The Aspern Papers and Other Stories

The Aspern Papers and Other Stories

The Aspern Papers and Other Stories

The Aspern Papers and Other Stories

Excerpt

The following extracts are the relevant passages from the Prefaces to vols. XII, XVII, XVI and XV of the New York Edition of The Novels and Tales of Henry James, 1907-9.

1. 'THE ASPERN PAPERS'

I NOT only recover with ease, but I delight to recall, the first impulse given to the idea of 'The Aspern Papers'. It is at the same time true that my present mention of it may perhaps too effectually dispose of any complacent claim to my having 'found' the situation. Not that I quite know indeed what situations the seeking fabulist does 'find'; he seeks them enough assuredly, but his discoveries are, like those of the navigator, the chemist, the biologist, scarce more than alert recognitions. He comes upon the interesting thing as Columbus came upon the isle of San Salvador, because he had moved in the right direction for it -- also because he knew, with the encounter, what 'making land' then and there represented. Nature had so placed it, to profit -- if as profit we may measure the matter! -- by his fine unrest, just as history, 'literary history' we in this connexion call it, had in an out-of-the-way corner of the great garden of life thrown off a curious flower that I was to feel worth gathering as soon as I saw it. I got wind of my positive fact, I followed the scent. It was in Florence years ago; which is precisely, of the whole matter, what I like most to remember. The air of the old-time Italy invests it, a mixture that on the faintest invitation I rejoice again to inhale -- and this in spite of the mere cold renewal, ever, of the infirm side of that felicity, the sense, in the whole element, of things too numerous, too deep, too obscure, too strange, or even simply too beautiful, for any ease of intellectual relation. One must pay one's self largely with words, I think, one must induce almost any 'Italian subject' to make believe it gives up its secret, in order to keep at all on working -- or call them perhaps rather playing -- terms with the . . .

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