Belchamber

Publisher: NYRB Classics
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 tradition of his forebears, and though he admires his tough-minded puritanical Scottish mother, he lacks her unrelenting moral self-assurance. Sainty is instead a sensitive soul, physically delicate, sexually timid, intellectually inclined, utterly honest, and thoroughly decent, but constitutionally incapable of asserting himself. When it comes to assuming the responsibilities of his inheritance, to managing his feckless younger brother Albert or fathoming his sly cousin Clyde, and, above all, to the essential business of marrying and continuing the family line, Sainty hasn’t a prayer.

PRAISE FOR

"More Jamesian than the Master in hinting at melodrama yet keeping it at arm's length, Sturgis is an absolute modern in stirring up tensions on behalf of one of the quietest heroes in British fiction." --The New Republic

“One of the unique novels of the nineteen hundreds…praised by Henry James and Edith Wharton, and...hailed by E. M. Forster” –Los Angeles Times

"Belchamber is a curious hybrid, a masochistic Bildungsroman interwoven with a caustic and generally more enjoyable novel of high society." --Alan Hollinghurst, The London Review of Books

“As a story the thing holds the reader pretty hard–perhaps by the force of the truth that is in it. By the way, there’s a sort of old-fashioned touch about some of it, and now and then a suggestion of Thackeray.” –The New York Times

"Howard Sturgis was a friend of both Henry James and Edith Wharton. This, his third novel, is an accomplished but unassuming story about moral choices. The protagonist is barely in touch with the ways of the world and for this, he is nicknamed 'Sainty' by his family and friends, most of whom betray him in one way or another. Fortunately or unfortunately, he is also wealthy and titled, which makes him ripe for exploitation. With an intriguing cast of unreliable characters, Belchamber poses questions about good and bad behaviour and demonstrates effectively that virtue is rarely its own reward." -Anita Brookner, The Observer

"Not only one of the strongest books I have read in years, but so beautifully
written. It made an amazing impression on me and haunted me for days." –Emma Eames

"Remarkably interesting" –The Critic, March 1906

Belchamber deserves to take its places as a true, if minor, classic, for it is a work of imagination, deeply felt, truly observed, and achieved with a sense of style and architecture.” –Gerard Hopkins

"...a strong novel...of upperclass English society, and has a most lovable and sympathetic hero, whose life from childhood up is skillfully portrayed." –The Dial

"Belchamber had a fruitful progeny in the fiction of Evelyn Waugh who used it as a model, particularly in Brideshead." –Financial Times

"Sturgis (1855-1920) was an expatriate American, a friend of Henry James and Edith Wharton who wrote three novels, of which Belchamber, a portrait of a weak but decent member of the British aristocracy, is recognized as his best." –Globe and Mail

“Neither strength nor style is lacking in this quite remarkable study…” –Outlook

“Mr. Sturgis’s little world is full of sound and movement: one learns to know how his people look, one would recognize the tone of their voices…He has shown us, in firm, clear strokes, the tragedy of the trivial: has shown us how the susceptibilities of a tender and serious spirit, hampered by physical infirmity, may be crushed and trampled under foot in the mad social race for luxury and amusement.” –The Bookman