Back Henry James, “The After-Season in Rome”

Henry James (1843–1916)
From Henry James: Collected Travel Writings: The Continent

“The Colonnade of St. Peter, Rome,” illustration by American artist Joseph Pennell (1857–1926) for Henry James’s Italian Hours (1909).

For young Henry James, who had yet to publish a single book, the month of May was the best time to be in Rome, because that’s when the foreigners (forestieri) have left and “when Rome becomes Rome again and you may have her all to yourself.”

James’s first two-month visit to The Eternal City overwhelmed him and his second stay, for six months in 1873 when he turned thirty, became a memory that provided inspiration for his fiction for the next forty years, including such famous works such as “Daisy Miller” and The Portrait of a Lady. Like most Americans living in Rome, he aspired to blend in with the native-born, and he moved out of his hotel and into an apartment building where he was the only forestiero. “The days follow each other in gentle variety, each one leaving me a little more Roman than before,” he wrote to his mother.

Since a visit to Rome, or Italy, or Europe is pretty much out of the question for Americans at the present time, we recommend Henry James’s collection Italian Hours, which will transport you not only across the Atlantic but also back 150 years. We present as our Story of the Week selection “The After-Season in Rome,” the essay in the book that describes how Rome becomes completely itself once all those pesky tourists have left the city—all those other tourists, that is.

Read “The After-Season in Rome “ by Henry James

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