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Henry James | A truce to all subjects that are not superior! the particular thing I want to do now is not the ironic. I want to do something fine — a strong, large, important human episode

August 30th, 1893. The desire to escape from the cramp of the too intensely short possesses me; crowds back upon me and pulls me up — making me ask myself whether I am not creating myself needless difficulties. God knows how dear is brevity and how sacred today is concision. But it's a question of degree, and of the quantity of importance that one can give. That importance is everything now. To try and squeeze it into a fixed and beggarly number of words is a pool and a vain undertaking — a waste of time. There are excellent examples of the short novel — and one that has always struck me as a supremely happy instance is poor Maupassant's admirable Pierre et Jean. Octave Feuillet is also, with all his flimsiness, singularly wise as to length. I want to do something that I can do in three months —  something of the dimensions of Pierre et Jean. I should be glad also to make my story resemble it in other ways. The great question of subject surges in grey dimness about me. It is everything — it is everything. I have 2 or 3 things in mind, but they happen to be purely ironic. They will serve for some other time: the particular thing I want to do now is not the ironic. I want to do something fine — a strong, large, important human episode, something that brings into play character and sincerity and passion; something that marches like a drama. A truce to all subjects that are not superior! I have two things in mind, and the best thing is for me to thresh them out a little here. It all comes back to the old, old lesson— that of the art of reflection. When I practice it the whole field is lighted up — I feel again the multitudinous presence of all human situations and pictures, the surge and pressure of life. All passions, all combinations, are there. And oh, the luxury, the value of having time to read! As to this, however, the long ache is too deep for speech — sad, hungry silence covers it. x x x x  x

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