It's estimated that Henry James wrote an astonishing 40,000 letters in his lifetime, many of them lost, many still in private hands, many unpublished. Just the letters that editors know about will eventually require 140 volumes to print, and in toto, they may comprise one of the greatest literary epistolary efforts -- particularly the youthful, uncharacteristically funny, lively and even patriotic missives. (To his father on the elderly Pope Pius IX: 'When the Pope, clad in shining robes crept up to the altar & in the midst of that dazzling shrine of light, possessed himself of the Host & raised it aloft over the prostrate multitudes, I got a very good look at him by poking up my head & confronting that terrible toy.') Colm Toibin explains the history of the letters and how James became James -- on the publication of The Complete Letters of Henry James, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2.

January 3, 2008 11:41 AM |



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