Writing and Reading in Henry James by Susanne Kappeler

By Susanne Kappeler

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By Susanne Kappeler

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26) It appears that two different conceptions of the propriety of the literary enterprise are here at odds. The dialogue quoted suggests thatJuliana-a poet's mistress after all-does not find it proper, or at least needs yet to be convinced that it could be, to try to grow flowers-literary exploits- from a garden so peculiar as hers. If l:terary critic he be, he had far better go to terra firma -literature proper- which is the real soil from which such flowers come forth. What is special about her garden is its location in the middle of the sea, surrounded by abundant water and based on very little soil.

The close association through proximity of the two senses of 'spoil' cannot be without significance and is certainly not without effect on the reader, for whom they are called to mind at the same time. It confirms the suspicion that the booty of the narrator's strife, at the very moment he can call it his 'spoils', must also be spoilt and destroyed. The same play on the double sense of this word is of course familiar from another novel by Henry James, The Spoils of Poynton. But while this involuntary pun takes place on the special level of rhetoric as a part of the action (as part of a speech addressed to Mrs Prest), and thus naturally invites an analysis of discourse, the 37 Writing and Reading in Henry James 'metaphor' of the garden has a different status.

52) The invocation of the most classic romantic lover is not due to the geographical proximity of Verona, which at most adds to a mood already co~ured. It is the poetic father of Romeo, however, who provides the next associative link to Aspern- the two having already been compared, and Shakespeare's sonnets been found 'scarcely more divine' (p. 48) than Aspern's 'less ambiguous' ones. Hence it comes naturally that the latter's Juliet appears- in the narrative if not at the window: 'Juliana might on the summer nights of her youth have murmured down from open windows at jeffrey Aspern ...

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