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The Library of Henry James, From Inventory, Catalogues, and Library Lists Leon Edel Introduced and edited by Leon Edel and Adeline R. Tintner I first saw Henry James's library in 1937 when I was in England on a Guggenheim Fellowship and editing his collected plays. There was some part of it in every room of Lamb House, the novelist's little "dream house" in Rye, Sussex, which he had acquired in 1898. The basic library remained there after his death in 1916 with most of his furniture and pictures. There had been two tenants, Arthur Christopher Benson, the Cambridge don, and then his brother E. F. Benson, the popular novelist (both sons of the late Archbishop of Canterbury ). I met E. F. Benson, who told me he had left the James books in the various glassed-in cases and shelves and had put his own books in one set of shelves in the detached Garden Room with its Palladien windows that adjoined Lamb House and looked down to the High Street. Later I learned that Henry James 3rd, the novelist's nephew, who inherited the house and its contents, had removed certain volumes and rarities that interested him, and that other books had been taken by his brother William (Billy) James, second son of the philosopher, who lived in the James house in Cambridge, at 95 Irving Street. Margaret Mary James, who had married Bruce Porter and lived in San Francisco, also had a certain number of volumes, but there must have been still some two thousand or more books in the house. It seemed crammed with them when I walked from room to room, and there were even a number of light novels that filled the shelves in the servant's quarters where Henry James put a lot of popular literature sent to him but which didn't interest him. I felt as I browsed in the various rooms as if I had walked into the Edwardian period and the Georgian past of the house. I think there were even a few books in the dining room, and in what was caUed the King's Room, the small upstairs bedroom in which George I had slept when his ship was driven into Rye harbor by a storm. James had kept sets of volumes given him—Kipling 's, Stevenson's, Edith Wharton's, H. G. WeUs's—in the Garden Room. The Green Room upstairs was his winter work-room, and he often wrote letters there late at night. It had many photos on the waU: Miss Woolson, Aunt Kate, Alice James, a late photo of William James, some of the French writers like Alphonse Daudet. And it had reference works and certain books he particularly liked, I would judge, including his Hawthornes. I knew that the library I was examining did not give us any measure of the extent of his reading. He had used the fine libraries at his London clubs, the Athenaeum and the Reform; and he belonged to the London Library, that favorite private library that Carlyle founded long ago when he couldn't take books home from the British Museum. James's library was composed of books he had bought during his travels; other books and sets of classics he wanted to have at hand; review copies, and writers who had particular meaning to him at certain periods of his life. He had a goodly number of works about Napoleon—at a later stage I became their owner. And then there were the presentation copies of his writer friends. His was essentially a library of belles lettres—travel, novels, history, memoirs , and some of the books that had come to him from his father's library, like works of Heine and Renan. Before I left Rye on that day I browsed in the local bookshop. The bookseUer in the High Street, Gilbert H. Fabes, told me he had some odd volumes from James's library which Henry James 3rd had sold to him to clear some shelf-space. I bought two; pasted in them by the nephew was a smaU strip on the left top of the front inside cover, "From the Library of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6555
Print ISSN
0273-0340
Pages
pp. 158-190
Launched on MUSE
2010-03-25
Open Access
No
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