Summary and Analysis
Book 1: Chapter II
Strether, Maria, and Waymarsh dine together that evening, and Strether decides "that Waymarsh would quite fail . . . on whatever degree of acquaintance, to profit by her." After the trio takes a stroll through the moonlight, the two men go to their rooms, but Strether is restless and wanders about the grounds until a late hour. Waymarsh cannot sleep either, and the two meet at midnight to speak at length.
Waymarsh is of striking appearance with a "large handsome head and a large sallow seamed face," thick loose hair, and dark sooty eyes. He is bearded. The overall impression is that of "some great national worthy of the earlier part of the mid-century." Despite this, however, Waymarsh appears melancholic and depressed; he has been in Europe for three months for his health, to escape a "general nervous collapse."
Waymarsh is disappointed in his travels, and he complains to Strether that, despite the "pretty places and remarkable old things," he does not feel "in tune" with Europe: He wants to "go back." They speak next of Strether's reasons for coming to Europe, and Strether hints that he has come on behalf of Mrs. Newsome-"on her business" — but will say no more about it, promising that he will explain everything later. Waymarsh reluctantly agrees to accompany Strether to London.
Notice that Waymarsh is presented to the reader largely as Strether sees him, through Strether's "angle of vision" or point of view.
Waymarsh and Maria will take opposing views of Strether's actions later in the narrative; the basis for this opposition is being developed in the early chapters, particularly through the attitudes of Waymarsh and Maria in connection with the European experience.
Strether jokingly asks Waymarsh if it has occurred to him that he, Strether, might be running away from Mrs. Newsome; ironically, as the reader will later see, Strether is in fact trying to escape the values that Mrs. Newsome and Woollett stand for. Though Mrs. Newsome never appears in the novel, she is an important motivating factor in the story because of what she is as a character and what she represents.