The Many Worlds Of Henry James

PrintPrintEmailEmail

It is difficult to speak adequately or justly of London. It is not a pleasant place; it is not agreeable, or cheerful, or easy, or exempt from reproach. It is only magnificent. You can draw up a tremendous list of reasons iuhy it should be insupportable. The fogs, the smoke, the dirt, the darkness, the wet, the distances, the ugliness, the brutal size of the place, the horrible nurnerosity of society, the manner in which this senseless bigness is fatal to amenity, to convenience, to conversation, to good manners—all this and much more you may expatiate upon. You may call it dreary, heavy, stupid, dull, inhuman, vulgar at heart, and tiresome in form. I have felt these things at times so strongly that I have said—“Ah London, you too are impossible?” But these are occasional moods; and for one who takes it as I take it, London is on the whole the most possible form of life. I take it … as one who has the passion of observation and whose business is the study of human life. It is the biggest aggregation of human life—the most complete compendium of the world.

—Personal journal (1881)