From the Desk of Henry James: November 20, 1879

Since 2006, the University of Nebraska Press has worked to publish The Complete Letters of Henry James, an acclaimed series that fills a crucial gap in modern literary studies by presenting in a scholarly edition the complete letters of one of the great novelists and letter writers of the English language. Comprising more than ten thousand letters reflecting on a remarkably wide range of topics—from James’s own life and literary projects to broader questions on art, literature, and criticism—these editions are an indispensable resource for students of James and of American and English literature, culture, and criticism.

Were Mr. James around today, we think he would be delighted to contribute to the UNP blog. Today we’re sharing one of his many letters, written November 20, 1879.


From the Desk of Henry James

The following is an excerpt from The Complete Letters of Henry James (1878-1880) Vol. 2 by Henry James, edited by Pierre A. Walker and Greg W. Zacharias (October, 2015).

Elizabeth Boott
20 November [1879]
ALS Houghton
bMS Am 1094 (554)

51 Rue Nve. St. Augustin.
Nov. 20th

My good—my best—Lizzie.
You treat me with real magnanimity, & for very shame I must answer on the spot your letter which arrived 1/2 an-hour ago. Yes, I know I owe you two or three letters; but I owe you so much besides, & shall owe you so much forever, that these mere items have seemed to lose themselves in the great sea of my indebtedness. It is charming to hear from you, & you must not measure my appreciation of your letter, which are among the consolations of my existence, by my occasional, accidental & involuntary dumbness.—I will instantly subscribe to l’Art (to that rather vague address,) for you, & only wish the service were a heavier one to render. I expect to leave Paris for Florence on Monday p.m. Dec 1st., to stop a day at Turin, & to reach F. on Dec. 4th p.m. So you see your scepticism is unfounded. Expect me, according to this programme, unless you hear a word to the contrary. If I am obliged to delay—or able to anticipate—a day or two, I will write again. My journey to Italy has boiled itself down to very small proportions—& will be as condensed as a pot of Liebigs extract. I shall be able to give but a month to it in all, during which I have promised to go & see my old friend P. Joukowsky (the Russian whom you saw in Paris) at Naples, where he has now fixed himself. But I shall get a clear fortnight with you, & the quality will prevail against the quantity. I am afraid I shall have to cut Rome altogether.—I am very glad of Duveneck’s prosperity & expect soon to hear of your making a firm together—a società artistica. I shan’t attempt to compete with him in eating, but I shall in affection for Maria—& even in your good graces.—Young R. Curtis has turned up, and seems a charming young fellow. Poor Mrs. Huntington—but still poorer Mrs. Lombard! I shall probably telegraph to your father from Turin to ask for a room at the inn. Paris is deadly cold, & I am pining to get away. But ché vuole? Mrs. L…..! I am starving you purposely on Confidence, because the book comes out in London on Dec. 10th & you shall have that promptly. Love to your father. Tout à vous
H. James jr


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