This essay following Henry James through Italy is included in my most recent book The Modern Salonnière. The 34 other essays in the book feature…View More Traveling Italy with Henry James
Tag: Henry James
Henry James crafted some of the most famous novels known to fans of classic fiction—The Wings of the Dove and The Portrait of a Lady top of mind for me—but he was also a travel writer.
Henry James’ Collected Travel Writings, a lovely pair of slipcovered books, are split into two volumes, The Continent and Great Britain and America. In the section of The Continent titled “Italian Hours,” his essay “A Chain of Cities,” has him visiting the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, a sprawling church with its first stone laid by Pope Gregory IX on July 17, 1228—the day after the canonization of the saint after which the Basilica is named.
About the Basilica, he notes, “This twofold temple of St. Francis is one of the very sacred places of Italy, and it would be hard to breathe anywhere an air more heavy with holiness.” This ecclesiastical weightiness includes frescoes filled with motifs that I found held the same pattern as a slew of design products being released in April 2016, so I turned James’ visit to the cathedral into a literary design adventure. He says of the lower cavern on the church: “The tone of the place is a triumph of mystery, the richest harmony of lurking shadows and dusky corners, all relieved by scattered images and scintillations.”
The images he references are frescoes by Giotto and his artistic contemporaries during medieval times, the former’s paintings illustrating important events in the life of St. Francis. James singles out four that are painted on the ceiling above the altar of the lower chapel to proclaim how completely the artist was “in proportion to his means, a genius supremely expressive.” I see even the travel writing of Henry James equally expressive in these small books chock full of large responses to the world.
A Backward Glance on rue de Varenne
The narrow sidewalks push their black iron batons up out of the ground to protect the buildings hemming them; the rain turns the cobblestones to…View More A Backward Glance on rue de Varenne
This Side of Paradise
I looked forward to meeting Michael Berman during the Spring 2016 High Point Market when he was there to debut his Califolio collection for Theodore…View More This Side of Paradise
It Is Time to Experience More
Experience more. It sounds like a simple directive but how many of us really take the time to savor what is happening right in front…View More It Is Time to Experience More
Dream of Venice
When JoAnn Locktov asked me to contribute a poem to the book she was planning to publish in collaboration with photographer Charles Christopher, I didn’t…View More Dream of Venice
Jane Austen Era Silver
If you are a fan of movies inspired by the novels of Jane Austen but you haven’t read her books, you may be surprised to know…View More Jane Austen Era Silver