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Henry James's Europe

Dennis Tredy
Annick Duperray
Adrian Harding

I. Ethics and Aesthetics

1. Henry James on Opening the Door to the Devil

Jean Gooder

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Extracto del texto

We begin on 26 January 1900, the start of the new century. Past midnight James dashed off one of his countless notes to a writer who had sent him their work for comment. That night—in exuberant vein—it was to a Mrs. Everard Cotes. She’d implied some resemblance between her novel, His Honour and a Lady, and the Master. Politely puzzled by her claim, James responds with his freest gallantry. ”We are both very intelligent and observant,” he writes, ”and conscious that a work of art must make some small effort to be one; must sacrifice somehow and somewhere to the exquisite...”

So we open the door to the Devil himself—who is nothing but the sense of beauty, of mystery, of relations, of appearances, of abysses of the whole— and of EXPRESSION! That’s all he is [...]
(Letters IV 131).

This Devil is a long way from the figure James had watched and reduced to bathos, in Henry Irving’s Faust (1887)—a production about whose ”little mechanical artifices” and ”spurting flames” he was scathing. ”Tha...


Jean Gooder, a Fellow Emerita of Newnham College, Cambridge, has edited the Penguin edition of The Education of Henry Adams and published on Henry James and Edith Wharton. Her interests are in connections between Anglo-American and French writing.


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