Henry James

Henry
James
1843
1916

Anglo-American Novelist, son of Henry James, Sr. and brother of philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James

Author Quotes

You were to suffer your fate. That was not necessarily to know it.

You young men have too many jokes. When there are no jokes you've nothing left.

Young men of this class never do anything for themselves that they can get other people to do for them, and it is the infatuation, the devotion, the superstition of others that keeps them going. These others in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred are women.

She was a woman who, between courses, could be graceful with her elbows on the table.

That beautiful girl is a puzzle. I don't know what's the matter with her; it's all very painful; she's a very strange creature. I never dreamed there was an obstacle to our happiness--to our union. She has never protested and promised; it's not her way, nor her nature; she is always humble, passive, gentle; but always extremely grateful for every sign of tenderness. Till within three or four days ago, she seemed to me more so than ever; her habitual gentleness took the form of a sort of shrinking, almost suffering, deprecation of my attentions, my petits soins, my lovers nonsense. It was as if they oppressed and mortified her--and she would have liked me to bear more lightly. I did not see directly that it was not the excess of my devotion, but my devotion itself--the very fact of my love and her engagement that pained her. When I did it was a blow in the face. I don't know what under heaven I've done! Women are fathomless creatures. And yet Adina is not capricious, in the common sense... So these are peines d'amour? he went on, after brooding a moment. I didn't know how fiercely I was in love! Scrope stood staring at her as she thrust out the crumpled note: that she meant that Adina--that Adina had left us in the night--was too large a horror for his unprepared sense....Good-bye to everything! Think me crazy if you will. I could never explain. Only forget me and believe that I am happy, happy, happy! Adina Beati....

The great fact all the while however had been the incalculability; since he had supposed himself, from decade to decade, to be allowing, and in the most liberal and intelligent manner, for brilliancy of change. He actually saw that he had allowed for nothing; he missed what he would have been sure of finding, he found what he would never have imagined. Proportions and values were upside-down; the ugly things he had expected, the ugly things of his far away youth, when he had too promptly waked up to a sense of the ugly--these uncanny phenomena placed him rather, as it happened, under the charm; whereas the 'swagger' things, the modern, the monstrous, the famous things, those he had more particularly, like thousands of ingenuous enquirers every year, come over to see, were exactly his sources of dismay. They were as so many set traps for displeasure, above all for reaction, of which his restless tread was constantly pressing the spring. It was interesting, doubtless, the whole show, but it would have been too disconcerting hadn't a certain finer truth saved the situation. He had distinctly not, in this steadier light, come over *all* for the monstrosities; he had come, not only in the last analysis but quite on the face of the act, under an impulse with which they had nothing to do. (The Jolly Corner)

The practice of "reviewing"... in general has nothing in common with the art of criticism.

There are no themes so human as those that reflect the closeness of bliss to bale.

They strike one, above all, as giving no account of themselves in any terms already consecrated by human use; to this inarticulate state they probably form, collectively, the most unprecedented of monuments; abysmal the mystery of what they think, what they feel, what they want, what they suppose themselves to be saying.

To treat a ''big'' subject in the intensely summarized fashion demanded by an evening's traffic of the stage when the evening, freely clipped at each end, is reduced to two hours and a half, is a feat of which the difficulty looms large.

We trust to novels to train us in the practice of great indignations and great generositie.

When you lay down a proposition which is forthwith controverted, it is of course optional with you to take up the cudgels in its defense. If you are deeply convinced of its truth, you will perhaps be content to leave it to take care of itself; or, at all events, you will not go out of your way to push its fortunes; for you will reflect that in the long run an opinion often borrows credit from the forbearance of its patrons. In the long run, we say; it will meanwhile cost you an occasional pang to see your cherished theory turned into a football by the critics. A football is not, as such, a very respectable object, and the more numerous the players, the more ridiculous it becomes. Unless, therefore, you are very confident of your ability to rescue it from the chaos of kicks, you will best consult its interests by not mingling in the game.

You wanted to look at life for yourself ? but you were not allowed; you were punished for your wish. You were ground in the very mill of the conventional!

She was a young person of many theories; her imagination was remarkably active. It had been her fortune to possess a finer mind than most of the persons among whom her lot was cast; to have a larger perception of surrounding facts, and to care for knowledge that was tinged with the unfamiliar...It may be affirmed without delay that She was probably very liable to the sin of self-esteem; she often surveyed with complacency the field of her own nature; she was in the habit of taking for granted, on scanty evidence, that she was right; impulsively, she often admired herself...Every now and then she found out she was wrong, and then she treated herself to a week of passionate humility. After this she held her head higher than ever again; for it was of no use, she had an unquenchable desire to think well of herself. She had a theory that it was only on this condition that life was worth living; that one should be one of the best, should be conscious of a fine organization, should move in the realm of light, of natural wisdom, of happy impulse, of inspiration gracefully chronic.

The advantage, the luxury, as well as the torment and responsibility of the novelist, is that there is no limit to what he may attempt as an executant ? no limit to his possible experiments, efforts, discoveries, successes.

The high brutality of good intentions.

The real offence, as she ultimately perceived, was her having a mind of her own at all. Her mind was to be his - attached to his own like a small garden plot to a deer park.

There are three things that are important in human life. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind.

Things are always different than what they might be... If you wait for them to change, you will never do anything.

True happiness, we are told, consists in getting out of one's self, but the point is not only to get out; you must stay out, and to stay out, you must have some absorbing errand.

We were alone with the quiet day, and his little heart, dispossessed, had stopped.

Wherever we go we carry this burden of our personal consciousness and wherever we step we open it out over our heads like a great baleful cotton umbrella to obstruct the prospect and obscure the light of heaven.

Since she might not be splendid, she would at least be immaculate.

The Baroness found it amusing to go to tea; she dressed as if for dinner. The tea-table offered an anomalous and picturesque repast; and on leaving it they all sat and talked in the large piazza, or wandered about the garden in the starlight.

The historian, essentially, wants more documents than he can really use; the dramatist only wants more liberties than he can really take.

Author Picture
First Name
Henry
Last Name
James
Birth Date
1843
Death Date
1916
Bio

Anglo-American Novelist, son of Henry James, Sr. and brother of philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James