The Jameses: A Family Narrative

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9780374178611: The Jameses: A Family Narrative

Even if the James family hadn't given us both William the philosopher and psychologist, and Henry the novelist, the story of this quirky, wealthy, socially prominent clan would still be riveting. Full of incidents that would become legendary, The Jameses brings to life 150 years of unforgettable American history. Four 8-page inserts.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

William James wrote that brother Henry was really ``a member of James family, and has no other country.'' The meaning of that remark becomes abundantly clear in this weighty group biography, which probes how the master novelist, the pioneering psychologist- philosopher, and their siblings were shaped by the formidable legacy of their ancestors. While contributing little beyond the scholarly detective work of Leon Edel and Jean Strouse in their respective biographies of Henry and sister Alice, Lewis (the Pulitzer Prize-winning Edith Wharton, 1976) skillfully if leisurely gives all members of this unusual clan their due. William James of Albany, grandfather of the literary giants, was a Scotch-Irish immigrant whose shrewdness as merchant and real-estate investor (he bought the village of Syracuse just before it boomed) produced one of the largest American fortunes of the early 19th century. Yet son Henry James, Sr., was a restless religious thinker who left his own children with a legacy of intellectualism, angst, and apprehension over what he termed the ``money passion.'' In addition, Henry and William were affected by Alice, a brilliant woman who suffered devastating depressions, and by Wilky and Bob, whose Civil War service left their older brothers with a lifelong regret over missing the great engagement of their generation. These relationships--marked by affection, rivalry, and differences over how to engage life and art--are outlined by Lewis with restraint and subtle insights (e.g., how William and Henry became concerned with the supernatural and ``varieties of religious experience'' in the early 1900's). An astute family portrait, rendered in Jamesian style--by turns indirect, ironic, psychologically penetrating, and moving. (Thirty-two pages of photographs--not seen.) -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

The story of the James family begins with William James of Albany, who emigrated from Ireland in 1789, prospered extravagantly, and left a fortune that enabled his son, Henry James Sr., to cultivate his philosophical and spiritual ideas, travel, and raise an outstanding literary/intellectual family. The focus is, of course, on the famous Jameses--William the psychologist, Henry Jr. the novelist, Alice the invalid diarist--and their interactions, crises, and creative development. But Lewis also interweaves the stories of the younger brothers (Garth Wilkinson and Robertson), as well as insights into the characters of the wives of the Jameses, and convincingly points out the moral and intellectual influence of Henry James Sr. on his many descendants. This very full and fascinating account of one of America's major families will interest students of literature and history as well as the general reader. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/91.
- Richard Kuczkowski, Dominican Coll., Blauvelt, N.Y.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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