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15 September 1983
The Forties: From the Notebooks and Diaries of the Period 
by Edmund Wilson, edited and introduced by Leon Edel.
Macmillan, 369 pp., £14.95, August 1983, 0 333 21212 6
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The Portable Edmund Wilson 
edited by Lewis Dabney.
Penguin, 647 pp., £3.95, May 1983, 0 14 015098 6
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To the Finland Station 
by Edmund Wilson.
Macmillan, 487 pp., £5.95, September 1983, 0 333 35143 6
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... and diaries for those decades – may have done something to further this end. Wilson had done some of the preparation for their publication before his death in 1972. The Forties is wholly edited by LeonEdel, who says in his Preface that this decade, at any rate the first half of it, is pretty scrappy so far as journal entries go, and it has to be said that the whole collection does Wilson no good ...

A Conversation with Gore Vidal

Thomas Powers: Meeting Gore Vidal

30 July 2014
... bewildering in Vidal’s world, where literally everybody seems to know everybody – but when Vidal had asked him, Straight simply said: ‘Well, he left, that’s all …’ I suggested he ask LeonEdel, since Edel had access to all the diaries and letters and would probably know the answer. This led inevitably to a much larger subject: had Edel deliberately suppressed important evidence that ...

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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... romantic lies about the poet’s life, the immediate targets of James’s satire are his unappreciative public and his more popular rivals, not his future biographers. But in the context of LeonEdel’s longstanding defence of the biographer’s art, his reading of the story as one in which ‘the creative imagination triumphs over the mundane’ and ‘the keeper of the shrine pays his tribute ...

Making sentences

Philip Horne

21 November 1991
The Jameses: A Family Narrative 
by R.W.B. Lewis.
Deutsch, 696 pp., £20, October 1991, 0 233 98748 7
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Meaning in Henry James 
by Millicent Bell.
Harvard, 384 pp., £35.95, October 1991, 9780674557628
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... in artistic achievement, and the history of ideas, rather than the creatively psycho-biographical perspectives powerfully applied to the family’s relations and texts, soon after his death, by LeonEdel in his multi-volume life of Henry James. As a Harvard professor, Matthiessen had been, under the terms laid down by the James estate, one of the very few permitted to use the huge family archive in ...

Bros

Tony Tanner

22 April 1993
The Correspondence of William James. Vol. I: William and Henry 1861-1884 
edited by Ignas Skrupskelis and Elizabeth Berkeley.
Virginia, 477 pp., £39.95, January 1993, 0 8139 1338 1
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Henry James: The Imagination of Genius 
by Fred Kaplan.
Hodder, 620 pp., £25, November 1992, 9780340555538
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... ways are so far apart that I doubt if we ever really get intimate’ (1867). But then again, a year later: ‘I feel as if you were one of the 2 or 3 sole intellectual & moral companions I have.’ LeonEdel, in his majestic biography of Henry James, stressed what he saw as a deep unconscious rivalry between the brothers, which pulled against their more consciously maintained fraternal affection. If ...

Beastliness

Harry Ricketts

16 March 1989
Rudyard Kipling 
by Martin Seymour-Smith.
Macdonald, 373 pp., £16.95, February 1989, 0 356 15852 7
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... Speculation, LeonEdel remarks in his one-volume life of Henry James, is ‘the stock-in-trade of all biographers’. But if all biographers speculate, some do so more scrupulously and convincingly than others. Edel, for ...

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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... In two of his stories, ‘The Aspern Papers’ and ‘Sir Dominick Ferrand’, valued letters are turned to illegible ashes – ‘as a kind of sadism on posterity’, in the words of his biographer LeonEdel. James was fully alert to the power of letters, having paid close attention to the published correspondence of Balzac, Flaubert and George Sand, and alert to the power of editors. After reading ...

Fine Chances

Michael Wood

5 June 1986
Literary Criticism 
by Henry James, edited by Leon Edel.
Cambridge, 1500 pp., £30, July 1985, 0 521 30100 9
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Henry James: The Writer and his Work 
by Tony Tanner.
Massachusetts, 142 pp., £16.95, November 1985, 0 87023 492 7
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... more are to come. I puzzled a bit over how complete the collection was, looking in vain for James’s essays on Tennyson’s plays and on Ibsen. Then I unravelled the phrase (offered by the editor, LeonEdel): ‘the complete literary-critical non-fictional writings of the novelist’. Meaning, it seems, not the writing on drama, art or travel, and not the literary criticism contained or enacted in ...

Death and the Maiden

Mary-Kay Wilmers

6 August 1981
Alice James 
by Jean Strouse.
Cape, 367 pp., £9.95, February 1981, 0 224 01436 6
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The Death and Letters of Alice James 
edited by Ruth Bernard Yeazell.
California, 214 pp., £6.95, March 1981, 0 520 03745 6
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... father – who had taken on himself the task of defining reality for the rest of the family – had not offered her one; and her mother’s example was inappropriate: she wasn’t like her mother. LeonEdel, in his Life of Henry James, sees Alice as a casualty not so much of the family as of the age: ‘In our time,’ he says, ‘she might have learned to play tennis, to swim, to row, to ski, to ...

Babylons

A.D. Moody

19 June 1980
Henry James. Letters. Volume II: 1875-1883 
edited by Leon Edel.
Macmillan, 438 pp., £15, March 1980, 0 333 18045 3
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Henry James: The Later Novels 
by Nicola Bradbury.
Oxford, 228 pp., £12, December 1979, 0 19 812096 6
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... Yet, so like is this decorum to that of the novels, in what is thought fit for conversation (‘what are letters but talk?’ James wrote in 1882, in a letter printed by Lubbock but not included by Edel) and in the constant play of discrimination which points the talk and makes it ‘good’, that one can see how much James viewed his world through the eyes of his family and their New England ...
19 July 1984
Henry James Letters. Vol. IV: 1895-1915 
edited by Leon Edel.
Harvard, 835 pp., £24, April 1984, 9780674387836
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... labyrinth’ and basis of his recovery, he told Putnam, was eating enough, feeding as little fatteningly as possible, and having plenty of distractions. This brings us to a major issue in regard to LeonEdel’s great edition, now concluded, of the Letters. It could be argued that to be as un-‘Freudian’ as James makes you an ideal subject for Freudian study. This does not seem quite to be Edel ...
19 September 1996
Our Vampires, Ourselves 
by Nina Auerbach.
Chicago, 238 pp., £17.50, November 1995, 0 226 03201 9
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... attests, Auerbach is on to something. At the same time, she is aware that the vampire genre, even when its sexual content is muted, can be linked to a broader tradition of psychological fiction. LeonEdel wrote years ago of ‘the vampire theme’ in the fiction of Henry James; and Keats’s biographer Walter Jackson Bate wrote (with some scepticism) about the possibility that ‘Lamia ...

I only want the OM

Christopher Tayler: Somerset Maugham

1 September 2005
Somerset Maugham: A Life 
by Jeffrey Meyers.
Vintage, 411 pp., £12, April 2005, 1 4000 3052 8
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... could not make the most of the other five’. He launched a parallel career in the theatre, violently determined not to make the same mistakes as Henry James, whom he knew and disliked. (According to LeonEdel, he was fond of ‘telling his friends of an alleged attempt by Hugh Walpole to violate the Master, and of James’s passionate recoil’.) Maugham was present on the opening night of Guy ...

I can’t, I can’t

Anne Diebel: Edel​ v. the Rest

21 November 2013
Monopolising the Master: Henry James and the Politics of Modern Literary Scholarship 
by Michael Anesko.
Stanford, 280 pp., £30.50, March 2012, 978 0 8047 6932 7
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... hold of the public imagination while stifling the real James. Monopolising the Master opens with James’s own efforts to determine his posthumous reputation but quickly locks focus on the biographer LeonEdel’s alliance with James’s nephew Harry, which allowed Edel to gain control of the James papers. The second half of the book is an entertaining takedown of the unscrupulous Edel, but some of ...

A World of Waste

Philip Horne

1 September 1983
The Proprietor 
by Ann Schlee.
Macmillan, 300 pp., £8.95, September 1983, 0 333 35111 8
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Slouching towards Kalamazoo 
by Peter De Vries.
Gollancz, 241 pp., £7.95, August 1983, 0 575 03306 1
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Marcovaldo 
by Italo Calvino, translated by William Weaver.
Secker, 121 pp., £7.95, August 1983, 0 436 08272 1
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The Loser 
by George Konard, translated by Ivan Sanders.
Allen Lane, 315 pp., £8.95, August 1983, 0 7139 1599 4
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... of which Ann Schlee regularly reminds us. Thus: ‘Indeed no letters from Augustus to Mrs Pontefract are traceable until after the New Year, and it is tempting to surmise that none were written.’ LeonEdel has said that ‘a modern biographer ... is primarily a storyteller,’ and the common aspiration of biographers towards the authority of the novelist can irritate those who want to know why ...

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