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Understanding Forwards

Michael Wood: William James, 20 September 2007

William JamesIn the Maelstrom of American Modernism 
by Robert Richardson.
Mariner, 622 pp., £15, September 2007, 978 0 618 43325 4
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... He was always around the corner and out of sight,’ Henry James wrote of his older brother William as a child. ‘He was clear out before I got well in.’ The philosopher C.S. Peirce said something similar about the grown man. ‘He so concrete, so living, I a mere table of contents ...

Copying the coyote

Richard Poirier, 18 October 1984

The Principles of Psychology 
by William James, introduced by George Miller.
Harvard, 1302 pp., £14.95, December 1983, 0 674 70625 0
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A Stroll with William James 
by Jacques Barzun.
Chicago, 344 pp., £16, October 1983, 0 226 03865 3
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Becoming William James 
by Howard Feinstein.
Cornell, 377 pp., $24.95, May 1984, 0 8014 1617 5
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Essays in Psychology 
by William James, edited by Frederick Burkhardt and Fredson Bowers.
Harvard, 467 pp., £32, April 1984, 0 674 26714 1
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... When, in the summer of 1898, at the age of 56, William James went to Berkeley, California to deliver a series of lectures on pragmatism, he could have used his own life to illustrate the immensely difficult but successful application of one of its tenets: that truth is best seen as ‘what it is better for us to believe’, not as ‘as an accurate representation of reality’, and that what is better for us to believe is what can be ascertained only in and through our actions, not by consultation with fixed ideas or traditions or, notably in his case, by family example ...

The Henry James Show

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 7 January 1988

Henry JamesA 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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... the case of a couple who had served as custodians of the Shakespeare house in Stratford, Henry James constructed a marvellously ironic narrative about the ‘stupid’ avidity of a public who care nothing for the artist’s work and everything for his legend, flocking to the shrine to see ‘where He hung up His hat and where He kept His boots and ...

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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... Forty-one years after F.O. Matthiessen’s suicide, and 44 after his big book The James Family: A Group Biography, here is R.W.B. Lewis, Matthiessen’s pupil at Harvard, with one on the same subject, nearly as big. Its very title twists a touch awkwardly to avoid repeating that of its precursor, to which Lewis acknowledges a large debt ...

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 JamesThe Imagination of Genius 
by Fred Kaplan.
Hodder, 620 pp., £25, November 1992, 9780340555538
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... up my pen once more after this long interval to converse with my in many ways twin bro.’ Thus William James to Henry in 1873. We might put against this comments from earlier letters. ‘Our 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 ...

Introspection and the Body

P.N. Johnson-Laird, 5 March 1987

William JamesHis Life and Thought 
by Gerald Myers.
Yale, 628 pp., £30, October 1986, 0 300 03417 2
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... Henry James Sr was a redoubtable patriarch who received a large inheritance from his father – an Irish immigrant who had made a fortune in upstate New York – and spent it on a life of leisure and religiosity. He shuttled back and forth to Europe on a kind of one-man cultural exchange which combined the grand tour with a Continental education for his children ...

I whine for her like a babe

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: The Other Alice James, 25 June 2009

Alice in Jamesland: The Story of Alice Howe Gibbens James 
by Susan Gunter.
Nebraska, 422 pp., £38, March 2009, 978 0 8032 1569 6
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... 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 ...

Transcendental Criticism

David Trotter, 3 March 1988

The Renewal of Literature: Emersonian Reflections 
by Richard Poirier.
Faber, 256 pp., £14.95, March 1988, 0 571 15013 6
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... of contemporary critics. Compounding with half will please nobody. From The Comic Sense of Henry James (1960) through A World Elsewhere (1966) and The Performing Self (1971) to Robert Frost: The Work of Knowing (1977), Poirier has pursued a consistent and inventive enquiry into literary language, and into the politics of literary language. ‘When a writer ...

Gains in Clarity

P.F. Strawson, 4 November 1982

Philosophy in the 20th Century 
by A.J. Ayer.
Weidenfeld, 283 pp., £12.50, September 1982, 0 297 78179 0
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... American pragmatism from ‘the analytic movement’ and assigns Goodman and Quine as well as James and Lewis to the former, while the coverage of the latter runs from Russell to Dummett via the members of the Vienna Circle and a number of familiar English and American names. But if Lewis, Quine and Goodman were, or are, content to call themselves ...

Both Ends of the Tub

Thomas Karshan: Nicholson Baker, 24 July 2003

A Box of Matches 
by Nicholson Baker.
Chatto, 178 pp., £10, February 2003, 0 7011 7402 1
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... pennies for a five-dollar bill.’ Having counted out the pennies, and taken along an anthology of William James for company, Baker was forced to wait at the counter as the manager counted out every penny, ‘while dozens of well-off, exhausted East Siders curled their lips at my somewhat pathetic miserliness’: I reeled to the violently yellow ...

Grandfather Emerson

Harold Bloom, 7 April 1994

Poetry and Pragmatism 
by Richard Poirier.
Faber, 228 pp., £20, November 1992, 0 571 16617 2
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... the development in American criticism during the last three decades, from The Comic Sense of Henry James (1960) and A World Elsewhere (1966), through a middle phase in The Performing Self (1971) and Norman Mailer (1972), on to the major study of Robert Frost: The Work of Knowing (1977), and culminating in The Renewal of Literature: Emersonian Reflections ...

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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... After the death of Henry James’s father in 1882, his sister-in-law Catharine Walsh, better known as Aunt Kate, burned a large quantity of the family papers, including many letters between Henry James senior and his wife. Henry James himself in later life made a number of bonfires in which he destroyed a great quantity of the letters he had received ...

Broken Knowledge

Frank Kermode, 4 August 1983

The Oxford Book of Aphorisms 
edited by John Gross.
Oxford, 383 pp., £9.50, March 1983, 0 19 214111 2
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The Travellers’ Dictionary of Quotation: Who said what about where? 
edited by Peter Yapp.
Routledge, 1022 pp., £24.95, April 1983, 0 7100 0992 5
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... are pragmatical opponents of the institutional tradition. They include Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, William James, the later Wittgenstein and the later Heidegger, all philosophers who ‘want to keep the space open for the sense of wonder which poets can sometimes cause’. Bacon once called wonder ‘broken knowledge’ – a definition that suits ...

Holy Padlock

Pat Rogers, 6 October 1983

The Religious Life of Samuel Johnson 
by Charles Pierce.
Athlone, 184 pp., £12.50, March 1983, 0 485 30010 9
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... have been properly edited for the first time, and a useful monograph on this subject written by James Gray. A pioneering study by Maurice Quinlan, Samuel Johnson: A Layman’s Religion (1964), has been valuably supplemented by Chester Chapin in The Religious Thought of Samuel Johnson (1968). The prayers and private diaries have been used more extensively by ...

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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... Morningside Heights there’s an enormous residential tower which in 1932 replaced the Henry James, an apartment house built at the turn of the 20th century and advertised to appeal to ‘refined persons’. When William Dean Howells first told James about the building, ...

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