Is he or isn’t he?

16 Feb

POAL Collateral ClassicMy copy of The Portrait of a Lady, the one with the Reader’s Supplement, has a section of critics’ quotes about Henry James and his novel(s).  After reading this quote by Mr. J.B. Priestly, I decided Mr. Priestly and I could be friends.

Did Henry James breathe the finest oxygen or make do with one collapsed lung?  In other words, have we in him one of the supreme masters of the novel, as we are so often told now that he is in fashion, or a novelist of great skill and originality who yet leaves us dissatisfied and dubious?…
Whatever our attitude toward fiction, whatever our personal response to him my be, we cannot possibly deny him a kind of greatness.  But there remains the question–is he one of the supreme masters of the novel?

Literature and Western Man by J.B. Priestly, Harper and Brothers, 1960.

What do you think?  Is Henry James one of the supreme masters of the novel?


Posted by on February 16, 2013 in The Portrait of a Lady


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4 responses to “Is he or isn’t he?

  1. Alex in Leeds

    February 16, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    I love J B Priestley so I’m a bit biased. 🙂 I struggle a bit more with James though, he’s one of those authors I want to come back to in the next of years to re-investigate…

    • Christine

      February 18, 2013 at 7:47 pm

      I did enjoy the collapsed lung image–especially in light of Ralph Touchett’s illness. I survived POAL; I’m not sure I’m ready for any more James.

  2. Jerry

    February 18, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    I seem to remember James acklnowledging his critics objections to his novels, which was the lack of plot. I agree their is greatness in his writing, especially the dialogue, but I would rather have more plot.

    • Christine

      February 18, 2013 at 7:48 pm

      Again and again I wonder when editors will come on the scene. Had James never heard of rewrites?


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