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In what sense did she love him?

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Constance Fenimore Woolson

7 May 2014
The Complete Letters of Constance Fenimore​ Woolson 
edited by Sharon Dean.
Florida, 609 pp., £71.95, July 2012, 978 0 8130 3989 3
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... ConstanceFenimoreWoolson’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 ...

‘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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... Minny Temple, who died of tuberculosis at the age of 24 but was famously resurrected in the heroines of The Portrait of a Lady (1881) and The Wings of the Dove (1902), and the American writer, ConstanceFenimoreWoolson, 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 ...

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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... her of a last joy. James doesn’t think this accusation is unjust. ‘He had denied her when she asked him gently for help.’ But the great denial in Tóibín’s book involves James’s friend ConstanceFenimoreWoolson, 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 ...
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 Fenimore Woolson, edited by Joan Myers Weimer.
Rutgers, 341 pp., $42, December 1988, 0 8135 1347 2
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... when the narrator first reveals that the querulous droning voice he has been overhearing is not Zeena’s but Mattie’s is as chilling as any that fiction has to offer. As in Wharton’s case, ConstanceFenimoreWoolson’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 acutely aware that a ...

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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... as possible, in order to nurture that substitute form of living known as art, was one of his most sedulously cultivated aims. Things do happen to him in Author, Author, not least the suicide of ConstanceFenimoreWoolson, 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 Constance well enough to feel her death at ...

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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... her himself after the death of his first wife. The final lines of the tale even raise the possibility that this second happy marriage might rejuvenate the Master’s art. It is hard to believe that ConstanceFenimoreWoolson, 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 ...

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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... an angle of the wall of imperial Rome, beneath the cypresses and the thick spring-flowers’. By the end of the century he would often find himself standing in the cemetery at the grave of his friend ConstanceFenimoreWoolson, 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 ...

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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... After her death, Marcher, too, realises, vaguely, what it is about. He has failed to love; he has been unable to love. Clearly, he has been unable to love May Bartram, as James was unable to love ConstanceFenimoreWoolson; 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 ...
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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... And one death among the many that darken the second half of this volume clearly horrified him particularly, that – presumably by suicide – in Venice of his much-liked and loving friend, ConstanceWoolson (‘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 ...

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