The American

The American

By

5
(1 Review)
The American by Henry James

Published:

1877

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The American

By

5
(1 Review)

Book Excerpt

daub on the easel.

"Ask him, then, if he would not like to learn French."

"To learn French?"

"To take lessons."

"To take lessons, my daughter? From thee?"

"From you!"

"From me, my child? How should I give lessons?"

"Pas de raisons! Ask him immediately!" said Mademoiselle Noemie, with soft brevity.

M. Nioche stood aghast, but under his daughter's eye he collected his wits, and, doing his best to assume an agreeable smile, he executed her commands. "Would it please you to receive instruction in our beautiful language?" he inquired, with an appealing quaver.

"To study French?" asked Newman, staring.

M. Nioche pressed his finger-tips together and slowly raised his shoulders. "A little conversation!"

"Conversation--that's it!" murmured Mademoiselle Noemie, who had caught the word. "The conversation of the best society."

"Our French conversation is famous, you know," M. Nioche ventured to continue. "It's a great talent."

"But

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When Americans go to Europe, anything can happen. I know because I'm an American and I've been living in Europe for years now.

But if I didn't know, I could learn from Henry James' "The American."

A rich American heads to France and finds a countess he wants to marry. We see the French being French (including but not limited to drinking champagne and enjoying bons mots), and the American being American (including throwing his money around, making people uncomfortable by being blunt, etc.).

The characters are generally speaking -- with perhaps one example -- interesting and well-constructed, and James was obviously a good observer of colonials on the continent. I liked it a lot, even though I wanted it to end differently.