In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

122 The Henry James Review Ignas K. Skrupselis and Elizabeth M. Berkeley, eds. The Correspondence of William James. Vol. 1: William and Henry, 1861-1884. Charlottesville: U P of Virginia, 1992. Ix + 477 pp. $45.00. This is the first volume in a projected twelve-volume edition of the correspondence of William James, and the first of three devoted to William and Henry James. The edition as a whole will include approximately 9,000 letters, nearly 7,000 by William and 2,200 to him. The majority—more than 7,000 of the total—have not been recorded or published before. The three volumes focused on William and Henry will include all of their surviving 737 letters. Volume one offers sixty-nine letters from William and ninety-four from Henry, only forty-four of which are contained in Leon Edel's four-volume Henry James Letters. There are gaps in the record; William's letters to Henry from August 1876 to October 1882, for example, with one exception, have been lost. But the correspondence is nevertheless rich, absorbing, vivid, enlightening: it is a treasure-trove of insight and pleasure for students of the James family. Ignas K. Skrupselis and Elizabeth M. Berkeley have done a superb editorial job on this inaugural volume, presenting and annotating the letters with skill and sensitivity. It is a familiar fact, yet still an astonishing one to which mese letters bear witness, that America's greatest philosopher and its most distinguished novelist were brothers, William being born on 11 January 1842 and Henry a little more than a year later on 15 April 1843. Much of the correspondence is occupied with family matters, above all a sequence starting in December 1882 that is concerned with the death, and the will, of Henry James, Sr. But the range of these packed, perceptive, often high-spirited letters is dazzling, as William and Henry express their varied interests in literature, culture, art, travel, friends, and acquaintances, and, especially, as they report on the development of their own intellectual identities and efforts to get underway in their professional careers. This range has its limits, of course. Despite his travels throughout England and Europe, Henry paid only minimal attention to politics and public affairs, confessing himself "politically stupid" (1, 2 December 1872; 181). Marriage and children, in life if not in fiction, proved enigmatically impossible to him as well; having learned of William's engagement to Alice Howe Gibbens, Henry said, ' Ί had long wished to see you married; I believe almost in matrimony for most other people as I believe in it little for myself—which is saying a good deal' ' (29 May 1878 ; 303). Sometimes, too, the range shown in the letters is odd, though weirdly fascinating, as when the brothers scrupulously detail their many physical ailments and dwell in particular in letter after letter on what Henry terms the problem of "infernal constipation" (8 April 1869; 63). One surprise here is William's frequent commentary on writers and books, and often it is shrewd and exhilarating. Unlike his brother, he has no professional stake in what he reads and thus declares his bracing likes and dislikes openly. "I am in the 4th vol of that wonderful work,' ' he recounts ofMiddlemarch, ' 'and stand perfectly aghast at the tremenj' us intellectual power displayed. Surely 'tis the biggest novel ever writ" (8 December 1872; 183). There is a fresh freedom in William's bursts that is not always present in Henry's literary criticism, where description and judgment are linked to complicated acts of disagreement and disapproval whereby he keeps alive for himself the lightness of his own biases. Henry knew this about himself, and was slightly uneasy about the manner in which it slanted his assessments, saying, for example, ' Ί admired & relished Middlemarch hugely, & yet I am afraid you will think I have spoken of it stingily. I necessarily judged it I suppose, more critically than you. Nevertheless, I didn't make perhaps, a sufficiently succinct statement of its rare intellectual power" (8 January 1873; 187). Book Reviews 123 Many readers turning to this volume will be curious whether it confirms or qualifies Leon Edel's well-known claim that a sibling rivalry...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6555
Print ISSN
0273-0340
Pages
pp. 122-124
Launched on MUSE
2010-03-25
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.