cast of major characters

The following are people frequently mentioned in early letters both by and to Henry James: immediate family, closest friends, most important relatives. The people in this list are usually not annotated in the letters included in A separate part of this site, the Biographical Register, lists other important people mentioned in the letters in this site.

The Immediate James Family
The Temples
Important Walsh Relatives
The Ashburner-Norton-Sedgwick clan
Other Important Members of the James Circle

The Immediate James Family

James, Alice (1848-1892), was the fifth and final child and only daughter of Henry James, Sr., and Mary Walsh James. Her posthumously printed diary and her letters are immensely valuable literary and archival documents. See Jean Strouse’s Alice James: A Biography for details.

James, Caroline (Carrie) Cary (b. 1851), daughter of prominent Milwaukee businessman Joseph Cary; she married Henry James’s brother, Wilky, in 1873.

James, Garth Wilkinson (Wilky) (1845-1883), the third child of Henry James, Sr., and Mary Walsh James. He was badly wounded in the Civil War and was generally unsuccessful in a number of different business ventures afterwards. In 1873 he married Caroline (Carrie) Cary, and they had two children: Joseph Cary and Alice. See Jane Maher’s Biography of Broken Fortunes for details.

James, Henry, Sr. (1811-1882), was born in Albany, New York. After a serious accident in a fire, his leg was amputated; he went on to graduate from Union College in Schenectady, New York, work in business and law, and study at Princeton Theological Seminary (1835-1837). He is remembered as an author and theological philosopher and was heavily influenced by Swedenborg. His books include Christianity the Logic of Creation (1857), The Secret of Swedenborg (1869), and Society the Redeemed Form of Man (1879). He married Mary Walsh James in 1840 and had five children. See Alfred Habegger’s The Father: A Life of Henry James, Sr., for details.

James, Mary Lucinda Holton (1849-1922), daughter of Milwaukee businessman Edward Holton and Lucinda Millard Holton; she married Henry James’s brother, Bob, in 1872.

James, Mary Robertson Walsh (1810-1882), was the daughter of James Walsh (d. 1820) and Elizabeth Robertson (1781-1847). She grew up in New York City and married Henry James, Sr., in 1840. She is usually described as a stable and comforting mother and wife.

James, Robertson (Bob) (1846-1910), the fourth and youngest son of Henry James, Sr., and Mary Walsh James. He served in the Civil War, worked with his brother Wilky running a plantation in Florida, and held various railroad jobs. In 1872 he married Mary Holton, and they had two children, Edward (Ned) Holton and Mary Walsh. See Jane Maher’s Biography of Broken Fortunes for details.

James, William (1842-1910), Henry James’s older brother and pioneering psychologist and pragmatist philosopher best remembered for The Principles of Psychology (1890), The Will to Believe (1897), The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), and Pragmatism (1907). He began teaching at Harvard in 1872 and retired in 1907. In 1878 he married Alice Howe Gibbens (1849-1922), and they had five children: Henry (Harry) (1879-1947), William (Bill) (1882-1961), Herman (1884-1885), Margaret (Peggy) Mary (1887-1950), and Alexander (Aleck) Robertson (1890-1946). For details see Linda Simon’s Genuine Reality: A Life of William James and The Correspondence of William James (all of William’s letters to Henry are collected in the first three volumes).

The Temples

Temple (Emmet), Ellen (1850-1920), Minny Temple’s younger sister, she married her cousin, Christopher Temple Emmet, in 1869, and they had five children: Mary (b. 1872), Rosina Hubley (b. 1873), Ellen (Bay) Gertrude (Mrs. William Blanchard Rand) (1876-1941), Edith (b. 1877), Christopher, and Katharine.

Temple (Emmet), Katharine (Kitty) (1843-1895), Minny Temple’s elder sister, she married her cousin, Richard Stockton Emmet, in 1868. They had six children: William (1869-1918), Richard, Jr. (1871-1897), Katharine (b. 1873), Elizabeth (b. 1874), Grenville (1877-1937), and Eleanor (b. 1880).

Temple, Mary (Minny) (1845-1870), Henry James’s vivacious first cousin; her mother was Henry James, Sr.’s, sister, Catharine (1820-1854). Orphaned by her parents’ deaths in 1854, she and her siblings lived during the early 1860’s in Newport with their paternal aunt, Mary Temple, and her husband, Edmund Tweedy. Later, Minny and her sisters moved to Pelham, N. Y., to live with her sister, Kitty, and her husband, Richard Stockton Emmet. Minny’s death of tuberculosis was a great shock to Henry James, and many scholars believe her memory had a lasting effect, inspiring, among others, his characters Daisy Miller, Isabel Archer, and Milly Theale. For further details see Lyndall Gordon’s A Private Life of Henry James.

Temple, Robert (Bob) Emmet, Jr. (b. 1840), Henry James’s cousin and Minny Temple’s oldest brother. He developed a drinking problem and became “a charming rogue, leaning to the wrong side of the law,” according to Lyndall Gordon’s A Private Life of Henry James (43). Henry James devotes a section to Bob Temple in chapter five of Notes of a Son and Brother.

Tweedy, Edmund (c. 1812-1901), a friend of Henry James, Sr.; his wife, Mary Temple Tweedy, was the paternal aunt and guardian of Henry James’s Temple cousins.

Tweedy, Mary Temple (Aunt Mary) (d. 1891), the paternal aunt of Henry James’s cousins, the Temples; she was the sister of Robert Emmet Temple (1808-1854), who married Henry James, Sr.’s, sister, Catharine James (1820-1854), in 1839; after the deaths in 1854 of Robert and Catharine Temple, Mary Tweedy and her husband, Edmund, took in the orphaned Temple children, Robert (Bob), William, Katharine (Kitty), Mary (Minny), Ellen (Elly), and Henrietta.

Important Walsh Relatives

Perkins, Helen (Cousin Helen) Rodgers Wyckoff (1807-1887), maternal first cousin of Mary Walsh James and Catharine (Aunt Kate) Walsh. Aunt Kate and she traveled together to Europe in 1869, and Aunt Kate frequently visited her in New York.

Walsh, Catharine (Aunt Kate) (1812-1889), sister of Mary Walsh James, she often lived and traveled with her sister’s family and became something of a second mother to the children. In 1853 she married Captain Charles H. Marshall, but the union lasted for only 28 months.

The Ashburner-Norton-Sedgwick clan

Ashburner, Anne (1807-1894), elder sister of the mother of the Jameses’ friends Susan Sedgwick Norton, Arthur George Sedgwick, Sara Sedgwick (Darwin), and Theodora Sedgwick. She lived on Kirkland Street, in Cambridge, near the Jameses’ Quincy Street home, in a house that she shared with her sister Grace and her unmarried Sedgwick nieces and nephew.

Ashburner, Annie (1846-1909), a close friend of Alice James, a cousin of the Sedgwicks, and the daughter of Grace and Anne Ashburner’s brother Samuel Ashburner and his wife, Annie Meade Barstow. She married Francis Gardiner Richards in 1879. For details see “The Letters of Alice James to Anne Ashburner, 1873-78: The Joy of Engagement.”

Ashburner, Grace (1814-1893), maternal aunt of the Jameses’ friends Susan Sedgwick Norton, Arthur George Sedgwick, Sara Sedgwick (Darwin), and Theodora Sedgwick. She lived on Kirkland Street, in Cambridge, near the Jameses’ Quincy Street home, in a house that she shared with her sister Anne and her unmarried Sedgwick nieces and nephew.

Norton, Catharine Eliot (1793-1879), widow of Andrews Norton (1786-1853); after her husband’s death, she lived with her unmarried daughters, Jane and Grace, and her son Charles.

Norton, Charles Eliot (1827-1908), influential author, editor, and scholar, Professor of the History of Fine Art at Harvard (1873-98), translator of Dante, editor of the North American Review (1864-68), one of the founders of the Nation; when not abroad he lived at Shady Hill, his estate in Cambridge, near the Jameses’ home, and at his summer house in Ashfield, Massachusetts. He was an early mentor of Henry James’s career, publishing some of his first review articles and introducing him in 1869 to prominent cultural figures in London. He married Susan Ridley Sedgwick in 1862; they had six children. For details see James Turner’s The Liberal Imagination of Charles Eliot Norton.

Norton, Grace (1834-1926), Charles Eliot Norton’s youngest sister; she lived most of her life with her brother, helping to raise his children, but in the early twentieth century she published several studies of Montaigne, including Studies in Montaigne (1904), The Spirit of Montaigne (1908), and The Influence of Montaigne (1908). She and Henry James maintained a lengthy and intimate correspondence from 1868 to the end of his life; however none of her letters to him survive.

Norton, Jane (1824-1877), Charles Eliot Norton’s elder sister; she lived with her brother during her adult years and helped to raise his children.

Norton, Susan Ridley Sedgwick (1838-1872), married Charles Eliot Norton in 1862. Her death following the delivery of her sixth child in ten years of marriage was a terrible blow to her husband. She was the sister of Henry James’s friend Arthur George Sedgwick and of Alice James’s friend, Sara Sedgwick (Darwin).

Sedgwick, Arthur George (1844-1915), lawyer, writer, and editor. The novelist, Catharine Maria Sedgwick, was his great-aunt. Sedgwick worked at the Nation (1872-84) and the New York Evening Post (1881-85). Sedgwick’s sister, Susan, married Charles Eliot Norton in 1862. Before he moved to New York in 1872, he lived with his sisters Sara and Theodora and their maternal aunts, Anne and Grace Ashburner, on Kirkland Street, between the Nortons’ Shady Hill estate and the Jameses’ house at 20 Quincy Street, Cambridge.

Sedgwick (Darwin), Sara Price Ashburner (1839-1902), sister of Charles Eliot Norton’s wife, Susan Sedgwick Norton, and of Arthur George Sedgwick; she married Charles Darwin’s son, William Erasmus Darwin, in 1879.

Sedgwick, Theodora (1851-1916), youngest sister of Susan Sedgwick Norton, Sara Sedgwick (Darwin), and Arthur George Sedgwick.

Other Important Members of the James Circle

Boott (Duveneck), Elizabeth (Lizzie) (1846-1888), and her father, Francis Boott (1813-1904), were friends of the Temples and of the Jameses. Henry James was particularly close to them. Lizzie’s talent as an artist was recognized early, and she pursued this passion all her life. One of her teachers was Frank Duveneck, whom she married in 1886. Henry James supported and promoted her career as an artist, and often visited the Bootts at Bellosguardo, their Italian home. Lizzie is said to be the model for Pansy Osmond in The Portrait of a Lady. She died in childbirth.

Boott, Francis (1813-1904), an amateur composer and musician who raised his daughter, Lizzie, born in Boston, in Italy after the death of her mother and infant older brother. He was a devoted father who took delight in her education.

Holmes, Oliver Wendell, Jr. (1841-1935), lawyer, essayist, judge, Supreme Court Justice, and close friend of Henry James when both were young men. He was the son of Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894), the celebrated author.

Howells, William Dean (1837-1920), American author, editor, literary critic, and together with Henry James, the pioneering realist in American literature. His and Henry James’s first meeting probably occurred in the summer of 1866; the two became lifelong friends. As assistant editor, and then editor, of the Atlantic Monthly, Howells accepted Henry James’s work for publication, and throughout their careers they exchanged literary advice. Most of Howells’s and James’s correspondence has been collected in Michael Anesko’s Letters, Fictions, Lives: Henry James and William Dean Howells.

La Farge, John (1835-1910), American painter, stained-glass designer, and writer. He met the Jameses in Newport in 1858. La Farge was a major influence on both William James and Henry James, as he encouraged Henry James to pursue writing and the study of literature and mentored William James in the art studio of William Morris Hunt. In 1860 La Farge married Thomas Sergeant Perry’s older sister Margaret.

Perry, Lydia (Lilla) Cabot (1848-1933), became engaged to Thomas Sergeant Perry in the spring of 1873; the couple married in April 1874. She was a talented painter.

Perry, Thomas Sergeant (1845-1928), writer, scholar, educator, translator, and a close friend of Henry James for over fifty years, until James’s death. They met at school in Newport in 1858, and they encouraged each other in their nascent literary careers. Perry’s sister Margaret married John La Farge in 1860. Henry James’s earliest letters to Perry are the only group of extant non-family, non-business letters prior to 1865; unfortunately only one of Perry’s letters to James has survived.

©2005, All rights reserved.