Aesthetic Experience and Visual Art in Henry James’s Novels
INTRODUCTION: The Art in James’s Experience 1
Introduction The Art in James’s Experience “…that’s the delightful thing about art, that there’s always more to learn and more to do; it grows bigger the more one uses it and meets more questions the more they come up.” Gabriel Nash in The Tragic Muse (117–18) In a private letter to Henry James composed in July 1915, H. G. Wells de- clared that “there is of course a real and very fundamental difference in our innate and developed attitudes towards life and literature. To you literature like painting is an end, to me literature like architecture is a means, it has a use” (James, Life in Letters 553). In his reply two days later, James took issue with this distinction: [I] hold your distinction between a form that is (like) painting and a form that is (like) architecture for wholly null and void. There is no sense in which architecture is aes- thetically “for use” that doesn’t leave any other art whatever exactly as much so; and so far from that of literature being irrelevant to the literary report upon life…I regard it as relevant in a degree that leaves everything else behind. It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance, for our consideration and application of these things, and I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process. (Life in Letters 555) Wells claimed that he did not understand the last sentence: “I can only read sense into it by...
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