Quotations From HENRY JAMES

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  • I hate American simplicity. I glory in the piling up of complications of every sort. If I could pronounce the name James in any different or more elaborate way I should be in favour of doing it.
    Henry James (1843-1916), U.S. author. Quoted by Leon Edel in Letters of Henry James, vol. 4, introduction (1984). Said to James's niece Peggy (Margaret Mary James).

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  • Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.
    Henry James (1843-1916), U.S. author. Quoted in A Backward Glance, ch. 10, Edith Wharton (1934). Remark during "one perfect afternoon we spent at Bodiam" (Bodiam Castle, Kent, England).

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  • Tell the boys to follow, to be faithful, to take me seriously.
    Henry James (1843-1916), U.S. author. quoted in H. Montgomery Hyde, Henry James at Home, ch. 7, sct. 4 (1969). James spoke these words, according to Hyde, during one of his last conscious moments, when his mind was dwelling on his work.
  • Whatever question there may be of his talent, there can be none, I think, of his genius. It was a slim and crooked one, but it was eminently personal. He was unperfect, unfinished, inartistic; he was worse than provincial—he was parochial.
    Henry James (1843-1916), U.S. author. Hawthorne, ch. 4 (1879).
  • If I were to live my life over again, I would be an American. I would steep myself in America, I would know no other land.
    Henry James (1843-1916), U.S. author. Remark, 1899, to writer Hamlin Garland. Quoted in Tony Tanner, Hawthorne, introduction (1879). See also the comment by James under "United States."

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  • People talk about the conscience, but it seems to me one must just bring it up to a certain point and leave it there. You can let your conscience alone if you're nice to the second housemaid.
    Henry James (1843-1916), U.S. author. Nanda Brookenham, in The Awkward Age, bk. 6, ch. 3 (1899).

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  • An Englishman's never so natural as when he's holding his tongue.
    Henry James (1843-1916), U.S. author. Isabel Archer, in The Portrait of a Lady, ch. 10 (1881).
  • It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance ... and I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process.
    Henry James (1843-1916), U.S. author. Letter, July 10, 1915, to author H.G. Wells. Henry James Letters, vol. 4, ed. Leon Edel (1984). Wells replied (13th July), "I don't clearly understand your concluding phrases.... I can only read sense into it by assuming that you are using 'art' for every conscious human activity. I use the word for a research and attainment that is technical and special."

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  • I am blackly bored when they are at large & at work; but somehow I am still more blackly bored when they are shut up in Holloway & we are deprived of them.
    Henry James (1843-1916), U.S. author. Letter, March 13, 1912, to Edith Wharton. Henry James & Edith Wharton: Letters 1900-1915, ed. Lyall Powers (1990). referring to "the window-smashing women." Holloway is a women's prison in London.

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  • It's a complex fate, being an American, and one of the responsibilities it entails is fighting against a superstitious valuation of Europe.
    Henry James (1843-1916), U.S. author. Letter, February 4, 1872, to editor Charles Eliot Norton. Henry James Letters, vol. 1, ed. Leon Edel (1974).

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