Third Sentence Thursday 2014-01-02: Washington Square

In a country in which, to play a social part, you must either earn your income or make believe that you earn it, the healing art has appeared in a high degree to combine two recognised sources of credit.

Washington Square, Henry James (1880), p. 1.

Washington Square is the first book on my 2014 Mount TBR Challenge list. Originally published as a magazine serial, it struck my fancy for two reasons. First, I love the way James uses language. Like many 19th c. authors, his words demand to be read out loud; they taste good. Second, the setting for the story is a brownstone on Washington Square North in New York’s Greenwich Village, within spitting distance of my brother-in-law’s NYU faculty apartment.

Washington Square North

Henry James looks at family life and relationships with a peculiarly intense lens. The rigidly domineering father, the clueless wimp of a daughter, and the interfering relatives and friends would be irritating in real life, but are fascinating character studies when clothed in James’ elegant prose.

The “sources of credit” that the author ascribes to the healing art?

  1. “It belongs to the realm of the practical”
    The doctor may be a scholarly sort, but his remedies are quite specific and generally useful.
  2. “[I]t is touched by the light of science”
    Science was a big deal in America in 1880. The year’s newsmakers included Thomas Edison and Pierre Curie, and the journal Science was first published that February.

About Kat

Cat lover, singer, early music addict, reads a lot. Former R&D chemist with an obsessive need for variety. Now active as a freelance technical writer and editor, web designer, photographer, computer coach, and trainer. Owner, MasterWork Consulting (
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