The Letters of William James - Vol. 1

By Henry James; William James | Go to book overview

III

1864-1866 The Harvard Medical School -- With Louis Agassiz to the Amazon

IN 1864 the family moved from Newport to Boston, where Henry James, Senior, took a house on Ashburton Place (No. 13) for two years, and there was no more occasion for family letters. Although James began the regular course at the Medical School, he had arrived at no clear professional purpose and no selection of any particular field of study. The School afforded him some measure of preparation for natural science as well as for practice.

Philosophy had undoubtedly begun to beckon him, although its appealing gesture lacked authority and did not enlist him in any regular course of philosophic studies. In sixty-five he wrote to his brother Henry from Brazil saying, "When I get home, I'm going to study philosophy all my days." But in many respects his character and tastes matured slowly. The instruction offered by Professor Francis Bowen in Harvard College does not appear to have excited his interest at all. It cannot have failed to excite the irony of his father, -- as did everything of the sort that was academic and orthodox, -- and James would have been aware of this and might have been influenced. On the other hand, it was obvious that, in the case of his father, who had no connection with church, college or school, the consideration and expression of theories and beliefs had always been a totally unremunerative occupation; and

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