November 8, 1889
I must not let events pass without recording them, for summer has passed me by in a whirlwind. To begin with, William (Alice’s brother, the psychologist William James, ed.) did not go to Switzerland, but unexpectedly returned home from Paris; after only a few weeks he had had enough of Europe, which he finds stale, flat and unprofitable. Since he had no other plan than to go home, the first letter after his return was of course full of plans for himself, wife and children! He’s like a drop of mercury, you can’t pin him to anything.
H. (Alice’s brother, the novelist Henry James, ed.) and I had a good laugh at him and thought he looks a lot like Dad. However, the similarities seem to have different origins: William is simply unable to ‘persist for the sake of perseverance’, while Father, that wonderful big kid, couldn’t even be true to his own whims.
But to the point, William told me all about Paris, where he was a delegate to the 1st International Congress of Psychology, with extraordinary success. The French were very courteous and asked him to open Congress. After some probing, he said that other speakers repeatedly referred to Monsieur Will-yam had referred.
Alice James (1848-1892), American writer. Shortened excerpt from The Diary of Alice James. Penguin, 1982.