Quotes from The Bostonians

Henry James ·  496 pages

Rating: (5.6K votes)


“Wherever you go, madam, it will matter little what you carry. You will always carry your goodness.”
― Henry James, quote from The Bostonians


“Miss Chancellor would have been much happier if the movements she was interested in could have been carried on only by people she liked,and if revolutions, somehow, didn't always have to begin with one's self--with internal convulsions,sacrifices,executions.”
― Henry James, quote from The Bostonians


“She had never yet encountered a personage so exotic, and she always felt more at ease in the presence of anything strange. It was the usual things of life that filled her with silent rage; which was natural enough inasmuch as, to her vision, almost everything that was usual was inqiuitous.”
― Henry James, quote from The Bostonians


“I was on the point of saying that a happy chance had favoured him, but it occurs to me that one is under no obligation to call chances by flattering epithets when they have been waited for so long.”
― Henry James, quote from The Bostonians


“The Bostonians is special because it never was ‘titivated’ for the New York edition, for its humour and its physicality, for its direct engagement with social and political issues and the way it dramatized them, and finally for the extent to which its setting and action involved the author and his sense of himself. But the passage above suggests one other source of its unique quality. It has been called a comedy and a satire – which it is. But it is also a tragedy, and a moving one at that. If its freshness, humour, physicality and political relevance all combine to make it a peculiarly accessible and enjoyable novel, it is also an upsetting and disturbing one, not simply in its treatment of Olive, but also of what she tries to stand for. (Miss Birdseye is an important figure in this respect: built up and knocked down as she is almost by fits and starts.) The book’s jaundiced view of what Verena calls ‘the Heart of humanity’ (chapter 28) – reform, progress and the liberal collectivism which seems so essential an ingredient in modern democracy – makes it contentious to this day. An aura of scepticism about the entire political process hangs about it: salutary some may say; destructive according to others. And so, more than any other novel of James’s, it reminds us of the literature of our own time. The Bostonians is one of the most brilliant novels in the English language, as F. R. Leavis remarked;27 but it is also one of the bleakest. In no other novel did James reveal more of himself, his society and his era, and of the human condition, caught as it is between the blind necessity of progress and the urge to retain the old. It is a remarkably experimental modern novel, written by a man of conservative values. It is judgemental about people with whom its author identified, and lenient towards attitudes hostile to large areas of James’s own intellectual and personal inheritance. The strength of the contradictions embodied in the novel are a guarantee of the pleasure it has to give.”
― Henry James, quote from The Bostonians



About the author

Henry James
Born place: in New York, New York, The United States
Born date April 15, 1843
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