Tag Archives: Henry James

Maybe If I Diagram It

Classic Word of the DayI’m sure your assiduity to yesterday’s Classic Word of the Day made you realize that there would not be a new word today.  Now, if you have not already done so, please use your trenchancy to help me decipher that complicated sentence.

Thank you.

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Posted by on January 31, 2013 in The Portrait of a Lady


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Forever Forty

Fortieth Birthday CakeThe three of us at A Classic Case of Madness are roughly the same age.  Roughly.  We do straddle a milestone birthday, which made this quote from Madame Merle in Chapter XIX stand out.

“I judge more than I used to,” she said to Isabel, “but it seems to me one has earned the right.  One can’t judge till one’s forty; before that we’re too eager, too hard, too cruel, and in addition much too ignorant . . . I often think that after forty one can’t really feel.  The freshness, the quickness have certainly gone.”

So, what do you think dear friends?  I’m not sure whether or not I’m happy to be on my particular side of the decade divide.


Posted by on January 30, 2013 in The Portrait of a Lady


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Two for One

Classic Word of the Dayassiduity – n.  diligence, close attention to what one is doing

trenchancy – n.  keen perceptiveness

Classical Usage:  James throws these two words into one big sentence in Chapter XX about the ex-patriots that Mrs. Touchett spends time with in Paris.  Isabel saw them arrive with a good deal of assiduity at her aunt’s hotel, and pronounced on them with a trenchancy doubtless to be accounted for by the temporary exaltation of her sense of human duty.

Classically Mad Usage:  Huh?  I have no idea what our dear friend Henry is trying to say about these Europe loving Americans.  Maybe if I do that old vocabulary trick that I use on my son and substitute a bunch of words I can figure out what he’s talking about.  Let’s try it:  Isabel saw the Americans arrive very diligently at the caravansary where her aunt stayed, and declared on them with a keen perceptiveness that was because of the short-lived importance of her understanding of respecting people.

That made it worse.



Posted by on January 30, 2013 in The Portrait of a Lady


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In Translation

POALI’m finding that Henry James talks quite a bit about books in The Portrait of a Lady: books, libraries, reading, learning.

There was this quote describing Ralph.

In chapter six we find out that Isabel Archer is a smartie and her friends know why….

“…for these excellent people never withheld their admiration from a reach of intellect of which they themselves were not conscious, and spoke of Isabel as a prodigy of learning, a creature reported to have read the classic authors–in translations.”

Does Hardy tag on the “in translations” to take away from Miss Archer’s achievements?
Maybe I’m just feeling sensitive after the Russian novels, but I felt a little jab.


Posted by on January 19, 2013 in The Portrait of a Lady


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Subtle Humor Wins Again

Classic Word of the Dayinvidious – adj.  likely to arouse resentment or anger

Classical Usage:  In Chapter I we meet “the old gentleman,” but before we learn his name we learn of his background and character.  It [his face] seemed to tell that he had been successful in life, yet it seemed to tell also that his success had not been exclusive and invidious, but had much the of the inoffensiveness of failure.

Classically Mad Usage:  It’s sentences like the above that make me enjoy Mr. James’ writing, which is good, because sometime the extreme lack of plot makes me a touch on the invidious side.


Posted by on January 19, 2013 in The Portrait of a Lady


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Portrait Quote

POAL Collateral ClassicThe Portrait of a Lady  chapter 5

In this chapter we learn about Ralph: his education, his admiration of his father, and his illness.

I like him.

I like this quote about him.

Living as he now lived was like reading a good book in a poor translation–a meagre entertainment for a young man who felt that he might have been an excellent linguist


Posted by on January 17, 2013 in The Portrait of a Lady


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Stupid Question about Sauce

The Portrait of a Lady volume 1, chapter 3

Mrs. Touchett is separated from her husband.  She has a long list of reasons why she doesn’t live in England.  Here’s one of the reasons.

She detested bread-sauce, which as she said, looked like a poultice and tasted like soap…

Bread-sauce?  What’s bread-sauce?

I’m familiar with applesauce.  I’ve even canned pearsauce but bread-sauce?

I googled it and found a recipe.

What I want to know is if any of you have consumed or prepared this classic British dish.





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


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