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ressé comme le serait un étranger, et déjà men and women of his tales should have, un homme de l'avenir.” This disinterest- both physically and mentally, an air of ed view has, we believe, brought Mr. solidity and reality only occasionally atJames into some discredit with a certain tained' to in the same degree ; he sees section of his compatriots ; the fresh per- them impartially, he depicts them unception and keen insight he has brought erringly, with an extreme delicacy and to the conteinplation of his country and distinction ; they are set in clear and open theirs has not always pleased them. They daylight, in a perspective as wide, in an are probably unaware of the debt of grati- atmosphere as free as those of the two tude they owe him. It is niore apparent continents of which he treats. His charto the Englislı mind, wbich, contrasting acters are types and yet individual ; they its knowledge of America now with what belong at once to the universe and to their it was some twenty or thirty years ago, own epoch ; they have, in short, that comperceives how largely, among other bination of the general and the particular causes, Mr. Janies bas contributed to that that is indispensable to the coinplete knowledge ; how clear a light, and how vitality of a creature of the imagination ; favorable a light, has been thrown upon and they stand out in a relief that is the the subject by his interpretations. This bolder, perhaps, that they are, as a rule, is the more valuable that there can be no provided with little more scenery for their suspicion of the author's impartiality ; surrounding than is requisite to indicate that if, as is the fact, there is in the course the local coloring of the story. To Mr. of his stories bardly a contest between an James, we gather from his novels as a American and a European in which the whole, lifo presents itself not pictorially, American does not show the finer of the as a number of pictures, that is, in which two, it is, we are persuaded, because, human action displays itself against the given the characters and the circumstances, vast scenic background of the world, not the American must of necessity show the dramatically, as a succession of scenes finer of the two. Nothing, indeed, could culminating in a logical catastrophe be more impossible than to treat Mr. (though both these points of view are James as even remotely a partisan ; noth- necessarily included in his scheme of ing could be further removed from his work), but primarily as a series of probmethod, froin the large and even glance lems, moral, social, or psychological, to he turns on one character and another. be worked out and solved. An involved When he convinces us, it is tbrough his situation, a moral dilemma, the giant and presentment of the truth of things, never complex grasp of society in its widest ihrough the expression of his personal sense, upon the individual—these and such bias. Ile himself tells us somewhere that as these are the problems to the tracing it is his constant habit to tip the balance ; out and solution of which he brings an exand, if he had not told us, we might bave treine fineness and subtlety, subtle and fine divined it from his work. It is probably as the workings of the human mind hardly a natural quality that he has cultivated to conscious of its own movement from point a degree that makes it impossible for him to point. It may be said at once, that in in contemplating a subject seriously to exercising his admirable gift of psycholook at it from one point only ; he turns logical insight and imagination, Mr. James it in his hands, so to speak, as one turns frequently presupposes great attention on a globe, considering it from every side. the part of his readers, and an intelligence This habit of mind is, of course, one of of reception hardly less than his own intelli. the finest and most essential that a writer gence of representation. He is one of the can bring to his work; and if it occasion. finest of analysts ; but nevertheless he not ally exhibits the defect of its quality in seldom reaches a point where he ceases to carrying disinterestedness to the verge of analyze and simply suggests with a delicoldness, it has the supreme merit of leav- cacy conveying the flattering assumption ing the reader's judginent free, of never that the reader has keenness and imaginaaffronting him by undue insistence on one tion enough of his own to follow up the point to the bindrance of another.
writer's suggestion with as much certainty It results naturally from the perfection as when, a hand being seen at a window, to which Mr. James has brought this par- it may be inferred that a human being ticular method of observation, that the stands behind it. As a fact, we believe
that Mr. James flatters his public too the first in quality, it is the most essential much. The average reader has neither boon a writer can give us. brains nor imagination to follow out a We might refer in this connection, and suggestion ; be yawns at psychology ; he as being among the most perfect presentis apt to resent explanation and non-ex ments of his art, to two of Mr. James's planation alike. He loves a good down- earlier and less well known storiesright legend : “ This is a wood,” “This “Madame de Mauves,” and “Washingis a barn-door,'' which he who runs may ton Square.” The first of these is a story read ; he loves an obvious plot, an bonest of no great length, with hardly any plot"; mystery, a conclusion that rounds off one of those subtle problems of character everything. All that is a point of view and situation in which the author takes already over-discussed perhaps, and for pleasure, and ended finally by an epigram, which there will doubtless be always much as his stories occasionally find themselves to be said ; we only refer to it now, be- ending, after a fashion somewbat disconcause while the lovers of Mr. James's certing to the reader. It is, in brief, the stories find a charm beyond that of any story of a young American girl married to other, iis his method, at once delicate and a French roué, M. de Mauves, with whom powerful, it may probably always forbid one of her own countrymen falls passionhis volumes the honor of the railway book- ately in love. The point of the story lies stall, or the seventy thousandth copy of in the fashion in which this passion is the cheap edition.
treated by the husband, the Jover, and In using the word “powerful,” it must Madame de Mauves herself ; and one has be understood in the wide sense in which only in reading it to consider what might it is applicable to Mr. James's work. be made of this apparently hackneyed There is a usual and perfectly legitimate theme by a superficial, a commonplace, or sense in which it is employed, as express- a vulgar writer to appreciate the delicate ing a certain movement of passion or originality and powerful handling Mr. energy on the writer's part, through which James has brought to its treatment. The certain scenes stand out from the remainder whole story is in low relief, without a of the work, and move the reader in his salient incident ; its strength lies in the turn to an emotion that forever remains sense that the roots of the faintly-bloomin his memory. Such scenes as these are ing flowers of the little drama reach down rare with Mr. James ; it is perhaps an ex to the deepest springs of buman action ; cess of the artistic sense of detachment, that the underlying strata of life presupthat occasionally compels him, when we posed by the surface are familiar to the should expect him to be most emotional, writer as the surface itself. The other to be most restrained. His power is of story,“ Washington Square,” is much another kind altogether ; it arises from a longer, but its motif, given in abstract profound knowledge of what he is writing form, is hardly more novel than that of about, from what seems sometimes an al " Madame de Mauves." The scene is most exhaustive knowledge of human na- chiefly laid in New York, and it is the ture ; his anatomy is perfect ; every bid- history of a young girl, who, accredited den bone and muscle is in its place. llis with the prospect of inheriting a large forsurface (to change the metaphor) may be tune at her father's death, is pursued by level, but it never rings hollow ; its founda- a peedy adventurer, with whom she falls tions are deep as those of the life of which blindly in love. The father, as in duty he treats; the result is that impression of bound, opposes the marriage; the young sustained power that is met with only in girl, after many struggles, consents at last the great masters, that is the distinguish- to put her lover to the test ; he disaping mark of the great masters. Others pears, and the girl lives and dies an old may charm us—and claim our eterna! maid. That is all the plot ; but this lit. gratitude for the charm-by their imagina- tle history, that for sustained and mastertion, their fancy, their genius even; but ly treatment may be compared to “Eusomewhere or other there is a gap in the génie Grandet”' (which for the rest it does carpentry, and through the chink the light not in the least resemble), holds the readof disillusion shines. With Mr. James, er's interest from beginning to end. It we tread solidly and look at his present- has not the special charm of Balzac's masment of life without a misgiving. It is terpiece ; the heroine, Catherine, a diffi
calt character to draw, and drawn with be named. These delightful stories have, extraordinary skill, is represented as a dull of course, a hundred other claims on our girl of limited intelligence and fixed ideas, admiration : wit, humor, pathos, a charmwho wins our sympathy indeed, but ap- ing gayety, acute observation of life and peals, much less to the imagination than character, but it is the faultless skill with the immortal Eugénie ; as the house in which they are framed, that above all, perWashington Square yields in romantic sug- haps,“ places" them as consuinmate gestion to that of the old and faded man- works of art. The short story, properly sion with the broken stair that we have treated as such, deals with a single idea, each of us inhabited in turn. But in his an isolated situation-a rule from which torical accuracy and broad grasp of the Mr. James never swerves ; but much of foundations of life, there is no work with the singular perfection of his short stories which the American novel can be so filly lies in the fact that while the idea, the mated as with that of the great French situation is exhibited, developed and master.
worked out to its legitimate conclusion
within the compass of the few pages, more II.
or less, that he allows himself, it is in fact These are only two of various master- no more isolated ihan it is possible for any pieces that Mr. James has given to the situation in real life to be ; it stands with world. He bas written about a dozen its just relation to the universe exactly innovels, and a considerable number of short dicated, bound to the common lise by the stories ; and his treatment of the two million threads that unite common humanforms of narrative is sufficiently distinct ity. This is, of course, only to say that to demand that they should be considered when the author sits down to write a short somewhat apart.
story, he knows his business ; but that It is a commonplace of literature that particular knowledge is so rare among us, the short story, brought to so much per- that some insistence on it in this case may fection by the French, has never flour- be permitted. In longer novels, his ished in England. Half a dozen causes method is of necessity somewhat different. might be assigned for the fact ; but it is Like all the greater novelists, Mr. James probably chiefly due to the inferior sense is interested not merely in the telling of a of art as art, possessed by the English as story, properly so called, in the working compared with the French. The short out of a situation, the conduct of a lorestory is above all a matter of form, of affair, the development of a plot, but with proportion ; and the English sense of the entire moving drama of life, the great form, in respect of literature, is apt to be human comedy, in which situations take conspicuously wanting. There are excep- their place as mere incidents. In “ The tions, of course, and notable ones ; but Portrait of a Lady,” in " The Bostowe speak of the rule. Mr. James, whose nians," “ The Princess Casamassima,' particular genius and method of work “The Tragic Muse," and in a less degree touches that of the French on more sides “ The Europeans,
“The Europeans," “ The American," than onc, is nowhere more French than in “ The Reverberator," we feel less that the this; he satisfies our sense of form, of curtain has risen on a comedy of manners truth of proportion beyond any other or of plot, than on a vast section of sowriter in the English language that we ciety, and of society considered with espe. could name. His shorter stories are of a cial reference to some of its more mod. length varying from a few pages to nine ern developments. In his earlier as in or ten chapters ; but in the best of them, some of his later work, Mr. James, as we of whatever length, and that includes a have seen, selected the wide field of the large proportion, the form is perfect. It opposing and harmonizing influences of would be hard to find a flaw in the con- America and Europe ; in "The Bostostruction of “ Daisy Miller," "The Ma- nians," he tovches the question of Womdonna of the Future," "Four Meetings," en's Rights ; in " The Princess Casamas“The Pension Beaurepas,” and “ Ben- sima,” we are with the Socialists ; while volio ;'' or, to come down later, in “ The his most recent book, " The Tragic Muse," Siege of London," " The Author of Bel- sets before us the curions relations that the traffio,” “The Aspern Papers," “ The latest whirligig has brought round between Solution," and a dozen others that might art, and society in its conventional sense.
As a novelist, Mr. James is necessarily surface to state an untenable proposition ; concerned with the manifestation of any he is genial (one might rather say), he is particular phase with which he is dealing, good humored, he is indifferent, he is at through the experience of individuals ; moments extraordinarily tender ; it would, but it is obvious that for this a large can we believe, be impossible to find from bevas, a complex scheme is needed, in which ginning to end of his works one cruel or perfection of forin has in some degree to sarcastic word. It is only by degrees we yield to the exigencies of the spectacle of come to a perception of the profound the huge haphazard activities, the appar- irony implied by that attitude of goodently crude fatalities of human existence. humored neutrality, of genial indifference. There are readers who will always prefer llis books, on the whole, strike one as Mr. James's shorter stories, their delicate optimistic ; a certain kindly view of the manipulation, their exquisite style, and events and accidents of life pervades perfect proportion; there are others who them; they deal by preference with the will find a deeper interest in the larger saner rather than with the more morbid issues brought before them in bis longer side of humanity ; but they create finally narratives. The question is not one that a sense of aloofness on the part of the need trouble us ; it is the privilege of an writer that seems to imply a profound disartist to affect men's minds in very various enchantment, what we have ventured to ways, and there is no danger. that Mr. call a profound irony lurking at the root James's admirers will quarrel among them- of his conception of life, a sense of the selves.
singular sadness, futility and vanity on the A novelist's presentment of life, or whole, of the beings whom he observes more jastly, perhaps, his choice, his selec- and depicts as they cross and recross the tion out of life, is one thing ; the way in stage of the world. As might be expectwhich he personally looks at life and ap- ed, this is less apparent in his earlier than preciates it, is obviously another. A dis- in his later work; it is nowhere more aptinction has always to be sought between parent than in his latest novel, “The a writer's mental attitude and the results Tragic Muse." In that remarkable book, given to the world ; and to disengage the modern to a degree that makes all other man from the artist, the artist from the novels seem for the moment old fashioned man, must not unfrequently present itself and ont-of-date, by comparison, what is as a problein a little resenibling that of termed the general and the particular is Shylock's pound of flesh. With some carried to the last point; the central figwriters, indeed, the task is sufficiently ure and the central motive, that is to say, easy ; it may simply be abandoned. The being a woman of an artistic type common author puts, as it is called, his whole soul to all time, brought into contact with the into bis work; the shaping artist plays a newest modes and developments of culture secondary part; the result may be brill- and society. The theme is one that lends iant, charming, passionate, sentimental or itself with particular felicity to the author's the reverse ; but it at least presents no especial genius for unimpassioned observaparticular problem ; the author and his tion; it is developed with the mature work are one. To others, again, the pic- strength of a splendid and virile talent ; turesque, the emotional, the moral or the but ihe final impression it creates is of sensational side of existence may appeal so something a little hard, perhaps, a little strongly, that an irresistible impulse leads too irresponsible. thern inevitably to reveal their idiosyncrasy The impression, we must inninediately through their presentation of life. With add, arises in great measure from the fact a writer so impersonal as Mr. James, the that the scheme of the story does not hapcase is different, the problem more com- pen to include any of those characters that plicated. He has to be considered prima- Mr. James knows how to treat with a parrily in his artistic capacity ; it is his su- ticular kindness, with a genial warmth preme distinction that he invariably even, springing from a larger sympathy includes and excludes as an artist, not with human nature than the most disas a man ; and his work lends itself to criminating observation can supply. It is negative deductions, as it were, rather entirely characteristic of the author, that than to positive ones. To speak, for in- it is not, as a rule, in the delineation of stance, of his writing as ironical, is on the his principal heroes and heroines that we
discover this kindly and sympathetic note, or that other chapter in “ The Princess but in that of his humbler characters. Casamassima,'' where the tenderly humorThere is no commoner or cheaper device ous euhances the pathetic, as the devoted of the inferior novelist than to seize upon little dress-maker comforts herself on her one or another weak or absurd side of a death-bed with the illusions of her adopted human being and hold it up to scorn ; to son's greatness ; or again, in altogether pillory a character for some physical or another key, the scenes darkening to the mental defect, to paint the smaller vices tragic close of the same novel. These with an air of being above the human passages, of an absolute simplicity, show race, in colors as false as the follies that how far Mr James's genius can, with his are described.
Mr. James not only (it rare permission, carry him in that direcneed not be said) has nothing to do with tion; though the very rarity of the occavulgarities such as these, not only hesions on which he indulges it, enhances never laughs at, but always with his char- perhaps its final value. acters ; he does much more. In his treat
III. ment of the old, the poor, the humble, the disgraced by fortune, such as come This, indeed, may be said in general of into all work that embraces wide fields of what is emotional and of what is descriphuman action, there is a tenderness tive in Mr. James's novels. No one can equalled by no other writer that we can describe better than he can ; but he has recall
. We feel disposed to insist upon apparently decided, and we think on the this quality because it is the most per- whole justly, that novels are not the proper sonal, perhaps the only personal note he vehicle for descriptions of scenery as such, allows to modify the rigor of disinterested and we seldom come across more than is observation. Sometimes, in fact, he requisite for the mere mise en scène. We dramatizes it, so to speak, by leaving the say justly, on the whole ; because while story to be narrated by an imaginary per- accepting the theory as true, it is possible son, as where he deals with the disillu- to recall novelists who indulge in a richer sioned painter in “ The Madonna of the decoration for their characters than Mr. Future ;' with Mr. Ruck, the ruined James does, and with whom we find no American father, in “ The Pension Beau- ground for quarrel on that score. In the repas ;" or Caroline Spencer, in “ Four same way with the emotional ; Mr. James Meetings.” Elsewhere, however, those for the most part avoids it, travels round humbler individuals who have the honor it, gets at bis effects without it ; and conto hold (as we judge) an especial place in sidering the floods of futile words, the the arithor's regard, take their place among pages of sentiment that do duty for pasthe other characters in an impersonal nar. sion and feeling, we are again disposed to rative ; we need only mention Madame say that he is right. Nevertheless, emoGrandoni, in “ Roderick Hudson ;"? Miss tion is a great weapon in the hand of a Birdseye, in “ The Bostonians ;” the old master ; Mr. James, as he proves in pasviolinist, Lady Aurora, Miss Pynsent, in sages here and there, wields it with as “Princess Casamassima,'' to illustrate our much mastery as any one ; there are momeaning. And in connection with this ments when we find ourselves wishing he point may be mentioned the particular would wield it a little oftener. power of pathos shown by Mr. James on A novelist, however, is obviously wbat the very rare occasions—not half a dozen the grace of heaven and his own wit make perhaps in the whole course of his books him. Mr. James may be only sometimes —that he cares to exercise it ; that pathos descriptive and occasionally emotional ; which, in its entire freedom from self-con- but he is witty, he is humorous, he is sciousness, from the implied invitation, epigrainmatic ; he is learned --consum“Come, let us weep, for this is a melan- mately learned in human nature. He is, choly occasion,” is among the rarer gifts in brief, pre-eminently the novelist of of the novelist. Few people, we should character and observation. Of the ordithink, could read uninoved the death of nary resources of the story-teller, indeed, Miss Birdseye, which in simple and sug- Mr. James is apt to avail himself but spargestive beauty recalls the description of ingly. Of love-making proper, for inthe passage of Christiana across the river stance, there is but litile in his volumes. of death in the “Pilgrim's Progress ;" There are lovers, of course, and marriages