24 June 2001 | gloss
Jarvis and James and Ms. Houston's varying accent
I agree with Timer, and, frankly am tickled that someone else noticed the resemblance of the antique dealer Jarvis to Henry James himself. I have seen too many of James Ivory's films to feel that this was accidental. But I didn't really see the resemblance until Jarvis came to deliver the bowl. (His shop was rather dark, and he may not have been wearing his cut-away coat at work.) I also thought it interesting how at least twice Jarvis put his hands out to catch the bowl should someone drop it, thus calling our attention to its fragility. (This was crystal, not glass, and who knows whether it will break when dropped?)
The movie was over-long, of course. But it was a feast! There were many scenes that could have been edited down or eliminated, but the luxury of seeing the extra footage was wonderful. It reminded me of another favorite, wonderful(and long) movie, Mike Leigh's *Topsy-Turvey* (about the partnership of Gilbert and Sullivan).
And interestingly, there's the same continuity/accent problem in both. In *The Golden Bowl* Angelica Houston plays some scenes with a distinct American Southern accent and some without. In *Topsy Turvy*, Sullivan's lover is quite British in one scene, chatting on about young Winston, yet at a piano recital she speaks in an American Southern accent. Wouldn't you think someone would have noticed in both instances and just re-looped the audio?
Finally, the only reason I knew that Jarvis resembled Henry James is a book that my wife and I wrote for Harcourt. It's called *About the Author* and contains "juicy-bits profiles" of 125 favorite (living, dead, male, female, etc.) novelists. To put it another way, we assume that the reader has access to most of the boilerplate info on each author (Web searches, encyclopedia articles, textbooks, etc.). So we focus on the stuff you won't find in most of those sources.
As part of our research, we learned that James's novels were often inspired by conversations and stories he heard at the many dinner parties he attended in London. (Between 1878 and 1879, he dined out 140 times.) Shades of Truman Capote?
Although born in New York City in 1843, he became a British citizen in 1915. Henry James also attended Harvard Law School between 1862 and 1863. His father was a friend of Thoreau, Emerson, and Hawthorne. He himself, at age 26, arrived in London and soon met Darwin, George Eliot, Ruskin, Rossetti, William Morris, and others.
He felt that criticism was intellectually superior to creative writing and considered himself primarily a critic. At the time of his death in 1916 at age 72, his novels were all but unread. Only after the observance of his 100th birthday in 1943, when World War II had focused America's attention on Europe, did critics realize that he was one of the greatest novelists of the 19th century.