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Henry James and Romance

Barbara Everett, 18 June 1981

Henry James Letters. Vol. III: 1883-1895 
edited by Leon Edel.
Macmillan, 579 pp., £17.50, March 1981, 0 333 18046 1
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Culture and Conduct in the Novels of Henry James 
by Alwyn Berland.
Cambridge, 231 pp., £17.50, April 1981, 0 521 23343 7
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Literary Reviews and Essays, A London Life, The Reverberator, Italian Hours, The Sacred Fount, Watch and Ward 
by Henry James.
Columbus, 409 pp., £2.60, February 1981, 0 394 17098 9
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... Edith Wharton once asked Henry James why it was that his novels so curiously lacked real life. James’s private name for her was the ‘Angel of Devastation’, and the fact that she not only perpetrated this remark but went on to record it expressionlessly in her memoirs shows just what he meant. It might be said that by then James had got used to the situation anyway, since for the previous thirty years much the same question had been asked by that large majority of the late-Victorian reading public who simply refused to read his books: after the last mild success of The Portrait of a Lady in 1881, James experienced half a lifetime of small and dwindling sales, which culminated, in the case of the New York Collected Edition, in total failure ...
... sees in the press. The method, like Greene’s, is highly effective, but it can never produce what Henry James would have called ‘saturation’. Virginia Woolf remarked that A Handful of Dust was a brilliant novel but that she didn’t believe a word of it: a way of turning round the ordinary reader’s cliché to suggest that truth in fiction has a complex ...


Frank Kermode, 2 April 1981

God’s Fifth Column: A Biography of the Age, 1890-1940 
by William Gerhardie, Michael Holroyd and Robert Skidelsky.
Hodder, 360 pp., £11.95, March 1981, 0 340 26340 7
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by William Gerhardie.
Penguin, 184 pp., £1.75, February 1981, 0 14 000391 6
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... Gerhardie finds no place in syllabuses which find room for, say, Vonnegut or Doris Lessing. Since Henry Green, arguably the best English novelist of his time, is little better off, we need not waste our time being surprised at this neglect. It would be agreeable to believe that the present stir of interest might alter the situation: but the rather ...

Mr Toad

John Bayley, 20 October 1994

Evelyn Waugh 
by Selina Hastings.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 600 pp., £20, October 1994, 1 85619 223 7
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... consists in part of appearing to demonstrate starkly to his reader that this is not so. His friend Henry Green, quite a different sort of performer as a novelist, got a cold reception when he made the same point in a letter about A Handful of Dust. Yet he was the first to see that Waugh’s brand of realism in fact depends on a rather cosy kind of ...

Candle Moments

Andrew O’Hagan: Norman Lewis’s Inventions, 25 September 2008

Semi-Invisible Man: The Life of Norman Lewis 
by Julian Evans.
Cape, 792 pp., £25, June 2008, 978 0 224 07275 5
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... the eyrie of objective fact – as Jeremy Treglown does very effectively in his biographies of Henry Green and V.S. Pritchett, as Rosemary Hill does in her magical biography of Pugin – but to me a lively new aspect of the form is to be found in the work of those who involve themselves most visibly in their subjects’ dilemmas and who name their own ...

The Skull from Outer Space

John Bossy: ‘The Ambassadors’, 20 February 2003

The Ambassadors’ Secret: Holbein and the World of the Renaissance 
by John North.
Hambledon, 346 pp., £25, January 2002, 1 85285 330 1
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... snappily dressed, are the noble Jean de Dinteville, ambassador from King Francis I of France to Henry VIII, and his friend, perhaps alter ego, Georges de Selve, who had been given the small see of Lavaur near Toulouse to provide for a career in the royal service. Dinteville was in England from February to November 1533; de Selve, whose mission, if any, is ...


P.N. Furbank, 15 October 1981

Ford Madox Ford: Prose and Politics 
by Robert Green.
Cambridge, 218 pp., £16.50, July 1981, 9780521236102
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... Madox Ford in Heaven’. And you may say that his luck holds: for Robert Green is also an admirer, but his book is thoroughly sensible, unbedazzled and discriminating, the book of someone who has heard of other writers and is in no kind of ‘Special relationship’ to Ford. What he has set out to do, and it is a wise economy, is to ...

In His Pink Negligée

Colm Tóibín: The Ruthless Truman Capote, 21 April 2005

The Complete Stories 
by Truman Capote.
Random House, 400 pp., $24.95, September 2004, 0 679 64310 9
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Too Brief a Treat: The Letters of Truman Capote 
edited by Gerald Clarke.
Random House, 487 pp., $27.95, September 2004, 0 375 50133 9
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... Franz Werfel.’ In Venice in Harry’s Bar in 1950 he meets a man whom he introduces to all as Henry Green: He asked me to lunch the next day. I was surprised to find him accompanied at lunch by an obvious piece of Limehouse trade: I’d not thought H. Green ‘so’. I started to talk about books etc, but Mr ...


Melanie McFadyean: In the Wrong Crowd, 25 September 2014

... act with that intent, even if you didn’t share it. On the afternoon of 6 August 2013 Alex Henry, Janhelle Grant-Murray, Younis Tayyib and Cameron Ferguson, all aged 20 or 21, were involved in a fight in an Ealing street. The fight lasted around forty seconds and resulted in the death from a single stab wound of 21-year-old Taqui Khezihi; his brother ...


Anita Brookner, 3 February 1983

Where I Used to Play on the Green 
by Glyn Hughes.
Gollancz, 192 pp., £7.95, January 1982, 0 575 02997 8
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by John Hawkes.
Chatto, 212 pp., £8.50, January 1983, 0 7011 3908 0
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Ancient Enemies 
by Elizabeth North.
Cape, 230 pp., £7.95, November 1982, 0 224 02052 8
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Dancing Girls 
by Margaret Atwood.
Cape, 240 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 224 01835 3
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Master of the Game 
by Sidney Sheldon.
Collins, 495 pp., £8.95, January 1983, 0 00 222614 6
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... Glyn Hughes’s novel, Where I Used to Play on the Green, won both the Guardian Fiction Prize and the David Higham Fiction Prize in 1982, yet it received not a tenth of the publicity awarded to winners of the Booker and the Whitbread. This is a pity, for it is a fine achievement, although too dour a story to command affection in the media ...

Nights in the Gardens of Spain

Alan Bennett, 1 October 1998

... awful because the first thing I thought was, Well she’ll never get that out. He had on these green Y-fronty things which I’d have thought were a bit young for someone who’s retired, but Henry’s the same, suddenly takes it into his head to go in for something he thinks is a bit more dashing. Little Terylene ...

After High Tea

John Bayley, 23 January 1986

Love in a Cool Climate: The Letters of Mark Pattison and Meta Bradley 1879-1884 
by Vivian Green.
Oxford, 269 pp., £12.95, November 1985, 0 19 820080 3
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... first thing a novelist must provide is a separate world,’ and it is true that the world Dr Green has made out of the relationship of Mark Pattison and Meta Bradley is not exactly a separate world. It is a familiar one, familiar from memoirs and gossip and our general contemporary interest in the Victorian age, but ...

Plummeting Deep into Cold Pop

Zachary Leader: Colson Whitehead, 13 December 2001

John Henry Days 
by Colson Whitehead.
Fourth Estate, 389 pp., £12, June 2001, 1 84115 569 1
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... gifted’, ‘the young African-American writer to watch’. Whitehead’s new novel, John Henry Days, is longer and more ambitious than The Intuitionist, and the suggestion in its title of mythic black strength and suffering, together with its encyclopedic range, raise epic expectations. Is this that most elusive of leviathans, a black ...

The Master

C.K. Stead, 30 November 1995

Shards of Memory 
by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.
Murray, 272 pp., £15.99, July 1995, 9780719555718
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... Henry James’s injunction to the novelist was ‘Dramatise! Dramatise!’ Ezra Pound advocated ‘the presentative method’. A dozen lesser but important voices have urged that modern fiction must enact, not tell. The strongest intellectual pressures on the serious novelist in this century have all been, that is to say, in the direction – the ultimate direction – of the playscript or the screenplay and away from the elaboration of prose as prose ...

Dropping In for a While

Thomas Jones: Maile Meloy, 2 December 2010

Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It 
by Maile Meloy.
Canongate, 219 pp., £7.99, 9781847674166
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... unsettling directions. In both novels, for example, Margot’s sister, Clarissa, and her husband, Henry, get divorced. In Liars and Saints Henry goes off to Sacramento to be a state senator; in A Family Daughter he’s killed in a car crash. Having written the story of the Santerres one way, Meloy seems to have been unable ...

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