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Delightful English Towns were my eager occupation in the Villa Lamberti at San Remo. There I had a whole dining-table for my desk, and with a little stove at my back I could turn and warm my fingers on its porcelain top when the climate failed to keep its reputation for geniality. When the fire in the stove profited by my preoccupation to go out, I could follow it in my own sort, and in a brisk tramp up to the Berigo Road could keep an uninterrupted illusion of my English
The things began to be printed in Harper's Magazine as soon as the first of them was written, and, after a sufficiently unhurried course there, they were republished-London Films in 1905 and Certain Delightful English Towns in 1908-with the restoration of such passages as in several editorial exigencies had been omitted from them in the periodical. In their present form, therefore, they are much more complete than in their first transitory phase.
Whether this is an advantage or not, it is scarcely for me to say; perhaps the editor was wise in leaving something more to the reader's imagination than the author has since done; but if the reader is anxious to become a partner in the enterprise, to a degree forbidden by the author's fulness in other matters, he may employ his invention in supplying those American origins which are here so far from satisfactorily ascertained. If he should be moved to go to England and himself write a book concerning them, he will meet a want which, whether long felt or not, can be gratified to the undeniable pleasure and profit of other readers. But I cannot advise him to write out his material in San Remo, if he should have occasion to study his subject historically. There is an English book club in San Remo with an excellent library, but this does
not abound in books of reference; and even for my small necessities as to figures and facts, I do not know what I should have done if it had not been for the sole copy in San Remo of the Encyclopædia Britannica which the English gentleman possessing it hospitably put at my service. It was a charming walk to his villa and an equally charming walk back to mine, and I should never be able to say how much of any attraction my book may have is owing to the articles in the Encyclopædia which I meditated on my way to and fro, under hedges of rose and geranium and past yellowing and reddening vineyards and orchards of peach and persimmon. If there are any ascertainable touches of poetry in it, I am sure they are attributable to the encyclopædists rather than to me, and I freely make over to them the honor due. It must have been by a far inspiration from them that four years afterward I had the good-fortune to call Certain Delightful English Towns by that name. The name of London Films is the child of my own poorer fancy. Given to the first paper of the series in a moment of reckless, of almost cynical, indifference, it clung indetachably afterward to the whole group, which I would so willingly have dignified, when too late, with some more serious title, that they might go more worthily down to oblivion.
HOEVER carries a mental kodak with him (as I suspect I was in the habit of doing long before I knew it) must be aware of the uncertain value of the different exposures. This can be determined only by the process of developing, which requires a dark room and other apparatus not always at hand; and so much. depends upon the process that it might be well if it could always be left to some one who makes a specialty of it, as in the case of the real amateur photographer. Then one's faulty impressions might be so treated as to yield a pictorial result of interest, or frankly thrown away if they showed hopeless to the instructed eye. Otherwise, one must do one's own developing, and trust the result, whatever it is, to the imaginative kindness of the reader, who will surely, if he is the right sort of reader, be able to sharpen the blurred details, to soften the harsh lights, and blend the shadows in a subordination giving due relief to the best meaning of the print. This is what I fancy myself to be doing now, and if any one shall say that my little pictures are superficial, I shall not be able to gainsay him. I can only answer
that most pictures represent the surfaces of things; but at the same time I can fully share the disappointment of those who would prefer some such result as the employment of the Roentgen rays would have given, if applied to certain aspects of the London world.
Of a world so vast, only small parts can be known to a life-long dweller. To the sojourner scarcely more will vouchsafe itself than to the passing stranger, and it is chiefly to home-keeping folk who have never broken their ignorance of London that one can venture to speak with confidence from the cumulative misgiving which seems to sum the impressions of many sojourns of differing lengths and dates. One could have used the authority of a profound observer after the first few days in 1861 and 1865, but the experience of weeks stretching to months in 1882 and 1883, clouded rather than cleared the air through which one earliest saw one's London; and the successive pauses in 1894 and 1897, with the longest and latest stays in 1904, have but served to confirm one in the diffident inconclusion on all important points to which I hope the pages following will bear witness.
What appears to be a fact, fixed and absolute amid a shimmer of self-question, is that any one coming to London in the beginning of April, after devious delays in the South and West of England, is destined to have printed upon his mental films a succession of meteorological changes quite past computation. Yet if one were as willing to be honest as one is willing to be graphic, one would allow that probably the weather on the other side of the Atlantic was then behaving with quite as swift and reckless caprice. The difference is that at home, having one's proper business, one leaves the weather to look after its own affairs in its