Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Paris. France’s capital is the setting of the first few chapters of the novel and several subsequent chapters. British visitors to this many-faceted city find much to delight or disgust them. For Nick Dormer, Paris represents the world of art, the freedom of creative expression, and the aesthetic life. He finds art and beauty in the museums, on the streets, and in the churches and squares, and the city’s atmosphere provides stimulus and inspiration. An elixir to Nick and to Miriam Rooth, an aspiring actress, Paris is threatening to respectable philistines such as Nick’s mother and Julia Dallow, his future fiancé. When faced with the choice of walking through Paris at night, “a huge market for sensations,” or sitting at a café across from a church, Julia opts for the café because it is more respectable. The British tourists traditionally stay in hotels and sightsee on the Right Bank of the Seine River, but at the end of the novel when Nick returns to Paris as a committed artist, he visits “a new Paris,” “a Paris of studios and studies and models” on the Left Bank. Paris encourages the development of the private man, the artist, rather than the public man, the statesman, in Nick Dormer.

*Notre Dame

*Notre Dame. Cathedral on the Ile de la Cité in the heart of Paris. For Nick, this magnificent cathedral, built over the course of several hundred years, represents the beautiful, a work of art that is “done,” completed. James presents the cathedral as a work of art rather than as a religious institution and likens the exterior of the cathedral to a “huge dusky vessel,” “a ship of stone, with its flying buttresses thrown forth like an array of mighty oars.” It is the catalyst that inspires Nick to tell Gabriel Nash, an aesthete, of his desire to become a painter.

*Théâtre Français

*Théâtre Français (tay-ah-tra frahn-say). Now called the...

(The entire section is 805 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Anderson, Quentin. The American Henry James. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1957. The nature of Henry James’s relation to European culture has to be seen in the light of his American lineage. Devotes a chapter to The Tragic Muse.

Auchincloss, Louis. Reading Henry James. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1970. Auchincloss, an American novelist, writes from an author’s point of view, with a chapter on the novel.

Gard, Roger, ed. Henry James: The Critical Heritage. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1968. A selection of essays on various aspects of James’s work, including the novel.

Leyburn, Ellen Douglas. Strange Alloy: The Relation of Comedy to Tragedy in the Fiction of Henry James. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1968. For all the seriousness of his stories, James is also continually aware of the comic side of the conduct of his characters, and some of the pleasure in reading his novels lies in how he manipulates tone sometimes so subtly that one has to pay very close attention to not fall victim to his ironies. This book will put one on close guard.

Moore, Harry T. Henry James and His World. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1974. A well-illustrated short study of James from childhood until his life in Europe. James’s preoccupations, especially his concerns regarding class and culture, particularly European culture, may be unfamiliar to the contemporary reader; it is helpful to put his novels into the context of the world in which James lived.