Henry James died a hundred years ago tomorrow.
Perhaps I should commemorate the occasion by re-reading What Maisie Knew for what would be I think the fourth time. You never know, perhaps this time I'll be able to work out just what on earth the irritating child did know.
But I doubt it.
I generally feel when I'm reading Henry James that I'm in a very dim room being shown an exquisitely carved box that, after three hours of careful inspection, will turn out to bear the legend THIS IS A BOX.
In James' book Washington Square the lights seemed to be rather brighter, so on the whole I'd recommend that one.
Having thus proved my utter unfitness to write about Henry James, I'll leave you with a sentence from The Portrait of a Lady, which for me sums up everything that's annoying about James's undoubtedly carefully constructed work.
'Under certain circumstances there are few hours more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.'
It's like watching someone making a cream jug out of matchsticks, isn't it.
Still, there's one cheering thing about the poor man: he did look just like Uncle Fester:
Jackie Coogan as Uncle Fester in The Addams Family
Word To Use Today: Maisie. Maisie is a short form of the Mairead, which is a short form of Margaret. Margaret comes, pleasingly, from the Latin Margarita from the Greek margarites which means pearl, and before that it was probably borrowed from the Sanskrit manyari.