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  • Henry James
  • Sarah B. Daugherty

Recent James scholarship reflects more general changes in academic publishing. Fewer monographs deal exclusively with James, while important discussions can frequently be found in book chapters and anthologies, including a new collection edited by Melanie H. Ross and Greg W. Zacharias. This volume illustrates yet another trend: the internationalization of James studies as critics outside the United States and Britain join the interpretive community. Unfortunately, some books and articles are difficult to obtain: Modern Language Association listings are often incomplete, and reductions in library budgets are only partially offset by the development of electronic resources. But in our time as in his own, James remains a survivor, thanks to his cosmopolitan perspective and to his appeal to his modern and postmodern successors. Significantly, this year's special issue of the Henry James Review is devoted to the critical essays of Colm Tóibín, whose novel The Master complements the work of such academic biographers as Susan Gunter and Paul Fisher. We should join Tóibín in acknowledging the sheer magnitude of James's literary genius—a phenomenon resistant to theory even though it invites explanation. As James wrote of Balzac, our author is indeed "Gulliver among the pigmies."

i. Letters and Biographical Studies

Pierre A. Walker and Greg W. Zacharias continue work on their monumental edition of James's correspondence, their most recent [End Page 103] publication being The Complete Letters of Henry James, 1872-1876, Volume 2 (Nebraska). The third and final volume for these years is scheduled for release in 2011. The present collection contains 78 letters, 28 in print for the first time, dated from 15 July 1873 through 15 October 1876. These letters reflect James's growing confidence as a writer in a range of genres: the short story ("Mme. de Mauves," he said, "is the best written thing I've done"), the novel (Roderick Hudson), the critical essay ("Ivan Turgénieff"), and the travel essay, which he developed as a form of creative nonfiction. ("What's the use of writing at all, unless imaginatively?" he explained to Sarah Butler Wister.) His self-assurance, however, was counterbalanced by his dependence on editors who sometimes rejected his writings or failed to publish them promptly, without embarrassing misprints. (The Nation rendered "idle vistas and melancholy nooks" as "idle sisters and melancholy monks.") Then, too, James needed time to establish "a remunerative . . . literary basis"—a frequent theme in his letters to his father, who subsidized his European travels and served as his agent in his dealings with American journals. The correspondence also illuminates James's lifelong ambivalence toward the United States. Though he agreed with Grace Norton about one's country—"You say excellently that your country is yours very much as your body is," he wrote to Norton—he admonished Elizabeth Boott when she remarked that he must be "satiated" with Europe: "You little know the treasures of stoicism I am laying up against my residence at home."

Jamesian biography has flourished as scholars have gained access to documents that enable them to build on the work of Leon Edel. Susan E. Gunter's Alice in Jamesland: The Story of Alice Howe Gibbens James (Nebraska) is a readable narrative based in part on Gunter's Dear Munificent Friends: Henry James's Letters to Four Women (see AmLS 1999, p. 124) and also on other archival materials, including over 300 letters by Alice in the collection of William James III of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Henry and his sister-in-law developed an exceptional bond because, as Gunter notes, "the two knew that they were more like one another than either was like William." Henry occasionally advised Alice on the way to cope with her mercurial husband's mood swings: "It is like driving a pig to the fair: sometimes he gets round & behind you & you have to bring him back." Gunter notes emphatically that William and Alice's union was a genuine love match, but the bachelor writer must have gained an intimate perspective on the difficulties of marriage, especially for women. William, who was inclined to flirtations that provoked his [End Page 104] wife's jealousy, frequently absented himself from...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2125
Print ISSN
0065-9142
Pages
pp. 103-125
Launched on MUSE
2011-09-14
Open Access
No
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