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Henry James to Sylvia du Maurier - 1890

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Letter from Henry James to Sylvia du Maurier on her engagement to Arthur, 27 March 1890


34, de Vere Gardens, W.
27th March, 1890

Dear Miss Sylvia,
Do let me, as a very old friend, offer you my heartiest and hastiest congratulations on the great question - or rather on the great answer - of the hour. That answer makes your individual friends almost as happy as if they themselves had put the question. May it make you happy for ever and always, without failure or flaw. I have a shrewd idea of what it has made Mr Davies; certainly good-humoured enough to suffer me to tell him that the best I can wish for him is to keep his endeavour always and in all things at the high pitch with which he has led off.
I am delighted your father and mother "like it", though I honestly believe I should myself even if they didn't. I am glad you haven't divided us, and I shall do what I can to replace you at home. Is yours to be Liverpool? I think I shall go more to America now. Don't answer this. Wait till Sunday, and accept the perfect blessing of yours most faithfully,
Henry James

Peter's comment in his family "Morgue":

The great American writer was at this time 47, and in the year 1890 published "The Tragic Muse". I suppose he was already an old friend of the du Maurier family. He became a naturalised British subject in 1915, activated, I believe, chiefly by indignation against the reluctance of the country of his birth to enter the war; and died in England the following year.

I have a not very distinct recollection of being taken to see him at his house in Chelsea, I think in 1914 just after I had joined the Army, most likely by Aunt May; and of being slightly disconcerted in my young manliness when the distinguished old boy proceeded to kiss me. I don't know whether it was the young soldier about to defend the two countries he loved, England and France, that he was saluting, or the son of Sylvia du Maurier, whose beauty he had admired in days gone by.


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