Having finished Belchamber, a fulfilling literary piece on individualism destroyed and innocence deceived, I feel piteous for the author who is really speaking behind the his protagonist. Howard Overing Sturgis (1855-1920) was born in London to an affluent and well-connected New England merchant family. Russell Sturgis, Howard’s father, was a partner at Barings Bank in London, where he and his wife, Julia, were noted figures in society, entertaining such guests as Henry Adams, William Makepeace Thackeray, and Henry James, who became an intimate friend and mentor to Howard. Sturgis was a delicate child (just like Sainty in Belchamber), closely attached to his mother, and fond of such girlish hobbies as needlepoint and knitting, which he continued to practice throughout his life. He pursued studies of history and literature and blundered in athletics. He attended Eton and Cambridge, and, after the death of his parents, purchased a house in the country, Queen’s Acre, where Howard and his lover William Haynes-Smith frequently and happily entertained a wide circle of friends, among them James and Edith Wharton. In 1891 Sturgis published his first novel, Tim: A Story of School Life, based on his unhappy days at Eton, which was followed, in 1895, by All That Was Possible, an epistolary novel written from the perspective of a retired actress. Both books went into several printings. Nearly ten years passed before Sturgis published his masterpiece, Belchamber, which was successful neither with the public nor with his friends. He was not to write again.
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