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Henry James, fellow skeptic

I confess that Henry James usually drives me up the wall, for the usual reasons.  Give me the passion and directness of Edith Wharton or Trollope over James’s cloying mannerisms any day.  These are undoubtedly my failings, not his, for which I take full responsibility.  And I may have to reconsider my impatience with his prose, given his clear-eyed refusal to sound an alarum over the diminution of Christian zeal in Europe: 

[James]  has no religious faith. Not a word of piety can be found in his letters. He visits not one of the great cathedrals to pray. Christmas, as several letters show, is like any other day. “As to Christianity in its old applications being exhausted,” he writes, “civilization, good & bad alike, seems to be certainly leaving it pretty well out of account.”

(From Alexander Theroux’s Wall Street Journal review of James’s letters.)

James’s  indifference to religion makes this book, which argues for overtones of Catholicism in James’s works, an even more preposterous example of the compulsion among some believers to find confirmation of their own faith where none exist.


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