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In pursuing this exploration, richly illustrated in the prefaces to the New York edition (1907–9) of his novels, Henry James provides an experiential description of what, from the late nineteenth century and until Einstein’s momentous discoveries, was 18 A Natural History of Pragmatism coming to be disclosed concerning the relation between time and perception. In these retrospective analyses of the various motives prompting the development of the elements forming the main corpus of his work, James exemplified, albeit without naming his examination as such, the effect of taking into account, in the description of experience, the dimension of time in the complex architecture of being.

Lambert Strether, the protagonist of The Ambassadors, is a character stretched while tethered by the crossing experiences of Old World and New. Introduction: frontier instances 19 The novel had remained untitled until James sent the finished manuscript to his agent in July 1901. 58 While there are obvious thematic connections between different aspects of the painting and the novel, as noted by Adeline Tintner – the role of Strether as ambassador, the importance of what French culture represents, the significance of the memento mori device – these are surface details, facets of the poetry of James’s subject, the face of the novel viewed head-on, so to speak.

This structure for all of them replaced or was identical with the idea of God, and preserved, as well, in realigning the axis of perception, the function, in secular dress, of justification, now preparing them and those instructed by them for the reception of grace understood as fact informed by feeling. ”42 The attitude prompted by the stage directions in Hawthorne’s and Melville’s sentences indeed sentences us, even now, to feel, in spite of our secular moment, the fear incited by America’s outworn religious dispensation.

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