Henry James’s travel writings are at once literary masterpieces, unsurpassed guidebooks and penetrating reflections on the international themes familiar from his fiction. This volume, the second of two, begins with the classic
A Little Tour in France (1900), illustrated with Joseph Pennell’s exquisite drawings from the original edition. James begins his tour of the French countryside one rainy morning in mid-September of 1882, when he sets off for the city of Tours as a means of exploring the proposition that “though France might be Paris, Paris was by no means France.”
From Tours, Balzac’s birthplace, James travels to the great chateaux of the Loire Valley, visiting Chambord, Amboise, Chenonceaux, and Blois, where, as you cross the threshold, “you step straight into the sunshine and storm of the French Renaissance.” Dense with literary associations and historical echoes, James’s prose brings castles and cathedrals and old walled towns to life. In his glancingly precise visual evocations of terrain and cityscape, he realizes his ambition “to sketch without a palette or brushes.”
Henry James loved Italy, “a beautiful disheveled nymph” to England’s “good married matron.” The incisive and witty essays in
Italian Hours (1909) describe memorably happy sojourns in Venice, Rome, and Florence, and excursions to Siena, Assisi, Perugia, Capri, Ravenna, and other Italian cities. “Nowhere do art and life seem so interfused” as in Venice, wrote James in celebration of the splendor of Venetian light and color, air, and history. He records his radiant impressions of Roman churches and aqueducts, museums and fountains, and rambles through the gardens of the Villa Borghese in spring, when Rome seems lighted “with an irresistible smile.” All these essays are filled with James’s intense pleasure in Italian places and people.
This volume concludes with sixteen essays on such varied places as Switzerland, Holland, Rheims, and the Pyrénées, including a memorable account of the American volunteer ambulance corps in Europe during World War One.
LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America’s best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.
“Few writing markets have expanded so dramatically as that of the travel guide. There are books in the hundreds ready to tell you where to eat, shop, sleep and be seen. I defy you to name any which will provide better company than these two have given me for the last fortnight. And yet the last piece was written in 1912 and the first in the 1860s.”
— Los Angeles Times Book Review
The Library of America is an award-winning, nonprofit program dedicated to publishing America''s best and most significant writing in handsome, enduring volumes, featuring authoritative texts. Hailed as "the most important book-publishing project in the nation''s history" (Newsweek), this acclaimed series is restoring America''s literary heritage in "the finest-looking, longest-lasting edition ever made" (New Republic).
Henry James (1843-1916), born in New York City, was the son of noted religious philosopher Henry James, Sr., and brother of eminent psychologist and philosopher William James. His many works include
Washington Square (1880),
The Portrait of a Lady (1881),
The Princess Casamassima (1886),
The Aspern Papers(1888),
The Turn of the Screw (1898), and three large novels of the new century,
The Wings of the Dove (1902),
The Ambassadors (1903) and
The Golden Bowl (1904). He died in London in February 1916.
Richard Howard, volume editor, is a critic, translator, and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. He is Professor of Practice in the School of the Arts of Columbia University.