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The Pupil

Henry James

Book Overview: 

Pemberton, a young American with an Oxford education and out of money, takes a job tutoring Morgan Moreen, the 12-year old son of an American couple living in Europe in a style not quite matched by their income. Morgan, who is highly intelligent, is also precocious and perceptive enough to understand his parents' pretentious aimlessness. Nor, as it happens, do his parents pay Pemberton the salary to which they'd agreed -- shouldn't he be satisfied, after all, by his life with them, and by the joy of tutoring young Morgan? Alternately charmed and put off by the Moreen family, Pemberton is left to choose between his attachment to his young pupil and his need to get on in life.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .As for Pemberton’s own estimate of his pupil, it was a good while before he got the point of view, so little had he been prepared for it by the smug young barbarians to whom the tradition of tutorship, as hitherto revealed to him, had been adjusted.  Morgan was scrappy and surprising, deficient in many properties supposed common to the genus and abounding in others that were the portion only of the supernaturally clever.  One day his friend made a great stride: it cleared up the question to perceive that Morgan was supernaturally clever and that, though the formula was temporarily meagre, this would be the only assumption on which one could successfully deal with him.  He had the general quality of a child for whom life had not been simplified by school, a kind of homebred sensibility which might have been as bad for himself but was charming for others, and a whole range of refinement and perception—little musical vibrations as taking as picked-up airs—. . . Read More

Community Reviews

When does an investment in another person doubly compensate as an investment in oneself, and when does it not? This is one of my favorite middle-period James novellas. A penniless young tutor is hired by a family of eccentric ex-patriot Americans to educate their prodigy son while they move from...more

The short story “The Pupil” by Henry James (1843-1916) was published in 1891 by Longman’s Magazine after it was rejected by Atlantic Monthly, although Atlantic published other tales by Henry James. Atlantic felt that the depiction of the American family in the story as being overly deceitful was...more

A baffling short story featuring another of James's weak-willed young men as the main character. It is however only the second by James I've read without an enigmatic and/or zany American girl (the first being The Aspern Papers). I thought the ending lacked pathos but maybe that was the desensiti...more

How cruel

Pemberton is an American student in London who becomes a tutor to an English family's precocious young son, Morgan Moreen, to make money to continue his studies.
At first, he cannot grasp why the family is so nomadic, but Morgan knows and soon establishes a tight bond with Pemberton. The relatio...more

Surprising story about the special relation between a child and his teacher, although the family of the boy make the real abnormal situation, including the fact that the teacher is almost never paid.

En esta novela corta, James nos presenta un triángulo formado por Morgan, un niño con una excepcional inteligencia; su familia, formada por unos miembros muy peculiares entre bohemios y vividores y su nuevo profesor, Pemberton, un joven que se siente desde un principio afortunado por tener semeja...more

of course the kid dies!

As usual, James treats us to exquisite, ornate, intricate prose, some of which you have to read twice to get the gist of. As usual, I find it hard to tell who I liked in the story: probably the young boy, who is the victim of dishonest, ruthless parents who will do just about everything it takes...more

I'm only now beginning to understand that not only is there a lot of emotion under the surface of Henry James, but also a lot of illegal dealings and feelings. This also applies to the novella The Marriages

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