Citizens of Somewhere Else: Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry James

By Dan McCall | Go to book overview

Chapter Twelve "The Wings of Experience"

I conclude with the profoundly American quality of our two citizens of somewhere else. Consider these testimonials:

Ralph Waldo Emerson, approaching his twenty-first birthday, in his journal: "I make it my best boast that I am a citizen of a far country."

V. S. Pritchett, A Cab at the Door: "I became a foreigner. For myself that is what a writer is--a man living on the other side of a frontier."

Henry James, Sr., to Emerson in the fall of 1860, after a dinner of Boston's Saturday Club at the Parker House: Hawthorne "had the look all the time, to one who didn't know him, of a rogue who suddenly finds himself in a company of detectives."

Tocqueville, Democracy in America ( 1835):

America has hitherto produced very few writers of distinction; it possesses no great historians and not a single eminent poet. The inhabitants of that country look upon literature properly so called with a kind of disapprobation; and there are towns of second-rate importance in Europe in which more literary works are annually published than in the twenty-four states of the Union put together.

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