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The Ambassadors ()

Modern Library Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century (27)

    Dennis Barlow:  Through no wish of my own I have become the protagonist of a Jamesian
    problem.  Do you ever read any Henry James, Mr. Schultz?

    Mr. Schultz:  You know I don't have the time for reading.

    Barlow:  You don't have to read very much of him.  All his stories are about the same
    thing--American innocence and European experience.

    Schultz: Thinks he can outsmart us, does he?

    Barlow:  James was the innocent American.

    Schultz:  Well, I've no time for guys running down their own folks.

            -Evelyn Waugh (The Loved One)(see Orrin's review)

Lewis Lambert Strether, a middle-aged widower from Woollett, MA, has come to
Europe at the request of Mrs. Newsome, who he hopes to marry, in order to fetch
her son Chad home to help in the family manufacturing business. Finding Chad in
Paris, Strether realizes that he is not being corrupted, but is rather being
improved by his experiences. In fact, Paris awakens something in Strether too,
& he urges: "...don't forget that you're young-blessedly young; be glad of it on
the contrary and live up to it. Live all you can; it's a mistake not to. It
doesn't so much matter what you do in particular, so long as you have your life.
If you haven't had that what have you had? ... This place and these
impressions-mild as you may find them to wind a man up so; all my impressions of
Chad and of people I've seen at his place-well have had their abundant message
for me, have just dropped that into my mind. I see it now. I haven't done so
before-and now I'm old; too old at any rate for what I see." He also finds that
Chad has fallen in love with Mme. de Vionnet, a woman of quality & he agrees not
to force Chad to return home.

Meanwhile, Strether has become enamored of Maria Gostrey & she of him, but he
refuses to marry her & returns to America as a kind of penance for not forcing
Chad to leave.

Strether: I must be right.

Maria: To be right?

Strether: That you see, is my only logic. Not, out of the whole affair, to have
got anything for myself.

Maria: But, with your wonderful impressions you'll have got a great deal.

Strether: A great deal. But nothing like you. It's you who would make me wrong!

Thus Henry James.

What is there that a repressed (or closeted homosexual), who loathed his own country, has to tell us, that we need to hear? I think nothing. I sort of liked Turn of the Screw & I'll review it in lieu of The Golden Bowl & I'll give Wings of the Dove a shot because it actually has a decent plot, but I am just mystified by the Henry James revival. His characters are so emotionally constricted and warped that reading him is like climbing into the closet with him. It's an experience I encourage you to avoid.


Grade: (D)


Henry James Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Henry James
    -ENTRY: Henry James (Famous Authors)
    -ENTRY: Henry James (New World Encyclopedia)
    -ENTRY: Henry James, American writer (Leon Edel, Encyclopaedia Britannica)
    -ENTRY: Washington Square (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
    -The Henry James Review (Project muse)
-PODCAST: Episode 207: The Bostonians by Henry James: (HOSTED BY JOHN J. MILLER, December 7, 2021, Great Books)
    -PODCAST: On Henry James’s Very Long Short Story (From the History of Literature Podcast with Jacke Wilson, LitHub)
    -ESSAY: The Best of Henry James (Susan L. Mizruchi July 23, 2021, The Millions)
    -ESSAY: More than a Matter of Taste: The danger of relegating beauty to the trivial pursuit of pleasure. (Joshua Hren, 6/02/21, Hedgehog Review)
    -ESSAY: The Top 10 Henry James Novels (Michael Gorra, Aug 24, 2012, Publishers Weekly)
    -ESSAY: Henry James and the American Idea: The Atlantic Monthly helped establish the expatriate author as a literary great (Susan Goodman, July/August 2011, Humanities)
-ESSAY: Why The Turn of the Screw Haunts Us 125 Years Later: “That queasy opacity is at the heart of the novella’s power... The reader is never sure what, exactly, is happening.” (Kate Griffin, June 5, 2023, LitHub)
    -ESSAY: Henry and Louis: An unlikely literary friendship (Max Byrd, November 18, 2021, American Scholar)
    -ESSAY: Henry James and the Joys of Confusion: On James’ The Golden Bowl (Dick Turner, 8/26/22, Splice Today)
    -ESSAY: The High Altar of Henry James: What’s implicit in Henry James’ works is his familiarity with matters Catholic. What’s implicit is also subtle, so that Protestant and Catholic readers alike might enjoy reading about such matters. (Daniel J. Sundahl, January 3rd, 2022, Imaginative Conservative)
    -REVIEW: of The American by Henry James (Complete Review)
    -REVIEW: of Turn of the Screw< by Henry James/a> (Micah Mattix, The Spectator)
-ESSAY: On the Most Adapted Ghost Story of All Time: Adam Scovell Looks Into the Cinematic Appeal of Henry James’s Turn of the Screw (Adam Scovell, 12/20/21, LitHub)
    -ESSAY: What Henry James can teach us about the culture wars: The author understood the dangerous allure of the romantic reactionary (Sameer Rahim, January 3, 2022, Prospect)
    -REVIEW: of The Aspern Papers by Henry James (Elizabeth Lowry, TLS)
-REVIEW: of The Tragic Muse by Henry James (Complete Review)


    -FILM REVIEW: The Bostonians (Paddy Mulholland, Spectrum Culture)

Book-related and General Links:
    -etext: The Wings of the Dove by Henry James
    -Henry James (1843-1916)(bio & biblio)
    -Adrian Dover's Henry James Site
    -Henry James:  An American Master At Work
    -Determining One's Fate: Henry James's Autobiography (Victoria Alexander)
    -James, Henry - Heath Instructors Guide
    -the Henry James scholar's Guide to Web Sites
    -The Henry James Review (requires subscription)
    -Henry James and the Atlantic Monthly (The Atlantic)
    -ESSAY : The American Woman : What Henry James knew. (Lauren Weiner, Weekly Standard)
    -REVIEW: of Henry James: A Life in Letters (New Statesman)
    -Cher Maitre: The Other Sides of Henry James
    -Library of America: Henry James (excerpts, reviews, notes, order)
    -Etexts by Author:  James, Henry, 1843-1916
    -the Internet Public Library: Online Literary Criticism Collection: Henry James, Jr. (1843 - 1916)
    -etext of: Henry James, Jr. by William Dean Howells