In the 1940s Elizabeth Bowen had occasion to wonder if her prose style was beginning to resemble Henry James’s. Her editors complained to her that sections of The Heat of the Day (1949) were “more Jacobean than James.” Asked in 1959 about his influence upon her work, she replied, “you can’t say it’s like catching the measles, because it’s a splendid style, but it’s a dangerous style.” She disliked, she said, the very late James: “I really belong to The Portrait of a Lady.” Her friend Virginia Woolf warned her in the thirties to beware the influence of James, Bowen reported: “she foresaw him as a danger to me.”1 From this time on, Bowen asked her editors to scrutinize her manuscripts carefully and watch out for double negatives, for sentences which placed the adverb before the verb on the “To whom do you beautifully belong?” model, for grammatical inversions and stylistic tricks in general. She was very much aware of the Jamesian “measles,” and somewhat apprehensive about catching them.


Double Negative Civilized Behavior Prose Style Magical Moment Unfamiliar Surrounding 
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  1. 1.
    See Victoria Glendinning, Elizabeth Bowen: Portrait of a Writer (London, 1977), pp. 153 and 99.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    Janet Egleson Dunleavy, “Elizabeth Bowen,” Dictionary of Literary Biography, XV (1983), 38.Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    Janet Egleson Dunleavy, “The Subtle Satire of Elizabeth Bowen and Mary Lavin,” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, 2, no. 1 (Spring 1983), 81.Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    See Elizabeth Bowen, “Out of a Book,” in Orion II (1946); repr. in Collected Impressions (London and New York, 1950).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© John Halperin 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Halperin
    • 1
  1. 1.Vanderbilt UniversityUSA

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