Notes on Novelists
Notes on Novelists Author(s) Henry James Country United Kingdom, United States Language English Genre(s) Literary criticism Publisher J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., London
Charles Scribner's Sons, New York City
Publication date Dent: 13 Oct 1914
Scribner's: 14 Oct 1914
Media type Pages Dent: 360
Notes on Novelists is a book of literary criticism by Henry James published in 1914. The book collected essays that James had written over the preceding two decades on French, Italian, English and American writers. The book also contained a controversial essay, The New Novel, 1914, which passed judgment on various contemporary writers and occasioned much disagreement.
Summary and themes
This is one of the last books that James saw through the press, and it contains his most mature and considered opinions on a number of writers. For instance, George Sand, an early enthusiasm of his, here becomes only a fading though pretty memory: "Her work, beautiful, plentiful and fluid, has floated itself out to sea even as the melting snows of the high places are floated."
Balzac, though, remains James' most reliable guide and master. He admires to the last Balzac's accounts of the "generative and contributive circumstances, of every discernible sort," which surround and condition his characters. This is entirely different from George Sand's fatal "looseness" of description and specification.
James includes two essays on Italian writers, Gabriele D'Annunzio and Matilde Serao. He notes the eloquence and power of their descriptions of sexual passion, but he believes sex becomes too isolated from the rest of their characters' lives. It is presented as "...only the act of a moment, beginning and ending in itself and disowning any representative character. From the moment it depends on itself alone for its beauty it endangers extremely its distinction, so precarious at the best. For what it represents, precisely, is poetically interesting; it finds its extension and consummation only in the rest of life." In The Wings of the Dove James provides a memorable example of how Densher and Kete's sexual passion does enter into the rest of their lives and becomes much more than the act of a moment.
In one of the London Notes James offers a last word on the forceful drama of Henrik Ibsen, whose mastery of the stage he clearly envied and could never emulate: "Well in the very front of the scene lunges, with extraordinary length of arm, the Ego against the Ego, and rocks, in a rigor of passion, the soul against the soul." Try as he might, James could never infuse such power into his plays.
Table of contents
Some of the judgments James made in these essays, especially his pronouncements on younger novelists in The New Novel, were harshly dismissed as limited and incorrect. Hugh Walpole, among others, thought James got his verdicts in the essay "all wrong." But as he almost always did throughout his career as a critic, James treated his fellow writers with respect and understanding, and tried to enter into their points of view.
James really did believe in his famous "house of fiction" image, where writers looked at life from different windows and thus returned interestingly varied reports. He liked to get at reports very dissimilar to his own, as the easiest way to gain an "extension of life."
- Henry James Literary Criticism - Essays on Literature, American Writers, English Writers edited by Leon Edel and Mark Wilson (New York: Library of America 1984) ISBN 0-940450-22-4
- Henry James Literary Criticism - French Writers, Other European Writers, The Prefaces to the New York Edition edited by Leon Edel and Mark Wilson (New York: Library of America 1984) ISBN 0-940450-23-2
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
French Poets and Novelists — Infobox Book | name = French Poets and Novelists author = Henry James country = United Kingdom language = English genre = Literary criticism publisher = Macmillan and Co., London release date = 19 Feb 1878 media type = Print pages = 439 French… … Wikipedia
List of Russian language novelists — Russian Writers by Sergei Levitsky, 1856. This is a list of authors who have written works of fiction in the Russian language. The list encompasses novelists and writers of short fiction. For the plain text list, see Category:Russian novelists.… … Wikipedia
Romantic Novelists' Association — The Romantic Novelists Association (RNA) is a writers association in the UK. Founded in 1960, mainly through the efforts of Alex Stuart and Lucilla Andrews, it is currently chaired by Jenny Haddon (Mills and Boon author Sophie Weston) and has… … Wikipedia
Florence Nightingale: Notes on Nursing — ▪ Primary Source During the Crimean War (1853–56), when Florence Nightingale and about three dozen trained nurses arrived in Scutari, near Constantinople (now Istanbul), British soldiers were seven times more likely to die from contagious… … Universalium
The Ambassadors — This article is about the book. For the painting, see The Ambassadors (Holbein). The Ambassadors … Wikipedia
Daisy Miller — This article is about the novel. For the 1974 film adaptation, see Daisy Miller (1974 film). Daisy Miller … Wikipedia
The Wings of the Dove — This is the article about the novel. For the films adapted from James novel, see The Wings of the Dove (film). The Wings of the Dove … Wikipedia
The Golden Bowl — This article is about the Henry James novel. For the film, see The Golden Bowl (film). The Golden Bowl … Wikipedia
The American (novel) — For other uses, see The American (disambiguation). The American Author(s) Henry James … Wikipedia
The Bostonians — For the film based on the novel, see The Bostonians (film). The Bostonians Author(s) … Wikipedia