James and the Limitations of Self-Therapy

  • William Veeder


In 1991 I proposed a reading of Henry James’s career that called into question the notion of the Major Phase. Even then I sensed what teaching James since has confirmed: a crucial piece of the argument is missing. I’d like to offer that piece now — and with it what I hope is a more complete account of James’s richly productive but deeply troubled life at the turn of the century.


Therapy Phase Female Protagonist Archaic Feature Short Fiction Masterly General Control 
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  1. 1.
    Leon Edel, Henry James: A Life (New York, 1985), pp. 480, 481.Google Scholar
  2. Also William Veeder, ‘The Feminine Orphan and Emergent Master: Self-Realization in Henry James’, The Henry James Review, 12 (Winter 1991), 20–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Henry James, A Small Boy and Others (New York, 1913), pp. 120–21.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Sigmund Freud, ‘Family Romances’, in Collected Papers, ed. James Strachey (New York, 1959), vol. 5, pp. 74–8.Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    Leon Edel, Henry James (Philadelphia, 1953), vol. 1, p. 45.Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady (New York, 1963; 1881 text), p. 516.Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    Jennifer Wicke, ‘Great Good Places: The Sex of Knowledge and the Utopia of Consumption’, delivered at the M/MLA Annual Meeting, 1989.Google Scholar
  8. 12.
    David McWhirter, Desire and Love in Henry James (Cambridge, 1989). Professor McWhirter is one of the few critics to argue that The Ambassadors has more in common with James’s previous fiction than with his subsequent novels.Google Scholar
  9. 13.
    James’s homosexual inclinations were first given serious treatment by Edel in connection with the novelist’s relationship with the Scandinavian sculptor Hendrik Andersen in the 1890s (Henry James, vol. 4, pp. 306–16). In 1979, Richard Hall traced these inclinations back to the 1870s in connection with Henry’s relations with his brother William (‘An Obscure Hurt’, The New Republic, April 28 and May 5, 25–31 and 25–9). Subsequently, in ‘Henry James: Interpreting an Obsessive Memory’, Hall quotes a letter from Edel: ‘your entire desire of evidence is certainly convincing to me’ (Literary Versions of Homosexuality, ed. Stuart Kellogg [New York, 1983], p. 85). Edel later added that ‘once we agree on Henry’s love fixation on William, that explains a lot of things’ (86).Google Scholar
  10. See also B. D. Horwitz’s unfairly neglected study of the forces which produced James’s homosexual inclinations (‘The Sense of Desolation in Henry James’, Psychocultural Review, 1 [1977], 466–92).Google Scholar
  11. As early as 1962, Maxwell Geismar discusses ‘The Pupil’ in terms of male bonds and implicates William James (Henry James and the Jacobites [New York, 1962], pp. 115–16).Google Scholar
  12. 15.
    Henry James Letters, ed. Leon Edel (Cambridge, Mass., 1975), vol. 2, p. 177.Google Scholar
  13. 17.
    Henry James, The Art of the Novel, ed. R. P. Blackmur (New York, 1934), p. 237.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • William Veeder

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