Dearly Beloved Friends

Henry James's Letters to Younger Men
Susan E. Gunter and Steven H. Jobe, Editors
The romantic side of Henry James, revealed through his letters to young male friends


While the novelist Henry James never formed a permanent relationship with a single individual, in the last decades of his life he increasingly formed passionate attachments to younger men of diverse talents and traits. This book makes available carefully edited texts of an ample selection of his personal and occasionally intimate letters---many of them long withheld from publication---to four of those men: the sculptor Hendrik Andersen (1872-1940), the dilettante Dudley Jocelyn Persse (1873-1943), and the writers Howard Overing Sturgis (1855-1920) and Sir Hugh Walpole (1884-1941).

The letters provide an excellent if alternative starting point for learning about James and his world. Herein we meet a figure distinct from the austerely intellectual and reserved "Master" of literary history. The letters reveal the writer's human side, his humorous and warm views of Anglo-American life over a fifty-year span, as well as his intimate participation in the daily lives of his friends. He clearly loved a number of those friends with a depth and eroticism that have been previously noted but never before so fully documented. These letters offer a documentary rather than a merely speculative response to the recent and widespread interest in James's sexual orientation. Readable, witty, poignant, and passionate, they reveal a man in full control of both his rhetoric and his relationships.

The editors provide a rich backdrop against which to appreciate this correspondence, including biographical and historical annotations, chronologies of each man's relationship to James, and a general introduction surveying nineteenth-century attitudes toward same-sex relationships. Readers interested in gender studies, biography, intellectual and cultural history, and literary history will find Dearly Beloved Friends fascinating and invaluable.

Susan E. Gunter is Professor of English, Westminster College. She is also editor of Dear Munificent Friends: Henry James's Letters to Four Women.

Steven H. Jobe is Associate Professor of English, Hanover College. His previous book is A Calendar of the Letters of Henry James.

Praise / Awards

  • "Dearly Beloved Friends shows us a writer formidably endowed in the arts of epistolary affection. Henry James's letters to young male friends are gently but persuasively seductive, and Susan Gunter and Steven Jobe give them to us in an attractive format, with notes to aid our comprehension and with the idiosyncrasies of James's composition wonderfully preserved. The arrangement of the letters into four groups - each to a different "dear young friend" - enables us to see how James shapes his style and manner to suit each addressee, and to track the progress of these friendships from the close of the nineteenth century through to the trauma of the Great War. These letters are essential reading for their revelations of intimacy, sexuality, desire, and friendship between men, and for the insights they offer into same-sex relationships within James's circle. No mere supplement to James's oeuvre, these letters will be treasured not only by James scholars, but by any reader interested in the literature of love."
    ---Hugh Stevens, University of York
  • "It is a pleasure to find some of Henry James's best letters at last in print. These are pearls, warmed to life by the late-night thoughts of a passionate man. We find in them the rumbles of laughter, the dark shadows and bright highlights of the author's last great works. . . . here we see the man as he was, and at work."
    ---Sheldon M. Novick, author of Henry James: The Young Master
  • "If you have ever wanted to see a genius in love, read these letters."
    ---Book magazine
  • "A good Henry James letter is truly a joy forever."
    ---English Literature in Transition 1880-1920
  • "Highly recommended for all large university libraries with extensive James holdings."
    ---Charles Nash, Library Journal, January 2002
  • "The letters point to a complicated intimacy that James, nearing 60, fostered with these youthful admirers, friends and houseguests during his years of declining health and increasing emotional frailty . . . essential reading for any James devotee."
    ---Publishers Weekly
  • "Gunter, Jobe, and their team of assistants have done an excellent job of annotating and presenting the letters chosen for inclusion. The amount of archival work that this compilation required is impressive and the depth and precision of their research never wanes."
    ---Victorian Studies
  • "This is an admirably edited volume, which requires and receives a light touch. Henry James possesses all his preternatural eloquence in many of these letters, some of which are certainly 'love letters' in every sense."
    ---Harold Bloom, Yale University

Look Inside

Copyright © 2001, Susan E. Gunter and Steven H. Jobe. All rights reserved. Posted December 2001.

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Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 282pp.
  • 11 B&W photograph section.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2004
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-03000-2

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  • $24.95 U.S.