Henry James was the quintessential expatriate writer, although his travels did not follow the classical itinerary of the famous Grand Tour, but were rather characterised by an emotional intensity which render him a unique case. His tourism took the form of an interior adventure, a peregrinatio animae which accompanied his travels in the real world. Born to a privileged American family, son of a philosopher that deemed travelling indispensable to form his children’s character and education, James was a pioneer of the re-discovering of Europe and pursuit of European culture, often writing about European culture from the point of view of the American moral consciousness. In March 1871 James published “A Passionate Pilgrim”, a short story of particular importance because it shows how travel was regarded as a spiritual, quasi-religious experience that was meant to enrich, enlighten and change the young, impressionable Americans who found themselves immersed for the first time in the more sophisticated European culture. The essay follows James’s pilgrimage through his works, a voyage which followed a deliberate itinerary, attended by rites and rituals. What emerges is a view on travel not as the mere crossing of physical space, but as recognition of his own inner self, and the exploration of his own geography of the soul.
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