I’m a little behind on my New Yorker reading these days, which is too bad because there have been a huge number of Victorian-related articles lately. (I’m counting one on H.G. Wells from the October 17th issue as Victorian, never mind that he published most in the 20th century.)

Henry James was a through-line in the article, and one sentence that really struck me compared the two men’s sexuality: “Henry James’s famous celibacy is more fertile for our imaginations than Well’s amorousness–just as James’s artistry is more compelling than Wells’s productivity” (85).

One thing I learned in the article was that Wells slept around a lot. Now, I’m used to critics rather problematically linking prolific women writers to unconstrained sexuality and maternity (as in, “Margaret Oliphant wrote too much and had too many kids to support!”) but this one about men’s sexuality and writing productivity was new for me. What do you think? Have you seen this before?


3 thoughts on “Victorians in The New Yorker

  1. Karen, I had a similar response to this article as you did when I read it: a sort of surprise (and irritation!) at the unproblematized link between [masculine] sexuality and writing style.

  2. Austerity measures in place: this year’s subscription is to the much cheaper (though less frequent) Harper’s.

    Henry James’ sexual life pops up in their December issue as well, in an excerpt from Joseph Epstein’s new book, Gossip. Epstein is skeptical of, or perhaps just bored with, the critical undertaking that he names the “HJHP, or Henry James Homosexual Project.” In the absence of much evidence that James ever slept with anyone, male or female, this scholarly gossip mostly subsists on the “effusive letters” James wrote to a number of young males, and satisfies itself with sly winks at James’ reputation as “a great hugger of men.”

  3. I like this comment from Harper’s a lot! I’m considering subscribing just for the impressive number of Victorians who were published in the first issues in the mid-nineteenth century. All of that is up on their archives online now.

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