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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Am 2538

James family additional papers


Family letters, mostly from Alice Howe Gibbens James to her sons Henry and William; also letters by and about philosopher William James and novelist Henry James, an 1859 diary by Daniel Lewis Gibbens, and other related papers.


  • Creation: 1859-1986
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1859-1922

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English and French.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.


1 linear feet (5 boxes)

The bulk of this collection consists of letters from Alice Howe Gibbens James to her sons Henry (1879-1947), a lawyer; and William (1882-1961), a portrait painter. Many of the letters discuss the family's two most famous members: Alice's husband, philosopher William James (1842-1910); and his brother, novelist Henry James (1843-1916). Most of her letters are written from her home in Cambridge (Mass.), or while traveling in Europe. Her involvement with the final months and estate of Henry James (1843-1916) in London is discussed at length. She was also in Stanford (Calif.) for the earthquake of 1906, discussed in letter in items (31) and (50).

The collection also includes partial or copied letters by philosopher William James (1842-1910): postscripts he added to letters from his wife to his sons; a copy of a letter to his third son, artist Alexander R. James; a partial courtship letter to his future wife; and a complete letter he dictated to his son William. Also included are letters addressed to William James.

The novelist Henry James (1843-1916) is represented with letters he received from family members, 1901-1911. An 1866 letter by family patriarch Henry James (1811-1882) also appears in transcript form. A few non-family letters can also be found in the collection, most notably letters by Edwin B. Holt, James Jackson Putnam, and Sir Leslie Stephen.

The compositions series includes a diary written by Daniel Lewis Gibbens (father of Alice Howe Gibbens James) as surgeon on board the ship Manhattan en route between New York City and Liverpool, 1859-1860.

Series "III. Photocopies of letters" consists of color-photocopies of letters donated to this collection in July of 2008, after the end-processing of the collection had been completed. The originals of these letters are held by members of the James family, copies added here for research use. All are letters from William James (1842-1910) primarily to his son William James (1882-1961), and a few to his wife Alice and his other sons, Henry James (1879-1947) and Alexander Robertson James.

Biographical / Historical

The central figure in this collection is Alice Howe Gibbens James (1849-1922), wife of the philosopher William James (1842-1910).


Arranged into the following series:

  1. I. Correspondence
  2. II. Compositions
  3. III. Photocopies of letters

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

2006M-44. Gift of the late William James 3rd through the agency of Roberta A. Sheehan; and of Michael James, 34 Fairfield Street, Boston, Massachusetts; received: 2007 January 5 and 12. Some additions made by family in July 2008.

Separated Materials

Donated as part of this gift was two sheets of a letter from Henry James (1843-1916) to William James (1842-1910) dated 1882 December 28. As two additional sheets from this same letter were already cataloged as MS Am 1094 (1999), both parts have now been gathered together under that number.

Processing Information

Processed by: Rick Stattler and Roberta Sheehan

James family. James family additional papers, 1859-1922: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
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Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

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