“She had had everything a girl could have: kindness, admiration, bonbons, bouquets, the sense of exclusion from none of the privileges of the world she lived in, abundant opportunity for dancing, plenty of new dresses, the London Spectator, the latest publications, the music of Gounod, the poetry of Browning, the prose of George Eliot.” —Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady
“She feels in italics and thinks in CAPITALS.” -Henry James
The Aspern Papers by Henry James
*This is one of the many required reads for this semester. These types of reviews will consist more of what we discussed in class than my thoughts on the work.
A nameless narrator goes to Venice to locate Juliana Bordereau, an old lover of Jeffrey Aspern, a famous and now dead American poet. The narrator presents himself to the old woman as a prospective lodger and is prepared to court her niece Miss Tita (renamed Miss Tina in later editions), a plain, somewhat naive spinster, in hopes of getting a look at some of Aspern’s letters and other papers kept by Juliana
I really enjoyed this short story by James. The thing I found to be most interesting was it’s based off of real events. I believe it was Lord Byron’s papers and took place in England, though. I feel like that has a lot to do with the idea of literature more than just a fictional story, but as a historical narrative. I also enjoyed the writing. I hadn’t gotten to read James before, but his writing is very engaging. My professor kept saying that it was a funny story, but I politely disagree. I did really enjoy it, but I didn’t find it as comical as he explained it would be. I would suggest reading it and I will be reading more of James’ work in the future.