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JAMES, William.

Autograph letter signed from James to his friendly critic, the American philosopher John Edward Russell;

written in response to a dictated letter from Russell to James, also present here, with related correspondence from James's wife Alice to Mrs Russell.

Rome: November-December, 1900 Stock Code: 126088
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An affectionate set of personal correspondence between two influential 20th-century American philosophers

An affectionate autograph letter signed from James to John Edward Russell, professor of philosophy at Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts, with the letter from Russell to James, in his wife's hand, which prompted the aforementioned response, plus related correspondence from Alice James dated from their time spent abroad in Europe.

Russell (1848-1917) was one of James's friendly critics, favouring the traditional correspondence theory of truth over James's pragmatic view. Famously, their correspondence on this topic would be printed under the title "Controversy about Truth" in the Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods (23 May 1907). Though stern words were often exchanged in their disagreements, they regularly reviewed each other's work and clearly held each other's opinions in high regard, sending offprints for the other to mark up. Harvard has two sets of manuscript documents which evidence this collaborative relationship - Russell's article, "Some Difficulties with the Epistemology of Pragmatism and Radical Empiricism" (1906), heavily annotated by James and sent back to Russell in July of the same year, and James's article, "Pragmatism's Conception of Truth", similarly closely annotated by Russell. Appendix IV ("James and John E. Russell") of the 1976 edition of Essays in Radical Empiricism records this exchange and more about their surviving letters in great detail, where the editors also note that "not all of the correspondence between the two men has been preserved" (p. 272).

Russell's letter to James, written from Geneva on 14 November 1900, details his ongoing struggles with illness, a situation which James commiserates with in his following letter: in 1900 both philosophers were vacationing in Europe for health reasons. James's missive is far more lively than Russell's, offering a candid opinion of Rome ("really the greatest of prowling places, and unless Babylon or Nashipur beat it in that respect, it must be the place that of all others falls back on its certainty of being all right inside and backwards in time what a sense of history one gets, and what a stratification of centuries of different sorts of corruption one feels") and humorous anecdotes, such as an account of his and Alice's attendance at an amusing musical soirée ("It was the funniest mixture of a Yankee country town 'sociable' and a roman solemnity, & my wife and I roared when we got home over some of the incidents"). The letters from Alice James are similarly addressed from Hotel Hassler and Hotel Primavera in Rome and discuss in further detail their husbands' medical arrangements.

In all this is an affectionate set of personal correspondence between two influential 20th-century American philosophers who, despite their philosophical differences, maintained a warm friendship and a respectful critical appreciation of each other's work.

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Together 5 letters. Comprising 1 autograph letter signed from James to Russell dated 26 November 1900, in ink on plain paper covering just over six pages; 1 letter from Russell to James (dictated to his wife and docketed as such) dated 19 November 1900, hand written in pencil on Grand Hotel, Beau-Rivage, Geneva headed note paper covering five pages; 3 autograph letters signed from Alice H. James to Mrs Russell dated 2 November, 8 November, and 29 December 1900, in ink, the earliest on Hotel Hassler, Rome headed note paper, the remaining two on plain blue paper, ranging between four and six pages in length.


Overall in very good condition, with the expected creasing and a few very small perforations, one neat horizontal cut across the final leaf of the 8 November letter not affecting any text.


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