Henry James Quotes

Henry James, 1843 – 1916

Born: 15 April 1843, New York City
Died: 28 February 1916, London, England, UK

The a wealthy Swedenborgian theologian Henry James, Sr highly valued education and his home was a magnet for intellectual activity. The elder James constantly sought better schools for Henry and his older brother William, including at least three years with tutors in Europe. Henry briefly attended Harvard Law School but left to pursue literature. Although he wrote essays and nonfiction, and occasionally wrote for newspapers on his travels, he primarily is known as a novelist, the novels were normally released first in monthly installments in magazines. James moved to Paris in 1876 and settled permanently at Rye, Sussex, returning to New York in 1905 to edit his earlier work for the “New York Edition” of his complete works. He did put aside novels for five years starting in 1890, attempting to increase his income by writing for the stage, but of his dozen plays only a handful were ever staged and none was very remunerative, so he returned to novels. In fact, he converted most of his plays into novels. In addition to his published work he was a great letter writer, over ten thousand of his letters are extant. His correspondence suggests strongly that he was a closeted homosexual. At the beginning of World War I he was disgusted with America’s refusal to enter the war and became a British citizen in 1915 as a protest. He was awarded the Order of Merit by King George V on New Year’s Day 1916, a month after his first stroke and two months before his death.

Henry James quotes:

A man who pretends to understand women is bad manners. For him to really to understand them is bad morals.
    Henry James

A novel is in its broadest sense a personal, a direct impression of life: that, to begin with, constitutes its value, which is greater or less according to the intensity of the impression.
    Henry James – The Art of Fiction (1885)

A swift carriage, of a dark night, rattling with four horses over roads that one can’t see — that’s my idea of happiness.
    Henry James – The Portrait of a Lady (1881)

A tradition is kept alive only by something being added to it.
    Henry James – “Robert Louis Stevenson” The Century Magazine (April 1888)

All roads lead to Rome, and there were times when it might have struck us that almost every branch of study or subject of conversation skirted forbidden ground.
    Henry James – The Turn of the Screw (1898)

Criticism talks a good deal of nonsense, but even its nonsense is a useful force. It keeps the question of art before the world, insists upon its importance.
    Henry James

Deep experience is never peaceful.
    Henry James – “Madame de Mauves”, Galaxy Magazine (February/March 1874)

Don’t mind anything anyone tells you about anyone else. Judge everyone and everything for yourself.
    Henry James – The Portrait of a Lady (1881)

Europe was best described, to his mind, as an elaborate engine for dissociating the confined American from that indispensable knowledge, and was accordingly only rendered bearable by these occasional stations of relief, traps for the arrest of wandering western airs.
    Henry James – The Ambassadors (1903)

Everything about Florence seems to be coloured with a mild violet, like diluted wine.
    Henry James – Letter to Henry James Sr. (26 October 1869)

Experience is never limited, and it is never complete; it is an immense sensibility, a kind of huge spider-web, of the finest silken threads, suspended in the chamber of consciousness and catching every air-borne particle in its tissue.
    Henry James – The Art of Fiction (1884)

Feel, feel, I say — feel for all you’re worth, and even if it half kills you, for that is the only way to live.
    Henry James

Her chief dread in life, at this period of her development, was that she would appear narrow minded; what she feared next afterwards was that she should be so.
    Henry James – The Portrait of a Lady (1881)

Her reputation for reading a great deal hung about her like the cloudy envelope of a goddess in an epic.
    Henry James – The Portrait of a Lady (1881)

However incumbent it may be on most of us to do our duty, there is, in spite of a thousand narrow dogmatisms, nothing in the world that anyone is under the least obligation to like — not even (one braces one’s self to risk the declaration) a particular kind of writing.
    Henry James – Flaubert (1893)

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