Henry James Quotes

Henry James was a prolific writer, publishing dozens of novels and essays throughout his lifetime. He is perhaps best known for his novels, such as The Bostonians and The Portrait of a Lady. However, Henry James was also a master of the short story form, and many of his most famous tales were published in magazines such as Harper’s Monthly and Atlantic Monthly. James was known for his elegant prose and insightful observations about human behavior. Here are some of the best quotes from Henry James to offer a glimpse into his brilliant mind.

  • Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.

    Henry James
  • People talk about the conscience, but it seems to me one must just bring it up to a certain point and leave it there. You can let your conscience alone if you’re nice to the second housemaid.

    Henry James
  • I’ve always been interested in people, but I’ve never liked them.

    Henry James
  • In museums and palaces we are alternate radicals and conservatives.

    Henry James
  • Cats and monkeys; monkeys and cats; all human life is there.

    Henry James
  • Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.

    Henry James
  • I think I don’t regret a single ‘excess’ of my responsive youth – I only regret, in my chilled age, certain occasions and possibilities I didn’t embrace.

    Henry James
  • It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance… and I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process.

    Henry James
  • An Englishman’s never so natural as when he’s holding his tongue.

    Henry James
  • Live all you can; it’s a mistake not to. It doesn’t so much matter what you do in particular, so long as you have your life. If you haven’t had that what have you had?

    Henry James
  • The superiority of one man’s opinion over another’s is never so great as when the opinion is about a woman.

    Henry James
  • If I were to live my life over again, I would be an American. I would steep myself in America, I would know no other land.

    Henry James
  • We work in the dark – we do what we can – we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.

    Henry James
  • One might enumerate the items of high civilization, as it exists in other countries, which are absent from the texture of American life, until it should become a wonder to know what was left.

    Henry James
  • I hate American simplicity. I glory in the piling up of complications of every sort. If I could pronounce the name James in any different or more elaborate way I should be in favor of doing it.

    Henry James
  • Do not mind anything that anyone tells you about anyone else. Judge everyone and everything for yourself.

    Henry James
  • However British you may be, I am more British still.

    Henry James
  • To criticize is to appreciate, to appropriate, to take intellectual possession, to establish in fine a relation with the criticized thing and to make it one’s own.

    Henry James
  • The face of nature and civilization in this our country is to a certain point a very sufficient literary field. But it will yield its secrets only to a really grasping imagination. To write well and worthily of American things one need even more than elsewhere to be a master.

    Henry James
  • Ideas are, in truth, force.

    Henry James
  • What is character but the determination of incident? What is incident but the illustration of character?

    Henry James
  • Experience is never limited, and it is never complete; it is an immense sensibility, a kind of huge spider-web of the finest silken threads suspended in the chamber of consciousness, and catching every air-borne particle in its tissue.

    Henry James
  • There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.

    Henry James
  • The right time is any time that one is still so lucky as to have.

    Henry James
  • Young men of this class never do anything for themselves that they can get other people to do for them, and it is the infatuation, the devotion, the superstition of others that keeps them going. These others in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred are women.

    Henry James
  • It takes an endless amount of history to make even a little tradition.

    Henry James
  • A man who pretends to understand women is bad manners. For him to really to understand them is bad morals.

    Henry James
  • It takes a great deal of history to produce a little literature.

    Henry James
  • In art economy is always beauty.

    Henry James
  • It is, I think, an indisputable fact that Americans are, as Americans, the most self-conscious people in the world, and the most addicted to the belief that the other nations of the earth are in a conspiracy to under value them.

    Henry James
  • The only success worth one’s powder was success in the line of one’s idiosyncrasy… what was talent but the art of being completely whatever one happened to be?

    Henry James
  • It’s a complex fate, being an American, and one of the responsibilities it entails is fighting against a superstitious valuation of Europe.

    Henry James
  • The only reason for the existence of a novel is that it does attempt to represent life.

    Henry James
  • To kill a human being is, after all, the least injury you can do him.

    Henry James
  • I adore adverbs; they are the only qualifications I really much respect.

    Henry James
  • The only obligation to which in advance we may hold a novel, without incurring the accusation of being arbitrary, is that it be interesting.

    Henry James
  • Life is a predicament which precedes death.

    Henry James
  • I hold any writer sufficiently justified who is himself in love with his theme.

    Henry James
  • There are two kinds of taste, the taste for emotions of surprise and the taste for emotions of recognition.

    Henry James
  • Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.

    Henry James
  • Though there are some disagreeable things in Venice there is nothing so disagreeable as the visitors.

    Henry James
  • Money’s a horrid thing to follow, but a charming thing to meet.

    Henry James
  • Deep experience is never peaceful.

    Henry James

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