The Letters of William James - Vol. 1

By Henry James; William James | Go to book overview

VIII

1878-1883 Marriage -- Contract for the Psychology -- European Colleagues -- Death of his Parents

EARLY in 1876 James had been introduced by their common friend Thomas Davidson (that ardent and lovable man whom he sketched with incomparable strokes in "A Knight Errant of the Intellectual Life") to Miss Alice H. Gibbens, and the next day he wrote to his brother Wilky that he had met "the future Mrs. W.J." Miss Gibbens had grown up in Weymouth, a pleasant little Massachusetts town in which several generations of her ancestors had lived comfortably and which was then still untouched by the "development" that later converted it and its neighbour, Quincy, into unseemly stone-quarriers' suburbs. In 1876 she had just returned, with her widowed mother and two younger sisters, from a five-years' residence in Europe and was teaching in a school for girls in Boston. On July 10, 1878, after a short engagement, he and Miss Gibbens were married by the Reverend Rufus Ellis at the house of the bride's grandmother in Boston.

It must be left to a later day and a less intimate and partial hand to do adequate justice to a marriage which was happy in the rarest and fullest sense, and which was soon to work an abiding transformation in James's health and spirits. No mere devotion could have achieved the skill and care with which his wife understood and helped him. Family duties and responsibilities, often grave and worrisome enough, weighed lightly in the balance against the

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