The Nature of True Virtue: Theology, Psychology, and Politics in the Writings of Henry James, Sr., Henry James, Jr., and William James

By James Duban | Go to book overview

5
The Virtuous Idealism of Henry Sr.'s
Lectures and Miscellanies:
Edwards, Emerson, and Henry Sr.

IN A "PREFACE" (DATED MARCH 1852) TO LECTURES AND MISCELLANIES, HENRY Senior omitted explicit reference to his quarrel, a year earlier, with the Christian Inquirer. Yet, probably as a result of his exchange of letters with that newspaper, he "considerably amplified" the New York lectures (L&M, ix) when preparing those for his Lectures and Miscellanies. While the published lectures doubtless contain the improvements Henry Senior had promised Emerson, the miscellanies in the volume counter his adversaries at the Christian Inquirer without deigning to mention them. Still, for the benefit of readers who, by 1852, still remembered the newspaper debate, Henry Senior refers obliquely to it: "The Miscellanies comprise some pieces that have been previously published in another form." Nothing more. He was, in effect, acknowledging that the miscellany entitled "A Very Long Letter" derived from his 5 April, 19 April, and 26 April 1851 letters to the Christian Inquirer. As for the other Miscellanies, he says that those essays have "generally… been taken directly from the author's portfolio," by which he implies their newness.

James wrote and arranged the miscellanies so that they would reinforce his revised lectures and simultaneously fortify the one-sided rendition of the newspaper controversy selectively re-presented in "A Very Long Letter." Consider, for instance, a change in phrasing that occurs between Henry Senior's sixth and concluding newspaper letter of 26 April 1851, and the reiteration of the point in "A Very Long Letter." Seeking, in his newspaper column, to respond to the Christian Inquirer's belief that "a state of society devoid of moral differences must necessarily be a disorderly state," the elder Henry wrote, "I wish to occupy my last letter with a correction of that inference." By the time he composes "A Very Long Letter," correction after the fact is no longer at issue: "But as you, who are not very familiar with

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