Thomas Sergeant Perry, Who in 1858 was a schoolfellow of Henry James at Newport, recalls the fifteen-year-old future author “as an uninterested scholar…. I have not forgotten his amusement at seeing in the
Manual of English Literaturethat we were studying, in the half page devoted to Mrs. Browning, that she had married R. Browning, ‘himself no mean poet.’ This compact information gave him great delight, for we were reading Browning.” Perry's comment is both intriguing and significant, in view of the close and enduring acquaintance, at first literary and later personal as well, that James was to establish with the husband of Elizabeth Barrett. Browning was, in fact, destined to play no mean part in the younger writer's artistic formation. James himself, however, in Notes of a Son and Brother(1914), attributes his introduction to Browning's poetry to the powerful influence of the young painter John La Farge, whom he came to know during the same period at Newport: “[La Farge] revealed to us Browning for instance; and this, oddly enough, long after Men and Women had begun (from our Paris time on, if I remember) to lie upon our parents' book-table.