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Washington Square (English Edition) [Format Kindle]

Henry James
4.2 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (4 commentaires client)

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Descriptions du produit


Chapter 1
During a portion of the first half of the present century, and more particularly during the latter part of it, there flourished and practiced in the city of New York a physician who enjoyed perhaps an exceptional share of the consideration which, in the United States, has always been bestowed upon distinguished members of the medical profession. This profession in America has constantly been held in honor, and more successfully than elsewhere has put forward a claim to the epithet of “liberal.” 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 recognized sources of credit. It belongs to the realm of the practical, which in the United States is a great recommendation; and it is touched by the light of science—a merit appreciated in a community in which the love of knowledge has not always been accompanied by leisure and opportunity.
It was an element in Doctor Sloper’s reputation that his learning and his skill were very evenly balanced; he was what you might call a scholarly doctor, and yet there was nothing abstract in his remedies—he always ordered you to take something. Though he was felt to be extremely thorough, he was not uncomfortably theoretic; and if he sometimes explained matters rather more minutely than might seem of use to the patient, he never went so far (like some practitioners one had heard of) as to trust to the explanation alone, but always left behind him an inscrutable prescription. There were some doctors that left the prescription without any explanation at all; and he did not belong to that class either, which was after all the most vulgar. It will be seen that I am describing a clever man; and this is really the reason why Doctor Sloper had become a local celebrity.
At the time at which we are chiefly concerned with him he was some fifty years of age, and his popularity was at its height. He was very witty, and he passed in the best society of New York for a man of the world—which, indeed, he was, in a very succinct degree. I hasten to add, to anticipate possible misconception, that he was not the least of a charlatan. He was a thoroughly honest man—honest in a degree of which he had perhaps lacked the opportunity to give the complete measure; and, putting aside the great good nature of the circle in which he practiced, which was rather fond of boasting that it possessed the “brightest” doctor in the country, he daily justified his claim to the talents attributed to him by the popular voice. He was an observer, even a philosopher, and to be bright was so natural to him, and (as the popular voice said) came so easily, that he never aimed at mere eVect, and had none of the little tricks and pretensions of ­second-­rate reputations. It must be confessed that fortune had favored him, and that he had found the path to prosperity very soft to his tread. He had married, at the age of ­twenty-­seven, for love, a very charming girl, Miss Catherine Harrington, of New York, who, in addition to her charms, had brought him a solid dowry. Mrs. Sloper was amiable, graceful, accomplished, elegant, and in 1820 she had been one of the pretty girls of the small but promising capital which clustered about the Battery and overlooked the Bay, and of which the uppermost boundary was indicated by the grassy waysides of Canal Street. Even at the age of ­twenty-­seven Austin Sloper had made his mark to mitigate the anomaly of his having been chosen among a dozen suitors by a young woman of high fashion, who had ten thousand dollars of income and the most charming eyes in the island of Manhattan. These eyes, and some of their accompaniments, were for about five years a source of extreme satisfaction to the young physician, who was both a devoted and a very happy husband.
The fact of his having married a rich woman made no diVerence in the line he had traced for himself, and he cultivated his profession with as definite a purpose as if he still had no other resources than his fraction of the modest patrimony which, on his father’s death, he had shared with his brothers and sisters. This purpose had not been preponderantly to make money—it had been rather to learn something and to do something. To learn something interesting, and to do something useful—this was, roughly speaking, the program he had sketched, and of which the accident of his wife having an income appeared to him in no degree to modify the validity. He was fond of his practice, and of exercising a skill of which he was agreeably conscious, and it was so patent a truth that if he were not a doctor there was nothing else he could be, that a doctor he persisted in being, in the best possible conditions. Of course his easy domestic situation saved him a good deal of drudgery, and his wife’s aYliation to the “best people” brought him a good many of those patients whose symptoms are, if not more interesting in themselves than those of the lower orders, at least more consistently displayed. He desired experience, and in the course of twenty years he got a great deal. It must be added that it came to him in some forms which, whatever might have been their intrinsic value, made it the reverse of welcome. His first child, a little boy of extraordinary promise, as the doctor, who was not addicted to easy enthusiasm, firmly believed, died at three years of age, in spite of everything that the mother’s tenderness and the father’s science could invent to save him. Two years later Mrs. Sloper gave birth to a second infant—an infant of a sex which rendered the poor child, to the doctor’s sense, an inadequate substitute for his lamented firstborn, of which he had promised himself to make an admirable man. The little girl was a disappointment; but this was not the worst. A week after her birth the young mother, who, as the phrase is, had been doing well, suddenly betrayed alarming symptoms, and before another week had elapsed Austin Sloper was a widower.
For a man whose trade was to keep people alive he had certainly done poorly in his own family; and a bright doctor who within three years loses his wife and his little boy should perhaps be prepared to see either his skill or his aVection impugned. Our friend, however, escaped criticism; that is, he escaped all criticism but his own, which was much the most competent and most formidable. He walked under the weight of this very private censure for the rest of his days, and bore forever the scars of a castigation to which the strongest hand he knew had treated him on the night that followed his wife’s death. The world, which, as I have said, appreciated him, pitied him too much to be ironical; his misfortune made him more interesting, and even helped him to be the fashion. It was observed that even medical families cannot escape the more insidious forms of disease, and that, after all, Doctor Sloper had lost other patients besides the two I have mentioned; which constituted an honorable precedent. His little girl remained to him; and though she was not what he had desired, he proposed to himself to make the best of her. He had on hand a stock of unexpended authority, by which the child, in its early years, profited largely. She had been named, as a matter of course, after her poor mother, and even in her most diminutive babyhood the doctor never called her anything but Catherine. She grew up a very robust and healthy child, and her father, as he looked at her, often said to himself that, such as she was, he at least need have no fear of losing her. I say “such as she was,” because, to tell the truth— But this is a truth of which I will defer the telling.
Chapter 2
When the child was about ten years old, he invited his sister, Mrs. Penniman, to come and stay with him. The Miss Slopers had been but two in number, and both of them had married early in life. The younger, Mrs. Almond by name, was the wife of a prosperous merchant and the mother of a blooming family. She bloomed herself, indeed, and was a comely, comfortable, reasonable woman, and a favorite with her clever brother, who, in the matter of women, even when they were nearly related to him, was a man of distinct preferences. He preferred Mrs. Almond to his sister Lavinia, who had married a poor clergyman, of a sickly constitution and a flowery style of eloquence, and then, at the age of ­thirty-­three, had been left a widow—without children, without fortune—with nothing but the memory of Mr. Penniman’s flowers of speech, a certain vague aroma of which hovered about her own conversation. Nevertheless, he had oVered her a home under his own roof, which Lavinia accepted with the alacrity of a woman who had spent the ten years of her married life in the town of Poughkeepsie. The doctor had not proposed to Mrs. Penniman to come and live with him indefinitely; he had suggested that she should make an asylum of his house while she looked about for unfurnished lodgings. It is uncertain whether Mrs. Penniman ever instituted a search for unfurnished lodgings, but it is beyond dispute that she never found them. She settled herself with her brother and never went away, and, when Catherine was twenty years old, her Aunt Lavinia was still one of the most striking features of her immediate entourage. Mrs. Penniman’s own account of the matter was that she had remained to take charge of her niece’s education. She had given this account, at least, to everyone but the doctor, who never asked for explanations which he could entertain himself any day with inventing. Mrs. Penniman, moreover, though she had a good deal of a certain sort of artificial assurance, shrunk, for indefinable reasons, from presenting herself to her brother as a fountain of instruction. She had not a high sense of humor, but she had enough to prevent her from making this mistake...

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“Henry James is as solitary in the history of the novel as Shakespeare is in the history of poetry.” —Graham Greene

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  • Langue : Anglais
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4.3 étoiles sur 5
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9 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Une vie 2 janvier 2011
Précision qui ne concerne que mon accès au texte, non le texte lui-même : Washington square (1880) est le premier roman de James que je lis en langue originale. La difficulté proverbiale de l'anglais de ce romancier est sans doute surtout liée à des oeuvres ultérieures. Washington square, où James évite soigneusement d'alourdir le récit avec le genre de descriptions qui font la joie de certains de ses confrères (et souvent aussi le désespoir du lecteur), n'offre en version originale, avec ses chapitres courts et sa sobriété constante, aucune difficulté insurmontable.

James s'est lancé un défi avec ce roman, le défi d'intéresser à une héroïne d'apparence irrémédiablement banale. En outre, il est toujours tentant de vouloir captiver en jouant sur la corde sensible et James s'est interdit cela aussi (et surtout). De ce point de vue, le père de l'héroïne, le docteur Sloper, joue un rôle capital, non seulement dans le récit, mais dans la définition de la tonalité du livre. Car, incarnation d'une alliance entre intellect et sens pratique, le docteur regarde les événements à bonne distance. Sûr de son jugement, il semble occupé à une expérience en laboratoire : soit une situation A, avec des personnages B, C et D, qu'adviendra-t-il si [...]. Sloper est devant la vie (la sienne et surtout celle des autres) comme un astronome qui veut prédire le prochain passage de la comète. Au fond, ce qu'on appelle les drames de l'existence, il en voit plutôt le côté distrayant.
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5.0 étoiles sur 5 Un James mineur mais épatant tout de même 1 juin 2013
Par jlya2
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
Ce n'est pas le plus grand chef-d'œuvre de Henry James – pas un roman de la profondeur de What Maisie Knew ou Portrait of a Lady, mais une histoire charmante (quoique pas très gaie, comme d'habitude avec cet grand explorateur un peu cynique). Et dans ce récit bref, d'une histoire assez simple (une riche héritière assez laide que courtise un coureur de dot et qui se heurte à son père), James donne libre cours à son ironie. «Don't undervalue irony, it is often of great use», dit le père : l'auteur, bien sûr, s'est appliqué à lui-même cette maxime. Un grand plaisir de lecture, soutenu par une édition correcte, bien relue (quasi aucune coquille, c'est remarquable dans cette série d'e-livres gratuits).
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0 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Fac 1 octobre 2014
Par minnie64
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
Livre imposé par le professeur de fac de ma fille. Donc ce n'est pas un choix personnel de lecture ...
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2 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Prenant 25 octobre 2010
Par mlorcy
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
Le livre est très court et se lit facilement. Un mot pour le résumer: prenant.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 étoiles sur 5  151 commentaires
71 internautes sur 75 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Most Accesible James Novel About Daughter, Father, & Suitor 27 décembre 2002
Par Amazon Customer - Publié sur Amazon.com
"Washington Square", published in 1880, is not, and will not be, regarded as Henry James's best novel -- the honor would go to "The Portrait of a Lady" or much later works like "The Wings of the Dove" -- but this short but richly woven book deserve our attention. The book is always readable and intriguing while it does not fail to deliver the amazingly realistic characters living in New York City of the 19th century. Certainly, this is the best place for any beginners of James to start.
The book starts with an introduction of a New York physician Dr. Sloper and his only daughter Catherine. While the doctor gained respectable position among the patients, he loses his wife suddenly after the birth of Catherine, who grows up to be a not particularly clever nor beautiful girl. Catherine, painfully shy, becomes a dutiful, but perhaps dull, daughter, the kind of a girl whose awkward behaviors her father approves always with a little detached attitude.
Then, comes a good-looking man Morris Townsend, who has no money but gives a word of "gentleman." But what does that mean when Doctor suspects this is just another fortune hunter, who is seeking for the money Catherine is to inherit after his death? Still, Doctor is half amused, even entertained, by this unexpected visitor who now seems to have gained the love of his daughter. But he didn't expect that Catherine would show surprising obstinate attitude in spite of his threat of disinheriting her.
The book is written, as a whole, with a very tragic note, but as you read on, you will find that, just like Jane Austen's narrator, "Washington Square" has an amusing aspect of comedy at first. The meddling widow Mrs. Penniman, whose wild imagination is one of her weakness, is a good example. She runs around between Morris and Catherine, only to annoy both of them. Henry James's touch when he treats these characters, however, sounds more incisive and even colder than Jane Austen's, if not totally cruel -- and the cruelty is gradually obvious as the plot unfolds.
Our main concern is about Catherine. The story is in itself trite and insignificant (James heard the original episode which the book is based on, in England from actress Fanny Kemble, and the brief note remains), but it is the growth (or change) of the apparently insipid heroine, and the interations between her and other characters (or between those other characters) that always impress us greatly. James's pen ruthlessly cuts into the hearts of those characters, and the intense, skillfully-constructed dialogue which show what is going on in the characters would instantly grip the readers' mind.
Some readers might champion more condensed prose of "The Golden Bowl", deeming "Washington Square" as too lightweight. In a sense, it is, I admit; the novel is not long, and the syntax is very easy to understand (for James, I mean). Still, the book is never dull, always fast-paced (for James, again), and the touching fate of the heroine Catherine is not a thing to be missed.
The novel is turned into films and they are also great, I must add. William Wyler's version is a masterpiece, with Olivia de Havilland/Montgomery Clift/Ralph Richardson trio, but more recent production made in 1997 is also good.
31 internautes sur 31 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Bartleby the Spinster 24 janvier 2006
Par Arch Llewellyn - Publié sur Amazon.com
Washington Square is a searing portrait of selfishness, cruelty and manipulation that brings a radically new psychological depth to the traditional 19th century novel of manners. In Dr. Sloper James created one of his most insidious characters; a clever, genial man of the world who would rather sees his principles confirmed than his daughter happy. Catherine, the plain victim of a suave fortune-seeking fiancé, has to rank with Melville's Bartleby as a model of passive resistance. As she awakens to her father's flaws, Catherine shows the plodding strength of innocence in the face of his high-handed manipulation. The self-absorbed spinster aunt Lavinia completes the picture, using her niece's courtship as a way to work out her own thwarted romantic desires. Everyone is using everyone for something else, in typical Jamesian fashion, but doing it with style--even in this early work, James had an uncanny feeling for the crude drives that veiled themselves behind good manners and the conventions of respectable society. A great read that has to rank as one of James's darkest and most insightful novels.
22 internautes sur 22 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 genial observations of 19th century society 24 mai 2006
Par Aleksandra Nita-Lazar - Publié sur Amazon.com
One of the shorter novels by Henry James and relatively simple, comparing to his other works, "Washington Square" is a story of hidden emotions, fear of breaking conventions, and hypocrisy resulting from those conventions.

Dr. Austin Sloper is a prosperous, respected Manhattan physician, a widower with one daughter, Catherine. He boasts a sharp mind and considers himself a good judge of character. Although Catherine is rather a plain and uninteresting girl, admittedly even by her family, she has prospect of coming into considerable wealth. Therefore, when she meets Morris Townsend, a handsome, but idle man, and falls in love, her father is on guard and after some research fiercely opposes the marriage, on the graounds that Townsend is a fortune hunter. Lavinia, Catherine's aunt, however, tries to "help" the couple... Catherine, in the center of attention and subjected to manipulations from people claiming to love her, would seem to be a miserable creature, but she has perhaps the most puzzling and complex personality of all the characters!

These four people are the core of the novel and their psychological portraits are subtle yet acute (nobody is a flat, archetypal figure), the hidden faults and qualities of the main and background characters make them very real and complex, the irony towards the society is very clear. There are many things the reader has to fathom from hints and allusions, not everything is explicitly said so to some extent the motives of the protagonists are open to interpretation.

Henry James is a master of psychological novel of his time, great observer and talented writer (comparable maybe to Jane Austen, he also wrote about subjects he well knew). Although "Washington Square" is not considered one of his best novels, it is nevertheless a masterpiece. Many of the sentences are so full of sarcasm, witty or so extremely right, that even nowadays they could be uttered without change - I consider James a writer, whose work never ages, which is a kind of paradox, considering how firmly they are placed in his time. In addition, it is delightful to read about New York City and imagine times, when Washington Square was uptown...
13 internautes sur 13 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Early James At His Best 18 décembre 2006
Par Stanley H. Nemeth - Publié sur Amazon.com
Though James rejected this tale for inclusion in the New York Edition of his works, presumably because it was too simple and straightforward, many readers have not shared his judgment, insisting instead the work has great merit.
Its theme is an intriguing one that raises the following question: Is it better to be clever or good? Even here, for James, the answer is not all that simple, his conclusion being it's probably best to be some subtle combination of both.
Dr. Sloper and Morris Townsend, the central male figures, are clever men, but each is deficient in his own way. The caustically witty Doctor wants to be just, but his pride in being right about Morris as a fortune hunter ultimately overrides his fatherly concerns. For this reason, he becomes a sort of Hawthorne-like villain, a scientific, detached, almost gleeful observer of his own daughter's plight, rather than a suitably caring parent. He suffers, finally, not from an excess of cleverness, but from a defect of generous felt emotion. Morris, too, is a definitely clever character, but at the same time he's the spoiled creation of enabling women, a boy-man who's more a self-interested player at life than a vital participant in it, an early version of the fatherless "It's all about me" youth of later modern fiction.
The heroine Catherine is a sorely beset young woman, pulled this way and that, now by her right-at-all-costs father, then by her fortune hunting suitor. She is a good, dutiful daughter throughout, though the novel details her growth in intelligent personhood. She finally gains the independence needed to tell her manipulative father where his parental rights end and her own moral self begins. Similarly, once her education in life is complete, she is able to avoid a final romantic capitulation, telling the shameless Morris in the novel's last scene what her mature self now requires he hear from her. Naturally, he's too self-involved to accurately understand her real character.
This short novel, finally, is rich in witty literary parody. It's closing chapters read like an inverted "Odyssey," with the patiently waiting Catherine weaving embroidery in Penelope-like fashion, until the surprise return of the long wandering Morris. All in all, despite the masterly author's doubts, this is a work of considerable distinction.
8 internautes sur 8 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Musical prose! 10 décembre 2001
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
I picked this out of a box of my university books while cleaning out the basement, thinking I would try a page or two before tossing it. An hour later, I climbed the stairs, admitting I was going to read the whole thing and enjoy it. I think the other reviewers have done a marvelous job of plot detail as well as literary merits in terms of character stude, period piece, etc, so I will add just the one thing I haven't read in the few reviews I have read:
Henry James is a wordsmith. He enjoys words, relishes them, and composes with them in such a way as to share his love of language with the reader.
THIS is what made this book a joy to me. Many times I found myself rereading sentences and then reading them aloud, just pleased with the way they were worded. "She had given this account, at least, to everyone but the Doctor, who never asked for explanations which he could entertain himself any day with inventing," writes James in Chapter II of Mrs. Penniman, and I had to read that one three or four times before I stopped smiling.
Read it while awake, read it while alert, read it when you have time and quiet to enjoy the pure music of James' prose, for at least to me, that is the beauty of Washington Square.
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