About Henry James: Travel Writings Vol. 1 (LOA #64)
Collected in this Library of America volume (and its companion) for the first time, Henry James’s travel books and essays display his distinctive charm and vivacity of style, his sensuous response to the beauty of place, and his penetrating, sometimes sardonically amusing analysis of national characteristics and customs. Observant, alert, imaginative, these works remain unsurpassed guides to the countries they describe, and they form an important part of James’s extraordinary achievement in literature.
This volume brings together James’s writing on Great Britain and America. The essays of English Hours (1905) convey the freshness of James’s “wonderments and judgments and emotions” on first encountering the country that became his adopted home for half a century. James includes the vivid account of a New Year’s weekend at a perfectly appointed country house, midsummer dog days in London, and the spectacle of the Derby at Epsom. Joseph Pennell’s delightful illustrations, which appeared in the original edition, are reprinted with James’s text.
In The American Scene (1907) James revisits his native country after a twenty-year absence, traveling throughout the eastern United States from Boston to Florida. James’s poignant rediscovery of what remained of the New York of his childhood (“the precious stretch of street between Washington Square and Fourteenth Street”) contrasts with his impression of the modern, commercial New York, a new city representing “a particular type of dauntless power.” Edmund Wilson, who praised The American Scene’s “magnificent solidity and brilliance,” remarked that “it was as if. . . his emotions had suddenly been given scope, his genius for expression liberated.”
Sixteen essays on traveling in England, Scotland, and America conclude this volume. The essays, most of which have never been collected, range from early pieces on London, Saratoga, and Newport, to articles on World War One that are among James’s final writings.
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