Criticism of Henry James's controversial novel The Sacred Fount has tended rather insistently to take one of two interpretive directions. Since Edmund Wilson's famous essay “The Ambiguity of Henry James” appeared in 1934 and made everyone more aware of the potential complexity of James's handling of the focus of narration, the perhaps more frequently encountered approach to the novel has been one which regards it, like The Turn of the Screw and In the Cage, as principally another Jamesian experiment with a narrator of doubtful omniscience. The other approach, one still found in many treatments of the novel, tends rather to accept completely the narrator's version of events at Newmarch and looks for the meaning and significance of the work in his most obvious preoccupation during the weekend in which those events occur, the vampire theme of fulfillment and depletion in intense human relationships. Both approaches are valid. Indeed, one of the impressive aspects of the serious criticism of The Sacred Fount is that nearly all of the important attempts at analysis have been and remain true to some degree. Leon Edel, following and building on the hints of Wilson, has shown that the novel clearly is about “appearance and reality,” and R. P. Blackmur has pointed out the parabolic nature of the story and called attention to The Sacred Fount as the “nightmare nexus” in the Jamesian struggle “to portray the integrity of the artist and… the integrity of the self.” Even Rebecca West, in her witty dismissal of the book some years ago, was correct—more correct than she knew perhaps since she gives James no credit for a deliberate and skillfully manipulated irony—-in recognizing and mocking the disparity between the passion, pride, and labor expended by the incredibly egocentric, narcissistic narrator and the, if not completely trivial, at least gossamer issues involved. But the irony, like the ambiguity, is both constant and conscious. Unlike the narrator, to whom James has frequently been compared, James presides confidently over his fictional world like, in Lady John's words, “a real providence,” who “knows” (p. 176).