Italian HoursBook - 1992
Despite the fact that Henry James visited Italy fourteen times and set much of his best-known fiction in Venice, Florence, and Rome, his complex Italian Hours essays have never received the attention they deserve. These absorbing essays provide far-reaching comment on artistic production, on religion, on social upheaval and the movement into the modern age, as well as on the power of reminiscence and the nature of travel itself. Furthermore, they reveal a sometimes surprising Henry James who was fascinated by papal politics, by the aftermath of the risorgimento, by upper-class Roman in Naples, rampant Venetian commercialism, and by persistent concerns about the elusive and yet resilient essence of civilization.
Written from 1872 to 1909, the twenty-two Italian Hours essays represent a genre of travel writing that provides a journey through time as much as over terrain, and they reveal James's uniquely sensitive reactions to the rapid transformations of nineteenth century Europe. By establishing their historical, political, literary, and artistic context, John Auchard makes these essays more accessible both to the general reader and to the scholar, and his overview helps modem readers appreciate that the Italy they envision when they read The Portrait of a Lady or The Wings of the Dove is not necessarily the same Italy that fascinated Henry James*
Furthermore, this edition supplies practical as well as contextual information that will allow greater appreciation of James's impressions, of the changes he observes, and of those that have taken place since the 1909 publication of Italian Hours. The editor notes when crumbling frescoes have been restored, when piazzas have been redesigned, when, for example, a renowned villa has been mutilated, destroyed, or turned into an astronomical observatory. This edition therefore helps define the changes in both the fact and the metaphor of Italy, and it should send readers back to James's novels, and perhaps back to Italy itself, with richer understanding. Aside from extensive annotations of the corrected Houghton Mifflin text of 1909, this edition includes an introduction, an extended textual note, a collation of the first English and American editions, suggestions for further reading, an extensive bibliography, and a listing of sources for period photographs. Included in an appendix are the texts of James's reviews of Italian travel books by Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Dean Howells, Augustus J. C. Hare, Auguste Laugel, and Hippolyte Taine.