Monday, November 23, 2009

James and Browning

As I don't have anything to say today - or, rather, too much - I am relying on the words of others. I picked up Henry James's English Hours at the weekend. It has an essay on the interment of Browning in Westminster Abbey. First it made me laugh:

'A good many oddities and a good many great writers have been entombed in the Abbey; but none of the odd ones have been so great and none of the great ones so odd.'

Then it made me laugh and cry:

'Just as his great sign to those who knew him was that he was a force of health, of temperament, of tone, so what he takes into the Abbey is an immense expression of life - of life rendered with large liberty and free experiment, with an unprejudiced intellectual eagerness to put himself in other people's place, to participate in complications and consequences; a restlessness of psychological research that might well alarm any pale company for their formal orthodoxies.'

Henry James eh? Sometimes it does exactly what it says on the tin; sometimes it doesn't.


  1. two excerpts from the last paragraph, first:

    He was indeed a wonderful mixture of the universal and the alembicated. But he played with the curious and the special, they never submerged him, and it was a sign of his robustness that he could play to the end. His voice sounds loudest, and also clearest, for the things that, as a race, we like best--the fascination of faith, the acceptance of life, the respect for its mysteries, the endurance of its charges, the vitality of the will, the validity of character, the beauty of action, the seriousness, above all, of the great human passion.

    and the essay ends:

    With a sense of security, perhaps even a certain complacency, we leave our sophisticated modern conscience, and perhaps even our heterogeneous modern vocabulary, in his charge among the illustrious. There will possibly be moments in which these things will seem to us to have widened the allowance, made the high abode more comfortable, for some of those who are yet to enter it.

  2. ''allow 1 hour between quotes''?

  3. That first quote reminded me something that Tom Waits might say. Which, if nothing else, is a chance to recommend his new album to you, Bryan. Disc two is worth the money alone.