A propos de The Tragic Muse. Son originalité, parmi les romans de James, réside peut-être dans sa plaisante collection de personnages secondaires (dont la peinture rappelle Dickens). Outre Gabriel Nash, l'homme-sirène, je pense par exemple à :
Mrs Rooth. Veuve d'un antiquaire, elle prétend appartenir à la bonne société anglaise, étant apparentée aux très inconnus Neville-Nugent, de Castle Nugent. Elle ne les fréquente cependant pas du tout car, étant désargentée, elle vit "sur le continent". Fort préoccupée de convenances, elle a néanmoins entrepris de faire de sa fille une actrice et la promène de capitale en capitale, la confiant aux soins d'obscurs professeurs. En accord avec ses moyens limités, sa principale qualité est de pouvoir rester indéfiniment assise en tous lieux où la demeure est une économie :
She gave (Peter) the measure of her power to sit and sit--an accomplishment to which she owed in the struggle for existence such superiority as she might be said to have achieved. She could out-sit everybody and everything; looking as if she had acquired the practice in repeated years of small frugality combined with large leisure--periods when she had nothing but hours and days and years to spend and had learned to calculate in any situation how long she could stay. "Staying" was so often a saving--a saving of candles, of fire and even (as it sometimes implied a scheme for stray refection) of food.
Mrs Gresham. Cette dame est, elle, introduite dans la bonne société où elle rend d'appréciables services ; on ne peut dire cependant si elle fait partie du personnel ou des invités :
Mrs. Gresham was a married woman who was usually taken for a widow, mainly because she was perpetually "sent for" by her friends, who in no event sent for Mr.Gresham. (...) Her figure was admired--that is it was sometimes mentioned--and she dressed as if it was expected of her to be smart, like a young woman in a shop or a servant much in view. She slipped in and out, accompanied at the piano, talked to the neglected visitors, walked in the rain, and after the arrival of the post usually had conferences with her hostess, during which she stroked her chin and looked familiarly responsible. It was her peculiarity that people were always saying things to her in a lowered voice. She had all sorts of acquaintances and in small establishments sometimes wrote the menus. Great ones, on the other hand, had no terrors for her--she had seen too many. No one had ever discovered whether any one else paid her. People only knew what they did.
Mr Carteret. Ce vieillard est un politicien à la retraite qui reste très attentif aux péripéties de la vie parlementaire et aux événements internes de l'appareil du parti libéral. Il ne conçoit d'ailleurs pas qu'il puisse exister autre chose au monde. Son grand principe est de ne jamais se mettre en retard, c'est à dire de ne pas négliger un seul jour la correspondance et la lecture des comptes-rendus des journaux. (Mais plus sévère que Mr Carteret, son majordome :
When (Nick) paid a visit to his father's old friend there were in fact many things--many topics--from which he instinctively kept his hands. Even Mr. Chayter, the immemorial blank butler, who was so like his master that he might have been a twin brother, helped to remind him that he must be good. Mr. Carteret seemed to Nick a very grave person, but he had the sense that Chayter thought him rather frivolous.)