Up@dawn 2.0

Sunday, July 16, 2017

July 10th Henry James quote

"We work in the dark — we do what we can — we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art." What did Henry mean?

In James novel, “The Middle Years,” Henry James paints a detailed portrait of a terminally ill, experimental novelist. The novelist Dencombe receives in the mail a published version of what he realizes that will be his final work. As he reviews the literature he notes that it is exceptionally good work but he fears that others won’t understand or perceive the literature in the manner that it was intended. The book was “somehow a result beyond his conscious intention: almost as if he had planted his genius, trusted his method, and they had grown up and flowered” Galenson, D. (2015, April 09).  The recognition that he received however was bitter sweet in its own way. He had to accept the realization how slowly his technique and skills had grown and progressed. He had developed abnormally slow and slower than gradual. He had to accept that it took much of his existence or life to produce too little of his art. James like Dencombe has a late bloomer who’s art mature almost too late in life. He clumsily constituted that he had to teach himself by mistakes. He entertained the false hope that he might overcome his illness Dencombe hopes for the opportunity to create his final masterpiece in a final artist splendor. He yearned for his final works to be that of true definition and meaning of himself and his extraordinary.
As Dencombe life comes to pass he accepts in his final days, the inevitability of incompletely and uncertainty just as in James quote, “We work in the dark- we do what we can- we give what we have. Our doubt is out passion and our passion is our task. The rest of the madness is art.” James thus allowed his fictional self to concede that artistic achievement can be real even if it falls short of perfection.

Joshua Ledford
Galenson, D. (2015, April 09). Impossible Dreams: Henry James and Philip Roth. Retrieved July 16, 2017, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-galenson/impossible-dreams-henry-j_b_7035578.html

1 comment:

  1. Interesting, but not surprising, that Henry might see himself in his novelist Dencombe. He might even have described himself as a late bloomer, to the extent that he thought - contrary to his brother's harsh opinion - his "late manner" a significant creative breakthrough and not, as William would have it, a break-down. But I wouldn't call Henry a late-bloomer, his career was in full swing in the 1870s when William was still wrestling with his "will to believe" and contemplating suicide.

    The true madness of art, as you say, must be perfectionism. But the most creative people do hold themselves to impossibly high standards. It's the Platonic fallacy.