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The Princess Casamassima

This article was most recently revised and updated by Kathleen Kuiper , Senior Editor. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. He did so with regret: the patrician American admired in the English upper class its sense of moral obligation to the community. By the turn of the century, however,…. In the novel of Boston life, James analyzed the struggle between conservative masculinity embodied in a Southerner living in the North and an embittered man-hating suffragist.

The Bostonians remains the fullest and most-rounded American social novel of its time in its…. Henry James , American novelist and, as a naturalized English citizen from , a great figure in the transatlantic culture. His fundamental theme was the innocence and exuberance of the New World in clash with the corruption…. History at your fingertips. Sign up here to see what happened On This Day , every day in your inbox! By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Notice. XVIII THE matter concerned him only indirectly, but it may con- cern the reader more closely to know that before the visit to the duke took place Madame Grandoni granted to Prince Casamassima the private interview she had pro- mised him on that sad Sunday afternoon.

The Princess Casamassima (1886). Art and Politics

She crept out of South Street after breakfast a repast which under the Princess's roof was served at twelve o'clock, in the foreign fashion crossed the sultry solitude into which, at such a season, that precinct resolves itself, and entered the Park, where the grass was already brown and a warm, smoky haze prevailed, a sort of summer edition of what was most characteristic in the London air.

The Prince met her, by appointment, at the gate, and they went and sat down together under the trees beside the drive, amid a wilderness of empty chairs and with nothing to distract their attention from an equestrian or two, left over from the cavalcades of a fortnight before, and whose vain agitation in the saddle the desolate scene seemed to throw into high relief.

They remained there for nearly an hour, though Madame Gran- doni, in spite of her leaning to friendly interpretations, could not have told herself what comfort it was to the depressed, embarrassed young man at her side. She had nothing to say to him which could better his case, as he VOL. He had behaved like a spoiled child, with a bad little nature, in a rage; he had been fatally wanting in dignity and wisdom, and had given the Princess an advantage which she took on the spot and would keep for ever.

He had acted without manly judgment, had put his uncles upon her as if she cared for his uncles! He had not been clever enough or strong enough to make good his valid rights, and had trans- ferred the whole quarrel to a ground where his wife was far too accomplished a woman not to obtain the appearance of victory.

There was another reflection that Madame Grandoni made, as her interview with her dejected friend prolonged itself. She could make it the more freely as, besides being naturally quick and appreciative, she had always, during her Roman career, in the dear old days mingled with bitter- ness as they had been for her , lived with artists, archaeo- logists, ingenious strangers, people who abounded in good talk, threw out ideas and played with them.

The old lady had said to him, on meeting him, ' Of course, what you want to know immediately is whether she has sent you a message. No, my poor friend, I must tell you the truth.

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I asked her for one, but she told me that she had nothing whatever, of any kind, to say to you. She knew I was coming out to see you. I haven't done so en cachette. She doesn't like it, but she accepts the neces- sity for this once, since you have made the mistake, as she considers it, of approaching her again.

We talked about you, last night, after your note came to me for five minutes ; that is, I talked, and Christina was good enough to listen. At the end she said this what I shall tell you , with perfect calmness, and the appearance of being the most reasonable woman in the world. She didn't ask me to repeat it to you, but I do so because it is the only sub- stitute I can offer you for a message.

There are things in the world more interesting, after all, and I hope to succeed in giving my attention to them. It appears to me not too much to ask that the Prince, on his side, should make the same conscientious effort and leave me alone! It had seemed to her that they might form a wholesome admonition, but it was now im- pressed upon her that, as coming from his wife, they were cruel, and she herself felt almost cruel for having repeated them. What they amounted to was an exquisite taunt of his mediocrity a mediocrity which was, after all, not a crime. How could the Prince occupy himself, what inte- rests could he create, and what faculties, gracious heaven, did he possess?

He was as ignorant as a fish, and as narrow as his hat-band. His expression became pitiful ; it was as if he dimly measured the insult, felt it more than saw it felt that he could not plead incapacity without putting the Princess largely in the right. He gazed at Madame Grandoni, his face worked, and for a moment she thought he was going to burst into tears. But he said nothing perhaps because he was afraid of that so that suffering silence, during which she gently laid her hand upon his own, remained his only answer.

He might doubtless do so much he didn't, that when Christina touched upon this she was unanswerable. The old lady changed the subject : told him what a curious country England was, in so many ways ; offered information as to their possible movements during the summer and autumn, which, within a day or two, had become slightly clearer. But at last, abruptly, as if he had not heard her, he inquired, appealingly, who the young man was who had come in the day he called, just as he was going.

Do you mean her lover? Where were his books, his bindings? I shouldn't say this to her,' the Prince added, as if the declaration justi- fied him. The young man you saw is a study.

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Would it be your idea that she is quite crazy? I must tell you I don't care if she is! No, she must try everything ; at present she is trying democracy and socialism. But they do, it won't matter, because here everything is for- given. That a person should be singular is all they want.

A bookbinder will do as well as anything else. The people of that kind, here, are not like our dear Romans.

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Every one has a sponge, as big as your head; you can see them in the shops. Never forget that this was how you spoiled your affairs most of all by treating a person and such a person! Christina has many faults, but she hasn't that one ; that's why I can live with her. She will speak the truth always. But he did not admit his error, and she doubted whether he even perceived it. At any rate he remarked rather grandly, like a man who has still a good deal to say for himself, ' There are things it is better to conceal.

Christina never is. Oh, I admit that she is very strange, and when the entertainment of watching her, to see how she will carry out some of her inspirations, is not stronger than any- thing else, I lose all patience with her. When she doesn't fascinate she can only exasperate. But, as regards your- self, since you are here, and as I may not see you again for a long time, or perhaps ever at my age I'm a hundred and twenty i I may as well give you the key of certain parts of your wife's conduct. At the bottom, then, of much that she does is the fact that she is ashamed of having married you.

But you know or, if not, it isn't for want of her having told you that the Princess considers that in the darkest hour of her life she sold herself for a title and a fortune. She regards her doing so as such a horrible piece of frivolity that she can never, for the rest of her days, be serious enough to make up for it. And does she think she's so serious now? Dio mio, Dio mio! He seemed so exhausted by his reflections that he remained sitting in his chair after his companion, lifting her crumpled corpulence out of her own, had proposed that they should walk about a little.

She had no ill-nature, but she had already noticed that whenever she was with Christina's husband the current of conversation made her, as she phrased it, bump against him.

After administering these small shocks she always steered away, and now, the Prince having at last got up and offered her his arm, she tried again to talk with him of things he could consider without bitterness. About him there is a great deal said. They had stopped near the gate, on the edge of Park Lane, and a couple of predatory hansoms dashed at them from opposite quarters. He doesn't even think he does.

When people give her a chance to get tired of them she takes it rather easily. At any rate, you needn't be any more jealous of him than you are of me. He has, however, no hope. XIX THE pink dressing-gown which Finnic had engaged to make for Rose Muniment became, in Lomax Place, a conspicuous object, supplying poor Amanda with a constant theme for reference to one of the great occasions of her life her visit to Belgrave Square with Lady Aurora, after their meeting at Rosy's bedside.

She described this episode vividly to her companion, repeating a thousand times that her lady- ship's affability was beyond anything she could have expected. The grandeur of the house in Belgrave Square figured in her recital as something oppressive and fabulous, tempered though it had been by shrouds of brown holland and the nudity of staircases and saloons of which the trappings had been put away.

If she had not been afraid to appear to notice the disrepair of these objects, she would have been so happy to offer to do any little mending. If she wanted pink, she should have pink ; but to Finnic there was something almost unholy in it, like decking out a corpse, or the next thing to it.

This was the other element that left Miss Pynsent cold ; it could not be other than difficult for her to enter into the importance her ladyship appeared to attach to those pushing people.

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The girl was unfortunate, certainly, stuck up there like a kitten on a shelf, but in her ladyship's place she would have found some topic more in keeping, while they walked about under those tremendous gilded ceilings. Lady Aurora, seeing how she was struck, showed her all over the house, carrying the lamp herself and telling an old woman who was there a kind of house- keeper, with ribbons in her cap, who would have pushed Pinnie out if you could push with your eyes that they would do very well without her.

If the pink dressing-gown, in its successive stages of development, filled up the little brown parlour it was terribly long on the stocks , making such a pervasive rose-coloured presence as had not been seen there for many a day, this was evidently because it was associated with Lady Aurora, not because it was dedicated to her humble friend. One day, when Hyacinth came home from his work, Pinnie announced to him as soon as he entered the room that her ladyship had been there to look at it to pass judgment before the last touches were conferred.

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Whatever could poor Miss Muniment want of pockets, and what had she to put in them? But Lady Aurora had evidently found the garment far beyond anything she expected, and she had been more affable than ever, and had wanted to know about every one in the Place ; not in a meddling, prying way, either, like some of those upper-class visitors, but quite as if the poor people were the high' ones and she was afraid her curiosity might be ' presumptious. His eyes seemed to say, ' How can I believe you, and yet how can I prove you are lying? I am very helpless, for I can't prove that without applying to the person to whom your incorrigible folly has probably led you to brag, to throw out mysterious and tantalising hints.

You know, of course, that I would never condescend to that. They were taking him up then, one after the other, and they were even taking up poor Pinnie, as a means of getting at him so that he wondered, with humorous bitterness, whether it meant that his destiny was really seeking him out that the aristocracy, recognising a mysterious affinity with that fineness of flair for which they were remarkable , were coming to him to save him the trouble of coming to them.

It was late in the day the beginning of an October evening , and Lady Aurora was at home.