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Belchamber

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3.79  ·  Rating Details  ·  47 Ratings  ·  14 Reviews
Charles Edwin William Augustus Chambers—Marquis and Earl of Belchamber, Viscount Charmington, and Baron St. Edmunds and Chambers—known familiarly as Sainty, is the scion of an ancient English aristocratic family. Behind him stretches a rogues’ gallery of picturesque upper-crust scoundrels. But he is uninterested in riding to hounds or drinking or whoring in the great tradi ...more
Paperback, 345 pages
Published March 4th 2008 by NYRB Classics (first published 1904)
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Sketchbook
May 07, 2015 Sketchbook rated it liked it
Shelves: currently
This dramedy of manners gave Henry James high vex. I understand. Mr James was in a snit with the author, a close friend, because the central figure, anti-hero "Sainty," nearing 30 and a virgin, was "all passivity and nullity."

Sainty, the little pisspot, is a spineless booby, a donkey, a nincompoopy, a goody-goody, a moaner and a bore. King Henry objected. Has he not one quality that can delight us? Nope. He told this to author Sturgis (1904) who never wrote again. Mr James might have tempered hi
...more
Lobstergirl
May 02, 2014 Lobstergirl rated it really liked it
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: Powell's
Shelves: own, nyrb, fiction

Howard Sturgis was a wealthy man who didn't need to earn a living, and so wrote novels. His large social circle included Edith Wharton and Henry James, whom he entertained at his English country house, Queen's Acre, where he lived with his male lover and dog Misery and could be found with a shawl over his legs, knitting and doing embroidery. (His cousin, George Santayana, described him as "a perfect young lady of the Victorian type.") Sturgis's lover, William Haynes-Smith, was "a man's man" (acc
...more
David
Sep 08, 2014 David rated it it was amazing
Shelves: big-white-square
I thought this was fantastic.

I remember something from a Mishima - I can't find it now - about courtesy without any violence being displeasing and much less acceptable even than violence without any courtesy. The Marquis of Belchamber - known as Sainty - is all courtesy. Effeminate and delicate, he's often wondering why no one loves him for always doing exactly what he's told and for not doing those unmanly things he enjoys, such as needlework.

Arthur, the younger brother, is all violence. Hands
...more
El
Jan 08, 2012 El rated it liked it
If Edith Wharton and Henry James had ever had sex together (or if Henry James ever had sex, period), their love-child might have been Howard Sturgis. In reality, however, Wharton and James never did the nasty, and Sturgis was actually a friend and peer of them both.

This is the story of Sainty Chambers, a noble and aristocrat, who is more interested in knitting than drinking and dislikes sports, unlike his ancestors. He is, in other words, too sensitive for his own good. This is most apparently w
...more
Sheila Turner
Aug 08, 2011 Sheila Turner rated it liked it
Interesting read for the depictions of British gentry in the early 20th century, but the characters, while vivid enough, were kind of flat and the book never really went anywhere, though there were plenty of opportunities for it to do so. Sturgis seemed to stand on the precipice of a climax, but then would shy away, so there was never any resulting denouement. The ending was also rather lackluster, despite my being unable to put the book down for the preceding 50 or so pages; it just abruptly (a ...more
Bobbie Darbyshire
Mar 24, 2014 Bobbie Darbyshire rated it really liked it
This was recommended to me as ‘a work of genius’ by a professor of English who introduces me to enjoyable classics I would never otherwise discover. Sturgis counted Henry James and Edith Wharton among his friends; sadly so, as they poured tepid water on this third novel of his and he never wrote another. I found it engrossing and very witty, with observations of people to rival Jane Austen’s. Thank you once again, prof.
Anna Kennedy
Jul 31, 2012 Anna Kennedy rated it really liked it


Loved it loved it loved it ... could not stop reading this book, I disagree with those that say nothing happens in it, I found it beautifully written, terribly poignant and a fascinating glimpse into turn-of-the-century Britain. Full of beautiful prose and hilarious characters it rumbles along with increasing pathos until a devastating end which leaves wrenching questions. Very highly recommended.
John
Apr 29, 2008 John rated it it was ok
Interesting author (early 20th cent. gay trust funder who moved to England and hosted fascinating people at his homes) but the book is like 3rd rate Henry James
David Stone
Aug 13, 2015 David Stone rated it it was amazing
I was expecting something frothy and epigrammatic in the Oscar Wilde vein from this novel set at a great English country house, but instead discovered a substantial novel of ideas and moral choices, centered around a bullied male protagonist who is about a century before his time. This is most evident in Sainty's liberated view of fatherhood and, indeed, Belchamber contains the most beautiful description of a parent holding his child for the first time I have ever encountered in fiction.
Lawrence
Apr 06, 2011 Lawrence rated it really liked it
This was so well written and the side characters so much fun, but the main character was just too pathetic for me to give this 5 stars. It was like something by Henry James or Edith Wharton, but not quite as subtle or complex. Their opinion of the book is mentioned in the introduction and apparently they agreed with me. Hmmm....
Jim Leckband
May 05, 2011 Jim Leckband rated it really liked it
Very funny and poignant story of a late 19th century English Marquis who is decidedly not to the manor born. The writing is very engaging and witty - and while Sturgis may take a while to get to the point, unlike Henry James (who was his friend), he actually gets there!
Elizabeth Bradley
Jul 25, 2008 Elizabeth Bradley rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who wished Lily Bart would just straighten up and fly right
I should have known it would be wicked fun - NYRB got Edmudn White to write the intro. Decadent, smart, and a more than a little surprising.
Diana E
Oct 26, 2010 Diana E rated it liked it
Painfully funny story of a man born into a position in British Edwardian society to which he is totally unsuited.
Whit
Jan 27, 2012 Whit rated it it was amazing
This book was writtne for me! The tale of a Victorian sissy.
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NYRB Classics: Belchamber, by Howard Sturgis 4 27 Sep 19, 2014 01:02AM  
Howard Sturgis (1855-1920) was born into a wealthy American family living in England. He became friends with Edith Wharton and Henry James. After his mother's death, he lived openly with his lover. His 3 novels show his insight for aristocratic life in England.
More about Howard Sturgis...

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