There has been no single study of the travel writings of Henry James; indeed there has been only scant mention of these significant literary works. Marie-Reine Garnier has made effective use of them in discussing James's attitude toward France in Henry James et La France (1927), and, of course, critics often refer to James's best-known travel books, Portraits of Places, A Little Tour in France, and English Hours. Transatlantic Sketches and Foreign Parts (a revised issue of the former) are considered less often, and the most beautiful---in content and style---volume of all, Italian Hours, has been sadly neglected.
There have been two recent partial studies of James as a traveller. In his doctoral dissertation, Three American Travellers in England: James Russell Lowell, Henry Adams, Henry James (1945), Robert Charles Le Clair traces the influence of travel upon James's life and works up to the year 1883, but the does not discuss the travel sketches in detail. His emphasis is upon the English sketches, and he does not consider the sketches of America. Nor does he analyze the revisions of the European sketches. George Alvin Finch in his essay "James as a Traveller," which serves as an introduction to a 1948 edition of Portraits of Places, calls attention to the significance of the travel sketches in relation to James's fiction. He points out that James's travel writings are "a personal record through which the reader may traverse a middle ground lying between his letters and his fiction." Mr. Finch, however, does not discuss James's habits as a tourist, nor does he analyze the content and composition of the numerous travel essays which James wrote between 1872 and 1909. Since Mr. Finch's study concerns only Portraits of Places, he has not considered James's revisions of these sketches, nor has he discussed the traveller in America.
Supplementing what Mr. Le Clair and Mr. Finch have contributed, this study proposes to consider in some detail James's repeated visits to England and the continent, as well as his last visit to America, his habits as a tourist, the significance of his letters as embryo travel essays, the content and style of the seven travel books, and finally, the revisions of the European sketches in 1909. This study will later be extended to include the relation between James's travel writings and his fiction and non-fiction works.