Tag Archives: Henry James

Was Denial the Beast?

“But the devil in this was that very basis itself put marrying out of the question. His conviction, his apprehension, his obsession, in short, was not a condition he could invite a woman to share; and that consequence of it precisely what was the matter with him.”

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle”, in Major Stories & Essays, Library of America College Editions, 1999), p457

Is his conviction apprehension and obsession the “beast”? Was James trying to hint that his denial of the relationship was the beast? … “like a crouching beast in the jungle.” (pg 457)

The Beast in the Jungle

“It affected him as the sequel of something of which he had lost the beginning.  He knew it, and for the time quite welcomed it, as a continuation, but didn’t know what it continued, which was an interest, or an amusement, the greater as he was also somehow aware – yet without a direct sign from her – that the young woman herself had not lost the thread.  She had not lost it, but she wouldn’t give it back to him, he saw, without some putting forth of his hand for it; and he not only saw that, but saw several things more, things odd enough in the light of the fact that at the moment some accident of grouping brought them face to face he was still merely fumbling with the idea that any contact between them in the past would have had no importance.  If it had had no importance he scarcely knew why his actual impression of her should so seem to have so much; the answer to which, however, was that in such a life as they all appeared to be leading for the moment one could but take things as they came.”

Notes:  he has to make an effort, figuring out if meetings have an importance, shift to taking life as it comes, beginnings and continuations

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle”, in Major Stories & Essays (New York: Library of America, 1999), 446.


She again shook her head. “What I mean isn’t what I’ve always meant. It’s different.”

“It’s something new?”

She hesitated. “Something new. It’s not what you think. I see what you think.”

His divination drew breath then; only her  correction might be wrong. “It isn’t that I am a donkey?” he asked between faintness and grimness. “It isn’t that it’s all a mistake?”

“A mistake?” she pityingly echoed. That possibility, for her, he saw, would be monstrous; and if she guaranteed him the immunity from pain it would accordingly not be what she had in mind. “Oh, no,” she declared; “it’s nothing of that sort. You’ve been right.”

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle,” in Major Stories & Essays (New York: Library of America, 1999), 475.

Notes: Am I just stupid or does this story make no sense whatsoever. Seriously, this guy is worse than Samuel Beckett.

Stories and Nature

“The subject-matter of fiction is stored up likewise in documents and records, and if it will not tie itself away, as they say in California, it must speak with assurance, with the tone of the historian.” (James 574)

James is saying stories come from experience and when writing a story, the reader must dig into those stored “documents” in order to have a self worthy story.

James, Henry. Henry James: Major Stories and Essays. New York: Penguin, 1984. Print.


“CYRIL. Well, you need not look at the landscape. You can lie on the grass and smoke and talk.”

A lesson comes from hearing and listening (or in this case reading) to a conversation! Cyril says look past everything, you can sit down and enjoy it, but make sure you look past structures to really understand what makes something. .. Does nature equal art?

The Decay of Lying. Oscar Wilde. The Victorian Web. Victorian Web, 21 April. 2008. Web. 8 Sept. 2013. ‹http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/wilde/decay.html>.

Which Comes First: Reality or Art?

It goes without saying that you will not write a good novel unless you possess the sense of reality ; but it will be difficult to give you a recipe for calling that sense into being. Humanity is immense, and reality  has a myriad forms ; the most one can affirm is that some of the flowers of fiction have the odour of it, and others have not ; as for telling you in advance how your nosegay should be composed, that is another affair. It is equally excellent and inconclusive to say that one must write from experience ; to our supposititious aspirant such a declaration might savour of mockery. What kind of experience is intended, and where does it begin and end ? Experience is never limited, and it is never complete ; it is an immense sensibility, a kind of huge spider- web of the finest silken threads suspended in the chamber of consciousness, and catching every air- borne particle in its tissue. It is the very atmosphere of the mind ; and when the mind is imaginative much more when it happens to be that of a man of genius it takes to itself the faintest hints of life, it converts the very pulses of the air into revelations (pg. 387-88).

-Henry James. “The Art of Fiction.” In Partial Portraits. New York: Macmillan, 1894. Internet Archive. (http://archive.org/details/partialportraitsoojameiala.)

Notes: What is true definition of experience; experience vs. reality; art vs. reality; experience becomes art


Cyril. Nature follows the landscape painter then, and takes her effects from him?

Vivian. Certainly… For what is Nature? Nature is no great mother who has borne us. She is our creation. It is in our brain that she quickens to life. Things are because we see them, and what we see, and how we see it, depends on the Arts that have influenced us. To look at a thing is very different from seeing a thing. One does not see anything until one sees its beauty. Then, and then only, does it come into existence. At present, people see fogs, not because there are fogs, but because poets and painters have taught them the mysterious loveliness of such effects. There may have been fogs for centuries in London. I dare say there were. But no one saw them, and so we do not know anything about them. They did not exist till Art had invented them (40-41).

-Oscar Wilde. “The Decay of Lying.” In Intentions. New York: Brentano’s, 1905 (Internet Archive. http://archive.org/details/intentionsdecayo00wild).

Notes: Life imitates art; Humans create Nature, not Nature creates humans; perception vs. reality