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


Page 206

that they’ve ended by thinking the most natural of all things the most perverse.” Such notes the æsthetic movement in England had been striking for a decade, but only Pater had struck them with the sustained power or linked sweetness of The Tragic Muse, and Pater had written about the long past instead of producing, as James here does, a marvelous document on the artistic life of his own immediate days. Peter Sherringham from watching Miriam arrives at a perception “of the perfect presence of mind, unconfused, unhurried by emotion, that any artistic performance requires and that all, whatever the instrument, require in exactly the same degree: the application, in other words, clear and calculated, crystal-firm as it were, of the idea conceived in the glow of experience, of suffering, of joy.” Such a statement implies that James had found a new aristocracy to imagine about—an aristocracy essentially more cosmopolitan than the shining barbarians of his “perpetual Piccadilly” and his innumerable country houses.
  This shift in the objects of his imagination was connected with certain external facts. The popular success which James had hardly tasted except in the case of Daisy Miller but which he had confidently expected would be won by The Bostonians and The Princess Casamassima, had failed him. He felt hurt and mystified, for, contrary to the general notion, he desired more numerous plaudits than he got. He wanted money, though he had a competency; he wanted the power that comes from recognition. For these reasons more than any other he gave the five years of 1889–1894 very largely to the writing of plays, working enormously without any substantial reward, and finally



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