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The Three Travelers in English Hours by Leon Edel, University of Hawaii English Hours contains James's finest tributes—critical and appreciative—to the land in which he lived for half a century and whose citizenship he finally claimed. There is considerable art in the arrangement of the essays, which are essentially painterly and documentary: James is not a Toqueville or a Bryce; he is certainly not an economist or a social scientist; nor does he attempt a critique of British institutions. He travels for the delight of his senses; he relishes the old, the picturesque, the noble antiquities, the idea of continuity and preservation—the sense of history that lives within the beauties and the uglinesses of the land. He does not turn his eyes away from the visible poverty and the slums. He is a very polite and even cautious tourist, and, as he says, a "grateful al ¡en" who at the same time allows himself to observe. In one of his older Italian essays, he wonders whether it is worthwhile for a traveler to leave home "only to see new forms of human suffering, only to be reminded that toil and privation, hunger and sorrow and sordid effect, are the portion of the great majority of his fellow-men." It seemed to him there was something heartless "in stepping forth into the streets of a foreign town to feast upon novelty when the novelty consists simply of the slightly different costume in which hunger and labour present themselves." He could say this more of Italy and of other nations on the Continent than of England. In England it was possible for the American traveler to visit castles and abbeys, great houses, old churches and cathedrals and to study the architecture that encased the Establishment; he could pause in Oxford or Cambridge and turn his eyes away from the centers of Industry and the haunts of poverty. James found himself, in both his high seriousness and his good-humored love of life, in a rather personal dilemma. His English impressions were written originally for American journals, and it was a part of his task to minister to the curiosity of a new generation of his countrymen that still looked at England as "our old home" and was still dazzled by the rituals of royalty, the old and loved things that lingered in New England memory. Also, he could speak from his American democratic feeling about the British class structure and British manners. His early travels were published in America as Transatlantic Sketches, and there was no question about which side of the Atlantic was meant. When Tauchnltz asked for the book, James recognized that another title was required for Europe, and he minutely revised it and named it Foreign Parts. Later, in a more neutrally-named volume, Portraits of Places, he found delicate euphemisms and cushion-words to rub off the edge of a certain American sharpness and bite for British readers. He explained to his American friends that "there are some English institutions and idiosyncrasies that it is certainly a great blessing to be outside of" but that he could explain this only through "the happy medium of irony." He sought to make the essays "Ironical without being too much so." This explains the cautious phrases in his text characterizing himself. Things appear "to alien eyes," to "the desultory stranger," or "the Imported consciousness." The reader ¡s made aware that foreign parts are being seen through foreign eyes. The visitor is urbane. He cultivates charm. Sometimes he is "the brooding spectator" when he doesn't become in a moment of more acute vision "a stray savage." But he is hardly an American primitive. There is ground for an amusing study ¡n these papers of the scrupulous revisions by which James's organ of language finds dulcet tones to replace the more direct address used in American magazines. In his essay "London at Midsummer," he includes a long paragraph about the outdoor cafes of the Continent, which, when they do turn up in London, are hardly frequented by the British aristocracy. In the original version, James speaks of "the upper classes" that are "too refined" and of the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6555
Print ISSN
0273-0340
Pages
pp. 167-171
Launched on MUSE
2010-03-25
Open Access
No
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