Autumn 1942 • Vol. IV No. 3 Nonfiction |

The Sacred Fount

Henry James had from the middle of his writing life to its end an increasing reputation for being difficult beyond reason: obscure in style, tenuous in theme, and subtle to the point of exasperation in both detail and general point of view. Somerset Maugham, who was entertained by him in Cambridge in 1910, gives the effect of judging his works when he describes James as escorting him up Irving Street and putting him on the Cambridge street trolley with the frightened and humanly inadequate bewilderment of an hysterical mother sending a small boy on a desperate journey. Maugham would have you feel that James’s novels are like a vast ado about simple breathing. Henry Adams* wife, some thirty years earlier, was kinder in that she was more amusing when she remarked that it was not that Henry James bit off more than he could chaw but that he chawed more than he bit off. Ford Madox Ford, who professed to adore James as a master in the French sense would speak of the time when his prose

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