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Washington Square

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  16,950 ratings  ·  1,272 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 and loya ...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…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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Average rating 3.68  · 
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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
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
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 Lavini ...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. Where Daisy fan
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
Yes you, hey
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 considered plain-looking. He
Jim Fonseca
Oct 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Here we are in New York City in the mid-1880's, a bit before Edith Wharton's time, but in the same social milieu. This is a kind of novel of manners, a mid-19th Century soap opera. Our author is Henry James, so be prepared for the long, convoluted, comma- and semicomma-laden sentences akin to those of Jane Austen.

Yet a fascinating book. Catherine, more or less our heroine, is plain, stolid, timid, obedient and, quite frankly, a bit on the dull side. She lives in her father's house. W
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 daug
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 of the 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 Washington Square, primarily because it'Wilde
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.


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 in no particular o
Apr 16, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic-fiction
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.
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
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
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
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.
Steven Godin
Dec 09, 2016 rated it liked it
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 wi
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!
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 previously mentioned Aunt Lav
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, Wash
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
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 introduction to the fictio/>Washington
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 standar
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 respe
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 are p
Jason Pettus
Mar 28, 2008 rated it liked it
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

The CCLaP 100: In which I read a hundred so-called "classic" books for the first time, then file reports on whether or not I think they deserve the label

Book #10: Washington Square, by Henry James (1880)

The story in a nutshell:
Agreed by most to definitely be one of his minor works, Washington/>The/>The
It was about the money, all about the money. Catherine Sloper a young woman torn between the wishes of her father and the suitor who said he loved Catherine, and only Catherine.

Not a lot happened plot wise although there were strong undercurrents in the tug of war between Dr Sloper and Morris Townsend, Catherine's suitor.

Such a quiet character Catherine that I really shouldn't have been somewhat surprised at the ending.....

Read the free edition of the novel an
Gitte - Bookworm's Closet
A lovely classic about a young girl trapped between her lover and her spiteful father.

Catherine Sloper, a somewhat plain young girl, falls in love with a dashing but poor young man, Morris Townsend. Catherine's father does not support their union (in fact he doesn't support anything when it comes to Catherine), claiming that Morris is a gold-digger with no profession. Threatening to disinherit Catherine if she marries Morris, she is
Jennifer (aka EM)
Jan 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novellas
3.75 for now.


Just a quick couple of notes: this is a novella. I felt that it was not the right length for James to make completely free use of those convoluted, tortured, serpentine sentences that portray inner turmoil and complex human relationships so well, as in The Portrait of a Lady.

Also, I understand it to be one of his earlier works, and therefore perhaps his style was still developing. I don't know; I'm no James scholar.

But I must say, I *love* the way he get
Oct 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh, what an extraordinary book Washington Square is for a novella written in 1880! I can only give it 4 stars and not 5 due to some wandering and oddness of character in the middle, but it starts beautifully and ends even better. This is a book that refuses to follow any of the Victorian tropes of its time .. even more so than books by women authors of the period, it upends expectations.

By the end, I adored Catherine. She reminds me very much of my real-life sister in so many ways, many facets of her
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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
“Don’t underestimate the value of irony—it is extremely valuable.” 103 likes
“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.”
More quotes…