American writing men are justly proud, nevertheless, of this expatriated craftsman.
The American is inclined to admire good workmanship of any kind, as far as he can understand the mechanism of it. The task of really understanding Henry James
has been left chiefly to clever women and to a few critics, but ever since A passionate Pilgrim
and Roderick Hudson
appeared in 1875, it has been recognized that here was a master, in his own fashion.
What that fashion is may now be known by anyone who will take the pains to read the author's prefaces to the New York edition of his revised works.
Never, not even in the Paris
which James loved, has an artist put his intentions and his self-criticism more definitively upon paper.
The secret of Henry James
is told plainly enough here: a specially equipped intelligence, a freedom from normal responsibilities, a consuming desire to create beautiful things, and, as life unfolded its complexities and nuances
before his vision, an increasing passion to seek the beauty which lies entangled and betrayed, a beauty often adumbrated rather than made plastic, stories that must be hinted at rather than told, raptures that exist for the initiated only.
The much discussed early and middle and later manners