Print this page

Observations placeholder

James, Henry - Lives in the Napoleonic world



Type of spiritual experience

A description of the experience

Oliver Sacks – Hallucinations

 Henry James … had a delirium, a terminal delirium, in December 1915, associated with pneumonia and a high fever. Fred Kaplan describes it in his biography of James:

He had entered another imaginative world, one connected to the beginning of his life as a writer, to the Napoleonic world that had been a lifelong metaphor for the power of art, for the empire of his own creation.

He began to dictate notes for a new novel, "fragments of the book he imagines himself to be writing." As if he were now writing a novel of which his own altered consciousness was the dramatic centre, he dictated a vision of himself as Napoleon and his own family as the imperial Bonapartes. . . .

William and Alice he grasped with his regent hand, addressing his "dear and most esteemed brother and sister."

To them, to whom he had granted countries, he now gave the responsibility of supervising the detailed plans he had created for "the decoration of certain apartments, here of the Louvre and Tuileries, which you will find addressed in detail to artists and workmen who take them in hand … he was himself the Imperial eagle

 Taking down the dictation, Theodora his secretary felt it to be almost more than she could bear.

“It is a heart breaking thing to do, though there is the extraordinary fact that his mind does retain the power to frame perfectly characteristic sentences"

The source of the experience

James, Henry