This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
 the date of Roderick Hudson, he devoted himself to short fiction, contributing fourteen stories to the Atlantic alone, and he brought to his work not only the best art America had evolved, but the best of England and France as well. He was a scientist, an observer, a tabulator, as cool and accurate as even his brother William James, the psychologist. Unlike O'Brien and the others, he threw away completely the machinery of the mid-century tale—not without regret it would appear from his Romance of certain old Clothes and other early tales—and sought only the uncoloured truth. The art of Poe, especially the French adaptations of that art, he retained, but he rejected all the rest of Poe's outfit. That he understood the full possibilities of the supernatural as short story material we know from his grim tale The turn of the Screw, but the field was little to his taste. He was a naturalist rather than a super-naturalist, and his sensitive and fastidious soul could not endure the harsh and the horrible. In his second story, My friend Bingham (1866), he wrote: ‘I am of a deep aversion to stories of a painful nature . . . the literature of horrors needs no extension.’ He rejected allegory and mystery and vague impressionism as unscientific. He condemned the tradition that ‘a serious story of manners shall close with the factitious happiness of a fairy tale.’ He was a scientist; his second paper in the Atlantic is a defence of George Eliot, scientist. To both of them the first requisite of fiction was the truth, the truth told directly, simply, concretely. An age of science could no longer tolerate the unrelieved black and white of the earlier periods, but demanded shades, traces of white found even in the black. According to James, a short story was the analysis of a situation, the psychological phenomena of a group of men and women at an interesting moment. Given two, three, four different temperaments, bring them into a certain situation, and what would be the action and reaction? The story was a problem to be solved. Little was to be said about the characters: they were to reveal themselves, gradually, slowly as they do in actual life, by long continued dialogue, by little unconscious actions and reactions, by personal peculiarities in dress, manners, movement, revealed by a thousand subtle hints, descriptive touches, insinuations. Under such conditions the movement of the story must be
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.