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He was a son of Lt-Gen Sir Richard Strachey & Lady (Jane) Strachey; called the enfant miracle as his father was 70 and his mother 47. Some of his nieces and nephews, who were considerably older than James, called him Jembeau or Uncle Baby. His parents had thirteen children, of whom ten lived to adulthood.
James was assistant editor of "The Spectator", and a member of the Bloomsbury Group or 'Bloomsberries' when he became familiar with Alix Sargant Florence, though they first met in 1910. They moved in together in 1919 and married in 1920.
Soon afterwards they moved to Vienna, where James, an admirer of Freud, began a psychoanalysis with the great man. Freud asked the couple to translate some of his works into English, and this became their lives' work. Both became psychoanalysts themselves, and as well as Freud's works they also translated works by a number of other European psychoanalysts. Their translation of Freud's works, in twentyfour volumes, remains the standard edition of Freud's works to this day. According to Holroyd a German publishing house considered retranslating their translation of the Master's works back into German, because they were a work of art and scholarship, with a maze of additional footnotes and introductions.
James is mentioned in the text of Holroyd’s biography of Lytton Strachey, and in the introduction to the 1971 Penguin edition and the 1994-95 revised edition. James was the literary executor for his brother Lytton, so Holroyd saw James and Alix frequently over the five years from 1962 that he was researching and writing the first edition (published in 1967-68) of his biography of Lytton. He describes James as "almost an exact replica of Freud himself, though with some traces of Lytton’s physiognomy – the slightly bulbous nose in particular. He wore a short white beard because, he told me, of the difficulty of shaving. He had had it now for some fifty years. He also wore spectacles, one lens of which was transparent, the other translucent. It was only later that I learnt he had overcome with extraordinary patience a series of eye operations that had threatened to put an end to his magnum opus".
James was also an authority on Haydn, Mozart and Wagner, and contributed notes and commentaries to Glyndebourne programmes.
Lytton Strachey: the new biography by Michael Holroyd (1994, Chatto & Windus)
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