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Sir Dominick Ferrand

Henry James

Book Overview: 

“Levity” is not a word often applied to Henry James, but this story has about it an attractively lighthearted quality. It tells of Peter Baron, a poor, young struggling writer of adequate, if not transcendent, talent, who lives in a dreary London boarding house inhabited also by a mysteriously clairvoyant and beautiful young widow, with her small boy. When Baron buys himself a second-hand writing desk to stimulate the creative juices, he finds carefully hidden within it a cache of letters that appear to compromise a recently deceased statesman. The discovery and his struggle to handle the questions they pose ultimately change his life. Along the way he also discovers, as a fringe benefit, a talent for what Americans call Tin Pan Alley.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .tty hand, roamed, gurgling and sticky, about the room. In this manner he lurched like a little toper into the rear of the davenport, which stood a few steps out from the recess of the window, and, as he was fond of beating time to his intensest joys, began to bang on the surface of it with a paper- knife which at that spot had chanced to fall upon the floor. At the moment Sidney committed this violence his kind friend had happened to raise the lid of the desk and, with his head beneath it, was rummaging among a mass of papers for a proper envelope. "I say, I say, my boy!" he exclaimed, solicitous for the ancient glaze of his most cherished possession. Sidney paused an instant; then, while Peter still hunted for the envelope, he administered another, and this time a distinctly disobedient, rap. Peter heard it from within and was struck with its oddity of sound—so much so that, leaving the child for a moment under a demoralising impression of impunity, he waited with quick cur. . . Read More

Community Reviews

This was a really good fast read. Every once in a while I have to read a classic and this was the one I decided to try. In this book a writer finds some papers that could destroy a person of interest and no matter what happens it seems that it would not benefit anyone knowing of the secret.

Enjoyable story that begs the question is the public entitled to all the sordid details of the famous' lives? Is is appropriate to expose the foibles and failings of the dead, even if it appears no heirs exist to be hurt by the exposure? Is the profit made from sensationalism really worth it?

finally! his first happy ending that i know of

Meh.