The Princess Casamassima: Hyacinth’s Fallible Consciousness (1963)
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Hyacinth Robinson’s sensitive consciousness is the mirror which controls the shape of Henry James’s The Princess Casamassima. As in so many of his other novels, this consciousness is the aesthetic device that reflects the experience of the people involved, and is responsible to some degree for the value attached to that experience. But Henry James’s happily chosen term, ‘consciousness’, has been given such complicated treatment by scholars as would seem to be directed only to aesthetics or metaphysicians, whereas his novels actually adhere to Marianne Moore’s more accessible dictum: he created ‘imaginary gardens with real toads in them’. Hence, anyone who wishes to read him aright must know something about ‘toads’ as well as about aesthetics lest he take the reality of the life portrayed for artifice, or worse still, the ‘imaginary gardens’ for the ‘real toads’.
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- 1.Henry James, ‘The Preface to The Princess Casamassima’ in The Art of the Novel (New York, 1946) pp. 63–4.Google Scholar
- 6.Henry James: Representative Selections with Introduction (NewYork, 1941) p. lxxxviii.Google Scholar
- 7.See A. L. Goldsmith, ‘Henry James’s Reconciliation of Free Will and Fatalism’, NCF xiii(Sept. 1958) 114.Google Scholar
- 8.See J. H. Raleigh, ‘Henry James: the Poetics of Empiricism’, in PMLA lxvi (March 1951) 109. [This essay is reprinted in this volume, pp. 52–70.]Google Scholar