Two Versions of Tragedy

  • David Gervais


James’s essays on the French novelists are not just literary criticism but a kind of travel writing. Nowhere is this more apparent than in his approach to Balzac, where he is exploring not simply La Comédie Humaine but the nature of French society and the French imagination. His response to French novels is open and flexible but free of suggestibility; to every accommodation he makes towards them he brings reservations which are the upshot of his pondered sense of his own Americanness. Pound observed that, ‘The essence of James is that he is always “settling-in”, it is the ground-tone of his genius.’1 With Flaubert he is always trying to ‘settle in’ and never quite managing to. To see why this is one has to look at what it meant to be a young American in Europe in the decade after the Civil War.


Moral Consciousness Sentimental Investment Creur General Travel Writing Past Existence 
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  1. 4.
    Van Wyck Brooks, New England: Indian Summer, 1865–1915 (1940), p. 200.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    Morris Roberts, Henry James’s Criticism ( Cambridge, Mass., 1929 ), p. 62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 16.
    Quoted in Ellen Douglass Leyburn, Strange Alloy: The Relation of Comedy to Tragedy in the Fiction of Henry James (Chapel Hill, 1968), p. 169.Google Scholar
  4. 20.
    Jean-Paul Sartre, ‘Flaubert: Du Poète à l’Artiste’, Les Temps Modernes, XXII (1966), 240.Google Scholar
  5. 28.
    Marie-Jeanne Durry, Flaubert et ses Projets Inédits (1950), p. 106.Google Scholar
  6. 49.
    Quoted in Géorg Lukács, The Historical Novel trans. Hannah & Stanley Mitchell (1969), p. 122.Google Scholar

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© David Gervais 1978

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  • David Gervais

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