"Though there are some disagreeable things in Venice there is nothing so disagreeable as the visitors."
|John Singer Sargent's painting of the Curtis Family in the Palazzo Barbaro|
Henry James made this observation more than a century ago, in 1882. What on earth would he say, if he visited the city today!
Henry James paid his first visit to Venice in 1869, aged twenty-six. Over the next four decades he would return a total of nine times, paying his last visit to the city in 1907. His biographer, Leon Edel, called Venice "one of the greatest topographical love affairs of James' life."
In 1887 (February to March), James stayed at the Casa Alvisi, the pink building to the left of the Hotel Europa & Regina. He was the guest of Mrs Katherine de Kay Bronson. He wrote:
“Casa Alvisi is directly opposite the high, broad-based florid church of Santa Maria della Salute--so directly that from the balcony over the water-entrance your eye, crossing the canal, seems to find the key-hole of the great door right in a line with it; and there was something in this position that for the time made all Venice-lovers think of the genial padrona as thus levying in the most convenient way the toll of curiosity and sympathy.”
In the spring and early summer of 1894 James stayed at the Casa Biondetti, which lies on the Grand Canal to the right of the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni (home to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection). James had returned to Venice to work, in his capacity as literary executor, on the papers of fellow novelist and friend, Constance Fenimore Woolson, who had died in January.
In June, 1907, after an absence of more than half a dozen years, James paid what would be his last visit to both the Palazzo Barbaro and to Venice, itself.