Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Plus ça change . . .

I cannot claim any real knowledge of Henry James (1843 - 1916) not being much of a fiction reader and even less of an enthusiast for books about social situations and manners. I was, however, dipping into the 11th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1910) and came across this description of his characters:

Rarely are they at close quarters with any ugly practical task. They are subtle and complex with the subtlety and the complexity that come from conscious preoccupation with themselves. They are specialists in conduct and past masters in casuistry, and are full of variations and shadows of turning.

It makes you wonder at the circumstances that in a century, liberated them from the pages of Henry James' novels and allowed them to occupy the airwaves and so many seats of power today.

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