A Simple Young Woman from Albany

  • David Gervais


With the Cold War, when a cultivated but detached liberalism was so inviting to American intellectuals, the reputation of Henry James reached a high point. Leon Edel’s lavish biography, begun in 1950. epitomised the new note of deference and, even, unction which began to be sounded in writing on James. By the 196os, criticism of the novels was tending to becloud them with incense. Critics of quite opposite persuasions, from formalist to Leavisite, collaborated in swinging this incense into all the corners of the Jamesian temple. There were, of course, dissenters but their dissent often seemed half-determined by the prevailing tone of eulogy. The best-known critique of James in the 196os, Maxwell Geismar’s Henry James and his Cult, was so impatient of the effusions of the ‘Jacobites’, so hopeless about resisting their influence, that it squandered its critical insights in the kind of wilfully vulgar diatribe which admirers of so subtle and polished a writer as James have always found it easy to dismiss.2


Great Happiness Young Lady Free Exploration American Intellectual Lionel Trilling 
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  1. 3.
    See Michael Egan, Henry James: The Ibsen rears (1972)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Philip Grover, Henry James and the French Literary Mind (1973)Google Scholar
  3. Lyall H. Powers, Henry James and the Naturalist Movement (Michigan State U.P., 1971). (The point made here is developed in my review of Egan in The New Edinburgh Review no. 21 (1973), 30–2.)Google Scholar

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© David Gervais 1978

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  • David Gervais

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