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Castorboy



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 1798


Location: Castor Bay Auckland NZ

PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2011 5:18 am    Post subject:  Reply with quote

Of The Complete Tales of Henry James Volume 2 1868 – 1872 there are two which stand out for me. Gabrielle de Bergerac is a drama set during the French revolution. It's one of his rare attempts at historical fiction which unfortunately convinced him that he couldn't be as convincing as Sir Walter Scott and yet I think it works.
As an aside, his autobiography, A Small Boy and Others, describes how, as a schoolboy of fourteen, he had a friend in Boulogne-sur-Mer, the son of the local pastrycook, who had an upturned nose and whose name was Coquelin. In the tale of Gabrielle he uses the name of Coquelin for the hero, and that of Bergerac for the surname of his heroine. By this means he anticipates by about twentyfive years the writing of Edmond Rostand's romantic drama on the life of Cyrano de Bergerac and the casting of the great actor, and his schoolmate, Benoît-Constant Coquelin in the part (According to Wikipedia he made his only film, the duel scene from Cyrano,  with sound recording on phonograph cylinder which is thought to be the first ever made with both color and sound).

The other tale I responded to is called A Passionate Pilgrim about an American who, realising he is dying, makes a nostalgic trip to the aristocratic home of his forbears in England (he has a vague title to the estate). He visits London, Oxford, Hampton Court and the ancestral home in the Malverns before finally expiring. The title of the tale refers, of course, not just to his own journey but acknowledges the original Pilgrim Fathers. I feel this story represents James' love not just of England but of the Old World and its history and culture. It is no surprise that he called his first volume of stories A Passionate Pilgrim when it was published in 1875.


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TheRejectAmidHair



Joined: 19 Nov 2008
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Location: Staines, Middlesex

PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2011 4:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Is it the Library of America volumes you are reading?

Were it not that I have too many outstanding reading projects as yet unstarted, I'd be tempted to go through the Henry James stories. I do admire James immensely, buthe has never, for some reason, been quite at the core of my reading - the way, say, Tolstoy or Chekhov or Ibsen have been.



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Castorboy



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 1798


Location: Castor Bay Auckland NZ

PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2011 4:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

No, Himadri, my copy or rather the library's copy is the 12 volume edition put out by Rupert Hart-Davis in 1965 of all his tales, some of which have never before appeared in Britain. The texts are from the original magazine publication dates rather than from the revised and rewritten New York Edition.

What made me decide to begin the tales was that I had previously read many reviews stating his novels had quite in-depth studies of people compared to modern novels so therefore it seemed to me easier to become accustomed to his style by reading the shorter pieces. One of the little pleasures of starting with Volume 1 is noticing how much he enjoys the experience of traveling in Europe and then creating characters using that experience.


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TheRejectAmidHair



Joined: 19 Nov 2008
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 09, 2011 7:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The short fiction I have read of James is every bit as good as his novels. Reading through that body of work would be time well spent.



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Castorboy



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
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Location: Castor Bay Auckland NZ

PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2012 7:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I found the last half of The Complete Tales of Henry James Volume 4 1876 – 1882 more stimulating than the first half. Each of these particular tales seemed to have that little something that kept me reading to the next one.
An International Episode featured a young American girl who turned down an English title, riches and prestige because the social norms required her to conform to a system which restricted her feminine qualities. As Leon Edel says James has created the first “free” woman of the west long before the suffragettes were organised.

In The Pension Beaurepas, a boarding house in Geneva, the guests include a protective mother, Mrs Church, who is trying to convince her daughter that Europe was best and that the daughter would be disappointed if she ever reached America. The mother’s aim is not helped when Aurora becomes friends with an American family on holiday.

The next tale opens with a passage about memory which reminds me that the names of James and Proust are regularly given when reviewers need to make a quick reference point to serious writing.

They told me that I should find Italy greatly changed; and in seven and twenty years there is room for changes. But to me everything is so perfectly the same that I seem to be living my youth over again; all the forgotten impressions of that enchanting time come back to me. At the  moment they were powerful enough; but they afterwards faded. What in the world became of them?  What ever becomes of such things, in the long intervals of consciousness? Where do they hide themselves away? in what unvisited cupboards and crannies of our being do they preserve themselves? They are like the lines of a letter written in sympathetic ink; hold the letter to the fire for a while and the grateful warmth brings out the invisible words.
The Diary of a Man of Fifty
         
A Bundle of Letters is exactly that – letters from and to expatriates in Europe and America. One has a significance which becomes apparent later. It is from Louis Leverett, an aesthetic young man, writing from Paris to his friend in Boston. In another letter I am sure James is sending himself up ever so gently. He says there are many Americans in Boston who rate the appreciation of culture much higher than the actual production of items of culture!

In the final tale The Point of View there are more letters which include ones written on board a liner bound for New York. Among the correspondents are Mrs Church and Aurora who are to meet the American family, the Rucks, who they met in Geneva and Louis Leverett who has been courting Aurora during long walks on the various decks.

If one was to read the three tales – The Pension Beaurepas, A Bundle of Letters and The Point of View – in succession it would almost be the equivalent of an average length novel dealing with social satire of those visitors to America and Europe who have their values constantly challenged in a perceptive way.


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Castorboy



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
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Location: Castor Bay Auckland NZ

PostPosted: Tue Sep 25, 2012 6:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

When I read Volume 8 of his Tales I seemed to have no difficulty in coping with the structured sentences whereas with In the Cage I found myself, occasionally, having to read a sentence a number of times to grasp the sense of it. So it seems from my limited knowledge of James that in the six years between the publication of those Tales and In the Cage James has developed a more in depth style of writing. Once I immersed myself in that new expanse of flowing prose all the old joy came flooding back. The heroine is employed as a telegraphist in a post office in an affluent part of London and finds herself dreaming about the lives of the wealthy customers who send the telegrams. Can she improve her social level by marrying into another class when she is already betrothed to a man she met through work? If this is a predictable tale why doesn’t James give her a name? I think the reader is not expected to believe she is a realistic portrait of a lower middle class working woman – she is far too intelligent and aware for that – instead the intention is to focus on her thoughts of bettering herself, finding that there are no boundaries for the imagination and then realizing that in the real working world she will be happier within the constraints of her own class.
 
I read the novella in an American edition which carries a section of comprehensive notes to explain to American readers that Park Lane and Mayfair for instance are places in London and that a slavey is a slang term for a lower-level male servant. However there isn’t a reference to ‘the Pink ‘Un’ which is not just an affectionate comment by his friends on the complexion of one of the male customers but it could also be a reference to the weekly sporting newspaper (The Sporting Times printed on pink pages) that famously gave tips on horses running at race meetings.

There is more literary analysis by Himadri of the novella on http://bigreaders.myfastforum.org/ftopic764-0-asc-390.php


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TheRejectAmidHair



Joined: 19 Nov 2008
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Location: Staines, Middlesex

PostPosted: Tue Sep 25, 2012 7:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the thumbs up! I wrote a somewhat longer piece on "In the Cage" here:

http://argumentativeoldgit.wordpr...12/15/in-the-cage-by-henry-james/

Henry James does seem a very favourite writer of yours. He is a good writer to have as a favourite!



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Castorboy



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
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Location: Castor Bay Auckland NZ

PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2012 5:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It is the layers of interest that make James not just a good writer but an excellent one. There is the life of the telegraphist and her innermost thoughts, the sub-plot of Mrs Jordan and her life and then Mudge the fiancée with his plans for his marriage and the house they would live in.
The strands of narrative combine to add a measure of genteel suspense before the conclusion. All in a short novel which is the ideal length for me when the writing is of such quality.
I will continue with the Tales in sequence but if the library can’t supply Volume 5 soon there is still plenty of variety to choose from – book reviews, newspaper columns, travel pieces and the novels. If I choose the latter I might try The Princess Casamissima for two reasons: it deals with the lives of the middle classes and it deals with the anarchists in late 19th century London, a situation covered, of course, by Conrad with The Secret Agent.
If I decide a long novel would require too much concentration then The Art of Travel, a collection of travel writing, will be my next installment from this versatile and prolific author.


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Castorboy



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
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Location: Castor Bay Auckland NZ

PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2013 2:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Art of Travel was not available so I picked English Hours a collection of travel essays as substitute reading. Mainly written in the 1870’s and 80’s in his beautiful, refreshing style they cover well known tourist destinations in England. He developed a routine of visiting a place at a time when there would not be too many people about him. It wasn’t that he disliked crowds; he just wanted to contemplate a scene and think of the past history of the place without the intrusion of distracting noise. He particularly liked to arrive in the afternoon as he believed a place was more picturesque at the end of day and was convinced that great churches and cathedrals had a more solemn and uplifting appeal when viewed by the fading light. Apart from a great deal of walking, even from town to town, and bicycling (driving around in a car with Edith Wharton came later) another part of his routine was to travel on omnibuses and third-class carriages in order to observe people. He liked to gossip along the way with shepherds, waiters, laundresses, as well as fellow passengers. It’s this empathy with the working class that I noticed in his tales and it appears again and again in the essays.
Reflecting on my past reading, I realise now that as I read one of the tales featuring a place in England, France or Italy I should have read the travel essay which featured that location. In some aspects the tales and essays seem to complement each other in a very pleasing manner.


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Gladys



Joined: 29 Jan 2016
Posts: 6



PostPosted: Fri Jan 29, 2016 7:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

TheRejectAmidHair wrote:
I am currently reading one of his later works, The Awkward Age, and am, frankly, struggling with it.


I love Henry James, The Golden Bowl in particular, but two of the late novels I really did find impenetrable: The Awkward Age and The Sacred Fount.  His novels have such sublime, yet imponderable, endings.



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