Ruth Bernard Yeazell

Ruth Bernard Yeazell is Sterling Professor of English at Yale. Her most recent book is Picture Titles: How and Why Western Paintings Acquired Their Names (2016).

Peaches d’antan: Henry James’s Autobiographies

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 11 August 2016

Henry James​ liked to represent himself as hopelessly lagging behind his older brother, but he was also very good at turning childish inadequacy to imaginative account. A year after William’s death in 1910, he set out to edit a selection of William’s letters only to end up producing a remarkable self-portrait. Though he had intended to preface the letters with a short history of...

Constance Fenimore Woolson’s​ fiction is little read these days, and she figures primarily as a character in someone else’s story. Ever since Leon Edel’s biography of Henry James, in which she appears as a lonely spinster with an ear trumpet and an unrequited passion for her fellow novelist, speculation over the closeness of her friendship with James and the motives for...

Oh! – only Oh! Burne-Jones

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 9 February 2012

Edward Jones – the Burne came later – was born in Birmingham to a mother who died giving birth to him and a father who eked out a living as a frame-maker, although art, his son reported, ‘was always a great bewilderment to him’. The only person who seems to have recognised the boy’s talent – a neighbour who bought pictures to rework – had the dubious...

Maisie’s Sisters: Sargent’s Daughters

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 5 August 2010

John Singer Sargent has often been accused of lacking a soul. Even Henry James, who helped introduce him to the London scene in the 1880s and continued to promote his work, worried that he suffered from a ‘sort of excess of cleverness’. The fact that Sargent catered to a transatlantic clientele of celebrities and nouveaux riches at the height of the Gilded Age only encouraged the...

Sometime early in 1876, a person connected with the James family met a 27-year-old woman called Alice Howe Gibbens at the Radical Club in Boston and immediately concluded that William James should marry her. In one version of the story, Henry James Sr returned from a meeting and announced to those at home that he had seen William’s future bride. Another version attributes the discovery...

Imagination must take the strain when facts are few. As information about the domestic life of polygamous Oriental households was fragmentary, 17th, 18th and 19th-century European writers and...

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Preceding Backwardness

Margaret Anne Doody, 9 January 1992

Both of these books are on ‘women’s subjects’. That is to say, they deal with the major arrangements of a society in its (usually uneasy) dispositions of property and power,...

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Death and the Maiden

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 6 August 1981

Alice James died, not trembling, but, said Katharine Loring, ‘very happy’ in the knowledge that the Last Trump was at hand.

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