Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tuesday Intro: Washington Square by Henry James


During a portion of the first half of the present century, and more particularly during the latter part of it, there flourished and practised in the city of New York a physician who enjoyed perhaps an exceptional share of the consideration which, in the United States, has always been bestowed upon distinguished members of the medical profession. This profession in America has constantly been held in honour, and more successfully than elsewhere has put forward a claim to the epithet of "liberal." In a country in which, to play a social part, you must either earn your income or make believe that you earn it, the healing art has appeared in a high degree to combine two recognised sources of credit. It belongs to the realm of the practical, which in the United States is a great recommendation; and it is touched by the light of science—a merit appreciated in a community in which the love of knowledge has not always been accompanied by leisure and opportunity.  
It was an element in Dr. Sloper's reputation that his learning and his skill were very evenly balanced; he was what you might call a scholarly doctor, and yet there was nothing abstract in his remedies—he always ordered you to take something. Though he was felt to be extremely thorough, he was not uncomfortably theoretic, and if he sometimes explained matters rather more minutely than might seem of use to the patient, he never went so far (like some practitioners one has heard of) as to trust to the explanation alone, but always left behind him an inscrutable prescription. There were some doctors that left the prescription without offering any explanation at all; and he did not belong to that class either, which was, after all, the most vulgar. It will be seen that I am describing a clever man; and this is really the reason why Dr. Sloper had become a local celebrity.

Washington Square
by Henry James

During my stay in New York City last week, my daughter and I saw the play The Heiress, which is based on Washington Square by Henry James. We enjoyed it immensely and, with Dan Stevens in a primary role, it helped tide us over until season three of Downton Abbey premiers on January 6.

Washington Square is on my shelf and this seems like the perfect time to get started. What do you think of the opening?

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening paragraph(s). Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

30 comments:

  1. I think I feel too much like I'm in school reading Henry James!

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    1. Rhapsodyinbooks - Ha! I can definitely see how Henry might make you feel like that.

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  2. I'm not sure either. I would have to read a few more paragraphs, or maybe even the first chapter. Or I could wait for your review and see what you thought.

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    1. Grammajudyb - Henry James can be difficult, but I'm hoping this will be one of his more accessible novels.

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  3. This sounds like a good one for the New Year. Thanks for sharing...and for visiting my blog. Enjoy!

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    1. Laurel-Rain Snow - I've been wanting to read this for year and the play has provided just the motivation I need!

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  4. I'd take the play anytime! What a treat that you can watch that with your daughter in NYC! I follow The Heiress on Twitter and know how well they're doing. The cast of DA was down there watching the play just last week. Other than Dan Steven, Jessica Chastain is so versatile and amazing, been getting noms and awards every year in her short career. I love her in Tree of Life, and now Zero Dark Thirty (which I await eagerly) and on stage in The Heiress. I'm sure that's one memorable experience for mother and daughter!

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    1. Art- Seeing the play was an experience we will both remember for years to come. We'l see how I feel about the novel ;-)

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  5. I haven't read anything by James in a while. Long ago, I read Portrait of the Lady and remember liking it, but I don't recall much from the book itself. I may need to revisit it.

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    1. Ti - I LOVED Portrait of a Lady.... will have to reread it one of these days.

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  6. Jealous! I've heard it's wonderful. I've read this one before (I think it's a very good intro or way to ease into reading Henry, btw), and I've also read the play. But you're tempting me into re-reading it!

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    1. Audrey - I've read a few of James' novels (Daisy Miller, Turn of the Screw, and Portrait of a Lady) and have loved them all. I may not fare as well with his later, more obtuse novels, but have high hopes for Washington Square. May need to seek out the play now...

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  7. This is one of his I haven't read as yet. I must remember to get to it.

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    1. Harvee - James definitely isn't for everyone... we'll see how this goes.

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  8. Ack! I KNEW I should have seen that play in NYC! I had originally paid to see Rebecca but then it was postponed and I never rebooked with another play even though I saw the EW review of The Heiress and wanted to see it. Dan Stevens! Jessica Chastain! I am a fool!

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    1. Sandy - Guess you'll have to go back again ;-) I thought of you when we went to Eataly... got quite a bit of Christmas shopping done there.

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  9. How great to see Dan Stevens on the stage! I am looking forward to Season 3 of Downton too. I've been enjoying the reairing of Season 2!

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    1. Nise' - I'm counting the days until season 3 of Downton Abbey begins... can't wait!!

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  10. It's the sort of book that takes effort on my part to read. It would be a challenge and I like it!

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    1. Kathleen - Exactly! This may take some effort, but I'm sure it will be worth it.

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  11. I have Washington Square on my Classics Club list. Can't say those first paragraphs make me want to dive in and read it though. Will look forward to your final thoughts.

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    1. Cat - Washington Square was on my list before seeing the play, too. I'm hoping it gets better ;-)

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  12. I wish I had the patience for Henry James; not a favorite in school. Hope you enjoy it though.

    Thanks so much for joining in.

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    1. Diane - James' earlier novels aren't too bad, especially Daisy Miller. Maybe you can give him another chance one day :-)

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  13. I bought one of his books a while back but haven't read it yet. I hope Dan doesn't leave Downton Abbey!!

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    1. Staci - Oh, I certainly hope not... but hate to see all the news reports that say he is leaving. How many days until season 3??

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  14. It's such a different style of writing. It might feel a little bit like work at the beginning, but I'm sure the story would suck me in.

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    1. Paulita - That's what I'm hoping ;-)

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  15. Certainly doesn't immediately grab me.

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    1. Carol - I must admit that the opening does not grab me either, but I loved the play and it was a good story... so I will press on.

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