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The Lesson of the Master

Henry James

Book Overview: 

A promising young writer meets an older man whose works have inspired him, as well as a highly intelligent and attractive young woman, at a gathering in a country house. Anxious to learn all he can from the older writer, the young man seeks his views not only about art, but also the way in which a serious artist should live. By the end of the work, he has indeed learned his lessons, albeit not quite those that he was expecting. It's not giving anything away to say that this work bears some resemblance to James's later novel, The Ambassadors, which in many ways engages the same questions.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .ow him—he wants so to talk to you,” returned Miss Fancourt, who evidently had the habit of saying the things that, by her quick calculation, would give people pleasure.  Paul saw how she would always calculate on everything’s being simple between others.

“I shouldn’t have supposed he knew anything about me,” he professed.

“He does then—everything.  And if he didn’t I should be able to tell him.”

“To tell him everything?” our friend smiled.

“You talk just like the people in your book!” she answered.

“Then they must all talk alike.”

She thought a moment, not a bit disconcerted.  “Well, it must be so difficult.  Mr. St. George tells me it is—terribly.  I’ve tried too—and I find it so.  I’ve tried to write a novel.”

“Mr. St. George oughtn’t to discourage . . . Read More

Community Reviews

While initially interesting this story dragged towards the end. The 'strong' Paul Ortel is really just a whimpering weak willed lackey who follows St. George's advice. And what great advice it is! Women only hinder art because as the weaker sex we cannot fully understand and nurture it. What a lo...more

A pompous wannabe artist is advised by a passé writer, the master, to avoid marriage to a woman he admires in order to write without the constraints of domesticity. Neither of them care about what the young lady has to say on the matter so we're lead to believe that the novella asks if artists sh...more

I generally can’t bear to hear artists talk about their art as if it were the only or most valuable thing in the world. Better, in my opinion, to love well those whom you are given to love, and to strive to live an examined life. But the “lesson” here is more complicated than at first appears. Th...more

"So, MFA class, what did you think of this?"
"Well, I don't like how he starts it. I mean, we don't really get to know Paul Overt very much, right, and those first few sentences are just so confusing. I mean, who is this guy? Why should I care about him?"
"This strikes me as a bit, I don't know, it...more

This was my introduction to Henry James and certainly the beginning of a long relationship. The balance of ornate prose, confident narrative structure, and lovely empathy for his characters makes this one of the best pieces of fiction I have ever read. The plot is important, and it drives the wor...more

رائع بحق ، وماأدهشني تنسيقه للأحداث فيما يشدّني على مهل ليصنع دهشة في اللحظات الأخيرة على غير توقع ، نوع جديد من الكتب ، سحر يتوغّل فيك بصمت، ستتابع وتضع الكتاب جانباً مرة ، و تشعر بالضجر مرة، لأنّ التفاصيل لم تظهر لك وجه الحكاية بعد ، ولا شيء استثنائي، ولكنّك مشدود مع ذلك و لا تدري كيف و لماذا ،...more

Henry James, uno dei miei scrittori preferiti, si spense a Londra nel 1916. Quest’anno ricorrono i cento anni dalla morte, e l’Adelphi l’ha omaggiato (avrebbero dovuto farlo in realtà altre case editrici) con la pubblicazione di uno dei suoi racconti più belli: The Lesson of the Master(La lezione...more

This is a question, not an answer, and it is a good question to think upon, everyone coming to their own decision.
While James uses this story to discuss the age-old maxim of "the artist should be hungry," there's no need to take the opinions of his fictional heroes for his own. Don't we know that...more

Un colpo di stiletto

Perfido, meraviglioso, Henry James.
Nonostante il finale sia prevedibile e non giunga inatteso, nonostante il rapporto fra i due scrittori protagonisti della novella - il giovane promettente Paul Overt e l'affermato Henry St. George - li ponga a confronto e da subito in antites...more

Woman the Domesticator is the downfall of Man the Artist. try as he may, his anger and his insight and his vision, his credibility and his entire artistic sensibility will be degraded until he is a mere shadow of his once rigorous self. wife and children and safe, happy home shall all participate...more

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