On two occasions in my maturer life have I blushed. The first occasion was when, sitting in the stalls of a theatre, someone lightly touched my shoulder from the row behind, and, turning, I heard a remembered voice say: "You don't know me Mr. Bennett, but I know you." This was Ellen Terry. The second was when, in the coffee room of a club to which we both belonged, a stoutish man accosted me and said: "You won't recall me, I'm Henry James. May I join you upstairs later?" Yes, I did fairly blush - I suppose because I was flattered. Such is the mysterious influence of immense artistic prestige on my blood vessels.
Artistic prestige has an influence not only on my blood vessels but on my critical faculty. It took me years to ascertain that Henry James's work was giving me little pleasure. I first had a glimpse of this distressing fact when "What Maisie Knew" began to appear serially - I could not get on with it. My fault of course. But when I was immovably bogged in the middle of "The Golden Bowl" and again in the middle of "The Ambassadors" I grew bolder with myself. I gave them up. Today I have no recollection whatever of any characters or any events in either novel.
I have come to think that James hadn't actually much to say, in a creative sense, that needed saying. I think that he knew a lot about the life of one sort of people, the sort who are what is called cultured, and who do themselves very well both physically and intellectually, and very little about life in general. I think that in the fastidiousness of his taste he rather repudiated life. Of course my eyes may have a blind-spot for the alleged supreme excellencies of Henry James. But, if so, the eyes of a vast number of other people no plainer than myself are similarly afflicted. I can only say that never shall I set out afresh into the arid desert of "The Golden Bowl".
For more on Henry James see 'Literary Lion' -
I have had an idea for writing a series of souvenirs d'enfance. There is nothing about souvenirs d'enfance in Louis Aragon's "Paysans de Paris", but this book is certainly stimulating me into a fresh creativeness. I must say that, though it is uneven, I should like to write a book like that - I mean about London. Only of course England would never tolerate the belle franchise of this French book.
|Alice Hallagarten Franchetti|
Additionally for January 29th., see 'Strolling in Paris' -
I do enjoy these slow walks through Paris on fine winter afternoons: crowded pavements, little curiosity shops, and the continual interest of women. I walked back to the Chatelet station of the Metro. and went to the Concorde and thence walked to the Place de l'Opera, stopping at the Trois Quartier shop, where there are some very nice things.