Washington Square (Oxford World's Classics)
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One of the most instantly appealing of James's early masterpieces, Washington Square is a tale of a trapped daughter and domineering father, a quiet tragedy of money and love and innocence betrayed. Catherine Sloper, heiress to a fortune, attracts the attention of a good-looking but penniless young man, Morris Townsend, but her father is convinced that his motives are merely mercenary. He will not consent to the marriage, regardless of the cost to his daughter. Out of this classic confrontation Henry James fashioned one of his most deftly searching shorter fictions, a tale of great depth of meaning and understanding. First published in 1880 but set some forty years earlier in a pre-Civil War New York, the novel reflects ironically on the restricted world in which its heroine is marooned. In his excellent introduction Adrian Poole reflects on the book's gestation and influences, the significance of place, and the insight with which the four principal players are drawn. The book also includes an up-to-date bibliography, illuminating notes, and a discussion of stage and film adaptations of the story.
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more information than he was ready, as he mentally phrased it, to swallow. Doctor Sloper had traveled but little, and he took the liberty of not believing everything that his talkative guest narrated. He prided himself on being something of a physiognomist; and while the young man, chatting with easy assurance, puffed his cigar and filled his glass again, the doctor sat with his eyes quietly fixed on his bright, expressive face. “He has the assurance of the devil himself!” said Morris’s host. “I
I have a sister, a widow, from whom I have been separated for a long time, and to whom I am almost everything. I shouldn’t like to say to her that I must leave her. She rather depends upon me, you see.” “Ah, that’s very proper; family feeling is very proper,” said Doctor Sloper. “I often think there is not enough of it in our city. I think I have heard of your sister.” “It is possible, but I rather doubt it; she lives so very quietly.” “As quietly, you mean,” the doctor went on, with a short
attitude at this sentimental crisis seemed to him unnaturally passive. She had not spoken to him again after that scene in the library, the day before his interview with Morris; and a week had elapsed without making any change in her manner. There was nothing in it that appealed for pity, and he was even a little disappointed at her not giving him an opportunity to make up for his harshness by some manifestation of liberality which should operate as a compensation. He thought a little of offering
of the library, where she waited a moment, motionless. Then she knocked, and then she waited again. Her father had answered her, but she had not the courage to turn the latch. What she had said to her aunt was true enough—she was afraid of him; and in saying that she had no sense of weakness, she meant that she was not afraid of herself. She heard him move within, and he came and opened the door for her. “What is the matter?” asked the doctor. “You are standing there like a ghost!” She went
expressed this belief, and Morris received the assurance as if he thought it natural; but he interrogated at first—as was natural too—rather than committed himself to marking out a course. “You should not have made me wait so long,” he said. “I don’t know how I have been living; every hour seemed like years. You should have decided sooner.” “Decided?” Catherine asked. “Decided whether you would keep me or give me up.” “Oh, Morris,” she cried, with a long, tender murmur, “I never thought of