Word comes of plans to commemorate the centenary of William James’s death, on the very site of his terminal breath in Chocorua, New Hampshire.  Chocorua was James’s refuge, just a couple hours from Cambridge on the train. He enthused over its fourteen exterior doors (prompting sister Alice to compare brother to house, both being so open and receptive etc.), loved its gorgeous setting beside the eponymous lake and mountain, and spent as much time there as he could. He died there on August 30, 1910, having overexerted his 68-year old body on ironically life-giving hiking trips that I’ll bet he’d not have traded years for.

I broke away from a philosophy conference in Portland, Maine a few years ago and drove my rental car over to Chocorua. Not much about it seemed likely to have changed, still rustic and remote and picture postcard pretty. I didn’t expect anyone there to know anything about William James or his house, but the first native I asked  directed me straight to the place. I pulled into the driveway, spied the house, and was cordially greeted by the present owner who proudly confirmed its authenticity.

If all goes well, I’ll be joining fellow friends of “Billy James” (a grad school prof called him that) on another pilgrimage to Pragmatist Mecca next August. It won’t be solemn, James’s ghost wouldn’t stand for that.



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