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ceived in a delightful atmosphere, a delicate severity of Puritanism tempered by competence, an atmosphere perfectly preserved throughout, which the Europeans agitate without disturbing, and completely indicated by grave Mr. Wentworth's attitude to his household. He had "a vague sense of jealousy being an even lower vice than the love of liquor," and Felix, his brilliant foreign nephew, appeared "so bright, and handsome, and talkative that it was impossible not to think well of him; and yet it seemed as if there were something almost impudent, almost vicious or as if there ought to be,-in a young man being at once so joyous and so positive." The story makes something like a record in happy endings. Every one but the wicked Baroness, who has one already, finds a predestined mate. One might suppose that Mr. James set himself to show how satisfactory he could make a story without making it absurd. But the achievement which one feels most concerned him was the development of Gertrude Wentworth. She is suggested rather than drawn, with a marvellous economy of means, yet with such exquisite felicity, that one feels to know much more about her than the author can tell us, and takes leave of her with a curiosity which he cannot satisfy. Mr. James has sketched nothing with a more sensitive point than the evasive opening of her flower to love; not to the love which, in that Puritan community, was three parts a duty, but to love which in her cousin's arms was wholly a joy. Yet Gertrude is by no means an obtrusive figure of a comedy in which all the characters are so happily arranged, so admirably fitted, that one could read it a dozen times for sheer pleasure in its workmanship. "Confidence," which followed a year later, differs from "The Europeans" in almost every particular save that of a happy ending. Yet its happiness is not VOL. LXXVII. 479.
of that sweet inevitableness which subsides gently into its place through the last chapter. The scene changes restlessly across Europe and America, and the consequences of Angela's perversity illustrate an occasional tendency on Mr. James's part to over-elaborate an issue.
In 1880 came "Washington Square," which must rank as one of the author's significant novels. One can think of no one else who could have written it, who could have used the spareness, the dulness of its material with such effect. Surely no heroine ever had less in her favor than plain Catherine Sloper, yet we follow the conversion of her humble deference into a kind of heroic obstinacy with absorbed attention. "Her dignity was not aggressive; it never sat in state; but if you pushed far enough you could find it." The dignity disengaged itself at last, as a hard determination, from the pulp of her sad crushed sentimental spirit, and it is the slow creation of that hardness, not by the cruelty of fate, nor from her lover's falseness, but by the injustice of the father she had trusted and admired, which makes her story so engrossing. He had killed something in her life, and she turned its coffin into a kind of altar. Not consciously. It is the essence of her pathos that she seems never more than numbly conscious of what she feels. The whole story is a miracle in monotone; of the monotonous in life treated unmonotonously.
The "Portrait of a Lady," which appeared a year later, is the longest and most intricate novel of the "middle" period. It is exactly defined by its title. Only once or twice, in a certain callous indifference to the pain she inflicts on her lovers, does Isabel Archer seem to forfeit the designation. For the rest she adheres almost too closely to it. She is often so much of a lady that one ceases to think of her as a
woman, not from worldly or social ambition, but from an emotional temperament too thin to disturb its intellectual impressions. She did not desire marriage, but required in that event the finest thing in the way of a husband. That she could have considered Gilbert Osmond in such a light is the severest criticism on her perception, and severs her from sympathies which had not been alienated by her somewhat too obvious self-esteem. She had every right to think well of herself, she was a very charming and delicate product of the New World, and it is really because one shares her complacency that one is humiliated by her choice. To her aunt it had "an air of almost morbid perversity," but one resents most its seeming so reasonable to herself. She was not influenced by circumstance, nor blinded by passion; she took almost as much time to her mistake as to its amending, and it is only a hint of this towards the finish which restores her to our esteem. She makes the one possible reparation by leaving the man she has learnt utterly to despise. In its presentment of Ralph Touchett the book offers a companion portrait of a gentleman, from which no deductions need be made. Tender, and whimsical, and open-handed, "with all the illumination of wisdom and none of its pedantry," a humorous perception that included his own decrepit lungs, and "a kind of loose-fitting urbanity that wrapt him about like an ill-made overcoat," Ralph even by his bitterest disappointment is never betrayed into an ungenerous word.
The book yields little to quote, nor do the figures in its background much concern us. It is occupied with its great effort, and, while offering that a tribute of admiration, one can only wish that it had painted for us a lady on somewhat less exclusive lines.
The four following years produced
nothing but short stories, three of them, "The Siege of London," "Lady Barbarina," and "A New England Winter," being devoted to the contrast between the American and European mind, and one, "The Author of Beltraffio," being the first of several studies of a literary contingence; no considerable novel appearing till 1886, when both "The Bostonians" "Princess Casamassima" saw the light. "The Bostonians" deals with the designs of a coterie of women in Boston City to force the rights of their sex upon America: a portentously dull subject, and treated with such diffuseness that its first seventy pages only advance it by a single evening. Yet the story gains on one's attention, and contains some wonderful portraits of unattractive women. Miss Olive Chancellor was perhaps the most difficult. She belonged to the class of people
"who take things hard. She was subject to fits of tragic shyness, during which she was unable to meet even her own eyes in the mirror." "She had a fear of everything, but her greatest fear was of being afraid." "Of all things in the world contention was most sweet to her (though why it was hard to imagine, for it always cost her tears, headaches, a day or two in bed, acute emotion)." "She was unmarried by every implication of her being. She was a spinster as Shelley was a lyric poet, or as the month of August is sultry."
Such qualities complicated with a passion for the position of her sex, a store of learning, and the New England conscience constitute a character of the highest difficulty, but it is perfectly. even pathetically realized. Of the others Miss Birdseye and Mrs. Farrinder are the best done. Miss Birdseye
"had a sad, soft, pale face, which (and it was the effect of her whole head) looked as if it had been soaked.
blurred, and made vague by exposure to some slow dissolvent. The long practice of philanthropy had not given accent to her features; it had rubbed out their transitions, their meanings." "In her large countenance her dim little smile scarcely showed. It was a mere sketch of a smile, a kind of instalment, or payment on account." "She belonged to the Short-Skirts League, as a matter of course; for she belonged to any and every league that had been founded for almost any purpose whatever." "She looked as if she had spent her life on platforms . . in her faded face there was a kind of reflection of ugly lecture lamps: with its habit of an upward angle, it seemed turned towards a public speaker, with an effort of respiration in the thick air in which social reforms are usually discussed." "She talked continually, in a voice of which the spring seemed broken, like that of an overworked bell wire."
One can but give a few lines in the portrait, yet how amazingly it comes out, with, for all its comedy, not a touch that alienates. Mrs. Farrinder is of a type entirely different.
"There was a lithographic smoothness about.her, and a mixture of the American matron and the public character. There was something public in her eye, which was large, cold, and quiet; it had acquired a sort of exposed reticence from the habit of looking down from a lecture desk over a sea of heads, while its distinguished author was eulogized by a leading citizen. Mrs. Farrinder, at almost any time, had the air of being introduced by a few remarks." "The ends she labored for were to give the ballot to every woman in the country and to take the flowing bowl from every man."
The two are but secondary characters, indeed Mrs. Farrinder is hardly that, yet Mr. James contrives, by what in an artist would be called brushwork, to hold our attention to these queer women, while he develops leisurely a more romantic element.
"Princess Casamassiına" deals with ambitions of another kind, the ambitions are anarchical, and the scene is mostly laid in London slums. The Princess is Roderick Hudson's Christina Light separated from her husband, and embracing in his stead the fashionable nihilism of the day. She remains delightful, though not quite with the fresh insolent charm of her maiden days: but the most admirable portrait of the book is again of an unlovely middle-aged woman, poor foolish faithful Amanda Pynsent, a dressmaker in a squalid court-with the meagrest "connection," a touching reverence for things as they are, and an absorbing affection for the little boy she has adopted. Beside poor "Pinnie's" steadfast goodness, the Princess seems a hollow charlatan, and Lady Aurora loses color. Indeed, the only woman in the book whom she does not affect is big vulgar bouncing brilliant Millicent, the shop girl in the Palace Road, a good comrade, sharp as a rat, obtrusively respectable, but capable of compromise for an adequate stake. The book gives a further extension to Mr. James's range, but it lacks balance and is not very well put together.
The next year showed nothing but short stories, and in 1888 came "The Reverberator," a variant of "The American," the intending invader of an old French family being this time a girl. Here the story is acceptable chiefly for its fun, and is the only instance in which Mr. James has relied on humor for his main interest. His humor is never of the explosive kind. He does not let it off as out of a mortar to convulse you suddenly with a burst of laughter. His humor no more aims at laughter than his tragedy at excitement, or his pathos at tears. It is a quiet illumination of life which is a pledge against bathos more than an incitement to be merry. He very seldom uses it to heighten irony. It is
really rather the sanity of his point of view, of his seeing nothing quite as it sees itself.
One feels that his enthusi
asms will never betray him. He will see under the "make-up" even though he say nothing about it. He often says nothing about it. He leaves the picture to your discernment; sometimes out of tenderness for his subject, sometimes as a compliment to his reader. The humor in much of the pretence of life is often lost if it be pointed out; the showing spoils it. You must see it if you can; otherwise you cannot.
"She had a handsome inanimate face, over which the firelight played without making it more lively, a beautiful voice, and the occasional command of a few short words."
"The foreman, who was sixty years old and wore a wig, which constituted in itself a kind of social position, besides being accompanied by a little frightened, furtive wife, who closed her eyes, as if in the presence of a blinding splendor, when Mrs. Crookenden spoke to her."
"He seldom had much conversation with Miss Pynsent without telling her that she had the intellectual outlook of a caterpillar. . . . He always compared her to an insect or a bird, and she didn't mind, because she knew he liked her, and she herself liked all winged creatures."
Such touches may be found everywhere in Mr. James's sketches of character, their humor lying in their terse fidelity, and only occasionally owing a shade to sentiment. But in his drawing of Whitney Dosson Mr. James has engaged directly the humorous idea. The American parent has always appealed to him. His discomfort, his tractability, his air of being a mere adjunct to his family, his pathetic acceptance of incompatibility with his offspring. Parentalism, probably, never previously was conceived on such a scale, in such a spirit. Despite his detachment from his surroundings, his
subservience to his daughters, his cheerful tribute to the inferior, he never becomes ridiculous, nor loses the placid dignity of his unruffled mind. In Paris he passed his days revolving about the court of his hotel, but he had no sense of waste; "that came to him much more when he was confronted with historical monuments, or beauties of nature or art which he didn't understand or care for: then he felt a little ashamed and uncomfortable but never when he lounged in that simplifying way about the court. Mr. Dosson never doubted that George M. Flack was brilliant. He represented the newspaper, and the newspaper for this man of genial assumptions represented mind-it was the great shining presence of our time. To know that Delia and Francie were out with an editor or a correspondent was really to see them dancing in the central glow."
"To Mr. Dosson his girls somehow seemed lonely; which was not the way he struck himself. They were his company, but he was scarcely theirs; it was as if he had them more than they had him. They were out a long time, but he felt no anxiety, as he reflected that Mr. Flack's very profession was a prevision of everything that could possibly happen. When at last they met his view they had evidently done a good deal and had a good time, an impression sufficient to rescue Mr. Dosson personally from the consciousness of failure."
But the book is not at all about Mr. Dosson-he really counts for but little more than the hotel in which his daughters live-and its humor is as much concerned with little delicate plastic Francie Dosson, with Delia's attempts to graft on her American vulgarity the tone of ancient France, and with George M. Flack and his monstrous "Reverberator." But though the comedy of the story is, perhaps.
closer together than in any other of Mr. James's books, it is different neither in character nor in keenness from that which may be found in any of them. In the same year as "The Reverberator" were published three short stories under the title of the first, "The Aspern Papers," and in 1889 a similar volume of four stories entitled "A London Life." The two are of interest from occupying the closing years of what we have termed the middle period, and therefore from containing possibly some hint of the new manner. The hints are there, but not so marked as to make exposition profitable; indeed, traces of the older method may be found for seven years to come, "The Other House" being, perhaps, the first work of importance in which they cease to count. In the period which one is leaving lies the greater part of the labor by which Mr. Henry James is popularly known, if, indeed, one may without suspicion of irony use such a description. It contains nine of his novels and some twenty-seven tales, and only in some of the slighter of these could the casual consumer of fiction pretend to discover any esoteric intention or other obstacle to the enjoyment of an easily exhausted mind. They have just that unreality which the public desires, the note of romance; sentiment and character are fitted with that consistency which gives the novel such an advantage over life; opinions are held with a clarity, and expressed with an accuracy which are of so great assistance in the development of character; and the dialogue has just that appositeness and cohesion which our ears are so accustomed not to hear. In short they have all the qualities that should commend them to a public which is very ignorant and very incurious of life, and one would have expected for them a far greater success even than they commanded. The chief preventive to
such a popularity is a delicate and exquisite style which, because it tried to achieve an actuality to which they were unaccustomed, the critics called artificial. Style in every country of the world warns off the "stupid," but it seems to possess a particular irritation for English and American readers. It is, to their appreciation, a sort of glittering and wholly unnecessary envelopment. Indeed, they consider style so distinct from creation, that one might imagine they supposed it to be applied when the work was finished, like varnish to a picture or "frosting" to a Christmas card.
But in addition to the wilful offence of their style, one must admit, as an unconscious one, that the author is always free from moral prejudice or intention. He only aims at giving a direct impression of life without preconception as to its purpose. Nowhere does he come forward with explanation and reproof; nowhere does he attempt any re-arrangement of the elements of life, to enforce a lesson or illustrate a theme. He tries seriously, strenuously, to produce the illusion of being, and he is well content to succeed in performing that part of his business. His seriousness lives, indeed, beyond reproof. That is his moral purpose. He recoils indignantly from the apologist to whom fiction is but "making believe." Life may often be nothing better than "making believe," but its recording shall not suffer such indignity. He will no more tolerate a tampering with the facts of life, than with the events and dates of an era. Indeed of the two he probably considers it of more importance to receive a trustworthy impression of existence than of any particular period to which the historian may devote himself.
So far, he may be spoken of as having a direct moral intent. But it is the intention only of the honest ac