“A Life Time to Get Alongside of Her”

” He had followed literature from the first [of years], but he had taken a life-time to get alongside of her. Only to-day, at last, had he begun to see, so that what he hitherto done was a movement without a direction. He had ripened too late and was so clumsily constituted that he had to teach himself by mistakes.”

Henry James, The Middle Years, The Library of America, Pp. 347

Why does Dencombe feel this way? Had he never fully taken the time to appreciate his craft, or let himself appreciate his craft? Or was his hinderance caused by an obligation to make ends meet? That Dencombe saw writing literature as a job rather than an art, thus why it took him so long to get alongside it.