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American Scene


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Descriptive and interpretive work by Henry James, published in 1907. The author toured the U.S. (1904) after an absence of “nearly a quarter of a century,” and writes from a point of view that he claims to be almost as fresh as that of an “inquiring stranger” and as acute as that of an “initiated native.” He describes his dramatic adventure in rediscovering an American occupied by “a society reaching out into the apparent void for the amenities, the consummations, after having earnestly gathered in so many of the preparations and necessities.” The chapters of sensitive and cultivated appreciation include discussions of New England, New York, and Newport; the foreign aspects of New York City; “social notes” on upper-class life; and places associated with such authors as Hawthorne, Emerson, Thoreau, and Irving. The general impression is in keeping with his attitude as an expatriate:You touch the great lonely land—as one feels it still to be-only to plant upon it some ugliness about which, never dreaming of the grace of apology or contrition, you then proceed to brag…. You convert the large and noble sanities that I see around me … one after the other to crudities, to invalidities, hideous and unashamed….

You touch the great lonely land—as one feels it still to be-only to plant upon it some ugliness about which, never dreaming of the grace of apology or contrition, you then proceed to brag…. You convert the large and noble sanities that I see around me … one after the other to crudities, to invalidities, hideous and unashamed….

Subjects: Literature.


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Henry James (1843—1916) writer


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