By Jacques Kelly (The Baltimore Sun, 6/13/1995)
Henry James was one of the most respected writers of his day, but there was no fanfare when he stepped off a train at Baltimore’s old Union Station 90 years ago.
In the Baltimore of 1905, horse-drawn taxis waited at the railway depot’s Charles Street side. The 62-year-old American novelist’s next destination was the recently completed Belvedere Hotel at Charles and Chase streets.
“I arrived late in the day, and the day had been lovely; I alighted at a large fresh peaceful hostelry, imposingly modern yet quietly affable, and, having recognized the deep, soft general note, even from my windows, as that of a kind of mollified vivacity, I sought the streets with as many tacit questions as I judged they would tolerate, or as the waning day would allow me to put,” James wrote in the chapter devoted to Baltimore in his 1907 journal of his East Coast impressions, “The American Scene.”
“It took but that hour, as I strolled in the early eventide, to give me the sense of the predicament I have glanced at; that of finding myself committed to the view of Baltimore as quite insidiously ‘sympathetic,’ quite inordinately amiable, which amounted, in other words, to the momentous proposition that she was interesting. . . .”
“So I walked around that dear little city looking for the peculiar parts — all with the singular effect of rather failing to find them and with my impression of felicity at the same time persistently growing,” he wrote.
Literary scholars tell us that James (1843-1916) visited Baltimore beginning June 10, 1905. He stayed perhaps a few days and was then off to another destination. The author of “The Ambassadors” and “The Golden Bowl” seemed to have enjoyed his visit here.
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“Baltimore” by Henry James – Click for fullscreen