A Thing Divine


Henry James (1843–1916)
Autograph letter, signed, to John La Farge, 21 September 1869
Lent by the New-York Historical Society, La Farge Papers, New York; ms 360.

Henry James to John La Farge
Venice, Hotel Barbesi, 21 September [1869]

It’s [sic] treasures of course are numerable, & I have seen but a small fraction. I have been haunting chie y the ducal palace & the Academy & putting o  the churches. Tintoretto is omnipresent & well-nigh omnipotent. Titian I like less here than in London & elsewhere. He is strangely unequal. P. Veronese is great & J. Bellini greater. Perfect felicity I  find nowhere but in the manner of the Ducal Palace & bits of other palaces on the Gd. Canal. One thing strangely strikes me; viz. that if I were an “artist” all these immortal daubers would have anything but a directly discouraging effect upon me. On the contrary: they are full of their own peculiar compromises, poverties, & bêtises, & are as far o  from the absolute as Miss Jane Stuart.—I go hence to Florence, via Bologna, in about 10 days. I hope to remain some time at F., to see Rome & Naples & possibly have a glimpse of Sicily. I must stay my hand just now. I only wanted to let you know that if you  find it possible to come within a short time, I should like well to do some travelling in your company. Offering counsel is repugnant to the discrete mind; yet I can’t but say that I should predict serious good of your coming. Steady sight seeing is extremely fatiguing, but there is a way of taking it easy—such as I—theoretically—practice.