From suburbia and skyscraper scrawl to the open prairies and 'local color', slum life to rural idyll: reprinting American and British literary classics.

A Passionate Pilgrim
Henry James


This is the earliest of Henry James’ written works that the author himself included in his own collected New York Edition of 1907-09, when he revised it for the fifth and final time. It was published originally in The New Atlantic in 1871, and came out in book form only in 1875 with a collection of other short stories. Even though it is such an early work (James did write later of the book’s structural shortcomings), the writing style is vibrant. It is concerned with one of James’ recurrent themes: the clash of the Old world and the New, of Europe and America.

B format paperback (198mm x 130mm)
cover design by Alexandra Andries


HENRY JAMES (1843 – 1916) is considered to be one of the greatest novelists in the English language, a link between literary realism (he admired Balzac before all others) and modernism. He wrote also much literary criticism, travel, biography and autobiography. He was born in New York City and had a broad education that included much travel. He began to study law at Harvard but abandoned this to pursue his literary interests. He stayed in Europe throughout 1869; when in England he met many of the great writers of the time. He returned to Europe in 1875. He settled in England a year later where he stayed for the rest of his life. His first novel, Watch and Ward, was published in 1871. Transatlantic fame came with Daisy Miller and The Europeans, both published in 1878; The Portrait Of A Lady followed in 1881. Literary success eluded James throughout much of the 1880s and 1890s though – his writing had always focused on character rather than plot – and he turned to translation and theatrical writing to make money. By the 1900s his writing was at its most mature with a prose far more allusive than before, and it met critical acclaim. From 1904 he concentrated more on writing memoir and travel, and edited previous work. James took British nationality in 1915 and was awarded the Order of Merit in 1916.

If A Passionate Pilgrim is perhaps not significantly better than much else of James’ early work (those that the author had chosen not to include in his own collected edition), it is an important part of his literary apprenticeship. It has the hallmark of James’ mature style and manner. The novel’s central character who we first meet in a London inn, is a frail American exile in England, Clement Searle. His life in America has disappointed, and he is depressed that he is unable to authenticate his claim to a country estate owned by a distant relation. At play is another typical Henry James theme: the unrealised moment of a desired and ‘passionate’ experience.

A Passionate Pilgrim was published originally in The New Atlantic in 1871, and came out in book form only in 1875 with a collection of other short stories. In 1884 Tauchnitz published a continental edition, revised by James; it was published in England in 1885, revised yet again by the author.




INTENDING TO SAIL for America in the early part of June, I determined to spend the interval of six weeks in England, to which country my mind’s eye only had as yet been introduced. I had formed in Italy and France a resolute preference for old inns, considering that what they sometimes cost the ungratified body they repay the delighted mind. On my arrival in London, therefore, I lodged at a certain antique hostelry, much to the east of Temple Bar, deep in the quarter that I had inevitably figured as the Johnsonian. Here, on the first evening of my stay, I descended to the little coffee-room and bespoke my dinner of the genius of “attendance” in the person of the solitary waiter. No sooner had I crossed the threshold of this retreat than I felt I had cut a golden-ripe crop of English “impressions.” The coffee-room of the Red Lion, like so many other places and things I was destined to see in the motherland, seemed to have been waiting for long years, with just that sturdy sufferance of time written on its visage, for me to come and extract the romantic essence of it.

The latent preparedness of the American mind even for the most characteristic features of English life was a matter I meanwhile failed to get to the bottom of. The roots of it are indeed so deeply buried in the soil of our early culture that, without some great upheaval of feeling, we are at a loss to say exactly when and where and how it begins. It makes an American’s enjoyment of England an emotion more searching than anything Continental. I had seen the coffee-room of the Red Lion years ago, at home—at Saragossa Illinois—in books, in visions, in dreams, in Dickens, in Smollett, in Boswell. It was small and subdivided into six narrow compartments by a series of perpendicular screens of mahogany, something higher than a man’s stature, furnished on either side with a meagre uncushioned ledge, denominated in ancient Britain a seat. In each of these rigid receptacles was a narrow table—a table expected under stress to accommodate no less than four pairs of active British elbows. High pressure indeed had passed away from the Red Lion for ever. It now knew only that of memories and ghosts and atmosphere. Round the room there marched, breast-high, a magnificent panelling of mahogany, so dark with time and so polished with unremitted friction that by gazing a while into its lucid blackness I made out the dim reflexion of a party of wigged gentlemen in knee-breeches just arrived from York by the coach. On the dark yellow walls, coated by the fumes of English coal, of English mutton, of Scotch whiskey, were a dozen melancholy prints, sallow-toned with age—the Derby favourite of the year 1807, the Bank of England, her Majesty the Queen. On the floor was a Turkey carpet—as old as the mahogany almost, as the Bank of England, as the Queen—into which the waiter had in his lonely revolutions trodden so many massive soot-flakes and drops of overflowing beer that the glowing looms of Smyrna would certainly not have recognised it. To say that I ordered my dinner of this archaic type would be altogether to misrepresent the process owing to which, having dreamed of lamb and spinach and a salade de saison, I sat down in penitence to a mutton-chop and a rice pudding. Bracing my feet against the cross-beam of my little oaken table, I opposed to the mahogany partition behind me the vigorous dorsal resistance that must have expressed the old-English idea of repose. The sturdy screen refused even to creak, but my poor Yankee joints made up the deficiency.

While I was waiting there for my chop there came into the room a person whom, after I had looked at him a moment, I supposed to be a fellow lodger and probably the only one. He seemed, like myself, to have submitted to proposals for dinner; the table on the other side of my partition had been prepared to receive him. He walked up to the fire, exposed his back to it and, after consulting his watch, looked directly out of the window and indirectly at me. He was a man of something less than middle age and more than middle stature, though indeed you would have called him neither young nor tall. He was chiefly remarkable for his emphasised leanness. His hair, very thin on the summit of his head, was dark short and fine. His eye was of a pale turbid grey, unsuited, perhaps, to his dark hair and well-drawn brows, but not altogether out of harmony with his colourless bilious complexion. His nose was aquiline and delicate; beneath it his moustache languished much rather than bristled. His mouth and chin were negative, or at the most provisional; not vulgar, doubtless, but ineffectually refined. A cold fatal gentlemanly weakness was expressed indeed in his attenuated person. His eye was restless and deprecating; his whole physiognomy, his manner of shifting his weight from foot to foot, the spiritless droop of his head, told of exhausted intentions, of a will relaxed. His dress was neat and “toned down”—he might have been in mourning. I made up my mind on three points: he was a bachelor, he was out of health, he was not indigenous to the soil. The waiter approached him, and they conversed in accents barely audible. I heard the words “claret,” “sherry” with a tentative inflexion, and finally “beer” with its last letter changed to “ah.” Perhaps he was a Russian in reduced circumstances; he reminded me slightly of certain sceptical cosmopolite Russians whom I had met on the Continent. While in my extravagant way I followed this train—for you see I was interested—there appeared a short brisk man with reddish-brown hair, with a vulgar nose, a sharp blue eye and a red beard confined to his lower jaw and chin. My putative Russian, still in possession of the rug, let his mild gaze stray over the dingy ornaments of the room. The other drew near, and his umbrella dealt a playful poke at the concave melancholy waistcoat. “A penny ha’penny for your thoughts!”

My friend, as I call him, uttered an exclamation, stared, then laid his two hands on the other’s shoulders. The latter looked round at me keenly, compassing me in a momentary glance. I read in its own vague light that this was a transatlantic eyebeam; and with such confidence that I hardly needed to see its owner, as he prepared, with his companion, to seat himself at the table adjoining my own, take from his overcoat-pocket three New York newspapers and lay them beside his plate. As my neighbours proceeded to dine I felt the crumbs of their conversation scattered pretty freely abroad. I could hear almost all they said, without straining to catch it, over the top of the partition that divided us. Occasionally their voices dropped to recovery of discretion, but the mystery pieced itself together as if on purpose to entertain me. Their speech was pitched in the key that may in English air be called alien in spite of a few coincidences. The voices were American, however, with a difference; and I had no hesitation in assigning the softer and clearer sound to the pale thin gentleman, whom I decidedly preferred to his comrade. The latter began to question him about his voyage.

“Horrible, horrible! I was deadly sick from the hour we left New York.”

“Well, you do look considerably reduced,” said the second-comer.

“Reduced! I’ve been on the verge of the grave. I haven’t slept six hours for three weeks.” This was said with great gravity.

“Well, I’ve made the voyage for the last time.”

“The plague you have! You mean to locate here permanently?”

“Oh it won’t be so very permanent!”

There was a pause; after which: “You’re the same merry old boy, Searle. Going to give up the ghost to-morrow, eh?”

“I almost wish I were.”