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The Sacred Fount by Henry James - Free at Loyal Books
Poor White Sherwood Anderson. Fifty Stories Kay Boyle. Nothing to Pay Caradoc Evans. Death of a Man Kay Boyle. Back cover copy One of Henry James's most mesmerizing and unusual novels, The Sacred Fount has for its scene a weekend party at the great English country house Newmarch.
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Here James leads the reader down a bizarre garden path. The Sacred Fount--his only novel to employ a first-person narrator--places us in the hands of an obsessive novelist never named and never described, but perhaps familiar , who detects alarming changes in his acquaintances. Rating details. Book ratings by Goodreads. Goodreads is the world's largest site for readers with over 50 million reviews.
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We're featuring millions of their reader ratings on our book pages to help you find your new favourite book. Close X. Learn about new offers and get more deals by joining our newsletter. Sign up now. The Narrator spends the next three hundred pages trying to uncover the identity of this women. It is easy enough to spot here the notion of vampyrism which has influenced a lot of critical comment on the novel — the older person feeding off the life forces of someone younger, or the same thing in intellectual terms.
The main problem with this as the plot for the novel is the reader is at no point presented with any impartial evidence or dramatised interchanges between the characters on which to form an independent judgement about such matters. If fact one of the major weaknesses associated with the novel is the lack of characterisation. There is no way a reader can form a picture or make any distinction between Grace Brissenden or May Server.
Not only are the characters not developed as fictional constructs, but everything in the narrative is mediated by the un-named, first-person Narrator. He tells us about the appearance and the interchanges between the other characters — so at a very simple, technical level, we only have his opinion or his interpretation of events. The other characters do not see or do not agree with his observations. But then he draws his analytic conclusions from this evidence that he has constructed himself.
When the Narrator challenges and quizzes people about his suppositions, they give their own account or opinions of events — which turn out to be the exact opposite of what he suspects. The Narrator puts all his arguments in the form of elaborate metaphors, obscure allusions, and extravagant figures of speech. His interlocutors repeatedly ask him what he is talking about, and Mrs Brissenden finally tells him she thinks him crazy. He even tells lies — for instance, claiming to Mrs Brissenden that he has not discussed with other people the issues of the secret liaisons he suspects — when in fact he has discussed them with just about everyone else he meets.
The detective, indeed, is the reader. The Sacred Fount — Kindle edition. The Sacred Fount — audiobook at Librivox. Henry James — biographical notes. Henry James at Wikipedia — biographical notes, links. Chapter 1. The Narrator travels by train to a country weekend party at Newmarch with Gilbert Long, and Mrs Grace Brissenden, commenting on the changes in their appearance. Mrs Brissenden thinks that the changes to Gilbert Long are the result of his relationship with Lady Jane.
Chapter 2. However, when he discusses these changes with Gilbert Long, his friend does not see them at all. The Narrator theorises that the older person in a couple can become younger — but only at the expense of the younger partner becoming older. Chapter 3. The Narrator discusses his theory with Mrs Brissenden and the case of Gilbert Long and Lady John, where he thinks there he thinks there has been a transfer of intelligence, making him the cleverest guest but one [the cleverest by implication being the Narrator himself].
They make further observations which prove fruitless, and the Narrator entertains the notion that his suppositions might be in bad taste. Chapter 4. The Narrator and May Server discuss a painting of a man holding a mask, guessing of whom it reminds them. Chapter 5. They disagree, and still have no evidence for their claims and no known lover. They go out into the garden and find Mrs Server with Guy Brissenden.
The Sacred Fount.
His wife claims that he is being used as a red herring by Mrs Server to deflect attention from her real lover. Chapter 6. The Narrator reflects that whilst Mrs Server keeps appearing with different men, he himself is not one of them. He wonders briefly if he might be in love with her, and if the rest of the company are wondering about her as he is.
Next he comes across Lady John and Guy Brissingham in a remote part of the gardens. CS Lewis. Herman Melville.