Henry James never took anything as it came; the thing that happened to him was merely the point of departure. To recall his habit of talk is to become aware that he never ceased creating his life ... as it was lived; he was always engaged in the poetic fashioning of experience... (page xiii). ...this description of Henry James' way of writing continues for many pages and is what drew me to buy the book... the letters themselves are more aligned to the people to whom he was writing than to his perception and remaking of reality... so i will try to illustrate that with a quotation from A Small Boy and Others (a part of his unfinished autobiography)...
Admirable the scale and solidity, in general, of the ancient villas planted about Geneva, and our house affected me as so massive and so spacious that even our half of it seemed vast. I had never before lived so long in anything so old and, as I somehow felt, so deep; depth, depth upon depth, was what came out for me, at certain times of my waiting above, in my immense room [at that time he was an invalid] of thick embrasures [openings in a thick wall for doors door or windows] and rather prompt obscurity, while the summer afternoon waned and my companions, often below at dinner, lingered and left me just perhaps a bit overwhelmed. That was the sense of it - the character, in the whole place, pressed upon me with a force I hadn't met and was beyond my analysis - which is but another way of saying how directly notified I felt that such material conditions as I had known could have had no depth at all. My depth was a vague measure, no doubt, but it made space, in the twilight, for an occasional small sound of voice or step from the garden or the rooms of which the great homely [is there a word missing here?], the opaque green shutters, opened there softly to echo in - mixed with reverberations finer and more momentous, personal, experimental, if they might be called so; which I much encouraged [...] I was already aware - that one way of taking life was to go in for everything and everyone, which kept you abundantly occupied, and the other way was to be as occupied, quite as occupied, just with the sense and the image of it all...[...i don't fully understand what he means by 'depth' but i guess he is more than half revealing a more complex world of memories than most of us inhabit or can describe... one that requires new words or meanings...]
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