On living all you can


“Live all you can,” Henry James writes in The Ambassadors; “it’s a mistake not to.” He speaks through Lambert Strether, the 55 year-old POV character whose generous perceptions and sense of regret make him a stand-in for James himself. Strether experiences Paris as a reminder that he has not lived all he could. He urges young Bilham to cherish “the illusion of freedom,” to indulge the feeling of guiding his own life—not in any particular way but vigorously, fervently. “Live!” he cries, implying that he has not, and that we are in danger of making the same mistake. But of course we wind up living anyway.

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