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Lord Lambeth's America: Architecture in James's "An International Episode" by Curtis Dahl, Wheaton College Readers of Henry James's travel writings , particularly those of his later years such as The American Scene (1907), rightly regard him a master at defining the ambiance of a city or a region. His memories of the Paris of his boyhood, the Newport of his youth, and the New York of his later years, though they offer few concrete details, are superb renderings of the cultural lights and shadows of the places that he knew. But there was a different Henry James who, in his detailed description of actual buildings and streets, in his recording of the architectural fashions of the time, and in his use of both of these to further his plot and express his ideas, equals that other master of detailed depiction of the American scene, William Dean Ho wells. The Europeans (1878), for instance, effectively pictures New England character through the houses and environment of a New England village; and The Bostonians (1886) rivals The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885) in its skillful use of the streets and structures of Boston and Cambridge. The best of James's works in this vein, however, is "An International Episode." Its masterful use of actual places and buildings, accurate description of representative architectural styles, and representation in architecture of national cultural differences make it both a significant document in the Howellsian local color tradition and a telling exploration of James's lifelong international theme. I On the first level, "An International Episode" provides surprisingly explicit, faithful, and detailed pictures of actual buildings and sites in the New York and Newport of 1874. Let us follow the protagonists of the tale and discover just where they go and what they see. On August 1, 1874, a swelteringly hot day, two young Englishmen, one the son and heir of the Duke of Bayswater, the other his slightly older cousin, step off their ship in lower Manhattan near the bottom of Broadway . The ship, as befits two "smart," wellto -do young aristocrats, is the crack Cunard Line packet ship Russia, launched only seven years before, and once holder of the Blue Ribbon of the Atlantic (Smith 230). Cunard Steam Packet Russia, holder in 1867 of the Blue Ribbon of the Atlantic. (Courtesy Steamship Historical Society Library, University of Baltimore) Percy Beaumont has come as agent for English investors to file suit against the Tennessee Central Railroad. Lord Lambeth has come just for the lark. They climb into a hotel coach and start up Broadway—"an interminable avenue" crowded with an "extraordinary number of omnibuses, horsecars and other democratic vehicles." They wonder at "the vendors of cooling fluids, the white trousers and big straw-hats of the policemen, the tripping gait of the modish young persons on the pavement, [and] the general brightness, newness, juvenility, both of people and things" (IE 243). When they reach Union Square, they are symbolically greeted by the outstretched hand of that most appropriate of greeters—who else but the Father of His Country himself, as embodied in the equestrian statue of Washington by Henry Kirke Brown? Ten blocks farther up Broadway they reach Madison Square and the hotel an American passenger on the Russia has recommended to them. James calls it the Hanover, but in 1874 no hotel by that name existed in New York. However, a hotel named after another German principality—the Brunswick—stood at 223 Fifth Avenue, on the corner of Fifth Volume V 80 Number 2 The Henry James Review Winter, 1984 Avenue and 26th Street, directly on the Square. The American friend has counseled them well, for, according to Lloyd Morris, the Brunswick "was the headquarters of the aristocratic 'horsy set,'" and "the annual spring and autumn parades of the Coaching Club . . . assembled at the Brunswick and returned there to enjoy the bird and game dinners and rare vintages for which the hotel was celebrated among gourmets." "At the Brunswick," reported Bradstreet's New York Shopping Guide of 1876/1877, "congregate the jeunesse dorée who are interested in sport" (p. 19). Lord Lambeth, who later indicates that he must be back in Scotland in...


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