Howard Sturgis, introduction by Edmund White, afterword by E. M. Forster

Alan Hollinghurst writes:

The story of Belchamber’s publication is probably better known than the book itself, which, like its author, has suffered the ambiguous fate of becoming an accessory to the life of a more important writer. It is his friend Henry James who keeps Sturgis’s novel distantly in view, at the same time as casting a long shadow over it. James read it in proof, and wrote a characteristic sequence of letters to Sturgis about it, beginning with neat praise and mild demurrals, but quickly building up to such fundamental criticisms of the book that the demoralised author said he would withdraw it altogether; at which James protested and pleaded, successfully though not with any retraction of the criticisms he had made. Belchamber duly came out, in 1904, and was not well received - though perhaps for reasons other than those put forward in James’s letters. In his remaining 16 years, Sturgis wrote nothing except a short story, ‘The China Pot’, about a minor writer so crushed by the criticisms of a great writer that he kills himself, the great writer pretending not to understand why.

(LRB 9 October 2008)

Published by New York Review of Books Classics
02 May 2008
ISBN: 9781590172667