The Art of Fiction

The Art of Fiction

Henry James Walter Besant / Jan 26, 2020

The Art of Fiction In this classic essay which originally appeared in his collection Partial Portraits Henry James argues against rigid proscriptions on the novelist s choice of subject and method of treatment He

  • Title: The Art of Fiction
  • Author: Henry James Walter Besant
  • ISBN: null
  • Page: 146
  • Format: Audiobook
  • In this classic essay which originally appeared in his 1888 collection Partial Portraits, Henry James argues against rigid proscriptions on the novelist s choice of subject and method of treatment He maintains that the widest possible freedom in content and approach will help ensure narrative fiction s continued vitality.

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    About "Henry James Walter Besant"

      • Henry James Walter Besant

        Henry James, OM, son of theologian Henry James Sr brother of the philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James, was an American born author, one of the founders and leaders of a school of realism in fiction He spent much of his life in England and became a British subject shortly before his death He is primarily known for a series of major novels in which he portrayed the encounter of America with Europe His plots centered on personal relationships, the proper exercise of power in such relationships, and other moral questions His method of writing from the point of view of a character within a tale allowed him to explore the phenomena of consciousness and perception, and his style in later works has been compared to impressionist painting.James insisted that writers in Great Britain and America should be allowed the greatest freedom possible in presenting their view of the world, as French authors were His imaginative use of point of view, interior monologue and unreliable narrators in his own novels and tales brought a new depth and interest to realistic fiction, and foreshadowed the modernist work of the twentieth century An extraordinarily productive writer, in addition to his voluminous works of fiction he published articles and books of travel writing, biography, autobiography, and criticism,and wrote plays, some of which were performed during his lifetime with moderate success His theatrical work is thought to have profoundly influenced his later novels and tales.


    1. “Criticism talks a good deal of nonsense, but even its nonsense is a useful force. It keeps the question of art before the world, insists upon its importance. ”― Henry JamesThe short essay Criticism, the focus of my review, is part of this collection which includes The Art of Fiction, The New Novel, and individual essays on Balzac, Trollope, Flaubert, Zola and Emerson. The reason for my choice should be obvious to anyone reading this since so much of what we do on this international intern [...]

    2. I must admit that I would have never ever read Henry James' article nor that of Mr Beason if it wasn't for my Novel class that I'm taking this year . Okay , both articles are magnificent , to say the least . But I , for one , thought that James' response article ( essay) was more articulate , straightforward and ,of course, genuine . Henry James made two major contributions which exerted a powerful influence on the theory of the novel : 1- He managed to establish the novel as a worthy object of [...]

    3. wsu/~campbelld/amlit/a"The old evangelical hostility to the novel, which was as explicit as it was narrow, and which regarded it as little less favourable to our immortal part than a stage-play, was in reality far less insulting. The only reason for the existence of a novel is that it does compete with life. ""The only obligation to which in advance we may hold a novel without incurring the accusation of being arbitrary, is that it be interesting. That general responsibility rests upon it, but i [...]

    4. DISCLAIMER: I copied these notes for personal reasons only: I use GR to keep track of my notes, since I don't trust my Kobo and notebooks are impractical. I know I am a cheap bastard and don't deserve any like for it. so, this was NOT written by me!Henry James's“The Art of Fiction”Why is it revolutionary?1. Choice of subject belongs to the artist without restriction.We must grant the artist his subject, his idea, his donnée; our criticism is applied only to what he makes of it. (561)2. Cons [...]

    5. I read this in a collection of Henry James essays on writing and writers. I really enjoyed The Art of Fiction itself, as it is very encouraging to budding young writers like myself, and his articles on Turgenev were incredibly interesting, but the essay The New Novel put me off Henry James forever. How dare he criticize Joseph Conrad for demanding too much of the "common reader's" concentration?! Henry James demands so much concentration from his readers that I had to reread half his sentences a [...]

    6. Oh Henry, you sure were vexed by Mr. Besant and his ideas, weren't you? I need to read the Besant piece now so I am clear on the basis of his arguments. Intriguing piece.

    7. I want to read this essay with people and discuss it and pick it apart and put it back together. Essentially, I want to go back to school. Sigh. Anyway, I was drawn to this essay because I have been questioning myself the worth of fiction, constantly rationing my intake and being careful to "nourish" myself with more worthy literary endeavors. If I were to partake of a discussion on it, I already have my talking points:-Beauty vs art-fiction vs "reality"-morality being true to life, not avoiding [...]

    8. An essay in which James analyzes and expands upon the lecture by Walter Besant with the same title (The Art of Fiction). The main emphasis seemed to be whether or not it was necessary for a novel to have an edifying moral agenda behind it, and whether or not a novel requires a plot or story at all. An interesting primary source as to the mind set of Victorian authors and readers.

    9. -solid illusion of reality = cornerstone-experience = sensitive intake of existence-"atmosphere of the mind"-quality of art = quality of producer's mind-sincerity. be worthy of fiction

    10. Αρκετές φορές αναζητάς τον συγγραφέα στα κείμενά του. Τον ψάχνεις και επιμένεις. Είναι που τελικά αν κρυφτεί έχει τον τρόπο να σου χαρίσει τη ζωή κάπως καλύτερα.Στην αλλαγή επιπέδου πραγματικότητας και στα ποιοτικά άλματα, είναι ιδιαίτερα ενδιαφέρον να μπορείς να «διαβάζε [...]

    11. "e only condition that I can think of attaching to the composition of the novel is, as I have already said, that it be sincere. This freedom is a splendid privilege, and the first lesson of the young novelist is to learn to be worthy of it. All life belongs to you Do not think too much about optimism and pessimism; try and catch the colour of life itself."

    12. An intriguing piece of academic writing surrounding ongoing questions such as what makes a novel valuable? Are novels valuable? And what do stories have to offer the world if they do not necessarily show exemplary human behaviour/realistic morals?

    13. Long-winded and confusing, but with good points on art and how the novel fits into it. I think the novel has come a long way and I agree most with James' statement that it must be "organic".

    14. Henry James adviseert de jonge schrijver: "try to catch the color of life itself". Een schitterend essay over de mogelijkheden van de schrijver om iets te creëeren met impact.

    15. This review was originally posted to Jen in BooklandThe Art of Fiction is an essay responding to a lecture of on the same topic by Mr. Besant. It was an interesting read and really made me think more about novels and the writing process. James talks about defining a novel as art and what makes a novel "good". I agreed with a lot of his points, and I enjoyed reading his thoughts on novels as art. James really picks apart Besant's lecture, agreeing and disagreeing with the things he said and telli [...]

    16. You may read online here. Published in Longman's Magazine 4 (September 1884), and reprinted in Partial Portraits (Macmillan, 1888)Quotations:The only reason for the existence of a novel is that it does compete with life. Literature should be either instructive or amusing, and there is in many minds an impression that these artistic preoccupations, the search for form, contribute to neither end, interfere indeed with both.But there is as much difference as there ever was between a good novel and [...]

    17. Was initially introduced to this dissertation in my American Literature class. There has always been arguments about what literature should do. One side, as shown in Dreiser's "True Art Speaks Plainly", advocates that literature should have a moral purpose and lead to social improvement. James gives a broader range of what literature should be; that is, just interesting. I definitely side with James' view as it does not exclude didactic literature, but simply claims that literature shouldn't hav [...]

    18. The only reason for the existence of a novel is that it does attempt to represent life. The more I read of James the more convinced I am that he was a sensible man; able to dissect and look at things plainly.In this short essay he states that no rules should be applied to the writing of a novel. He asserts that the novel is the greatest of all the arts and rules and limitations would pervert it.

    19. Walter Besant's original essay is superb. I found it an enjoyable and useful read. I found the response essay by Henry James a (mostly) annoying and rambling read. I highlighted a few sentences, but I feel too lazy to copy them here.

    20. This was excellent! I loved the author's descriptions and suggestions for fiction. I also enjoyed the examples from classic works given at the end. If you've ever considered writing fiction, read this first.

    21. I wanted to read this because I had to read snippets for a class. It was interesting. Henry James' points were well thought out.

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