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Carl Van Doren (1885–1950).  The American Novel.  1921.


Page 190

of Balzac. A circle which contained at once the elder Henry James and his son William was out of contact with few of the important ideas then stirring; and the father was accustomed to bring into the household many of the eminent Europeans who visited the United States from time to time. The Civil War would possibly have enlisted Henry, as it did his two younger brothers, but for his uncertain health; and it did without doubt mark him deeply. “It introduced into the national consciousness,” Henry James wrote in 1879, by the “national consciousness” undoubtedly meaning his own as well, “a certain sense of proportion and relation, of the world being a more complicated place than it had hitherto seemed, the future more treacherous, success more difficult … [a perception] that this is a world in which everything happens.” His non-participation in the war at first hand appears also to have developed—hardly aroused—in him a sense that his’ essential rôle was to be that of a spectator of life. At any rate, instead of going to war he went to Harvard in 1862, for some vague reason to the Law School, which touched him hardly at all in comparison with the men of letters whom he encountered in Boston or Cambridge, in particular Charles Eliot Norton and William Dean Howells. Through them he became a contributor of critical articles to the Nation and the North American and of stories to the Atlantic and the Galaxy. The “open editorial hand” which Howells held out to him from the Atlantic during the summer of 1868, Henry James said, “was really the making of me, the making of the confidence that required help and sympathy and that I should otherwise, I think, have strayed



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