Image of Howard Overing Sturgis


Lifetime: 1855 - 1920 Passed: ≈ 104 years ago





Howard Overing Sturgis

Howard Overing Sturgis was an English-language novelist who wrote about same-sex love. Of American parentage, he lived and worked in Britain.

"Howdie," as he was known to his intimates, was born in London on 30 January 1855 into an affluent New England American family. His father, Russell Sturgis, was a China trader and lawyer who later became head of Barings Bank in London. His mother was Russell's third wife, Julia Overing Sturgis. Among his siblings were brothers Julian and Henry  and sister Mary. From his father's earlier marriage, he had an elder half-brother, John Hubbard Sturgis, who was a noted Boston architect.

He was described as "a delicate child, closely attached to his mother, and fond of such girlish hobbies as needlepoint and knitting, which he continued to practice throughout his life." His parents sent him to be educated at Eton College. He went on to study at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated with a BA degree in 1878. He became a friend of the novelists Henry James and Edith Wharton.

Sturgis's first novel, Tim: A Story of School Life , was published anonymously and was dedicated to the "love that surpasses the love of women." It describes the love of two youths at boarding-school and was "based on his unhappy days at Eton." It was followed in 1895 by All that was possible, an epistolary novel about an actress who retires from London to a remote valley in Wales.

Sturgis' first two novels were successful as far as sales were concerned; but his third, Belchamber , failed to gain the same plaudits. Although Edith Wharton praised it, Henry James found it unsatisfactory, and let Sturgis know in several letters. Afterwards Sturgis went on to publish only one short story, about a lesser writer driven suicidal by the criticism of a greater, and a memorial on his friend, Anne Thackeray.

After the death of his mother in 1888, he bought a country house named Queen's Acre , near Windsor Great Park and moved there with his lover, William Haynes-Smith known to all as "the Babe." Haynes-Smith was the son of the English colonial administrator Sir William Haynes-Smith. At Qu’acre, they frequently entertained a wide group of friends, including Wharton, James and the translator Gerard Hopkins.

Sturgis died at Windsor, Berkshire on 7 February 1920. Four years after his death, Haynes-Smith married Howard's niece, Alice Maud Russell Sturgis, at Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts. Both were in their 50s when they married.

After his death appreciations of him were published by A. C. Benson , Edith Wharton , E. M. Forster (1936) and George Santayana  his cousin. His great-nephew is the journalist and novelist Henry Porter.

Books by Howard Overing Sturgis

Tim: A Story Of School Life  Cover image

Tim: A Story Of School Life

Love School Life America Emotion Worship Sexuality United States

It is inevitable that some modern gays have claimed Tim as a gay novel, sadly so as it is quite unjustified. True, it is dedicated to a love passing that of women, a reference to David and Jonathan, but few Victorians would have agreed that was remot...

Tim Cover image


The first of only three novels by English author Howard Overing Sturgis, the son of wealthy American expatriates and a close friend of Henry James, Tim portrays a sensitive young boy’s affection for an older boy. (Introduction by Dorlene Kaplan)