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About This Book
To meet Mr. Howells again on his Italian rambles is like rejoining an old friend in the midst of scenes associated with the beginning of our friendship. This rich volume is a grateful recollection of the book which first gave him a place in our standard literature. Much of the old charm of 'Venetian Life' is certainly here. The daring disregard of conventionality, the happy discovery of aspects of life un noticed by previous travelers, the artistic and novel use of illustrative side-lights, the quick insight into the characteristics of places, the unforced flow of delicate humor, the fascination of a style distinguished more by natural grace than by laborious polish, and the genial understanding between the author and the reader — all these qualities reappear in the new record of travel; and if they seem less striking than they did of old, we must remember that Mr. Howells himself is no longer a fresh sensation but a familiar favorite. Half the volume is devoted to Florence under the title of Florentine Mosaics. Mr. Howells gives us something quite unlike the ordinary impressions of a traveler. Here is neither set description of scenery and architecture, nor systematic study of life and manners; but the author passes at will from pictures of the streets and squares and churches and palaces, to brief comments upon the people, and glowing transcriptions of dramatic episodes in Florentine history.... Siena is visited in the same temper, although Mr. Howells took his pleasure there with a keener zest than the well-known sights of Florence were able to afford him; and the tour took in Pisa, Lucca, Pistoja, Prato and Fiesole, of which he writes much more briefly than of the more important cities.