Henry James' Love Life

Henry James' Love Life

E-mail debates of newsworthy topics.
Dec. 31 1996 3:30 AM

Henry James' Love Life

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Dear Leon Edel:

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       In your last letter you shamelessly repeat--although you do not seem able to support--the misstatements and errors of your original column; but I have already said all that needs to be said about those.
       As to your control of access to the James papers at Harvard: You deny that you controlled access to these papers, but in your edition of selected Henry James letters, completed in 1984, you thank the then-owner of Henry James' copyrights "for maintaining the priorities given me by his predecessors in the James family." Perhaps you would care to explain what this means. As anyone who has worked with these materials knows, many (but not all) of the folders in which James' letters are kept at Harvard are still plainly marked, "Reserved for Leon Edel." The librarians must speak for themselves as to why they behaved as they did, but the fact does not seem open to dispute or denial.
       Your doctoral dissertation, published 60 years ago, sits on my shelf beside me as I write. Two generations of scholars have found it almost impossible to speak of Henry James without speaking of you with their next breath. This is an extraordinary accomplishment, and I am sorry that you are not content with it but continue to lash out in this undignified way at every potential rival.

Sincerely yours,
Sheldon M. Novick

(Editor's Note: Leon Edel, author of "Oh Henry!" in SLATE, is unable to continue this dialogue. Fred Kaplan is standing in for him.)