The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik

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July 8, 2011

Funny Henry

'...She was very nice; she was tremendously polite. She and Lizzie sat on the sofa, pressing each other's hands and calling each other chere belle, and Madame de Cintre sent me with every third word a magnificent smile, as if to give me to understand that I too was a handsome dear. She quite made up for past neglect, I assure you; she was very pleasant and sociable. Only in an evil hour it came into her head to say that she must present us to her mother -- her mother wished to know your friends. I didn't want to know her mother; and I was on the point of telling Lizzie to go in alone and let me wait for her outside. But Lizzie, with her usual infernal ingenuity, guessed my purpose and reduced me by a glance of her eye. So they marched off arm in arm, and I followed as I could. We found the old lady in her arm-chair, twiddling her aristocratic thumbs. She looked at Lizzie from head to foot; but at that game Lizzie, to do her justice, was a match for her.  My wife told her we were great friends of Mr. Newman. The marquise stared a moment, and then said, 'Oh, Mr. Newman! My daughter has made up her mind to marry a Mr. Newman.' Then Madame de Cintre began to fondle Lizzie again, and said it was this dear lady that had planned the match and brought them together. 'Oh, 't is you I have to thank for my American son-in-law,' the old lady said to Mrs. Tristram. 'It was a very clever thought of yours. Be sure of my gratitude.' And then she began to look at me and presently said, 'Pray, are you engaged in some species of manufacture?' I wanted to say that I manufactured broomsticks for old witches to ride on, but Lizzie got in ahead of me. 'My husband, Madame la Marquise,' she said, 'belongs to that unfortunate class of persons who have no profession and no business, and do very little good in the world.' To get her poke at the old woman she didn't care where she shoved me. 'Dear me,' said the marquise, 'we all have our duties.' 'I am sorry mine compel me to take leave of you, 'said Lizzie. And we bundled out again. But you have a mother-in-law, in all the force of the term.'
from The American, by Henry James

{Carlo Cressini, Et Prope Et Procul, found here}

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Vintage Reading said...

I'm enjoying your Henry James extracts, thoughts and quotes. Never read him, but I will one day, I will!

Danielle said...

You're very good to read Henry James! He still intimidates me, though I did read The Turn of the Screw (still don't think I completely understand it) and Washington Square (which I loved).

Karen K. said...

LOVE the bit about the broomsticks!! HIlarious!

I had Fear of James after reading The Turn of the Screw, which I absolutely hated, but I think you have convinced me to give him another try.

Thank you for visiting!

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