Book Review

Daily Henry James, cont.

“November 28, The Portrait of a Lady, 1881

“‘We know too much about people in these days; we hear too much. Our ears, our minds, our mouths, are stuffed with personalities. Don’t mind anything that anyone tells you about anyone else. Judge everyone and everything for yourself.'”

Talk about relevant to the present day. But how is one to judge?

“December 3, The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, 1900

“Stevenson never covered his tracks, and the tracks prove perhaps to be what most attaches us. We follow them here from year to year and from stage to stage, with the same charmed sense with which he has made us follow one of his hunted herds in the heather. Life and fate and an early catastrophe were ever at his heels, and when he at last falls fighting, sinks down in the very act of valor, the ‘happy ending,’ as he calls it for some of his correspondents, is, though precipitated and not conventional, assuredly there.”

“December 4, The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, 1900

“It took his own delightful talk to show how more than absurd it might be, and, if convenient, how very obscurely so, that such an incurable rover should have been complicated both with such an incurable scribbler and sad and incurable invalid, and that a man should find himself such an anomaly as a drenched yachtsman haunted with ‘style,’ a shameless Bohemian haunted with duty, and a victim at once of the personal hunger and instinct for adventure and of the critical, constructive, sedentary view of it. He had everything all round–adventure most of all; to feel which we have only to turn from the beautiful flush of it in his text to the scarce less beautiful vision of the great hillstop in Pacific seas to which, after death, he was borne by islanders and chiefs.”

And that’s it, folks. The Daily Henry James is a delight to read and an encouragement, a strong and vibrant one, to read his works. Kudos to University of Chicago Press for bringing this treasure to light.


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