This is the third novel I’ve read by Henry James and the first time I’ve read The Golden Bowl. It is a third-person narrative, realist novel, set in turn of the 19th Century, Western Europe, mostly England. It is the story of a bizarre love quadrangle between an Italian Prince, his American heiress bride Maggie, her widower father Adam Verver, and Charlotte Stant, a friend of Maggie’s, previous paramour of the prince, and now – by the arrangement of Maggie – bride of Maggie’s father.
She talked now as if it were indicated, at every turn, by finger-posts of almost ridiculous prominence, she talked again as if it lurked in devious ways and were to be tracked through bush and briar; and she even, on occasion, delivered herself in the sense that, as their situation was unprecedented, so their heaven was without stars. “Do?” she once had echoed to him as the upshot of passages covertly, though briefly, occurring between them on her return from the visit to America that had immediately succeeded her marriage, determined for her by this event as promptly as an excursion of the like strange order had been prescribed in his own case. “Isn’t the immense, the really quite matchless beauty of our position that we have to ‘do’ nothing in life at all? – nothing except the usual, necessary, everyday thing which consists in one’s not being more of a fool than one can help. That’s all – but that’s as true for one time as for another. There has been plenty of ‘doing,’ and there will doubtless be plenty still, but it’s all theirs, every inch of it; it’s all a matter of what they’ve done TO us.” And she showed how the question had therefore been only of their taking everything as everything came, and all as quietly as might be. Nothing strange surely had ever happened to a conscientious, a well-meaning, a perfectly passive pair: no more extraordinary decree had ever been launched against such victims than this of forcing them against their will into a relation of mutual close contact that they had done everything to avoid.
Remember HIM before the silver cord is broken and the golden bowl is crushed, the pitcher by the well is shattered and the wheel at the cistern is crushed; then the dust will return to the earth as it was and the spirit will return to God who gave it. "Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher, "all is vanity!"