Thursday, 12 May 2016

Read Me/Write Me by Mallock and Richardson


Last night I read a bit of Mallock’s A Human Document: A Novel and I find that Richardson’s reference to it has depth as a primer on ‘How to read me’. The preamble is that a novelist has been given a packet of papers purporting to be the imaginary continuation of a current memoir by a Marie Bashkirtcheff. This packet, like a large scrapbook, came from Countess D. and it contains fragments of an ill-written novel that breaks down into convincing memoir, poetry, letters; fragments, as Yeats wrote, out of which we create a superhuman, mirror resembling dream. The novelist if he accepts this task must draw together all this flotsam and ullage into the shape of a novel that must not be recognisable as true to the life of its protagonist. He, Mallock imaginaire, is intrigued when told that a portrait that he has admired in the boudoir of a Hungarian castle is that of the lady who has assembled these papers which contain the truth of her life which is unsuspected by anyone around her.

How very Jamesian. Did he ever meet him at a country house party? No but he met the brother at Cambridge, Mass.

When the delivery of my addresses at Columbia University was completed I went from New York to Cambridge and remained there for ten days. Harvard in many ways reminded me of our own Cambridge. The professors, among whom I made many charming acquaintances, had not only the accent, but also the intonation of Englishmen. They had with them more, too, of the ways of the outer world than is commonly found in the university dons of England. Notable among these was Prof. William James, with whom I was already familiar through his singularly interesting book, Varieties of Religious Experience—to me very much more interesting than his brother's later novels.
(from Memoirs of Life and Letters)





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