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requirements of properly regulating gendered relations within and be-
tween men.
Bachelors abound in James™s ¬ction. A far from exhaustive list of
James™s bachelors would include Roger Lawrence in Watch and Ward,
Rowland Mallet in Roderick Hudson, Winterbourne in ˜˜Daisy Miller,™™
Ralph Touchett in The Portrait of a Lady, the many bachelor-artists and
bachelor-critics, some named and some nameless, in his tales of ˜˜the
literary life™™ (LC, p. ±) and ¬ctions of ˜˜poor sensitive gentlemen™™
(LC, p. ±µ°), the uncle in ˜˜The Turn of the Screw,™™ the unnamed
narrator of The Sacred Fount, and even Lambert Strether in The Ambassa-
dors who might be said to epitomize Jamesian bachelorhood even while
±°·
Henry James, mastery, and the life of art
disqualifying himself from the bachelor ranks on the technicality that he
is a widower. Not all of these bachelors are narrators.⁴ (Those seeking
scrupulous consistency may also object, ˜˜Not all of these ˜bachelors™ are
bachelors!™™). Although James uses ¬rst-person narration in many of his
shorter pieces, he objects to its use in longer ¬ction, preferring to employ
third-person or heterodiegetic narration with re¬‚ector characters or
centers of consciousness.µ The ¬rst section of this chapter analyzes
James™s critical objections to ¬rst-person narration in longer pieces,
arguing that James conceives of ¬rst-person narration as a threat be-
cause he associates it both with femininity and popularity, and also with
an aggressive style of hypermasculinity and with modernity. For James,
¬rst-person narration was also a marker of autobiography and romance,
two literary genres whose gendered implications for the male high-
cultural author are ambivalent at best and downright threatening at
worst. James™s multiply and inconsistently gendered readings of this
narrative technique give us insight into his attempts to reclaim literary
¬ction as an arena of fully masculinized endeavor, and into his re-
modelling of masculinity via the ¬gure of the bachelor. The ¬gure of the
bachelor ultimately enabled James to imagine art and life not as mu-
tually exclusive ways of being but as mutually constitutive.

§  ® ¤ , §  ®   , ® ¤   ©° ¬ ® ¦ ¦©  - °    ®
®©®
In my discussion of The Portrait of a Lady in the previous chapter, I noted
that Jamesian centers of consciousness are not always identical to the
main or eponymous characters of his ¬ctions. In some instances, James™s
re¬‚ectors are ˜˜o¬-centers of consciousness,™™ characters who, like Ralph
Touchett, center their subjectivities in other characters. In other instan-
ces, such ˜˜o¬-centered™™ characters are themselves at the imaginative
center of his ¬ction. For example, James notes in his New York Edition
Prefaces that the ˜˜subject™™ of Roderick Hudson is ˜˜another man™s, his
friend™s and patron™s view and experience of™™ Roderick Hudson (LC,
p. ±°), and that the subject of ˜˜The Figure in the Carpet™™ is located in
the perceptions of one who is not the great artist of that story: ˜˜Vereker™s
drama indeed “ or I should perhaps say that of the aspiring young
analyst whose report we read™™ (LC, p. ±µ). In summing up both
˜˜Figure™™ and Roderick Hudson, James rede¬nes his subject as one man™s
vicarious ˜˜view and experience™™ of another man. But the other-center-
ing of these two texts occurs under strikingly di¬erent narrative circum-
±° Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
stances. Unlike the ¬rst-person narrated or homodiegetic ˜˜Figure,™™
Roderick Hudson, like Portrait, is narrated by an ˜˜impersonal,™™ third-
person, or heterodiegetic narrator.
What is the signi¬cance of using one man to tell another man™s story
when a heterodiegetic authorial narrator, a disembodied third voice,
actually tells the story? What is the di¬erence between James™s use of the
bachelor as a ¬rst-person narrative frame in nouvelles like ˜˜Figure™™ and
˜˜Aspern™™ and his use of bachelor centers of consciousness in novels like
Roderick Hudson and The Portrait of a Lady or even The Ambassadors, and in
shorter pieces like ˜˜Daisy Miller™™ and ˜˜The Lesson of the Master™™? As
my discussions of ˜˜Lesson™™ and of ˜˜Figure™™ and ˜˜Aspern™™ in the two
last sections of this chapter will make clear, the issues of masculine
discipline and indulgence, of epistemological indeterminacy and narra-
tive authority obtain whether James™s o¬-centered bachelors narrate or
not. But James™s critical objections to the use of ¬rst-person narration in
longer works of ¬ction betray a distinctly gendered and generic agenda,
whether or not the ¬ctions themselves actually fall into the traps that he
anticipates. I will attempt to show here that his critical objections are of
a piece with his attempts to construe a fully masculinized ˜˜life of art.™™
In his New York Edition Preface, James estimates The Ambassadors, a
novel that revisits the terrain of vicarious single manhood common to
many of the mid-career tales, ˜˜as, frankly, quite the best, ˜all round,™ of
all my productions™™ (LC, p. ±°). This endorsement is even more
striking when we consider that James excluded from the canon-forming
New York Edition his simultaneously written The Sacred Fount, a novel
whose nameless ¬rst-person bachelor narrator could be mistaken, at a
distance, for Strether™s evil twin. This nameless narrator™s prurient
fascination with the relationships he witnesses bears a distinct family
resemblance to Strether™s own vicarious self-constitution. While there
are surely many reasons that James, and we with him, might prefer The
Ambassadors and Strether to The Sacred Fount and its narrator, it is
nevertheless certain that James™s exclusion of The Sacred Fount was at least
partly determined by its use of non-heterodiegetic, ¬rst-person narra-
tion.
Signally, the Preface to The Ambassadors contains some of James™s most
fully articulated objections to the use of ˜˜the ¬rst person, in the long
piece™™ (LC, p. ±±µ). In this Preface, he deplores ¬rst-person narration
as ˜˜the darkest abyss of romance™™ (LC, p. ±±µ) and ˜˜a form fore-
doomed to looseness™™ (LC, p. ±±µ), censuring its ˜˜terrible ¬‚uidity of
self-revelation™™ (LC, p. ±±). For James, ¬rst-person narration is wat-
±°
Henry James, mastery, and the life of art
ery, dark, and deep. This bottomless pool of molasses-hued quicksand is
even less buoyant than the Conradian ˜˜destructive element.™™ By ham-
pering the ability of the author and his readers alike to orient themselves
and to maneuver, the medium of ¬rst-person narration thwarts all
e¬orts to ˜˜make the deep, deep sea keep you up.™™⁶ Less metaphorically
speaking, ¬rst-person narration threatens epistemological certainty by
dispensing with the ¬rm sense of context provided by a heterodiegetic
narrator, a narrator who is not a character in the plot. James sees
Strether, by contrast, as both ˜˜encaged and provided for™™ by the
non-¬rst-person ˜˜exhibitional conditions™™ (LC, p. ±±) of The Ambassa-
dors, conditions whose ˜˜sti¬er and more salutary™™ ˜˜proprieties™™ supply a
sturdier frame of reference for us . . . and apparently also for the
characters themselves. The Ambassadors™s narrative method gives Strether
the last word, simultaneously banal and profound “ ˜˜˜Then there we
are!™ said Strether™™™ “ in a novel that foregrounds the importance of
knowing where one stands.·
James™s description of the disorientation and loss of control occa-
sioned by homodiegetic, ¬rst-person narration in longer ¬ction draws
on various images of cultural ˜˜otherness™™ to illustrate the nature of the
threat. Thus, the darkness of James™s ˜˜darkest abyss of romance™™ (LC,
p. ±±µ) resembles the racialized other of Conrad™s Heart of Darkness,
though without the full measure of ambiguity of Conrad™s title which
gestures more emphatically towards alterity within the self.⁸ Moreover,
one of the dangers associated with this abyss “ ˜˜variety, and many other
queer matters as well, might have been smuggled in a back door™™ (LC,
p. ±±µ) “ insinuates a homosexual undercurrent in the polymorphous
perversity of one man who, as ¬rst-person narrator, would enjoy the
˜˜double privilege of subject and object™™ (LC, p. ±±). The danger of
the ˜˜others™™ that James associates with ¬rst-person narration is not that
they are de¬nitively external to the heterosexual white male subject, but
that they may already be found within that masculine subject, ˜˜smug-
gled in the back door.™™
Ultimately, the ˜˜looseness™™ and ˜˜¬‚uidity™™ that James associates with
the threat of ¬rst-person narration gesture toward what may be the most
consistently invoked ˜˜others™™ of male literary modernism, ˜˜others™™
insistently de¬ned as external, but feared as always already within: the
feminine and the popular.⁹ James frequently links the ¬‚uidity of the
feminine to the looseness of the popular in his literary criticism, as, for
example, in his response to Mrs. Everard Cotes who in ±°° sent James
a copy of her novel, His Honour and a Lady:
±±° Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
I think your drama lacks a little line “ bony structure and palpable, as it were,
tense cord “ on which to string the pearls of detail. It™s the frequent fault of
women™s work “ and I like a rope (the rope of the direction and march of the subject,
the action) pulled, like a taut cable between a steamer and tug, from beginning
to end. [Your plot] lapses on a tri¬‚e too liquidly.¹°
This passage attributes the ˜˜liquidness™™ of a woman™s text to its lack of
¬ctional rigor and physical turgor, making it possible to read into
James™s extended metaphor an authorial ˜˜pissing contest™™ in which the
male writer maintains a distinct advantage over the female. The ˜˜liquid-
ness™™ of Mrs. Cotes™s plot suggests that part of the threat behind the
˜˜terrible ¬‚uidity of self-revelation™™ is the threat of ˜˜piddling™™ in the
sense of triviality and indirection though not necessarily of volume. That
is to say, James also implies that Mrs. Cotes, in her ˜˜liquidness,™™ runs o¬
at the mouth. Thus ˜˜¬‚uency,™™ like ˜˜¬‚uidity,™™ denotes a too easy prodi-
giousness of output, as James suggests of Harriet Prescott in his ±
review of her Azarian: ˜˜like the majority of female writers, “ Mrs.
Browning, George Sand, Gail Hamilton, Mrs. Stowe, “ she possesses in
excess the fatal gift of ¬‚uency.™™¹¹ In a comparative evaluation of Sand
and Flaubert, James™s images of ¬‚uidity similarly connote both the
proli¬c and the substandard:
Flaubert is at any rate represented by six books, so that he may on that estimate
¬gure as poor, while Madame Sand, falling so little short of a hundred, ¬gures
as rich; and yet the fact remains that I can refer the congenial mind to him with
con¬dence and can do nothing of the sort for it in respect to Madame Sand.
She is loose and liquid and iridescent, as iridescent as we may undertake to ¬nd
her; but I can imagine compositions quite without virtue “ the virtue I mean, of
sticking together “ begotten by the impulse to emulate her. She had undoubted-
ly herself the bene¬t of her facility, but are we not left wondering to what extent
we have it?¹² (LC, pp. “)
For James, Sand™s ˜˜facility™™ means that she is ˜˜facile.™™ The ˜˜loose and
liquid™™ productivity of the woman writer might seem to make her
writing ˜˜rich,™™ but they really make her writing and the writing of those
who emulate her slippery, lacking in the ˜˜virtue . . . of sticking together.™™
James chooses literary quality over literary quantity, assuming that they
must be mutually exclusive. For a writer so proli¬c as James was, such
an assumption must have generated some measure of authorial anxiety.
James does not limit his criticism to his female colleagues and fore-
mothers, although their femininity and the feminine itself, even when
attributed to male writers, bear the brunt of his critical bias. While he
often shows great generosity to novices, especially to those who pay
±±±
Henry James, mastery, and the life of art
obeisance to their ˜˜Cher Maitre,™™ James could be deeply critical of
` ˆ
members of the ¬ctional fraternity, including masters like Hawthorne
and Flaubert and his own contemporaries and proteges. The use of
´´
¬rst-person narration provides the occasion for some of James™s most
severe attacks, in part because he sees it as linked to popular literature
which is distinctly not within the purview of men™s literary work as he
envisions it. In a ±±± letter written in thanks for the gift of his New
Machiavelli, James chides H. G. Wells for the ˜˜form™™ that his ¬ction
takes:
. . . I make remonstrance . . . upon the bad service you have done your cause by
riding so hard again that accurst autobiographic form which puts a premium
on the loose, the improvised, the cheap and the easy. Save in the fantastic and
the romantic (Copper¬eld, Jane Eyre, that charming thing of Stevenson™s with
the bad title “ ˜˜Kidnapped™™?) it has no authority, no persuasive and convincing
force “ its grasp of reality and truth isn™t strong and disinterested. R. Crusoe,
e.g., isn™t a novel at all. There is, to my vision, no authentic, and no really
interesting, and no beautiful, report of things on the novelist™s, the painter™s part
unless a particular detachment has operated . . .¹³
This letter touches on both generic forms with which James associates
¬rst-person narration: autobiography and romance. This double gen-
eric association is self-contradictory since, for James, the autobiographi-
cal reveals an author™s actual experience and identity whereas the
romantic depicts experience or even is an experience that is de¬nitively
unknown (I will elaborate on this point further along).¹⁴ In other words,
the epistemological crisis that occurs in the ˜˜darkest abyss of romance™™
is at odds with the epistemological certainties of autobiography™s ˜˜ter-
rible ¬‚uidity of self-revelation.™™ The fact that James™s literary theory
contains contradictions is hardly news. What is of interest here are the
ways that James™s delineations of ¬rst-person narration dovetail with his
attempts to reconcile his high-cultural identity as a writer of literary
¬ction with his cultural identity as a bourgeois man.
James demotes autobiography and the ¬rst-person form with which
he associates it to the ranks of the sub-literary or low-brow. In his letter
to Wells, James attributes qualities to autobiography “ ˜˜the loose, the
improvised, the cheap and the easy™™ “ which he deplores because they
interfere with those qualities that he values most highly. The valued
qualities “ the ˜˜authentic,™™ the ˜˜interesting,™™ and the ˜˜beautiful™™ “ can
be attained only through ˜˜a particular detachment.™™ That is to say,
autobiography is not ˜˜strong and disinterested™™ because it lacks the
˜˜detachment™™ that distinguishes the truly literary and high cultural.
±± Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
James understands ¬rst-person narration, moreover, as a quintessen-
tially ˜˜autobiographic form™™ because he presumes that the identity of
the narrating speaker or writer is identical to that of the author. While
late twentieth-century literary critics might intuitively attribute detach-
ment or even self-alienation to the authorial process of assuming a
¬ctional narrative persona, James sees such a persona as too closely
associated with the author himself. In eschewing ¬rst-person narration,
that ˜˜accursed autobiographic form,™™ James preferred to be a more
invisible male author than H. G. Wells.
James™s preference for a more invisible narrator, one who ˜˜focalizes™™
the subjectivities of centers of consciousness via ˜˜impersonal,™™ hetero-
diegetic narration, also plays a crucial role in his conception of romance
as a bubble, delicate and illusory, that must not be pricked by the rude
penetration of the author™s voice. As Goetz persuasively argues, James
sees the intrusions of both a Trollopean omniscient narrator and a
Conradian ¬rst-person narrator as diverting the reader™s attention from
the story to the author, thereby destroying the essential dramatic illusion
of romance.¹µ The illusion created by romance is that, at least temporar-
ily, it is real:

The balloon of experience is in fact of course tied to the earth, and under that
necessity we swing, thanks to a rope of remarkable length, in the more or less
commodious car of the imagination; but it is by the rope we know where we
are, and from the moment that cable is cut we are at large and unrelated: we
only swing apart from the globe “ though remaining as exhilarated, naturally,
as we like, especially when all goes well. The art of the romancer is, ˜˜for the fun
of it,™™ insidiously to cut the cable, to cut it without our detecting him. (LC,
p. ±°)

The quintessential experience of romance is not the reader™s blithe
pleasure in ¬‚ying high, but the moment of vertigo when he realizes that
he has come untethered. To induce this mind-blowing e¬ect, the ˜˜ro-
mancer™™ must keep his presence unfelt at least until the crucial moment
and preferably not even then.
The romancer™s undetected cutting of the cable indicates that the
undercutting of epistemological certainty is a crucial feature of Jamesian
romance. Although the indeterminate distance of the ˜˜balloon of ex-
perience™™ from the ground of reality produces disorientation, the cable-
cutting also recreates reality and reorients us to it. Romance creates
worlds apart where the usual rules do not apply: a new ˜˜real world™™ of
romance. The vertiginously indeterminate distance between the old real
±±
Henry James, mastery, and the life of art
world and the new real world of romance may be spatial, as with the
balloon image, or it may be geographic or even temporal, as in the
examples of ˜˜the romantic and the fantastic™™ in James™s letter to Wells.
The desert island world in Robinson Crusoe is at a geographical distance
from a metropolitan center, much as the worlds of childhood in David
Copper¬eld and Jane Eyre and Kidnapped are at a temporal distance from

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