Henry James: The Conquest of London, 1870-1883 - Vol. 2

By Leon Edel | Go to book overview

C' EST MON PLAISIR...

THE joys of the "dead -season" in London were short-lived for Henry James. He discovered soon enough that if the importunities of English society ceased at certain times of the year, there arrived at such times on Britain's shore--and on his doorstep--many of his strenuous compatriots. There were days when he gave himself over entirely to entertaining old American friends, acquaintances of his brothers, Albany and New York relatives, and a continuing procession of literary pilgrims. American friends from the Continent would seek him out also, and while he enjoyed seeing some of them, they made great inroads into his working hours. If he had said to William that he always had his eyes on his native land, his native land, more often than not, had its eye on him.

Among the earliest of his visitors after fame had come to him was a Boston lady who thought herself descended from Scottish royalty--from Robert Bruce--and believed Mary Stuart to be an ancestor: and who, accordingly, conducted herself as if she were a Queen. Her motto, on the seal she ultimately designed, was C'est mon plaisir... and being fortunately endowed, she could suit her life to her motto and her motto to her life. Whether Isabella Stewart Gardner had met Henry James in Boston earlier we do not know; but it is from this time that his letters to her, preserved in Fenway Court, are dated. She came abroad early in 1879 with her husband, and presently Henry James was telling her how to find her way to Burne-Jones's studio and hoping "to see you often--if you will allow me." He was a busy man, however, and probably was not available as often as the regal Mrs Gardner would have liked. The novelist's relationship to Isabella was handled with the same firmness and ingenuity that governed all his dealings with exalted--and self-exalted--personages. He quite fell in with Mrs Gardner's wish to be treated as if she were royalty.

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Henry James: The Conquest of London, 1870-1883 - Vol. 2
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations x
  • Introduction xi
  • Book One a Season in Cambridge 1870-1872 xv
  • The Precious Wound 17
  • The Exquisite Provincials 25
  • The Dispossessed 32
  • The Great American Novel 40
  • Alice 44
  • The Art of Seeing 51
  • Escape 57
  • Book Two Transatlantic Sketches 1872 61
  • Brother and Nephew 63
  • The Sentimental Tourist 69
  • A Parisian Autumn 75
  • Book Three Roman Hours 1873 81
  • A Roman Winter 83
  • The Two Palaces 91
  • Roman Rides 99
  • Six Women 108
  • A Study in Mauve 115
  • The Monocle 124
  • A Roman Spring 127
  • Book Four the Choice 1873-1875 135
  • William 137
  • Angel and Brother 146
  • The Fork in the Path 157
  • The Palpable Present 163
  • Roderick Hudson 176
  • A New York Winter 182
  • Benvolio 191
  • Book Five the Siege of Paris 1875-1876 201
  • Ivan Sergeyevich 203
  • The Lesson of the Master 209
  • Councils of the Gods 215
  • Pastel 223
  • Parisian Life 228
  • Silk Purse and Sow's Ear 238
  • The American 246
  • In the Provinces 261
  • A Channel Crossing 268
  • Book Six the Conquest of London 1876-1878 271
  • The Observant Stranger 273
  • London Clubs 284
  • The Bird of Paradox 287
  • A Little Journey 290
  • Daisy 303
  • The Two Secretaries 320
  • A Position in Society 328
  • Book Seven a Reasonable Show of Fame 1878-1879 341
  • The Objective Genius 343
  • The Bachelor of Bolton Street 347
  • Three Old Women 352
  • Visits 361
  • A Dinner at the Reform 367
  • Carthorse and Racer 370
  • The Bard and Mr Browning 374
  • Voltaire in Petticoats 377
  • C' Est Mon Plaisir... 381
  • Book Eight Portrait of a Lady 1879-1881 385
  • Provincial Storm 387
  • The Frail Vessels 395
  • Fathers and Daughters 401
  • A Neapolitan Episode 408
  • Fenimore 411
  • A Band of Egotists 421
  • Venice 437
  • Book Nine Terminations 1881-1883 449
  • Homecoming 451
  • The Dome and the Shaft 458
  • Mary James 465
  • An Exquisite Stillness 467
  • A Little Tour in France 475
  • November Parting 486
  • A Winter Summons 488
  • Son and Brother 494
  • Notes and Acknowledgments 511
  • Index 521
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