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Mary Codman Peabody, Boston Conscientiousness , and "An International Episode" by Alfred Habegger, University of Kansas One of the factual errors that has lodged itself in James ' s biographical record has begun to take on a life of its own. Since I am among those who have inadvertently nurtured the little parasite, I would like to try to put an end to it before it acquires any more vigor. In a letter to William James dated May 1, [1878], Henry reported that he had taken advantage of the quiet Easter season "to run down for a couple of days to the Isle of Wight and call upon our little friend Miss Peabody—a design I had entertained more or less ever since she came to England." He enjoyed walking on the downs with her and conversing, ' 'quite in the Boston manner." He found her "nice, intelligent and charming," appreciated her "native finesse and animation" of mind, and regretted her "thinness of nature" and "circumstantial crudity." She told James ' 'she greatly admired' ' Alice's new friend, Katharine Loring, ' 'and had always timidly aspired to know her, but thought herself unworthy" (HJL II, 170, 172). Perhaps one of the reasons James mentioned this humbly respectful scrupulosity was that he regarded it as a characteristically Bostonian charactertrait . In editing this letter, Leon Edel identified Miss Peabody as Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, the well-known reformer and probable model for Miss Birdseye in The Bostonians (HJL II, 173). Accepting this identification, I myself went on to claim in another context that in 1885, when James denied having seen Elizabeth Peabody for twenty years, ' 'he evidently forgot that he had looked her up only seven years earlier" (Habegger, "Review-Essay" 207). More recently, Mary Frew Moldstad has called attention to this apparent oversight of James's, arguing that the 1878 letter to William suggests that James had "a closer tie with Miss Peabody than he wished to acknowledge to William" (Moldstad 209). Unfortunately, Edel, Moldstad, and I have been careless. Elizabeth Palmer Peabody was neither timid nor scrupulous, and though the Jameses were well acThe Henry James Review 13 (1992): 229-34 © 1992 by The Johns Hopkins University Press 230 The Henry James Review quainted with the reformer, their references to her in letters written after 1865 were not noticeably affectionate. She was not "our little friend" but rather the butt of humorous stories (Habegger, Henry James 208-15). Not only is it unlikely that James would have gone out of his way to look her up, but at the age of seventy -three, she was probably too old for a transatlantic crossing; in any case, nothing in the published record indicates that she took a trip to England in 1878. Finally , and conclusively, while the woman James visited was with her mother, ' 'who is much better" (HJL II, 170), Elizabeth Palmer Peabody's mother had died twentyfive years earlier (Peabody 85). Several other single Peabody women were in the Jameses' orbit. One of them was Lucia M. [for Maria] Peabody (1828-1919), a resident of Roxbury and an active member of the New England Women's Club. Mary and Henry Sr. became members of this group soon after it was organized in 1868. In November of that year Henry Sr. delivered his poorly received lecture on "the historic significance of Woman" at one of the club's first weekly social meetings. The elder Jameses evidently withdrew in 1869, the same year Lucia's name first appears on the membership rolls. On December 5,1870, while serving as recording secretary, she noted that "Mr Henry James read [illegible word] full rooms his paper on Carlyle—wh. was followed by chocolate & sociability, as usual." ' Lucia would have been fifty years old in 1878. But there is no evidence of friendship between her and any of the Jameses, William or Henry Jr. in particular. Also, her mother died in 1871 (Peabody 71). There was another Miss Peabody who was a friend of William's in the 1870s. He paid her a visit on the last day of 1875, and on New Year's Day wrote about her to Henry: "I spent yesterday afternoon with Miss Peabody in Longwood. She...


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