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Free from the Archives
Friend to Henry James and Edith Wharton and inspiration to E. M. Forster, the writer and salonnière Howard Sturgis was, in his lifetime, more known for his social circle and luxurious estate (“a sybaritic sea,” in James’s words) than for his novels. In this essay from the Review’s March 6, 2008, issue, Edmund White makes the case for Belchamber, Sturgis’s third book—an “ambitious” portrait of an effeminate marquis nicknamed Sainty—while warmly depicting the life and times of Sturgis, an eccentric who lived openly with his male partner in Victorian and Edwardian England.
“As Howard’s cousin, the philosopher George Santayana, remarked: ‘As if by miracle, for he was wonderfully imitative, he became save for the accident of sex, which was not yet a serious encumbrance, a perfect young lady of the Victorian type.’”