Quotations From HENRY JAMES


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  • What is character but the determination of incident? What is incident but the illustration of character?
    Henry James (1843-1916), U.S. author. repr. In Partial Portraits (1888). The Art of Fiction (originally published 1884).
  • You desire to embrace it, to caress it, to possess it; and finally a soft sense of possession grows up and your visit becomes a perpetual love affair.
    Henry James (1843-1916), U.S. author. "Venice," sct. 2, Italian Hours (written 1882, 1909). James visited Venice seven times between 1869 and 1907. For the city's downside, see James on tourism.

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  • The superiority of one man's opinion over another's is never so great as when the opinion is about a woman.
    Henry James (1843-1916), U.S. author. The Tragic Muse, ch. 9 (1890).

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  • Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.
    Henry James (1843-1916), U.S. author. The Portrait of a Lady, ch. 1 (1881). Opening words.

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  • Money's a horrid thing to follow, but a charming thing to meet.
    Henry James (1843-1916), U.S. author. Gilbert Osmond, in The Portrait of a Lady, ch. 35 (1881). Speaking of Isabel Archer's fortune.

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  • To kill a human being is, after all, the least injury you can do him.
    Henry James (1843-1916), U.S. author. repr. In The Complete Tales of Henry James, vol. 1, ed. Leon Edel (1962). George Bingham, in "My Friend Bingham," Atlantic Monthly (Boston, March 1867). Having mistakenly shot a child.
  • She had an unequalled gift ... of squeezing big mistakes into small opportunities.
    Henry James (1843-1916), U.S. author. repr. In The Real Thing and Other Tales (1893). "Greville Fane," Illustrated London News (September 17 and 24, 1892). Of Fane's command of French and Italian.
  • To read between the lines was easier than to follow the text.
    Henry James (1843-1916), U.S. author. Ralph Touchett, in The Portrait of a Lady, ch. 13 (1881). Giving his appraisal of Henrietta Stackpole.
  • To treat a "big" subject in the intensely summarized fashion demanded by an evening's traffic of the stage when the evening, freely clipped at each end, is reduced to two hours and a half, is a feat of which the difficulty looms large.
    Henry James (1843-1916), U.S. author. Theatricals: Second Series, prefatory note (1894).
  • Though there are some disagreeable things in Venice there is nothing so disagreeable as the visitors.
    Henry James (1843-1916), U.S. author. "Venice," sct. 2, Italian Hours (1909, written 1882).
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