The Letters of William James - Vol. 1

By Henry James; William James | Go to book overview

VI

1869-I872 Invalidism in Cambridge

THE return to Cambridge from Germany in November, 1868, marked the beginning of four outwardly uneventful years. James spent them under his father's roof. His family and intimate friends were usually close at hand; the stream of his correspondence shrank to almost nothing. The few letters that have been preserved do incomplete justice to this period, but can, fortunately, be supplemented by other documents.

James obtained his medical degree easily enough in June, 1869; but he had no thought of engaging in the practice of medicine. He wanted to go on with physiology; but he was not strong enough to work in a laboratory. Condemned to sedentary occupations, and without any definite responsibilities, he seemed, to his own jaundiced vision, to be declining into a desultory and profitless idleness.

In this he was hardly fair to himself or to the conditions. It is true that he had no remunerative occupation, and that he could look forward to no well-defined professional career for which he could be preparing and training himself. He was, also, handicapped by the fact that sometimes he could not use his eyes for more than two hours a day. On the other hand, he would probably not have been happy in any professional harness into which he could then have fitted, and was really more fortunate in having leisure to read and discuss and fill note-books forced upon him be-

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