The Figure in the Carpet and Other Stories (Penguin Classics)
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The stories in this collection were written mostly between 1888 and 1897, a time when Henry James’s writing was concerned with the art of fiction and the position of the artist in society. The motif and title story, ‘The Figure in the Carpet’, is an inspired joke, a masterpiece of double-entendre that demands the reader’s undivided love and attention and continues to baffle its critics. Also included are ‘The Author of Beltraffio’, an absorbing story of family infighting, authorship and tragedy, and ‘The Private Life’, a spirited tale that considers the contrast between the artist alone and at work. While many of these stories appear to be elaborate Jamesian games, all employ irony and humour to allegorize artistic creation.
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
how great a privilege I think it.’ I knew I was gushing, but I couldn’t help it, and what I said was a good deal less than what I felt. I was by no means sure I should dare to say even so much as this to the master himself, and there was a kind of rapture in speaking it out to his wife which was not affected by the fact that, as a wife, she appeared peculiar. She listened to me with her face grave again and her lips a little compressed, listened as if in no doubt, of course, that her husband was
sister-in-law will, or would, do. But in the present case there are strange elements at work.’ ‘Strange elements? Do you mean in the constitution of the child?’ ‘No, I mean in my sister-in-law’s feelings.’ ‘Elements of affection of course; elements of anxiety,’ I concurred. ‘But why do you call them strange?’ She repeated my words. ‘Elements of affection, elements of anxiety. She’s very anxious.’ Miss Ambient put me indescribably ill at ease; she almost scared me, and I wished she would go
like them any better. Come away from them, come away!’ And he led the way out of the exhibition. ‘He’s going to take me to the Park,’ Miss Fancourt observed to Overt with elation as they passed along the corridor that led to the street. ‘Ah does he go there?’ Paul asked, taking the fact for a somewhat unexpected illustration of St George’s mœurs.14 ‘It’s a beautiful day – there’ll be a great crowd. We’re going to look at the people, to look at types,’15 the girl went on. ‘We shall sit under
so nearly. It is a fact, strange as it may appear. It has only just become one. Isn’t it ridiculous?’ St George made this speech without confusion, but on the other hand, so far as our friend could judge, without latent impudence. It struck his interlocutor that, to talk so comfortably and coolly, he must simply have forgotten what had passed between them. His next words, however, showed he hadn’t, and they produced, as an appeal to Paul’s own memory, an effect which would have been ludicrous if
unexpected young allegiance might most come home to him. He had recently recovered from a long, grave illness. I had gone to the neighbouring inn for the night, but I spent the evening in his company, and he insisted the next day on my sleeping under his roof. I hadn’t an indefinite leave: Mr Pinhorn supposed us to put our victims through on the gallop. It was later, in the office, that the rude motions of the jig were set to music. I fortified myself, however, as my training had taught me to do,