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In what sense did she love him?

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Constance FenimoreWoolson, 8 May 2014

The Complete Letters of Constance FenimoreWoolson 
edited by Sharon Dean.
Florida, 609 pp., £71.95, July 2012, 978 0 8130 3989 3
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... Constance FenimoreWoolson’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 her suicide has dominated accounts of her ...

‘I thirst for his blood’

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Henry James, 25 November 1999

Henry James: A Life in Letters 
edited by Philip Horne.
Penguin, 668 pp., £25, June 1999, 0 7139 9126 7
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A Private Life of Henry James: Two Women and His Art 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Chatto, 500 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 7011 6166 3
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... of The Portrait of a Lady (1881) and The Wings of the Dove (1902), and the American writer, Constance FenimoreWoolson, James’s intermittent companion and occasional fellow lodger for over a decade, who apparently committed suicide by hurling herself from the window of her Venetian apartments in the winter of ...

‘I can’t go on like this’

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 19 January 1989

The Letters of Edith Wharton 
edited by R.W.B. Lewis and Nancy Lewis.
Simon and Schuster, 654 pp., £16.95, October 1988, 0 671 69965 2
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Women Artists, Women Exiles: ‘Miss Grief’ and Other Stories 
by Constance FenimoreWoolson, edited by Joan Myers Weimer.
Rutgers, 341 pp., $42, December 1988, 0 8135 1347 2
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... Zeena’s but Mattie’s is as chilling as any that fiction has to offer. As in Wharton’s case, Constance FenimoreWoolson’s close friendship with Henry James may have done more to obscure the nature of her literary achievement than to clarify it. Certainly Woolson herself was ...

What Henry didn’t do

Michael Wood: ‘The Master’, 18 March 2004

The Master 
by Colm Tóibín.
Picador, 360 pp., £15.99, March 2004, 0 330 48565 2
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... asked him gently for help.’ But the great denial in Tóibín’s book involves James’s friend Constance FenimoreWoolson, an American novelist just as queer as he was in one sense and perhaps not queer enough in another. Tóibín lists Lyndall Gordon’s A Private Life of Henry James among the books that helped ...

Living as Little as Possible

Terry Eagleton: Lodge’s James, 23 September 2004

Author, Author: A Novel 
by David Lodge.
Secker, 389 pp., £16.99, September 2004, 0 436 20527 0
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... sedulously cultivated aims. Things do happen to him in Author, Author, not least the suicide of Constance FenimoreWoolson, the grand-niece of Fenimore Cooper, who was fruitlessly in love with him, and the abject failure of his play. But we do not get to know ...

The Henry James Show

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 7 January 1988

Henry James: A Life 
by Leon Edel.
Collins, 740 pp., £25, July 1987, 0 00 217870 2
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The Complete Notebooks of Henry James 
edited by Leon Edel and Lyall Powers.
Oxford, 662 pp., £25, March 1987, 0 19 503782 0
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... that this second happy marriage might rejuvenate the Master’s art. It is hard to believe that Constance FenimoreWoolson, the American novelist Edel contends was secretly in love with James, ‘would know exactly where this most eligible bachelor of literary London stood on the subject of marriage’ after reading ...

Closet Virtuoso

Seamus Perry: Magic Mann, 24 February 2022

The Magician 
by Colm Tóibín.
Viking, 438 pp., £18.99, September 2021, 978 0 241 00461 6
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... Minny Temple, who inspired the heroines of Daisy Miller and The Portrait of a Lady, and the writer Constance FenimoreWoolson, whose tangled intimacy with James provoked some of his most celebrated short stories. Like his sister Alice, Tóibín says, James ‘recoiled from engagements, deep companionship, the warmth of ...

A Man with My Trouble

Colm Tóibín: Henry James leaves home, 3 January 2008

The Complete Letters of Henry James, 1855-72: Volume I 
edited by Pierre Walker and Greg Zacharias.
Nebraska, 391 pp., £57, January 2007, 978 0 8032 2584 8
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The Complete Letters of Henry James, 1855-72: Volume II 
edited by Pierre Walker and Greg Zacharias.
Nebraska, 524 pp., £60, January 2007, 978 0 8032 2607 4
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... end of the century he would often find himself standing in the cemetery at the grave of his friend Constance FenimoreWoolson, who committed suicide in Venice in 1894; her grave was close to those of the sculptor William Wetmore Story, about whom he would write a book, and John Addington Symonds, on whom he would base ...

Roaming the Greenwood

Colm Tóibín: A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition by Gregory Woods, 21 January 1999

A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition 
by Gregory Woods.
Yale, 448 pp., £24.95, February 1998, 0 300 07201 5
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... been unable to love. Clearly, he has been unable to love May Bartram, as James was unable to love Constance FenimoreWoolson; and it is open to readers whether or not they believe that May has understood all along something Marcher cannot entertain. He may have failed to love her because he was gay. And because he ...

Henry James and Romance

Barbara Everett, 18 June 1981

Henry James Letters. Vol. III: 1883-1895 
edited by Leon Edel.
Macmillan, 579 pp., £17.50, March 1981, 0 333 18046 1
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Culture and Conduct in the Novels of Henry James 
by Alwyn Berland.
Cambridge, 231 pp., £17.50, April 1981, 0 521 23343 7
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Literary Reviews and Essays, A London Life, The Reverberator, Italian Hours, The Sacred Fount, Watch and Ward 
by Henry James.
Columbus, 409 pp., £2.60, February 1981, 0 394 17098 9
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... particularly, that – presumably by suicide – in Venice of his much-liked and loving friend, Constance Woolson (‘Fenimore’). The sense of betrayal, of shock and outrage, at what there seemed to be of incrimination in her death leaves him without his usual manner, bewildered and defensive. Even while she was ...

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