Thursday, 27 January 2011

The Sense of England

A passage from Henry James' 1890 novel The Tragic Muse. The protagonist is thinking about his ancestral estate; I do like the phrase "the respectable centuries":

'There was another admonition almost equally sure to descend upon his spirit during a stroll in a summer hour about the grand abbey; to sink into it as the light lingered on the rough red walls and the local accent of the children sounded soft in the churchyard. It was simply the sense of England—a sort of apprehended revelation of his country. The dim annals of the place appeared to be in the air (foundations baffingly early, a great monastic life, wars of the Roses, with battles and blood in the streets, and then the long quietude of the respectable centuries, all cornfields and magistrates and vicars) and these things were connected with an emotion that arose from the green country, the rich land so infinitely lived in, and laid on him a hand that was too ghostly to press and yet somehow too urgent to be light. It produced a throb that he could not have spoken of, it was so deep, and that was half imagination and half responsibility.'

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