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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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... drawn the breath that was not succeeded by another,’ Henry James wrote to their eldest brother, William, in America, as if, in the now fashionable way, defining death to a Martian. Eager to do what justice she could to the occasion, Alice had sent William a farewell telegram the day before, which Henry later ...

His Generation

Keith Gessen: A Sad Old Literary Man, 19 June 2008

Alfred Kazin: A Biography 
by Richard Cook.
Yale, 452 pp., £25, March 2008, 978 0 300 11505 5
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... tragedy, a squandered opportunity, a failure. ‘What was it he had missed?’ Kazin asks of William DeanHowells, whose modest novels fought the battle for realism as best they could. ‘Howells had missed something, and he knew it as well as the generations after him were to ...

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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... 403 letters and appeared in 1920, just four years after the novelist’s death. Lubbock found Mrs William James, the formidable widow of Henry James’s elder brother, moving ‘in a cloud of fine discretions and hesitations and precautions’. She disliked Edith Wharton ‘thoroughly – and morbidly’, as Edel put it, and this meant that Wharton or anyone ...


James Wolcott: Rick Moody, 19 September 2002

The Black Veil 
by Rick Moody.
Faber, 323 pp., £16.99, August 2002, 0 571 20056 7
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... memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, was puffed by Moody), David Foster Wallace and William T. Vollmann, Moody spurns the eye-dropper technique of minimalism that was fashionable when he was a nervous colt in the 1980s in favour of a bachelor-guy pack-rat approach where everything the author has ever seen, read, felt or heard on headphones is ...


Thomas Powers: Stephen Crane, 17 July 2014

Stephen Crane: A Life of Fire 
by Paul Sorrentino.
Harvard, 476 pp., £25, June 2014, 978 0 674 04953 6
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... admirer of Zola and a writer for New York’s Evening Sun. They were in the studio of the painter William Dallgren, who was painting a portrait of Davies (maybe). Out with Davies! Out with Dallgren! Out with the bit of tooth Crane lost in a fistfight at 17 after he described a Tennyson poem as swill! Banishing Beer brings some sad losses but Sorrentino sticks ...

Incandescent Memory

Thomas Powers: Mark Twain, 28 April 2011

Autobiography of Mark Twain Vol. I 
edited by Harriet Elinor Smith et al.
California, 736 pp., £24.95, November 2010, 978 0 520 26719 0
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... A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, a book with a sharp edge, he wrote to his friend William DeanHowells that too many subjects had escaped his wrath. ‘They burn in me; and they keep multiplying … but now they can’t ever be said. And besides, they would require a library – and a pen warmed-up in ...

Adieu, madame

Terry Castle: Sarah Bernhardt, 4 November 2010

Sarah: The Life of Sarah Bernhardt 
by Robert Gottlieb.
Yale, 233 pp., £18.99, October 2010, 978 0 300 14127 6
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... take note: tough-guy-hipster-fedora-favourers – Al Capone, Humphrey Bogart, J. Edgar Hoover, William S. Burroughs, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Depp – might all be considered unwitting imitators of Sarah Bernhardt.) 5. The Rampant (er … ) Erotomania. (One moment, Herr Doktor – cough cough – my throat is tickling me.) World famous by her late ...


Andrew O’Hagan: The Bournemouth Set, 21 May 2020

... or at least filled with the dying, he began to collect remains, and had those of his grandparents, William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, transported from St Pancras Old Church in London to the cemetery of St Mary’s in Bournemouth, where they lie today with his mother, Mary.After a number of ‘thundering influenzas’ late in 1884, the warmer months had ...

Bitchy Little Spinster

Joanne O’Leary: Queens of Amherst, 3 June 2021

After Emily: Two Remarkable Women and the Legacy of America's Greatest Poet 
by Julie Dobrow.
Norton, 448 pp., £13.99, January 2020, 978 0 393 35749 3
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... business as a Maltese cat’.Mabel now concentrated on their publicity strategy. She contacted William DeanHowells, editor of the Atlantic Monthly, who agreed to write a piece on Dickinson. Of all the reviewers of the 1890 volume, Howells was the most intuitive:Occasionally, the ...

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