Thursday, 11 September 2014


To tell the truth, I can't help thinking that we already talk too much about the novel, about and around it, in proportion to the quantity of it having any importance that we produce.  What I should say to the nymphs and swains who propose to converse about it under the great trees of Deerfield is: 'Oh, do something from your point of view; an ounce of example is worth a ton of generalizations; do something with the great art and the great form; do something with life.  Any point of view is interesting that is a direct impression of life.  You each have an impression colored by your individual conditions; make that into a picture, a picture framed by your own personal wisdom, your glimpse of the American world.  The field is vast for freedom, for study, for observation, for satire, for truth.'...Tell the ladies and gentlemen, the ingenious inquirers, to consider life directly and closely, and not to be put off with mean and puerile falsities, and to be conscientious about it.  It is infinitely large, various, and comprehensive.  Every sort of mind will find what it looks for in it, whereby the novel becomes truly multifarious and illustrative.  This is what I mean by liberty; give it its head, and let it range.  If it is in a bad way, and the English novel is, I think, nothing but absolute freedom can refresh it and restore its self-respect.

'Letter to the Deerfield Summer School,' published in The New York Tribune [4 August 1889] 

Click HERE to view a list of the 10 best books by HENRY JAMES as selected by his latest biographer MICHAEL GORRA.

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WRITERS ON WRITING #50: Ford Madox Ford 
WRITERS ON WRITING #36: John Steinbeck 
WRITERS ON WRITING #2: Willa Cather  

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