1825, "matter-of-fact treatment," from Greek pragmat-, stem of pragma "that which has been done" (see pragmatic) + -ism. As a philosophical doctrine, by 1898, said to be from 1870s; probably from German Pragmatismus. As a name for a political theory, from 1951. Related: Pragmatist (1630s as "busybody;" 1892 as "adherent of a pragmatic philosophy").
"of or in the mode of James," 1875 in reference to William James (1842-1910), U.S. philosopher and exponent of pragmatism; 1905 in reference to his brother Henry James (1843-1916), U.S. expatriate novelist.
[T]he long sentences piling themselves up in elaborate phrase after phrase, the lightning incision, the pauses, the slightly shaking admonitory gesture with its ‘wu-await a little, wait a little, something will come’; blague and benignity and the weight of so many years’ careful, incessant labour of minute observation always there to enrich the talk. I had heard it but seldom, yet it is all unforgettable. […] No man who has not lived on both sides of the Atlantic can well appraise Henry James; his death marks the end of a period. [Ezra Pound, from “Henry James,” Little Review, August 1918]