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Washington Square

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  20,854 ratings  ·  1,730 reviews
The plot of Washington Square has the simplicity of old-fashioned melodrama: a plain-looking, good-hearted young woman, the only child of a rich widower, is pursued by a charming but unscrupulous man who seeks the wealth she will presumably inherit. On this premise, Henry James constructed one of his most memorable novels, a story in which love is answered with betrayal an ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published April 6th 2004 by Signet Classics (first published 1880)
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Anne Brown Doctor Sloper was disposed not to like Morris before he even met him. He says on two occasions that he is waiting for the day his silly sister “gets u…moreDoctor Sloper was disposed not to like Morris before he even met him. He says on two occasions that he is waiting for the day his silly sister “gets up a romance for Catherine. It’s a shame to play such tricks on the girl.” The he starts to question people about the “handsome young man who had formed the habit of running in and out of his house.” So he instructs a dinner invitation to be issued. This is Doctor Sloper’s and Morris’s first meeting. Doctor Sloper observes him attentively, asks a few questions when the gentlemen are left alone with the port and decided he does not like him then. (less)

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Emily May
Nov 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, 2019
“If you are going to be pushed, you had better jump.”

Almost everyone in this book is awful, but I... think I liked it?

I read Henry James once, years ago, and I picked The Turn of the Screw, which turned out to be a bad decision. It put me off for a long time. I also hear that James gets a little more experimental in his later works, delving into that stream-of-consciousness style that has never really floated my boat, which might explain why I heard a lot of complaints about him from English
Jim Fonseca
[Revised, pictures and shelves added 4/15/22]

Here we are in New York City in the mid-1880s, a bit before Edith Wharton’s time, but in the same social milieu. This is a kind of novel of manners and kind of a mid-19th Century soap opera. Our author is Henry James, so be prepared for the long, convoluted, comma- and semi comma-laden sentences akin to those of Jane Austen.


Still a fascinating book. Catherine, more or less our heroine, is plain, stolid, timid, obedient and, quite frankly, a bit on the
If I close my eyes and ask myself what impression this book has left on me, the idea that comes immediately to mind is stillness. The stillness radiates from the main character, Catherine Sloper. I see her as a monumental figure in a hieratic pose, immobile, meek, but solid to the core.

Her immobility impressed me greatly, especially as this book is quite like a play. There is a lot of dialogue, a small number of characters, and one principal location where most of the important scenes take plac
Henry Avila
Aug 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Time the late 1840's in New York City, Catherine Sloper a twenty-one -year- old woman, is the daughter of a prominent and wealthy doctor, you'd think all the young men would be trying to marry her but Catherine is plain of face and very shy. There's a good probability, that she'll remain a spinster till the end of her life. Catherine adores her father and is intimidated in his presence, a very intelligent man Dr.Austin Sloper is. The widower invites his widowed and emotional sister Lavinia, her ...more
Feb 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I love this book so much I can't bear it. As someone who adores just about every last word that Henry James (over-) wrote, it has never gotten any more deliciously (un-)satisfying than this -- a slim, tart little novel about plain, socially unpromising Catherine Sloper, whose wealthy father refuses to allow her to marry Morris Townsend, whom he believes to be mercenary. No matter how many times I read this book, the question still nags at me: "Does Morris have any feeling at all for Catherine, o ...more

Catherine Sloper doesn’t strike us as a representative heroine. This novel has definitely more expressive and memorable protagonists but it is Catherine who, of all residents of the house at Washington Square, draws my attention. Though she is neither pretty nor smart she is gentle and kind and painfully shy. Just before Washington Square I read Daisy Miller and now I simply can’t help comparing the main heroines. Where Daisy is coquettish and reckless Catherine remains modest and immovable. Whe
Jan 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Book Review
4 out of 5 stars for Washington Square, a classic novel written in 1880 by Henry James. Henry James is my favorite American realistic period or classic novelist, and Washington Square is an example of why. This man can take a small situation and write 300+ pages all about it. And this is one of his shorter books. In this classic, the tale of the average woman, who is set to inherit a large sum of money, meets dashing man... but of course, he's only after her money. She's c
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Heartbreaking glimpse of the dynamic between a cruel father and his dependent daughter, Washington Square is a great short story; however, it is so melancholy I have never reread it because I can never forgive or forget the despotic, mental barbarity of her father.
Paul Bryant
Sep 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
Henry James is Gangnam style
Gangnam style

Catherine Sloper is warm and humanle during the day
A classy girl who know how to enjoy the freedom of a cup of coffee
A girl whose heart gets hotter when night comes
A girl with that kind of twist

I’m a guy called Morris Townsend
A guy who is as warm as you during the day
A guy who one-shots his coffee before it even cools down
A guy whose heart bursts when night comes
That kind of guy

Beautiful, loveable
Yes you, Catherine Sloper, yes you, hey
Beautiful, loveable
Nov 15, 2015 rated it did not like it
" James Writes Fiction as if it were a Painful Duty "- Oscar Wilde
One of the Nicest Old Ladies I Ever Met”-Faulkner, describing James

On my journey to read most modern "classics" as well as at least one novel by each renowned author, I've repeatedly avoided Henry James. Several years back I started on one and found myself daydreaming that my late grandmother was offering a sudsy soliloquy on a couple of "nice" and "clean" romances of her time (the 1930s). In all events, I finally opted for Was
Violet wells
Feb 27, 2022 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
You could make an argument that a lot of evil in the world is caused by vanity. Putin is the latest example. And certainly vanity is responsible for a large measure of unhappiness. Essentially because it stops us from seeing situations clearly and thus from knowing ourselves. I'm not entirely sure James saw this novel as a study of the destructive power of vanity but this is how I read it.

The patriarch of the novel is a wealthy doctor whose beautiful and brilliant wife has died. He is disappoint
Dec 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My first completed book of the year and one that has totally altered my view of Henry James and his fiction. Instead of being what I had thought of as the somber "master" of cold 19th century fiction, he is a man with sharp and perceptive humor, a clever sense of inequalities between sexes and in society. My enlightenment is partially responsible for my rating, though I also enjoyed the novel!

The story is really quite simple...wealthy father knows what is best for future heiress daughter. Rogue


Since I plan to be walking around Washington Square in a few months, I picked up this book for a reread. I can’t even remember exactly when I first tackled it, but I am delighted with my revisit - (the book and the square). And rereads are lately becoming highly enjoyable ventures.

My enjoyment with Washington Square may lead to a rerun and a completion task of the major novels by Henry James. I am already familiar with a few but I have read them at different times in my life and
Henry James and I have an on again, off again love affair. Although Portrait of a Lady is one of my all time favorites, I found The Ambassadors irritating and Turn of the Screw a chore. I'm so happy that we are definitely back together with the riveting Washington Square! I was transfixed by James' multi-layered rendition of Catherine's relationship with her love interest, her aunt and her father in this gem of a novel.

I listened to the audiobook, perfectly read by Lloyd James.
James presents the story of a wealthy doctor's wholly unremarkable daughter, and her whirlwind
courtship with an untrustworthy gold digger.

While reading this book is certainly not the worst thing that will ever happen to you, the whole experience is a bit like having tea with your Aunt Gertrude: expect a staid, rather dull affair where everyone minds his or her manners, trivialities are discussed, and then all go home . . . lulled into complacency, but still feeling slightly peckish.
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classic-lit
I'm of two minds when it comes to this book. On the one hand, the writing and James' observations are exquisitely on point, and he is able to create such a fleshed out story with so little story-line. On the other, I disliked all the characters. I did sympathize with Catherine, and in a way, even with Morris, but I did not connect to them. I've found this to be the case with other books by Henry James as well as Edith Wharton. They are such masters of language, but for me, they are not as acutel ...more
Mar 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american, 2019, fiction
“if you are going to be pushed you had better jump”
― Henry James, Washington Square

* I understand it is anachronistic to include a picture of Washington Square's arch when it wasn't around (errected in 1892) when the novella was published (1880) or set (pre-Civil War NYC). Oh, well, but I like it.

In the spirit of Jane Austin or Brontë, Henry James gets his family love drama on. Washinton Square slowly unfolds the story of simple Catherine's romance with Morris Townsend. Set against this ill-fate
Steven Godin
Washington Square (1880) was originally published in two different magazines as a serial and Henry James himself didn't really think much of it as a small novel, and I would partly agree with that.
Structurally simple in it's approach the story basically recounts a conflict between father and daughter over her wishes to wed a gentleman called Morris Townsend, who he greatly disproves of.
The father, Dr. Sloper is a cold but intelligent man who after losing his wife seems to struggle with the reali
Jason Koivu
Mar 31, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Henry James should have gone with the more apt and obvious title Two Shitty Men Say Mean Things To Two Silly Women.
Jul 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: henry-james
An early work by Henry James (1880) and rather brief, The plot is straightforward. Dr Sloper lives with his daughter Catherine and hus widowed sister Mrs Penniman. They live in Washington Square and Sr Sloper is reasonably well off and Catherine also has some money left by her mother. Dr Sloper (and the narrator) describe Catherine as rather plain and unitelligent. Into this family scene enters Morris Townsend, a very handsome and penniless young man who woos Catherine (and charms Mrs Penniman) ...more
Early on in the novel, James inserts a digressive autobiographical tour of Washington Square in the 1840s, the time and place of his childhood. This "topographical parenthesis," as he called it, doesn't seem coincidental. If this brilliant psychological family drama reveals anything about the Washington Square of his childhood, then "being unloved" is at its kernel. When there is no love, what is left in life? Can the heroine's impressive fortitude and unwavering sincerity in the world of decept ...more
Jun 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
Poor Catherine! Her father Dr Sloper was absolutely vile and I just wanted to slap her horrible interfering, gossipy old aunt! Then there's Maurice Townsend, the gold digger...slimeball! My first Henry James but not my last! ...more
A.M.G. ☮Hippie/Fantasia☮
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Someone looking for an easy classic read
Rating: 5 / 5

I understand that this was not intended as a comedy, but I nevertheless find it funny that while The Taming of the Screw was a short story, it took me forever to read, whereas this is a novel, and yet I breezed through it as easily as...well, as easily as I should breeze through a short story.

That aside, I found the story in itself quite amusing. The subject matter in itself is certainly not intended to be funny: a rich yet uninteresting and plain young woman is being courted by an
Doctor Sloper - who is definitely not Doctor Slop in Tristram Shandy, I don't think - is an exquisitely drawn character, and his etching here by James - who is definitely not E. L.; well, I'm pretty sure - is so remarkable that I can almost understand the lasting purchase.

Aunt Lavinia - who is definitely not Aunt Lavinia from Great Granny Webster; though, how many Aunt Lavinias can there be? - is similarly exquisitely drawn, if in less likable hues, and certainly less likable than the previous
Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017, adventurers
Victorian books are embroidered with stock characters, with backstories that can be summed in a sentence. A sententious physician. A meddling older woman. A maiden aunt, with a sole romantic disappointment in her lonely past. It doesn't occur to you to think about what awful drama that sentence drags behind it, but it's occurred to Henry James. What was that disappointment? Would that maiden aunt have been better off undisappointed?

So here's James's wonderful heroine: plain, dull Catherine Slop
Jul 18, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Those who don't need resolution
I had read Daisy Miller and enjoyed it so I thought I would like another Henry James novel, Washington Square. Furthermore, one of the remarks on the cover said something about the man writing as good a family story as Jane Austen. What could be better?

A lot of things actually.

I even read somewhere that James didn't like the novel so he didn't include it in his anthology. I'm surprised he made it through the first time knowing the ending as he presumably did.
Staged in New York City, Washington
Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
Some truly monstrous fathers can be found among the great works of fiction. Shakespeare's King Lear and Titus Andronicus certainly come to mind, or Hardy's 'Michael Henchard', and 'Laius of Thebes' may be the worst of the lot. Having just finished reading Henry James's Washington Square I am now fully prepared to add Doctor Austin Sloper to my top-ten list of 'Worst Fathers of Fiction'.

Washington Square is a short novel (more a novella) by Henry James written in 1880, and is really an excellent
Jan 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a re-read. Although my rating hasn't changed, I thought I'd jot down a few things that occurred to me while listening to this.

This is my first experience with a Henry James audiobook, and the feeling was quite different from holding a book in one's hands and letting the eyes do the walking. For one, I found the narrator's voice a surprise: not completely an unpleasant one, but a distinct difference from the voice I heard in my head, when reading it. By this narrator's standards, Sloper i
Mar 19, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2012
My second book by James and I still remain unimpressed when comparing him to Lawrence, Hardy or the Brontë sisters. Even to Austen.
I know he writes about different times, different places and with different aims, but even though I appreciate his correct and composed style, I miss the passionate accounts of other classic authors.
In "Washington Square" the setting takes place in the late XIXth New York where we are introduced to the Sloper family, consisting basically of the well respected and int
Henry James’ in-depth character portrayals are marvelous. We observe a widowed father, his daughter who will perhaps inherit a fortune, the father’s meddlesome sister who delights in melodrama and the daughter’s prospective suitor. Does he love her or is he after her money? The question becomes much more complicated than this; each of the four characters has their own history and personality traits. All becomes intertwined and inseparable.

The writing is detailed, but all the details provided ar
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Reading the Classics: * Washington Square - Reading Schedule 3 26 May 08, 2021 11:27AM  
Indian Readers: September 2019 BOTM - Washington Square 18 101 Sep 23, 2019 08:54PM  
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What's the Name o...: SOLVED. English novel - Subjected English Lady. [s] 19 56 Feb 17, 2018 02:27PM  

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Henry James, OM, son of theologian Henry James Sr., brother of the philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James, was an American-born author, one of the founders and leaders of a school of realism in fiction. He spent much of his life in England and became a British subject shortly before his death. He is primarily known for a series of major novels in which he portrayed the ...more

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“do you think it is
better to be clever than to be good?”
“Good for what?” asked the Doctor. “You are good for
nothing unless you are clever.”
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