Henry James


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

Author Quotes

If I wavered for the instant it was not with what I kept back.

It argued a special genius; he was clearly a case of that. The spark of fire, the point of light, sat somewhere in his inward vagueness as a lamp before a shrine twinkles in the dark perspective of a church; and while youth and early middle-age, while the stiff American breeze of example and opportunity were blowing upon it hard, had made the chamber of his brain a strange workshop of fortune. This establishment, mysterious and almost anonymous, the windows of which, at hours of highest pressure, never seemed, for starers and wonderers, perceptibly to glow, must in fact have been during certain years the scene of an unprecedented, a miraculous white-heat, the receipt for producing which it was practically felt that the master of the forge could not have communicated even with the best intentions.

It seemed to him he had waited an age for some stir of the great grim hush; the life of the town was itself under a spell--so unnaturally, up and down the whole prospect of known and rather ugly objects, the blankness and the silence lasted. Had they ever, he asked himself, the hard-faced houses, which had begun to look livid in the dim dawn, had they ever spoken so little to any need of his spirit? Great builded voids, great crowded stillnesses put on, often, in the heart of cities, for the small hours, a sort of sinister mask, and it was of this large collective negation that Bryron presently became conscious--all the more that the break of day was, almost incredibly, now at hand, proving to him what night he had made of it.

It's never permitted to be surprised at the aberrations of born fools.

Love has nothing to do with good reasons.

My idea is this, that when you only love a little you?re naturally not jealous-or are only jealous also a little, so that it doesn?t matter. But when you love in a deeper and intenser way, then you?re in the very same proportion jealous; your jealousy has intensity and, no doubt, ferocity. When however you love in the most abysmal and unutterable way of all ? whey then you?re beyond everything, and nothing can pull you down.

On 10 August 1914, five days after war was declared, Henry James, in a letter to a friend, expressed his revulsion at the prospect of war, and articulated the illusion that had preceded it: `Black and hideous to me is the tragedy that gathers, and I'm sick beyond cure to have lived on to see it. You and I, the ornaments of our generation, should have been spared the wreck of our beliefs that through the long years we had seen civilization grow and the worst become impossible.

Sensation more complex than had ever before found itself consistent with sanity.

She is like a revolving lighthouse; pitch darkness alternating with a dazzling brilliancy!

I suspect that the age of letters is waning, for our time. It is the age of Panama Canals, of Sandra Bernhardt, of Western wheat raising, of merely material expansion. Art, form, may return, but I doubt I shall live to see them--I don't believe they are as eternal as the poets say.

If I were to live my life over again, I would be an American. I would steep myself in America, I would know no other land.

It came to me in the very horror of the immediate presence that the act would be, seeing and facing what I saw and faced, to keep the boy himself unaware. The inspiration?I can call it by no other name?was that I felt how voluntarily, how transcendently, I might. It was like fighting with a demon for a human soul, and when I had fairly so appraised it I saw how the human soul?held out, in the tremor of my hands, at arm's length?had a perfect dew of sweat on a lovely childish forehead.

It struck him really that he had never so lived with her as during this period of her silence; the silence was a sacred hush, a finer clearer medium, in which her idiosyncrasies showed.

It's not my fate to give up--I know it can't be.

Madame de Cintre's face had, to Newman's eye, a range of expression as delightfully vast as the wind-streaked, cloud-flecked distance on a Western prairie. But her mother's white, intense, respectable countenance, with its formal gaze, and its circumscribed smile, suggested a document signed and sealed; a thing of parchment, ink, and ruled lines.

Never say you know the last word about any human heart.

On moonless nights, they would hide with lanterns to get boats to ram into barges so they could steal from the ships.

She [was]? one of those convenient types who don't keep you explaining --minds with doors as numerous as the many-tongued clusters of confessionals at St. Peters.

She is the one who leads the people of Little Egg Harbor to freedom.

I take up my own pen again - the pen of all my old unforgettable efforts and sacred struggles. To myself - today - I need say no more. Large and full and high the future still opens. It is now indeed that I may do the work of my life. And I will.

If one is strong, one loves the more strongly.

It comes over me that I had then a strange alter ego deep down somewhere inside me, as the full-blown flower is in the small tight bud, and I just took the course, I just transferred him to the climate, that blighted him once and for ever.

It takes a great deal of history to produce a little literature.

It's time to start living the life you've imagined.

Madame Merle was very appreciative; she liked almost everything, including the English rain. There is always a little of it, and never too much at once, she said; and it never wets you, and it always smells good.

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