“What he dreaded was the idea that his reputation should stand on the unfinished. It was not with his past but with his future that it should properly be concerned. Illness and age rose before him like spectres with pitiless eyes: how was he to bribe such fates to give him the second chance?”
– Henry James, “The Middle Years“, page 346
This passage personifies the future as a being that can be bribed, showing Decombe’s perception of himself and the world he is in. His fear of being unfinished seems to be rooted not only in whether or not his works will become great, but of being forgotten– and it’s to the point where he feels the need to rely on fate to make the change for him.