You’ve heard the saying, “Winners never quit, and quitters never win”, I’m sure. I’m not exactly sure who originally coined that phrase. I’ve seen it posted online by Ted Turner and Vince Lombardi, but it seems older to me than that. I’m not here to advocate quitting. I’m a big believer in persistence, but I’m kinda going to throw a wrench in the works here because sometimes it is okay to quit.
This is my long awaited and very exciting post about Henry James. Most people have never heard of him. Why? Maybe because he wrote in the late 1800’s. But Henry James penned my favorite book of all time, Portrait of a Lady. Why do I love Henry James? I think because his books are so psychologically demanding. When you read one of his books, you get inside the heads of the characters and you feel their turmoil and pain. His characters have so much going on in their minds, you can’t keep up with the inner drama.
But in many areas, Henry James was a quitter. Henry James quit Harvard Law School so he could pursue writing. He quit painting lessons because he found out his brother was much better than himself. He quit America because he didn’t like its non-involvement in the first World War. He quit play writing, because his play sucked so bad, the audience booed him when he took his bow at the end of one of his plays.
But guess what? Henry James prospered. He wrote 20 novels and over 100 short stories, novellas, literary criticisms, plays, travelogues and reviews. He was called the master of the psychological novel.
Here’s a brief low-down on this great writer: He had two brothers who fought for the union in the Civil War. He himself could not fight because of a back injury. His only sister, Alice, had a history of mental illness. Although he was born in New York City, he spent most of his life in Europe and became a British citizen. He suffered from gout, which nearly crippled him. He was mostly schooled by tutors in his younger years because his father was very unconventional and wanted him to be raised open to new experiences. He formed a long standing friendship with Edith Wharton and often traveled with her despite their 19 year age difference. He never married. He renounced his American citizenship and became a British citizen because America refused to join the war, yet shortly after his death,the United States did join the war.
His stories are enigmas, and he was an enigma as well. That’s what I love about writing. There’s always some mystery involved.