Millicent Bell is Professor of English Emerita at Boston University. She is the author of Meaning in Henry James and the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Edith Wharton. (May 1998)

Victoria’s Secrets

During the first decade after the Civil War what was called the “trial of the century” opened in New York and became a sensational popular spectacle. It was not even a murder trial—just a husband’s suit against the man he claimed was his wife’s seducer—but it transfixed the nation, crowding …

George Eliot, Radical

How could she have written them? Henry James, reading John Cross’s biography of George Eliot in 1885, decided that it failed to explain how “this quiet, anxious, sedentary, serious, invalidical English lady, without animal spirits, without adventures or sensations, should have made us believe that nothing in the world was …

Dangerous Women

On Sundays and holidays buses and cars back up along the steeply inclined main street with its cobbles set long ago to catch the slipping hooves of horses, for Haworth is England’s most visited tourist shrine after Stratford. The Black Bull, where Branwell drank himself sodden, now has a Brontë …

‘The Margaret Ghost’

On July 19, 1850, the freighter Elizabeth, having sailed from Leghorn, was wrecked in a storm on a sandbar off Fire Island, and Margaret Fuller, returning to America after an absence of four years, was drowned along with her Italian husband, Giovanni Ossoli, and their infant child. Watchers on the …

What Henry Knew

In 1905, past sixty, James had written much and was eminent—at least with those who really knew what literature was—and Scribner’s was bringing out his “works” as though he were already an acknowledged classic, in twenty-four volumes bound in plum-colored cloth. For The New York Edition he had set himself …

Notes of a Friend and Brother

The popular image of the aging Henry James was described by Hugh Walpole: “a sort of stuffed waxwork from whose mouth a stream of coloured sentences, like winding rolls of green and pink paper, are forever issuing.” There is James asking a passer-by for road directions—in the style of The …

Pioneer

“We shall hardly outgrow her in long, long lives to come. In time to come they will be saying: ‘How She Knew!’ ” wrote Zona Gale when Charlotte Perkins Gilman died in 1935. But, in fact, Gilman rapidly began to be forgotten—this redoubtable circuit-rider of radical feminism, indefatigable lecturer and …

The Education of Clover Adams

The contrast between male and female opportunities for historic survival could not be better illustrated than in the cases of Henry Adams and his wife Marian, called “Clover” by her family and friends. To be a male Adams was to be condemned to the light of history, however disinclined one …