Garth Wilkie James

Wilkie James and the measure of greatness

Wilkie James headstone
Garth “Wilkie” James, a brother of the famed novelist Henry James, is buried in Milwaukee’s Forest Home Cemetery. Carl A. Swanson photo

The five children of Henry James Sr. include some of America’s greatest thinkers.

Henry’s oldest son, the philosopher and educator William James, is considered the father of American psychology and his second son (and namesake) Henry James Jr. wrote 22 novels, hundreds of short stories, and many volumes of biographies, travel writing, art criticism, and memoirs. A third son, Robert, showed promise as an artist and writer until alcoholism derailed his career. Their sister, Alice, taught history but suffered from psychological and physical illness much of her life. Her sharply observed and insightful diaries, published after her death, are still widely read and admired.

Then there is the fourth son. Garth Wilkinson “Wilkie” James was born in New York City in 1845, Wilkie was an undistinguished student, experienced many failures, and died young and penniless.

Of all the James family siblings, guess who ended up in Milwaukee.