I have left Gide and Van Lerberghe unquoted, unmentioned, but I have, I dare say, given poems enough to indicate the quality and the scope of the poetry in La Wallonie. In prose their cousinage is perhaps more quickly apparent. Almost the first sentence I come upon I suspect it is Mockel's runs as follows:. This is the proper tone to use when dealing with elderly muttonheads; with the Harpers of yester year. La Wallonie found it out in the eighties. The symboliste movement flourished on it. American letters did not flourish, partly perhaps for the lack of it, and for the lack of unbridled uncompromising magazines run by young men who did not care for reputations surfaites , for elderly stodge and stupidity.
If we turn to Mockel's death notice for Jules Laforgue we will find La Wallonie in '87 awake to the value of contemporary achievement:.
He must, there- fore,. Sah HG II 33,9. Tircis evokes not: only the traditional lover of pastoral poetry. A simpler reading is that a vision of the future is so intense that, before the new age of heroes, it would have been unbearable. Apollinaire takes a seat. One can say almost the opposite and arrive at a similar conclusion. Chacun a droit au Salut.
Un crapaud! Il chante. Non, il s'en va, froid, sous sa pierre. Soyons Lui, Elle et l'Autre. Et puis n'insistons pas. Qui m'aima jamais? Le manque de place nous prive d'en citer quelques pages. I have quoted but sparingly, and I have thought quotation better than comment, but despite the double meagreness I think I have given evidence that La Wallonie was worth editing. Permanent literature, and the seeds of permanent literature, had gone through proof-sheets in their office.
There is perhaps no greater pleasure in life, and there certainly can have been no greater enthusiasm than to have been young and to have been part of such a group of writers working in fellowship at the beginning of such a course, of such a series of courses as were implicated in La Wallonie.
Lucien Pissaro, Sisley Odillon Redon. This is also a reply to those who solemnly assured me that any foreigner attempting to criticize French poetry would meet nothing but ridicule from French authors. I am free to say that Van B. They were, however, my approach to many of the other poets, and their two volume anthology is invaluable.
I set out to explain, not why Henry James is less read than formerly—I do not know that he is. I tried to set down a few reasons why he ought to be, or at least might be, more read. Some may say that his work was over, well over, finely completed; there is mass of that work, heavy for one man's shoulders to have borne up, labor enough for two life-times; still we would have had a few more years of his writing.
Perhaps the grasp was relaxing, perhaps we should have had no strongly-planned book; but we should have had paragraphs here and there, and we should have had, at least, conversation, wonderful conversation; even if we did not hear it ourselves, we should have known that it was going on somewhere. The massive head, the slow uplift of the hand, gli occhi onesti e tardi , the long sentences piling themselves up in elaborate phrase after phrase, the lightning incision, the pauses, the slightly shaking admonitory gesture with its "wu-a-wait a little, wait a little, something will come;" blague and benignity and the weight of so many years' careful, incessant labor of minute observation always there to enrich the talk.
I had heard it but seldom, yet it was all unforgettable. The man had this curious power of founding-affection in those who had scarcely seen him and even in many who had not, who but knew him at second hand. No man who has not lived on both sides of the Atlantic can well appraise Henry James; his death marks the end of a period. The Times says: "The Americans will understand his changing his nationality," or something of that sort.
The "Americans" will understand nothing whatsoever about it. They have understood nothing about it.
They do not even know what they lost. They have not stopped for eight minutes to consider the meaning of his last public act. After a year of ceaseless labor, of letter writing, of argument, of striving in every way to bring in America on the side of civilization, he died of apoplexy. On the side of civilization—civilization against barbarism, civilization, not Utopia, not a country or countries where the right always prevails in six weeks!
After a life-time spent in trying to make two continents understand each other, in trying, and only his thoughtful readers can have any conception of how he had tried, to make three nations intelligible one to another. I am tired of hearing pettiness talked about Henry James's style. The subject has been discussed enough in all conscience, along with the minor James. Yet I have heard no word of the major James, of the hater of tyranny; book after early book against oppression, against all the sordid petty personal crushing oppression, the domination of modern life; not worked out in the diagrams of Greek tragedy, not labeled "epos" or "Aeschylus.
And the great labor, this labor of translation, of making America intelligible, of making it possible for individuals to meet across national borders. I think half the American idiom is recorded in Henry James's writing, and whole decades of American life that otherwise would have been utterly lost, wasted, rotting in the unhermetic jars of bad writing, of inaccurate writing. No English reader will ever know how good are his New York and his New England; no one who does not see his grandmother's friends in the pages of the American books.
The whole great assaying and weighing, the research for the significance of nationality, French, English, American. Some yokel writes in the village paper, as Henley had written before, "James's stuff was not worth doing. America has not yet realized that never in history had one of her great men abandoned his citizenship out of shame. It was the last act—the last thing left. He had worked all his life for the nation and for a year he had labored for the national honor. No other American was of sufficient importance for his change of allegiance to have constituted an international act; no other American would have been welcome in the same public manner.
America passes over these things, but the thoughtful cannot pass over them. Armageddon, the conflict? Rudolph Staub" in Paris, ending:. We have heard a great deal of this sort of thing since; it sounds very natural. My edition of the volume containing these letters was printed in '83, and the imaginary letters were written somewhat before that.
I do not know that this calls for comment. Henry James's perception came thirty years before Armageddon. That is all I wish to point out. Flaubert said of the War of "If they had read my Education Sentimentale, this sort of thing wouldn't have happened. If it is the business of the artist to make humanity aware of itself; here the thing was done, the pages of diagnosis. The multitude of wearisome fools will not learn their right hand from their left or seek out a meaning.
I am not here to write a full volume of detailed criticism, but two things I do claim which I have not seen in reviewers' essays. First, that there was emotional greatness in Henry James's hatred of tyranny; secondly, that there was titanic volume, weight, in the masses he sets in opposition within his work. He uses forces no whit less specifically powerful than the proverbial "doom of the house,"—Destiny, Deus ex machina ,—of great traditional art.
His art was great art as opposed to over-elaborate or over-refined art by virtue of the major conflicts which he portrays. In his books he showed race against race, immutable; the essential Americanness, or Englishness or Frenchness—in The American , the difference between one nation and another; not flag-waving and treaties, not the machinery of government, but "why" there is always misunderstanding, why men of different race are not the same.
We have ceased to believe that we conquer anything by having Alexander the Great make a gigantic "joy-ride" through India. We know that conquests are made in the laboratory, that Curie with his minute fragments of things seen clearly in test tubes in curious apparatus, makes conquests. So, too, in these novels, the essential qualities which make up the national qualities, are found and set working, the fundamental oppositions made clear. This is no contemptible labor. No other writer had so essayed three great nations or even thought of attempting it.
Peace comes of communication. No man of our time has so labored to create means of communication as did the late Henry James. The whole of great art is a struggle for communication. All things that oppose this are evil, whether they be silly scoffing or obstructive tariffs. And this communication is not a leveling, it is not an elimination of differences. It is a recognition of differences, of the right of differences to exist, of interest in finding things different. Kultur is an abomination; philology is an abomination, all repressive uniforming education is an evil. I have forgotten the moment of lunar imbecility in which I conceived the idea of a "Henry James" number.
Henry James was aware of the spherical form of the planet, and susceptible to a given situation, and to the tone and tonality of persons as perhaps no other author in all literature. The victim and the votary of the "scene," he had no very great narrative sense, or at the least, he attained the narrative faculty but per aspera, through very great striving.
It is impossible to speak accurately of "his style," for he passed through several styles which differ greatly one from another; but in his last, his most complicated and elaborate, he is capable of great concision; and if, in it, the single sentence is apt to turn and perform evolutions for almost pages at a time, he nevertheless manages to say on one page more than many a more "direct" author would convey only in the course of a chapter.
His plots and incidents are often but adumbrations or symbols of the quality of his "people," illustrations invented, contrived, often factitiously and almost transparently, to show what acts, what situations, what contingencies would befit or display certain characters. We are hardly asked to accept them as happening. He did not begin his career with any theory of art for art's sake, and a lack of this theory may have damaged his earlier work. If we take "French Poets and Novelists" as indication of his then opinions, and novels of the nineties showing a later bias, we might contend that our subject began his career with a desire to square all things to the ethical standards of a Salem mid-week Unitarian prayer meeting, and that to almost the end of his course he greatly desired to fit the world into the social exigencies of Mrs.
Humphry Ward's characters.
Out of the unfortunate cobwebs he emerged into his greatness, I think, by two causes: first by reason of his hatred of personal intimate tyrannies working at close range; and secondly, in later life, because the actual mechanism of his scriptorial processes became so bulky, became so huge a contrivance for record and depiction, that the old man simply couldn't remember or keep his mind on or animadvert on anything but the authenticity of his impression.
I take it as the supreme reward for an artist; the supreme return that his artistic conscience can make him after years spent in its service, that the momentum of his art, the sheer bulk of his processes, the si licet size of his fly-wheel, should heave him out of himself, out of his personal limitations, out of the tangles of heredity and of environment, out of the bias of early training, of early predilections, whether of Florence, A. And this reward came to Henry James in the ripeness of his talents; even further perhaps it entered his life and his conversation.
The stages of his emergence are marked quite clearly in his work. He displays himself in French Poets and Novelists , constantly balancing over the question of whether or no the characters presented in their works are, or are not, fit persons to be received in the James family back-parlor. In The Tragic Muse he is still didactic quite openly.
The things he believes still leap out nakedly among the people and things he is portraying; the parable is not yet wholly incarnate in the narrative. To lay all his faults on the table, we may begin with his self-confessed limitation, that "he never went down town. Hardy, with his eye on the Greek tragedians, has produced an epic tonality, and The Mayor of Casterbridge is perhaps more easily comparable to the Grettir Saga than to the novels of Mr. Hardy's contemporaries.