Howard Overing Sturgis (1855-1920) was born in London to a rich and well-connected New England merchant family. Russell Sturgis, Howard’s father, was a partner at Barings Bank in London, where he and his wife, Julia, were noted figures in society, entertaining such guests as Henry Adams, William Makepeace Thackeray, and Henry James, who became an intimate friend and mentor to Howard. Sturgis was a delicate child, closely attached to his mother, and fond of such girlish hobbies as needlepoint and knitting, which he continued to practice throughout his life. He attended Eton and Cambridge, and, after the death of his parents, purchased a house in the country, Queen’s Acre, called Qu’acre, where Howdie (as Sturgis was known to his intimates) and his presumed lover William Haynes-Smith (called “the Babe”) frequently and happily entertained a wide circle of friends, among them James and Edith Wharton. In 1891 Sturgis published his first novel, Tim: A Story of School Life, based on his unhappy days at Eton, which was followed, in 1895, by All That Was Possible, an epistolary novel written from the perspective of a retired actress. Both books went into several printings. Nearly ten years passed before Sturgis published his masterpiece, Belchamber, which was successful neither with the public nor with his friends. He was not to write again.
Howard Sturgis was close friends with Henry James and Edith Wharton. “More Jamesian than the Master in hinting at melodrama yet keeping it at arm’s length, Sturgis is an absolute modern in stirring up tensions on behalf of one of the quietest heroes in British fiction.” —The New Republic