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

The old superstition about fiction being 'wicked' has doubtless died out in England; but the spirit of it lingers in a certain oblique regard directed toward any story which does not more or less admit that it is only a joke. Even the most jocular novel feels in some degree the weight of the proscription that was formerly directed against literary levity; the jocularity does not always succeed in passing for gravity. It is still expected, though perhaps people are ashamed to say it, that a production which is after all only a 'make believe' (for what else is a 'story'?) shall be in some degree apologetic-shall renounce the pretension of attempting really to compete with life. This, of course, any sensible wide-awake story declines to do, for it quickly perceives that the tolerance granted to it on such a condition is only an attempt to stifle it, disguised in the form of generosity.

The whole of anything, is never told.

There were always people to snatch at you, and it would never occur to them that they were eating you up. They did that without tasting.

To her mind there was nothing of the infinite about Mrs. Penniman; Catherine saw her all at once, as it were, and was not dazzled by the apparition; whereas her father's great faculties seemed, as they stretched away, to lose themselves in a sort of luminous vagueness, which indicated, not that they stopped, but that Catherine's own mind ceased to follow them.

We are far from liking London well enough till we like its defects: the dense darkness of much of its winter, the soot on the chimney-pots and everywhere else, the early lamplight, the brown blur of the houses, the splashing of hansoms in Oxford Street or the Strand on December afternoons. There is still something that recalls to me the enchantment of children?the anticipation of Christmas, the delight of a holiday walk?in the way the shop-fronts shine into the fog. It makes each of them seem a little world of light and warmth, and I can still waste time in looking at them with dirty Bloomsbury on one side and dirtier Soho on the other.

What is either a picture or a novel that is not character?

Yes, that's the bore of comfort, said Lord Warburton. We only know when we're uncomfortable.

Still, who could say what men ever were looking for? They looked for what they found; they knew what pleased them only when they saw it.

The faculty of attention has utterly vanished from the Anglo-Saxon mind, extinguished at its source by the big bayadŠre of journalism, of the newspaper and the picture magazine which keeps screaming, "Look at me." Illustrations, loud simplifications... bill poster advertising - only these stand a chance.

The only reason for the existence of a novel is that it does attempt to represent life.

The women one meets - what are they but books one has already read? You're a library of the unknown, the uncut. Upon my word I've a subscription.

There were several ways of understanding her: there was what she said, and there was what she meant, and there was something between the two, that was neither.

To kill a human being is, after all, the least injury you can do him.

We can have four national championships. That's the plan.

What should one do with the misery of the world in a scheme of the agreeable for one's self?

You are good for nothing unless you are clever.

Summer afternoon ? summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.

The fatal futility of Fact.

The only success worth one's powder was success in the line of one's idiosyncrasy. Consistency was in itself distinction, and what was talent but the art of being completely whatever it was that one happened to be?

Then again I shifted my eyes-I faced what I had to face.

There's no more usual basis of union than mutual misunderstanding.

To live only to suffer?only to feel the injury of life repeated and enlarged?it seemed to her she was too valuable, too capable, for that. Then she wondered if it were vain and stupid to think so well of herself. When had it even been a guarantee to be valuable? Wasn't all history full of the destruction of precious things? Wasn't it much more probable that if one were fine one would suffer?

We do what we can.

Whatever life you lead you must put your soul in it--to make any sort of success in it; and from the moment you do that it ceases to be romance, I assure you: it becomes grim reality! And you can't always please yourself; you must sometimes please other people. That, I admit, you're very ready to do; but there's another thing that's still more important--you must often displease others. You must always be ready for that--you must never shrink from it. That doesn't suit you at all--you're too fond of admiration, you like to be thought well of. You think we can escape disagreeable duties by taking romantic views--that's your great illusion, my dear. But we can't. You must be prepared on many occasions in life to please no one at all--not even yourself.

You look as if you were taking me to a funeral. If that's a grin, your ears are very near together.

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