

Take this classic Jamesian set-up for a story, from "Madonna of the Future" as an example of his fine art:

WE had been talking about the masters who had
achieved but a single masterpiece, -- the art-
ists and poets who but once in their lives had known
the divine afflatus, and touched the high level of the
best. Our host had been showing us a charming little
cabinet picture by a painter whose name we had never
heard, and who, after this one spasmodic bid for fame,
had apparently relapsed into fatal mediocrity. There
was some discussion as to the frequency of this phe-
nomenon; during which, I observed, H -- sat silent,
finishing his cigar with a meditative air, and looking
at the picture, which was being handed round the table.
"I don't know how common a case it is," he said at
last, "but I 've seen it. I 've known a poor fellow who
painted his one masterpiece, and" -- he added with a
smile -- "he did n't even paint that. He made his bid
for fame, and missed it." We all knew H -- for a
clever man who had seen much of men and manners,
and had a great stock of reminiscences. Some one im-
mediately questioned him further, and while I was en-
grossed with the raptures of my neighbor over the little
picture, he was induced to tell his tale.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on December 1, 2004 8:14 AM.

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