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that Mr. James flatters his public too much. The average reader has neither brains nor imagination to follow out a suggestion; he yawns at psychology; he is apt to resent explanation and non-explanation alike. He loves a good downright legend: "This is a wood," " This is a barn-door," which he who runs may read; he loves an obvious plot, an honest mystery, a conclusion that rounds off everything. All that is a point of view already over-discussed perhaps, and for which there will doubtless be always much to be said; we only refer to it now, because while the lovers of Mr. James's stories find a charm beyond that of any other, in his method, at once delicate and powerful, it may probably always forbid his volumes the honor of the railway bookstall, or the seventy thousandth copy of the cheap edition.

In using the word "powerful," it must be understood in the wide sense in which it is applicable to Mr. James's work. There is a usual and perfectly legitimate sense in which it is employed, as expressing a certain movement of passion or energy on the writer's part, through which certain scenes stand out from the remainder of the work, and move the reader in his turn to an emotion that forever remains in his memory. Such scenes as these are rare with Mr. James; it is perhaps an excess of the artistic sense of detachment, that occasionally compels him, when we should expect him to be most emotional, to be most restrained. His power is of another kind altogether; it arises from a profound knowledge of what he is writing about, from what seems sometimes an almost exhaustive knowledge of human nature; his anatomy is perfect; every hidperfect; every hidden bone and muscle is in its place. His surface (to change the metaphor) may be level, but it never rings hollow; its foundations are deep as those of the life of which he treats; the result is that impression of sustained power that is met with only in the great masters, that is the distinguish ing mark of the great masters.


may charm us—and claim our eterna! gratitude for the charm-by their imagination, their fancy, their genius even; but somewhere or other there is a gap in the carpentry, and through the chink the light of disillusion shines. With Mr. James, we tread solidly and look at his presentment of life without a misgiving. It is

the first in quality, it is the most essential boon a writer can give us.


We might refer in this connection, and as being among the most perfect presentments of his art, to two of Mr. James's earlier and less well known storiesMadame de Mauves," and " Washington Square." The first of these is a story of no great length, with hardly any plot; one of those subtle problems of character and situation in which the author takes pleasure, and ended finally by an epigram, as his stories occasionally find themselves ending, after a fashion somewhat disconcerting to the reader. It is, in brief, the story of a young American girl married to a French roué, M. de Mauves, with whom one of her own countrymen falls passionately in love. The point of the story lies in the fashion in which this passion is treated by the husband, the lover, and Madame de Mauves herself; and one has only in reading it to consider what might be made of this apparently hackneyed theme by a superficial, a commonplace, or a vulgar writer to appreciate the delicate originality and powerful handling Mr. James has brought to its treatment. The whole story is in low relief, without a salient incident; its strength lies in the sense that the roots of the faintly-blooming flowers of the little drama reach down to the deepest springs of human action; that the underlying strata of life presupposed by the surface are familiar to the writer as the surface itself. The other story," Washington Square," is much longer, but its motif, given in abstract form, is hardly more novel than that of "Madame de Mauves." The scene is chiefly laid in New York, and it is the history of a young girl, who, accredited with the prospect of inheriting a large fortune at her father's death, is pursued by a needy adventurer, with whom she falls blindly in love. The father, as in duty bound, opposes the marriage; the young girl, after many struggles, consents at last to put her lover to the test; he disappears, and the girl lives and dies an old maid. That is all the plot; but this little history, that for sustained and masterly treatment may be compared to "Eugénie Grandet' (which for the rest it does not in the least resemble), holds the reader's interest from beginning to end. has not the special charm of Balzac's masterpiece; the heroine, Catherine, a diffi


cult character to draw, and drawn with extraordinary skill, is represented as a dull girl of limited intelligence and fixed ideas, who wins our sympathy indeed, but appeals, much less to the imagination than the immortal Eugénie; as the house in Washington Square yields in romantic suggestion to that of the old and faded mansion with the broken stair that we have each of us inhabited in turn. But in historical accuracy and broad grasp of the foundations of life, there is no work with which the American novel can be so fitly mated as with that of the great French



These are only two of various masterpieces that Mr. James has given to the world. He has written about a dozen novels, and a considerable number of short stories s; and his treatment of the two forms of narrative is sufficiently distinct to demand that they should be considered somewhat apart.

It is a commonplace of literature that the short story, brought to so much perfection by the French, has never flourished in England. Half a dozen causes might be assigned for the fact; but it is probably chiefly due to the inferior sense of art as art, possessed by the English as compared with the French. The short story is above all a matter of form, of proportion; and the English sense of form, in respect of literature, is apt to be conspicuously wanting. There are exceptions, of course, and notable ones; but we speak of the rule. Mr. James, whose particular genius and method of work touches that of the French on more sides than one, is nowhere more French than in this; he satisfies our sense of form, of truth of proportion beyond any other writer in the English language that we could name. His shorter stories are of a length varying from a few pages to nine or ten chapters; but in the best of them, of whatever length, and that includes a large proportion, the form is perfect. It would be hard to find a flaw in the construction of Daisy Miller," "The Madonna of the Future,' ," "Four Meetings," "The Pension Beaurepas," and "Benvolio ; or, to come down later, in "The Siege of London, ""The Author of Beltraffio," "The Aspern Papers," "The Solution," and a dozen others that might


be named. These delightful stories have, of course, a hundred other claims on our admiration wit, humor, pathos, a charming gayety, acute observation of life and character; but it is the faultless skill with which they are framed, that above all, perhaps, "places" them as consummate works of art. The short story, properly treated as such, deals with a single idea, an isolated situation-a rule from which Mr. James never swerves; but much of the singular perfection of his short stories lies in the fact that while the idea, the situation is exhibited, developed and worked out to its legitimate conclusion within the compass of the few pages, more or less, that he allows himself, it is in fact no more isolated than it is possible for any situation in real life to be it stands with its just relation to the universe exactly indicated, bound to the common life by the million threads that unite common humanity. This is, of course, only to say that when the author sits down to write a short story, he knows his business; but that particular knowledge is so rare among us, that some insistence on it in this case may be permitted. In longer novels, his method is of necessity somewhat different. Like all the greater novelists, Mr. James is interested not merely in the telling of a story, properly so called, in the working out of a situation, the conduct of a loveaffair, the development of a plot, but with the entire moving drama of life, the great human comedy, in which situations take their place as mere incidents. In "The Portrait of a Lady," in "The Bostonians, "The Princess Casamassima," "The Tragic Muse," and in a less degree "The Europeans," "The American, "The Reverberator," we feel less that the curtain has risen on a comedy of manners or of plot, than on a vast section of society, and of society considered with especial reference to some of its more modern developments. In his earlier as in some of his later work, Mr. James, as we have seen, selected the wide field of the opposing and harmonizing influences of America and Europe; in "The Bostonians," he touches the question of Women's Rights; in "The Princess Casamassima," we are with the Socialists; while his most recent book," The Tragic Muse," sets before us the curious relations that the latest whirligig has brought round between art, and society in its conventional sense.

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As a novelist, Mr. James is necessarily concerned with the manifestation of any particular phase with which he is dealing, through the experience of individuals; but it is obvious that for this a large canvas, a complex scheme is needed, in which perfection of form has in some degree to yield to the exigencies of the spectacle of the huge haphazard activities, the apparently crude fatalities of human existence. There are readers who will always prefer Mr. James's shorter stories, their delicate manipulation, their exquisite style, and perfect proportion; there are others who will find a deeper interest in the larger issues brought before them in his longer narratives. The question is not one that need trouble us; it is the privilege of an artist to affect men's minds in very various ways, and there is no danger that Mr. James's admirers will quarrel among themselves.

A novelist's presentment of life, or more justly, perhaps, his choice, his selection out of life, is one thing; the way in which he personally looks at life and appreciates it, is obviously another. A distinction has always to be sought between a writer's mental attitude and the results given to the world; and to disengage the man from the artist, the artist from the man, must not unfrequently present itself as a problem a little resembling that of Shylock's pound of flesh. With some writers, indeed, the task is sufficiently easy; it may simply be abandoned. The author puts, as it is called, his whole soul into his work; the shaping artist plays a secondary part; the result may be brilliant, charming, passionate, sentimental or the reverse; but it at least presents no particular problem; the author and his work are one. To others, again, the picturesque, the emotional, the moral or the sensational side of existence may appeal so strongly, that an irresistible impulse leads them inevitably to reveal their idiosyncrasy through their presentation of life. With a writer so impersonal as Mr. James, the case is different, the problem more complicated. He has to be considered primarily in his artistic capacity; it is his supreme distinction that he invariably includes and excludes as an artist, not as a man; and his work lends itself to negative deductions, as it were, rather than to positive ones. To speak, for instance, of his writing as ironical, is on the

surface to state an untenable proposition; he is genial (one might rather say), he is good-humored, he is indifferent, he is at moments extraordinarily tender; it would, we believe, be impossible to find from beginning to end of his works one cruel or sarcastic word. It is only by degrees we come to a perception of the profound irony implied by that attitude of goodhumored neutrality, of genial indifference. His books, on the whole, strike one as optimistic; a certain kindly view of the events and accidents of life pervades them; they deal by preference with the saner rather than with the more morbid side of humanity; but they create finally a sense of aloofness on the part of the writer that seems to imply a profound disenchantment, what we have ventured to call a profound irony lurking at the root of his conception of life, a sense of the singular sadness, futility and vanity on the whole, of the beings whom he observes and depicts as they cross and recross the stage of the world. As might be expected, this is less apparent in his earlier than in his later work; it is nowhere more apparent than in his latest novel, "The Tragic Muse." In that remarkable book, modern to a degree that makes all other novels seem for the moment old fashioned and out-of-date, by comparison, what is termed the general and the particular is carried to the last point; the central figure and the central motive, that is to say, being a woman of an artistic type common to all time, brought into contact with the newest modes and developments of culture and society. The theme is one that lends itself with particular felicity to the author's especial genius for unimpassioned observation; it is developed with the mature strength of a splendid and virile talent; but the final impression it creates is of something a little hard, perhaps, a little too irresponsible.

The impression, we must immediately add, arises in great measure from the fact that the scheme of the story does not happen to include any of those characters that Mr. James knows how to treat with a particular kindness, with a genial warmth even, springing from a larger sympathy with human nature than the most discriminating observation can supply. It is entirely characteristic of the author, that it is not, as a rule, in the delineation of his principal heroes and heroines that we

discover this kindly and sympathetic note, but in that of his humbler characters. There is no commoner or cheaper device of the inferior novelist than to seize upon one or another weak or absurd side of a human being and hold it up to scorn; to pillory a character for some physical or mental defect, to paint the smaller vices with an air of being above the human race, in colors as false as the follies that are described. Mr. James not only (it need not be said) has nothing to do with vulgarities such as these, not only he never laughs at, but always with his characters; he does much more. In his treatment of the old, the poor, the humble, the disgraced by fortune, such as come into all work that embraces wide fields of human action, there is a tenderness equalled by no other writer that we can recall. We feel disposed to insist upon this quality because it is the most personal, perhaps the only personal note he allows to modify the rigor of disinterested observation. Sometimes, in fact, he dramatizes it, so to speak, by leaving the story to be narrated by an imaginary person, as where he deals with the disillusioned painter in "The Madonna of the Future" with Mr. Ruck, the ruined American father, in "The Pension Beaurepas; or Caroline Spencer, in "Four Meetings." Elsewhere, however, those humbler individuals who have the honor to hold (as we judge) an especial place in the author's regard, take their place among the other characters in an impersonal narrative; we need only mention Madame Grandoni, in "Roderick Hudson;" Miss Birdseye, in "The Bostonians;" the old violinist, Lady Aurora, Miss Pynsent, in "Princess Casamassima," to illustrate our meaning. And in connection with this point may be mentioned the particular power of pathos shown by Mr. James on the very rare occasions-not half a dozen perhaps in the whole course of his books that he cares to exercise it; that pathos which, in its entire freedom from self-consciousness, from the implied invitation, "Come, let us weep, for this is a melancholy occasion," is among the rarer gifts of the novelist. Few people, we should think, could read unmoved the death of Miss Birdseye, which in simple and suggestive beauty recalls the description of the passage of Christiana across the river of death in the Pilgrim's Progress;"


or that other chapter in "The Princess Casamassima," where the tenderly humorous enhances the pathetic, as the devoted little dress-maker comforts herself on her death-bed with the illusions of her adopted. son's greatness; or again, in altogether another key, the scenes darkening to the tragic close of the same novel. These passages, of an absolute simplicity, show how far Mr James's genius can, with his rare permission, carry him in that direction; though the very rarity of the occasions on which he indulges it, enhances perhaps its final value.


This, indeed, may be said in general of what is emotional and of what is descriptive in Mr. James's novels. No one can describe better than he can; but he has apparently decided, and we think on the whole justly, that novels are not the proper vehicle for descriptions of scenery as such, and we seldom come across more than is requisite for the mere mise en scène. We say justly, on the whole; because while accepting the theory as true, it is possible to recall novelists who indulge in a richer decoration for their characters than Mr. James does, and with whom we find no ground for quarrel on that score. In the same way with the emotional; Mr. James for the most part avoids it, travels round it, gets at his effects without it; and considering the floods of futile words, the pages of sentiment that do duty for passion and feeling, we are again disposed to say that he is right. Nevertheless, emotion is a great weapon in the hand of a master; Mr. James, as he proves in passages here and there, wields it with as much mastery as any one; there are moments when we find ourselves wishing he would wield it a little oftener.

A novelist, however, is obviously what the grace of heaven and his own wit make him. Mr. James may be only sometimes descriptive and occasionally emotional; but he is witty, he is humorous, he is epigrammatic; he is learned-consummately learned in human nature. He is, in brief, pre-eminently the novelist of character and observation. Of the ordinary resources of the story-teller, indeed, Mr. James is apt to avail himself but sparingly. Of love-making proper, for instance, there is but little in his volumes. There are lovers, of course, and marriages

-often unhappy ones; but these are not the main business on hand. That lies in tracing through delicate and minute observation of the surface, the hidden sources that determine action. His imagination, which may be held to be wanting in richness in certain directions, is of extraordinary strength in the conception of these springs of motive and of conduct, of the action and interaction of the human mind. In the same way, the brilliant procession of heroines that passes through his pages, seem to be there less to illustrate a charming side of life, than because no picture of life, charming or the reverse, is complete without them. A good deal might be said about Mr. James's treatment of women. One's first impression (and even one's last impression, perhaps) is that he treats them coldly; that in his moments of keenest insight into their motives and sentiments, he still views them, as it were, from outside, and at a distance. This, of course, may simply be taken as part of his disinterested treatment in general; but the impression of coldness remains, even with the fresh memory of the tenderness of touch that goes to the delineation of Miss Birdseye and Miss Pynsent, of the genial mood in which he gives us Olive Chancellor and the incomparable Henrietta Stackpole, and the mingled humor and gentleness of his presentment of Pansy Osmond, that peerless little flower among jeunes filles. For while other authors often leave on our mind a sense of their affection, their sympathy with, their admiration for their heroines, of their endowing them with delightful qualities for private ends of friendship, Mr. James stands aloof from all that. His women, good and bad, pass before him, and he views each in turn with a careful and impartial eye; he cares, he gives us to believe, no more for Isabel Archer or Madame de Cintré than for Madame Merle, or Mademoiselle Noémie. The method has its advantages; the reader is never torn in two by the antagonism between his own preferences and those forced upon him by the author; be could never hate the worst of Mr. James's women, and he has one or two very bad ones, as he hates the virtuous Laura Bell. And yet there are moments when we feel that he might maintain a rather less distant attitude. We feel it, because we feel that the author's position toward certain of his heroes is, without any detriment to the

attitude of "detachınent," of a somewhat warmer character; we are sure that he is on terms of the friendliest intimacy with Ralph Touchett and Lord Warburton, with Nick Dormer, and even with poor little Hyacinth Robinson.

For the rest, we can feel nothing but gratitude for the lorg and varied succession of portraits that Mr. James hangs before our eyes; his portraiture is always true and brilliant; he seizes the salient points with unerring skill, and there are faces and figures in his books that live in our memory as part of the more intimate experience of life. We can imagine certain of his women, in the future, forming part of the furniture of the nineteenth century, as in another at the women of Lely and of Reynolds furnish for us the court of Charles II., and the social life of George III. It is needless to say that none of these portraits are made to order; more than that, Mr. James, as we have intimated, shows no special predilection for one type over another; that is the good side of the rather melancholy indifference of which we were accusing him just now. One of his earliest successes associated him with a certain exceptional type of the American girl; but admirably as he depicts her, we cannot perceive that he scores successes less admirable, in his delineation of types who have little in common with Daisy Miller. Nevertheless, his heroines being almost exclusively of one nationality-with the exception of the charming Biddy Dormer, English, and English again to her very finger-tips, he has given us no heroine of importance who is not American-one or two characteristics appear in almost all; though varying so much in color and degree in one and another, that we hardly know how to define them otherwise than as the breath of New England animating its daughters. This is vague, but ot more vague perhaps than the impalpable spirit that Mr. James has caught with so certain an instinct and communicated so delicately to every woman, young or old, who hails from the Transatlantic shores in his novels. It is companion to that hardly less vague, but no less certain breath of what we may venture to term the American tradition that flutters through Mr. James's volumes; a breath too little deliberate, tool tle conscious of itself to be named Pur tanism, but associated with a certain conception


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