Henry James was not only a prolific novelist but also a prolific letter writer. This edition of 150 previously unpublished letters to four of his female contemporaries reveals James to be a warm, witty, and astute commentator on a world now lost. The James revealed in these engaging letters is a vital, clever, and lively man with an intense interest in affairs of his day. The letters present a delightful picture of Victorian-Edwardian culture, including health cures (Fletcherizing and going to health spas), literary scandals (he feared writer Edith Wharton would be destroyed by her mad husband Teddy), domestic affairs (the marriage market, child rearing, antiquing, decorating, and gardening), and historical events (the Civil War, Queen Victoria's funeral, England's great Coal Strike, the Dreyfus case, and World War I).
Susan Gunter has selected and annotated correspondence between James and four women in his social milieu: Alice Howe Gibbens James, wife of William James; Mary Cadwalader Jones, wife of Frederic Rhinelander Jones (New York socialite and Edith Wharton's brother); Mary Frances Prothero, wife of Cambridge academic Sir George Prothero; and Lady Louisa Wolseley, wife of Viscount Garnet Wolseley, commander-in-chief of the British Forces.
Of the 10,000 extant letters by James, over two-thirds of them have never been published. The selection presented here is designed to reveal the writer's human side, his humorous and warm views of Anglo-American life over a fifty-year span, as well as his intimate participation in nineteenth-century women's daily lives. Editor Susan Gunter has provided an introduction that offers a helpful historical overview of nineteenth-century women's roles, a biographical register of people mentioned in the letters, a chronology, and brief biographies of the four women correspondents.
Readers interested in gender studies, biography, intellectual and cultural history, and literary history and those who enjoyed the recent film versions of James's novels Wings of the Dove, The Portrait of a Lady, and Washington Square will find this book fascinating.