Overtones: A Book of Temperaments

by James Huneker

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James Gibbons Huneker was born in 1857 in Philadelphia. He began his life with a career in law in order to please his parents, but at 21 abandoned that path, and fled to Paris to learn piano, accompanied by his pregnant girlfriend. He only spent a year there, which he enjoyed tremendously, despite poverty. He unhappily returned to Philadelphia with wife and child in tow. He continued to try and learn music, but gave up his dreams of playing an instrument, and instead focused on writing broadly about music and the arts. He ended up moving to New York, without his family, and immersing himself fully in the arts scene. He wrote primary for the New York Sun as an arts critic, but he also penned pieces for Harper’s, Theatre, and Scribner’s, among numerous other works.

Huneker was well-known for supporting new artists well before they became part of the canon, including Henrik Ibsen, Thomas Hardy, Anton Chekhov, Richard Wagner, Claude Debussy, George Bernard Shaw, Paul Gauguin, and Vincent van Gogh among numerous others. While Huneker was well traveled in social circles, and his writings appreciated, they did not pay a great deal. He died of pneumonia at the age of 64.