House of Wits: An Intimate Portrait of the James Family

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Macmillan, 2008 M06 10 - 693 pages
3 Reviews
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An American odyssey that reveals the fascinating complexities of one of history's most brilliant, eccentric, and daring families The James family, one of America's most memorable dynasties, gave the world three famous children: a novelist of genius (Henry), an influential philosopher (William), and an invalid (Alice) who became a feminist icon, despite her sheltered life and struggles with mental illness. Although much has been written on them, many truths about the Jameses have long been camouflaged. The conflicts that defined one of American's greatest families-- homosexuality, depression, alcoholism, female oppression--can only now be thoroughly investigated and discussed with candor and understanding.

Paul Fisher's grand family saga, House of Wits, rediscovers a family traumatized by the restrictive standards of their times but reaching out for new ideas and ways to live. He follows the five James offspring ("hotel children," Henry called them) and their parents through their privileged travels across the Atlantic; interludes in Newport and Cambridge; the younger boys' engagement in the Civil War; and William and Henry's later adventures in London, Paris, and Italy. He captures the splendor of their era and all the members of the clan--beginning with their mercurial father, who nurtured, inspired, and damaged them, setting the stage for lives of colorful passions, intense rivalries, and extraordinary achievements. House of Wits is a revealing cultural history that revises and completes our understanding of its remarkable protagonists and the changing world where they came of age.

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User Review  - gayla.bassham - LibraryThing

Completely engrossing, even if you don't know much about the James family. Henry and William are, of course the most famous; but in many ways I found their lives less interesting than those of Alice ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - dwsact - LibraryThing

Readers of [House of Wits] by [[Paul Fisher]] should remember that this is, as the subtitle says,"an intimate portrait of the James family." So don't look for everything you always wanted to know ... Read full review

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About the author (2008)

Paul Fisher comes from a family of writers and has taught American literature at Harvard, Yale, Wesleyan, Boston University, and Wellesley. He lives in Boston.

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