Tag Archives: james


When the possibilities themselves had, accordingly, turned stale, when the secret of the gods had grown faint, had perhaps even quite evaporated, that, and that only, was failure. It wouldn’t have been failure to be bankrupt, dishonoured, pilloried, hanged; it was failure not to be anything.

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle,” in The Complete Tales of Henry James
(New York: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1964), 379.

Notes: expectancy, failure = not accomplishing anything?, false modesty = egotism/pride

It’s not awkward until someone says it’s awkward (The Beast in the Jungle)

It was in the way the autumn day looked into the high windows as it wanted; in the way the red light, breaking at the close from under a low, sombre, sky, reached out in a long shaft and played over old wainscots, old tapestry, old gold, old colour (447).

The thing to be, with the one person who knew, was easy and natural -to make the reference rather than be seeming to avoid it, to avoid it rather than be seeming to make it, and to keep it, in any case, familiar, facetious even, rather than pedantic and portentous (458).

Notes: What is it that he told her? I’m really intrigued. A lot of poetic devices have been used.

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle”, in Major Stories and Essays (First Library of America College Edition, Fall 1999), 447-458

Oppositions in metaphors

“When they were two they either mingled their sounds of ecstasy or melted into silences of even deeper import” (189)

“It had not taken them many minutes, after all, to put down on the table, like the cards of a pack, those that constituted their respective hands; only what came out what that the pack was unfortunately not perfect – that the past, invoked, invited, encouraged, could give them, naturally, no more than it had.” (193)

-Cards: inclusion of past and present in metaphor, suggestion of future/destiny?

“…so that they were, to Marcher’s sense, no longer hovering about the head-waters of their stream, but had felt their boat pushed sharply off and down the current.” (202)

-Bluntness of James’ metaphors, movement from individual to shared

“Their nerves, their sensibility, their imagination, were conductors and revealers, and the beauty of May Bartram was in particular that she had given herself so to his case. He felt in these days what, oddly enough, he had never felt before, the growth of a dread of losing her by some catastrophe – some catastrophe that yet wouldn’t at all be the catastrophe … It was characteristic of the inner detachment he had hitherto so successfully cultivated and to which our whole account of him is a reference, it was characteristic that his complication, such as they were, had never yet seemed so as at this crisis to thicken about him…” (216)

-Use of singular nouns – sync

-“Inner” vs. external detachment


James, Henry. “The Beast in the Jungle.” In The Better Sort. New York: Scribner, 1903. Internet Archive. http://archive.org/details/bettersort00jamegoog. (189-216).

Regretting lack of action

They looked at each other as with the feeling of an occasion missed; the present one would have been so much better if the other, in the far distance, in the foreign land, hadn’t been so stupidly meagre. There weren’t, apparently, all counted, more than a dozen little old things that had succeeded in coming to pass between them; trivialities of youth, simplicities of freshness, stupidities of ignorance, small possible germs, but too deeply buried–too deeply (didn’t it seem?) to sprout after so many years.

James, Henry. “The Beast in the Jungle.” In The Better Sort. New York: Scribner, 1903. Internet Archive. http://archive.org/details/bettersort00jamegoog (193)

Notes: met before, missed opportunities that he seems to regret, years have passed, observes her closely.


“He had a screw loose for her but she liked him in spite of it and was practically, against the rest of the world, his kind wise keeper, unremunerated but fairly amused and, in the absence of other near ties, not disreputably occupied” (James 12).

Notes- responsibility and goals.

James, Henry. The Beast in the Jungle.  London: Martin Secker, 1915. Project Gutenberg     eBook. 2005. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1903/1903-h/1903-h.htm. 12. 

Modernity with Casanova and James

“Modernity’s connection with fashion is a sign of its inherent instability. It is also inevitably an occasion of rivalry and competition: because the modern by definition is always new, and therefore open to challenge, the only way in literary space to be truly modern is to contest the present as outmoded…” (91).

Casanova, P. (2004). The world republic of letters. (p. 91). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

“There had been after luncheon much dispersal, all in the interest of the original motive, a view of Weatherend itself and the fine things, intrinsic features, pictures, heirlooms, treasures of all the arts, that made the place almost famous; and the great rooms were so numerous that guests could wander at their will…” (445).

James, H. (1999). Henry james: Major stories and essay. (1 ed., p. 445). New York: Penguin Putnam Inc.


Notes: James’ description of all of these heirlooms and possessions is an example of Casanova’s idea that the connection of modernity and fashion is indeed competitive. James’ descriptions of this location shows the grandeur of this house.


“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” (Wilde 13).

Wilde, Oscar. “The Decay of Lying.” in Intentions. Cambridge: Chadwyck-Healey. 1999. 13. lion.chadwyck.com/Fulltext.do?id.=Z000731336&divLevel=0&area=Prose&DurUrl=Yes&forward=textsFT

Notes: power of art.

“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” (James 385).

James, Henry. “The Art of Fiction.” in Partial Portraits.  New York: Macmillan. 1894. 385. archive.org/stream/partialportriats/00jameiala#page/384/mode/2up

Note:  is this true?

Fiction and Lying as Art

“It is here in very truth that he competes with life;it is here that he competes with his brother the painter in his attempt to render the look of things, the look that conveys their meaning, to catch the colour, the relief, the expression, the surface, the substance of the human spectacle.” James, Henry. Major Stories & Essays. New York: Library of America, 1999. Pg.581. – James’ argument of fiction as art reminds me of research paper I wrote last semester arguing that Stephen Crane is an impressionist writer using techniques of the impressionist painters. Agree with James that fiction writing is “one of the fine arts” (575).

“Try to be one of the people on whom nothing is lost!” Pg. 581 – the definition of an artist, and the way to experience life.

“A novel is a living thing, all one and continuous, like any other organism, and in proportion as it lives will it be found, I think that each of the parts there is something of each other of the other parts” pg. 582 – great analogy – a novel is about life and takes on its own life, needs to be cohesive, a body of parts.

“He forgets that when Art surrenders her imaginative medium she surrenders everything.” Wilde, Oscar. “The Decay of Lying.” In Intentions. New York: Brentano’s, 1905. Pg. 24. – art is not simply imagination, it’s interpretation.


“And then Nature is so indifferent, so unappreciative. Whenever I am walking in the park here, I always feel that I am no more to her than the cattle that browse on the slope, or the burdock that blooms in the ditch. Nothing is more evident than that Nature hates the Mind.”

-Wilde, Oscar. The Decay of Lying. New York: Bertano’s, 1905. 9-10. Web. <http://archive.org/details/partialportraits00jameiala>.

Notes: Humans are self absorbed, Nature is always giving


“Art lives upon discussion, upon experiment, upon curiosity, upon variety of attempt, upon the exchange of views and the comparison of standpoints; and there is a presumption that those times when no one has anything particular to say about it, and has no reason to give for practice or preference, though they may be times of genius, are not times of development, are times possibly even, a little, of dullness.”

-James, Henry. “The Art of Fiction.” Longman’s Magazine 4 Sept. 1884: n. pag. Web. <http://public.wsu.edu/~campbelld/amlit/artfiction.html>.

Notes: living, malleable, purposeful

the beginning of what I feel is going to be a love story to be reckoned with

It was in the way the autumn day looked into the high windows as it waned; in the way the red light, breaking at the close from under a low, sombre sky, reached out in a long shaft and played over old wainscots, old tapestry, old gold, old colour. It was most of all perhaps in the way she came to him as if, since she had been turned on to deal with the simpler sort, he might, should he choose to keep the whole thing down, just take her mild attention for a part of her general business.

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle, ” in Major Stories & Essays (New York: Library of America, 1999), 447.

Notes: I just love the way these two characters are introduced to each other. The way he is immediately transfixed by her and the attitude that she gives back in return; like he’s just a part of her daily routine. And the imagery that’s conjured when her glance is described as fading autumn sunlight is absolutely beautiful.