One-Minute Book Reviews

March 7, 2007

Henry James’s Epistolary Style: Quote of the Day #11

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,Literature,Quotes of the Day,Reading,Writing — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 8:35 pm

Leon Edel on Henry James’s style of writing letters …

“Henry James was incapable of offering a thought without pinning a flower in its button-hole and the reverse of this was that he could disguise the absence of thought by the shameless gilding of his own verbal lilies.”

Leon Edel in the introduction to The Selected Letters of Henry James. Edited and with an introduction by Leon Edel (New York: Farrar, Straus & Cudahy, 1955).

Comment by Janice Harayda:

But weren’t some of those flowers magnificent! I’m posting this for those of you who have wondered while reading all of my comments on the 2007 Newbery Medal controvery, “Has this woman ever read a book that doesn’t have the word ‘scrotum’ in it?” Thanks for staying with me through the uproar. I’m back to writing about books for grown-ups later today or tomorrow.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.


  1. Pretty soon I will have to throw this away so I better try to be calm like Henry James. Did you ever read Henry James? He was a great writer who came to Venice and looked out the window and smoked his cigar and thought.”
    E. Hemingway

    Tom Heehler

    Comment by heehler — March 7, 2007 @ 10:23 pm | Reply

  2. Amusing quote (and one I hadn’t heard). But James would disagree, don’t you think? He believed he came to life in Italy. In the old two-volume Percy Lubbock-edited edition of his letters, James writes of walking around Rome thinking, “At last, I live!” (The puncuation in that may not be exact, but the sentiment is.) Or does that just prove Hemingway’s point?

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — March 7, 2007 @ 11:32 pm | Reply

  3. I enjoyed your Higher Powere of Lucky posts- as I did this one. I just like talking about books….

    Comment by kinderny — March 8, 2007 @ 12:19 pm | Reply

  4. A much appreciated comment. I wrote a lot about the Newbery Medal because it seemed that so many people were yanking the word “scrotum” out of context instead of looking at the whole book, including all of its merits and demerits. But to do “The Higher Power of Lucky Posts” posts, I had to put off writing about other books or authors I love, including James. Glad to know I haven’t driven you away. The National Book Critics Circle awards are being announced this week, and part of me is praying for the most noncontroversial list of winners the group has ever announced. The finalists list appears on the NBCC site,, Critical Mass.

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — March 8, 2007 @ 1:04 pm | Reply

  5. Hey Jan. You meant to say he came to life in Rome, not Italy. But beyond that, the quote was meant to counter the obligatory charge of flowered prose. That is to say, if James could be admired by Hemingway — of all writers, then who are we to disagree?


    Comment by heehler — March 8, 2007 @ 8:28 pm | Reply

  6. Good point. Just in case there’s any doubt: James is one of my gods. He’s the only author whose haunts I try to go by whenever I’m near one: So far, I’ve ticked off Cambridge, Newport, New York, Mount Vernon Street on Beacon Hill, and his Half-Moon Street address in Mayfair in London … never been to Rome, alas.

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — March 8, 2007 @ 11:26 pm | Reply

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