Italian Hours By Henry James PDF In English

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VENICE With Illustrations In Color

IT is a great pleasure to write the word, but I am not sure there is not a certain impudence in pretending to add anything to it.

Venice has been painted and described many thousands of times, and of all the cities of the world is the easiest to visit without going there.

Open the first book and you will find a rhapsody about it; step into the first picture dealer’s and you will find three or four high-colored “views” of it.

There is notoriously nothing more to be said on the subject. Everyone has been there, and everyone has brought back a collection of photographs.

There is a little mystery about the Grand Canal as about our local thoroughfare, and the name of Sr. Mark is as familiar as the postman’s ring. It is not forbidden, however, to speak of familiar things, and I hold that for the true Venice-lover Venice is always in order.

There is nothing new to be said about her certainly, but the old is better than any novelty. It would be a sad day indeed when there should be something new to say. I write these lines with the full consciousness of having no information whatever to offer.

I do not pretend to enlighten the reader; I pretend only to give a fillip to his memory: and I hold any writer sufficiently justified who is himself in love with his theme.

MR. RUSKIN has given it up, that is very true, but only after extracting half a lifetime of pleasure and an immeasurable quantity of fame from it.

We all may do the same after it has served our turn, which it probably will not cease to do for many a year to come Meantime it is Mr. Ruskin who beyond anyone helps us to enjoy.

He has indeed lately produced several aids to depression in the shape of certain little humorous-ill-humorous-pam phablets (the series of St. Mark’s Rest) which embody his latest reflections on the subject of our city and describe the latest atrocities perpetrated there.

These latter are numerous and deeply to be deplored; but to admit that they have spoiled Venice would be to admit that Venice may be spoiled an admission pregnant, as it seems to us, with disloyalty.

Fortunately one reacts against the Ruskinian contagion, and one hour of the lagoon is worth a hundred pages of demoralized prose.

This queer late-coating prose of Mr. Ruskin (including the revised and condensed issue of the Stones of Fenice, only one little volume of which has been published, or perhaps ever will be) is all to be read, though much of it appears addressed to children of tender age.

It is pitched in the nursery key and might be supposed to emanate from an angry governess. It is, however, all suggestive, and much of it is delightfully just.

There is an inconceivable want of form in it, though the author has spent his life in laying down the principles of form and scolding people for departing from them; but it throbs and flashes with the love of his subject-a love disconcerted and abjured, but which has still much of the force of inspiration.

Among the many strange things that have befallen Venice, she has had the good fortune to become the object of a passion to a man of splendid genius, who has made her his own and in doing so has made her the world.

There is no better reading at Venice therefore, as I say than Ruskin, for every true Venice-lover can separate the wheat from the chaff. The narrow theological spirit, the moralism à tout propos, the queer provincialities, and pruderies, are mere wild weeds in a mountain of flowers.

One may doubtless be very happy in Venice without reading at all without criticizing or analyzing or thinking a strenuous thought.

It is a city in which, I suspect, there is very little strenuous thinking, and yet it is a city in which there must be almost as much happiness as misery.

AuthorHenry James
Language English
No. of Pages594
PDF Size25.9 MB

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