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