Fine Distinction

"Henry James was all that Max Beerbohm liked a great man to be: majestic, benignant and slightly comical... Henry James, on his side, took to Max. He liked courteous, elegant, intelligent young men...

"Once, at a wedding reception, a woman friend saw the two standing together. 'How terribly distinguished you look,' she said.

"'We are distinguished,' Henry James replied. 'But you need not look so terribly so,' said the friend. 'We are shameless, shameless!' said Henry James."

[Faulkner once dubbed James "the nicest old lady I ever met." T. S. Eliot's verdict? "He had a mind so fine that no idea could violate it."]

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