Autobiography, with Letters

By William Lyon Phelps | Go to book overview
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58
HENRY JAMES

I FIRST saw Henry James in 1911 in New Haven. He had been staying with some friends in Farmington, Conn., and he seemed to enjoy motor trips more than anything else. Miss Pope, who brought him from Farmington in her motor car, said that if she asked him if he would like to meet some people at a luncheon, he would say No; but if she suggested a journey in an automobile, he gladly agreed to that, and never asked whither they were going. Accordingly on this day, 23 May 1911, she brought him from Farmington to New Haven, where he was the guest of honour at a luncheon given by Mr. and Mrs. Harry Day. Mrs. W. E. Hocking, Mrs. Kingsley Blake, and Mr. George Seymour were present.

I had supposed that Mr. James would be reserved and remote, difficult to talk with; on the contrary, he was absolutely charming. He made me feel immediately at ease, and as if we had been intimate friends. 'Come and sit here with me on the sofa,' he said, and put his arm affectionately around my shoulder. I had with me a copy of his book The Turn of the Screw and I told him that although his literary style had often been called obscure, there was something else in his work that was even more difficult to read. 'And what is that?' 'That is your handwriting.' He smiled and took pains to write his name very slowly and distinctly in my copy of his book. I told him I thought The Turn of the Screw was the most terrifying ghost story I had ever read; that I read it when it first appeared, late at night, and

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