A Book of Modern Essays

By Bruce Welker McCullough; Edwin Berry Burgum | Go to book overview

THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD*

HENRY JAMES

(American by birth and European by adoption, Henry James lived after he was twenty-seven, for the most part, in England. In the republic of Letters he was, indeed, international. His theories of fiction came largely from French and Russian realists, and the material which his pen could transmute most readily into art was the American character brought into contact for the first time with European civilization. His first great novels, such as Daisy Miller, The American, and T he Portrait of a Lady are early presentations of the favorite theme to which he returned in later years in The Ambassador.

To Henry James the art of fiction was a passion that consumed an entire lifetime. Compared to such years of devoted and painstaking effort the one desultory effort of Goldsmith seems as nothing. The infinite care that the scrupulous presentation of the drama of the inner life demands of the artist was wholly foreign to the novel of Goldsmith's time. The author of The Vicar of Wakefield would never have stuck to one thing long enough to write according to the more recent formula. His method was to fling together into a preposterous plot the materials that eighteenth century convention had provided for the novelist: the eccentric old gentleman, the sentimental young lady, the villain, the abduction, the sermonizing, and various other matters more or less necessary. How could he do this and still produce a novel that is yet being read and re-read with such pleasure even by those who recognize its many faults? This is the question that James tries to answer. And his answer is a

____________________
*
An "Introduction" to The Vicar of Wakefield. The Century Co., 1900.

-365-

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A Book of Modern Essays
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Introduction v
  • Contents ix
  • "Highbrow" and "Lowbrow" 1
  • What is a Puritan? 17
  • Portrait of a Family 45
  • The Norwegian Migration to America 63
  • The West and American Ideals 79
  • The Once Open Road 101
  • Sentimental America 113
  • Louisiana: (Madame de la Louisiane) 127
  • Fez 141
  • The Rhythm of Life 147
  • Summer 153
  • On an Unknown Country 161
  • Ideals and Day-Dreams 169
  • Castles in Spain 187
  • Science and the Faith of the Modern 201
  • On Friendship 219
  • A Relic 225
  • The Cheerful Breakfast Table 235
  • Conversation 249
  • Trivia 259
  • On Jargon 265
  • Names Practical and Poetic 285
  • The American Language 297
  • What the American Rhodes Scholar Gets from Oxford 321
  • Literary Taste 339
  • Dickens 347
  • The Vicar of Wakefield 365
  • Don Quixote 373
  • The Novel Démeublé 389
  • The Politics of Martha and of Mary 397
  • Autumn Tints in Chivalry 419
  • Index of Authors 431
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