Middle-Aged Women in Literature

  • Carolyn G. Heilbrun
Part of the Women in Context: Development and Stresses book series (WICO)


Henry James was nearly 50 when he wrote those words in his notebook; 10 years later he would begin The Ambassadors, the first of his last three great novels. Its hero is a man of 55, a man who has failed to live his life until now—even, perhaps, to recognize that he has not lived it. Henry James and his generation of American men provide all of us with a model for late achievement. Two friends from his youth, Henry Adams and Oliver Wendell Holmes, were, like James, to flower late: Adams did not write Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres until he was 65 and his Education of Henry Adams until he was almost 70. Holmes reached his full powers when he was appointed to the Supreme Court at 61 (Matthiessen, 1944, p. 30). Henry’s brother, William James, whose youth was a long exercise in indecision, did not produce his first book, the important Principles of Psychology, until he was 47.


Jewish Woman Woman Today Commanding Force Woman Artist Feminine Mystique 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Barnes, D. Nightwood. New York: New Directions, 1937.Google Scholar
  2. Bennett, A. The old wives’ tale (New ed. with preface). New York: Doubleday, Doran, 1928.Google Scholar
  3. Butler, S. The way of all flesh. New York: Modern Library, n.d.Google Scholar
  4. Colmer, J. E. M. Forster: The personal voice. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1975.Google Scholar
  5. de Beauvoir, S. [The second sex] (H. M. Parshley, Ed. and trans. ). New York: Knopf, 1957.Google Scholar
  6. Dinesen, I. The monkey. In Seven gothic tales. New York: Vintage Books, 1972.Google Scholar
  7. Eliot, G. Daniel Deronda. New York: Penguin, 1967.Google Scholar
  8. Freud, S. The relation of the poet to daydreaming. In Collected Papers (Vol. 4 ). London: Hogarth Press, 1957.Google Scholar
  9. Heilbrun, C. G. On Katherine Anne Porter In C. Skaggs (Eds.), The American short story (Vol. 2 ). New York: Dell, 1980.Google Scholar
  10. James, H. The notebooks of Henry James (F. O. Matthiessen and K. B. Murdock, Eds.). New York: Oxford University Press, 1947.Google Scholar
  11. James, H. The ambassadors. New York: Norton, 1964.Google Scholar
  12. Kearns, M. Käthe Kollwitz: Woman and artist. Old Westbury, N.Y.: Feminist Press, 1976.Google Scholar
  13. Mallet-Joris, F. A womanly vocation. In E. M. Eisenger and M. McCarty (Eds.), Colette: The woman, the writer. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1981.Google Scholar
  14. Matthiessen, F. O. Henry James: The major phase. New York: Oxford University Press, 1944.Google Scholar
  15. Mintz, A. George Eliot and the novel of vocation. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1978.Google Scholar
  16. Rubinstein, R. The novelistic vision of Doris Lessing: Breaking the forms of consciousness. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1979.Google Scholar
  17. Sarde, M. Colette: Free and fettered (Richard Millder, Trans.). New York: William Morrow, 1980.Google Scholar
  18. Sarde, M. The first steps in a writer’s career. In E. M. Eisenger and M. McCarty (Eds.), Colette: The woman, the writer. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1981.Google Scholar
  19. Sarton, M. Birthday on the Acropolis. In A private mythology. New York: Norton, 1965. (a)Google Scholar
  20. Sarton, M. Mrs. Stevens hears the mermaids singing. New York: Norton, 1965. (b)Google Scholar
  21. Smith, S. Me again: Uncollected writings of Stevie Smith (J. Barbera and W. McBrien, Eds.). London: Virago, 1981.Google Scholar
  22. Wilson, A. The middle age of Mrs. Eliot. New York: Meridian, 1960.Google Scholar
  23. Woolf, V. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1925.Google Scholar
  24. Woolf, V. To the lighthouse. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1949.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carolyn G. Heilbrun
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of EnglishColumbia UniversityUSA
  2. 2.New YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations