James, Henry. "The Story of It".
Maud Blessingbourne spends a stormy May day reading a modern French book. Her company is Mrs Dyott, a middle-aged lady, who unlike the younger woman never reads. Maud believes that Mrs Dyott does not need to read stories about other people because she lives the story of her own life. Colonel Vyot, a middle-aged man of un-English appearance, comes for a visit.
Colonel shows disgust with the book that Maud is reading. Maud keeps up with several authors, mostly French, and complains that she would like to have more life for her money. Colonel makes a correct guess that Maud writes and publishes her writing and that she is looking for something specific in the novels that she reads. The French sense of life, according to Colonel, is doing how one feels. In contrast to French books, English books lack portrayals of intimate relationship of a man and a woman. Maud dislikes being presented always with the same couple in all the books, she wants some more life in art. Colonel claims that passion is always the same, not only in literature but also in life, and if Maud seeks for another, she will not find it. Maud reveals that she is looking for a decent woman, she thinks that passion is not contrary to decent behaviour. Colonel does not agree and claims that a honest woman cannot have any adventures in her life. Mrs Dyott enters the discussion and suggests that Maud's subject is to show a woman that simply is. In further discussion, the three try to define the terms they use: adventure, novel, relation, etc. Finally Mrs Dyott observes that they have spoilt Maud's subject and illusions. Maud denies having any illusions. Colonel thinks that it is better to spoil the artist's subject than the artist's reputation and happiness. The discussion ends.
Maud disagrees with Colonel, nevertheless she finds him charming. After some time, Maud confesses to Mrs Dyott that she has a passion which she should not have. The passion is not shared because she does not want to give up her decency, so the romance exists but in her heart. It is revealed that Mrs Dyott and Colonel, though the latter is married, are intimate friends. Both try to keep their romance a secret. For Maud, even when a woman escapes the actual adventure, she is already afflicted by the innocent relation. This seems to be her case. The platonic romance of her heart is contrasted with the physical romance of Mrs Dyott and Colonel.
Mrs Dyott mentions to Colonel that Maud believes herself to be in love with him. Colonel insists on his theory that the heart romance is no "story", neither for artist, nor for life. Only a "duffer" could see a story in it.
- a short story based on dialogue which reveals the nature of individual characters, there is no action and hardly any plot
- symbolic names: by calling his young woman writer Blessingbourne, the author suggests that his sympathies lie with her, rather than with the other two characters; the similarity of Mrs Dyott and Colonel Vyot's names may suggest the similarity of their character
- artistic problem: finding an original subject; finding an ideal romance which would not be vulgar, but which would not lack high passion
- conclusion: Maud finds the decent yet passionate woman whom she has been looking for not in books, but in her own very self in her "heart romance"
AuthorJames, Henry. (1843 - 1916).
Full Title"The Story of It".
James, Henry. "The Story of It". (1902). Collected Stories. London: Campbell, 1999.