Saturday, November 22, 2008

'An Immense Expression of Life'

In January 1890, Henry James eulogised the poet Robert Browning, who died in James' beloved city, Venice, one month before.  

To my mind, James' praise is perfectly apt, but not only for a poet's work.  His description of Browning's brilliance also applies to authors of fiction, biography and philosophy; to all genuine artists: 

...what he takes into the Abbey is an immense expression of life - of life rendered with large liberty and free experiment, with an unprejudiced intellectual eagerness to put himself in other people's place, to participate in complications and consequences; a restlessness of psychological research that might well alarm any pale company for their formal orthodoxies.

And to be honest: what Browning and James achieved is precisely what I often want (and so rarely enjoy) in my own writing: that elusive, enchanting and very real oasis, another psyche.

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