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Frottage in the Parlor With Henry James

More hideous white stuff from the sky…


The Hermione Lee bio of Edith Wharton is deeply disappointing being chiefly a repository of Wharton’s epistolary activities – she wrote a lot of letters! – and her peregrinations between stately mansions in Newport, the Berkshires, and French Province.

Wharton liked bisexual men. In 1907, her BFF Henry James introduced her to a copywriter, Morton Fullerton, who became the love of her life.

Everybody loved Morton Fullerton!

One of Fullerton’s earlier lovers had been the sculptor whom Oscar Wilde used as a model for the dissolute Lord Henry Wotton in The Picture of Dorian Gray. Fullerton had known Wilde himself well enough for Wilde to hit him up for a loan in those grim Parisian days post Reading Gaol. Fullerton turned him down.

Even the fastidious, deeply repressed Henry James had had a fling with Fullerton:

Here’s a love letter Henry James wrote:

How, my dear Fullerton, does a man write in the teeth of so straight a blast from—I scarce know what to call the quarter: the spice-scented tropic isles of Eden—isles of gold—isles of superlative goodness? I have told you before that the imposition of hands in a certain tender way "finishes" me, simply—and behold me accordingly more finished than the most parachevé of my own productions.... You do with me what you will . . . You're at any rate the highest luxury I can conceive, and . . . I should wonder how the devil I can afford you. However, I shall persist in you. I know but this life. I want in fact more of you . . . You are dazzling, my dear Fullerton; you are beautiful; you are more than tactful, you are tenderly, magically tactile.

Hot stuff for 1900!

That letter is not in Hermione Lee’s biography.

Here’s a love letter Edith Wharton wrote:

You woke me from a long lethargy, a dull acquiescence in conventional restrictions, a needless self-effacement. If I was awkward & inarticulate it was because, literally, all one side of me was asleep… didn’t you see how my heart broke with the thought that, if I had been younger & prettier, everything might have been different—that we might have had together, at least for a short time, a life of exquisite collaborations.

That letter is not in Hermione Lee's biography either.


Should we generalize?

Men are happy with a grope and frottage in the parlor. Women want partnership!


Speaking of partnership, here are Ben and I in the happy first days of our marriage!

I had just sold a short story to Playboybig bucks! He was being repped by an agent at Ralph Vicinanza’s agency. (Ralph Vicinanza repped Stephen King.)

My story never got published. It had a particular plot twist that Alice Turner didn’t like: My con artist protagonist was being haunted on the Internet by the dyad who’d lived in the tree that had been cut down to make the telephone pole next to his house. (This was in the pre-fiber optic cable days when you could only reach the Internet over dial-up telephone modems.) A nice bit of whimsy but wrong for Playboy. Unfortunately, I was not a good enough writer back then to be able to do something with Alice’s edits. That is what separates amateur writers from professional writers by the way: The ability to make the necessary edits. I got a munificent kill fee.

And Ben, too, ran afoul of edits: The junior Ralph Vicinanza liked the characters in Ben’s novel but did not like the plot and wanted Ben to rewrite it. Ben wouldn’t. Or couldn’t.

But that was all still in front of us when this photo was snapped!

We were still finishing each other’s sentences. And writing each other’s stories. You’re stuck? Here! Let me scribble you a paragraph; see if it gets you out of that hole.

Ben looks very elfin in this photo. A changeling! Back in those days, his eyes used to shift color a lot. Sometimes they’d be hazel; sometimes they’d be grey; sometimes they’d be blue. Some people do have eyes that reflect the colors of the clothes they’re wearing, but Ben’s eyes would shift color even when he wore the same shirt.

These days, Ben no longer looks elfin. But I do sometimes catch that elfin expression on Robin’s face. Robin looks like me. But he has Ben’s expressions.

This entry was originally posted at http://mallorys-camera.dreamwidth.org/696953.html. You may leave comments on either Dreamwidth or LiveJournal if you like.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 2nd, 2018 08:10 pm (UTC)
What a great blast from the past story. Look at you and your attitude! Still got that girl.
Feb. 2nd, 2018 11:20 pm (UTC)
Feb. 3rd, 2018 12:38 am (UTC)
I used to be a prolific letter-writer. That went with the internet. I remember lamenting it at the time, the late 90s. I thought that people's writing would improve since they are doing it much more. It seems to have gotten much worse. Or maybe it's just that I see it now.
Feb. 3rd, 2018 07:58 pm (UTC)
I used to be a prolific letter-writer.

Me too!! :-)
Feb. 3rd, 2018 04:56 am (UTC)
Well it's better than a candlestick in the conservatory with Colonel Corn.
Feb. 4th, 2018 05:20 am (UTC)
My dad's eyes change color with his mood...
Feb. 4th, 2018 05:22 am (UTC)
I find it completely interesting, the way our children have this that or the other from each of us. Just when I think Honora is really more Toby's, I see some aspect of her that is very much me. And Tristan is very much like me in terms of intellect and imagination - not just having it, but the nature of it - and yet that plays out in an emotional field that is much more like his dad's ingrained pessimism. Tristan looks like my family - the map of the shtetl on his face - while Honora I think looks like Toby's but then sometimes like me, and other times like specifically Toby's beloved mother, who also looked, unsurprisingly, somewhat like me.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )