By Tessa Hadley

ISBN-10: 0511019033

ISBN-13: 9780511019036

ISBN-10: 0521811694

ISBN-13: 9780521811699

Tessa Hadley examines how Henry James gradually disentangles himself from the moralizing body in which English-language novels within the 19th century had visualized sexual ardour. Hadley argues that his dating with the eu novel culture used to be an important, supporting to depart in the back of the idea that in simple terms undesirable ladies may be sexual. She explores the emphasis James put on the facility of delight and play--themes critical to his formidable aim to symbolize the privileges and the rigors of turn-of-the-century relaxation classification society.

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In other words, the logic of the conservative ending is perceived as being that if James feels justified in punishing her, he must have had her do something to be punished for (even if he / we perceive her punishment as tragic). This is the retributive model of fictional structure. Interestingly, from the evidence of contemporary reviews of The Portrait, literary criticism of our ‘agnostic’ twenty-first century is more prone to the retributive model than James’s contemporary and relatively unsophisticated reader.

There is a thundering recognition in that ‘had least pleased her’: in retrospect the whole callowness of her maiden reading of him appears, her treating him as her conquest to be wound in and out on her silver thread, to be exasperated with, to be pitied. Now the very hardness of him that had seemed – to her maidenliness – repellent and awkward, is revealed as dangerous and desirable.  She makes her enigmatic pause at the door to look around her: why? Is it in an unacknowledged hope that he has followed her and will prevent her going in?

But even in the context of this extravagant camped-up conservatism, James cannot help choosing words which suggest his ambivalence towards ‘closed vessels of authority’; and that ambivalence is the very subject matter of What Maisie Knew and ‘The Turn of the Screw’ (). In these fictions the whole point of all the governesses – Mrs Wix, Miss Overmore and the girl from the Hampshire vicarage – is that they are extremely ‘leaky vessels’, and the ‘precious ripe tradition’ they embody comes under the most sceptical scrutiny.

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Henry James and the Imagination of Pleasure by Tessa Hadley


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