This short extract from Henry James' autobiography was chosen by blogger Marcus
Speh as an example of the kind of texts he reads in his bath for pleasure. A James lover par excellence, he admires
the book on account of its "irrelevant but gratifying detail, detail that we might need and some juncture or we might not,"
but the kind of detail that should and could be enjoyed for its own sake.
I applaud Speh for his enthusiasm in wanting to read a short part of the novel out loud; but
there is more to a Jamesian sentence than meets the eye. It requires careful analysis, with due attention paid not only
to stress but also tone; just to speak each subordinate clause in a sing-song voice, rising at the beginning and
falling at the end, becomes rather wearing in the end. Sometimes readers need to reflect on what they are reading, and
how each word is very carefully placed within a sentence for sonic as well as thematic effect. James is perhaps one
of the most precise of modern writers.
Nonetheless I applaud Speh for adding his contribution to the ever-growing corpus of Jamesian
material available on sound.