Reference > The Library > Helen Rex Keller > Reader’s Digest of Books

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
H. R. Keller.  The Reader’s Digest of Books.
Italian Journeys
William Dean Howells (1837–1920)
Italian Journeys, by W. D. Howells (1867), is the record of leisurely excursions up and down the land,—to Padua, Ferrara, Genoa, Pompeii, Naples, Rome, and many other towns of picturesque buildings and melodious names, from Capri to Trieste. Mr. Howells knows his Italy so well, that though he writes as a foreigner, he is in perfect sympathy with his subject. He knows the innkeepers, guides, and railway men to be dead to truth and honesty, but he likes them; and he knows that Tasso’s prison never held Tasso, and that the history of most of the historic places is purely legendary, but he delights to believe in them all. He sees in the broken columns and fragmentary walls of Pompeii all the splendor of the first century, that time of gorgeous wealth; and in an old house at Arquá, he has a vision of Petrarch writing at his curious carved table. In crumbling Herculaneum his spirit is touched to wistful sympathy by a garden of wild flowers: “Here—where so long ago the flowers had bloomed, and perished in the terrible blossoming of the mountain that sent up its awful fires in the awful similitude of Nature’s harmless and lovely forms, and showered its destroying petals all abroad—was it not tragic to find again the soft tints, the graceful shapes, the sweet perfumes, of the earth’s immortal life? Of them that planted and tended and plucked and bore in their bosoms and twined in their hair these fragile children of the summer, what witness in the world? Only the crouching skeletons under the tables— Alas and alas!” His love of the beautiful is tempered by a keen sense of humor; and the combination makes his volume a delightful record, with the sunshine of Italy shut between its covers.  1

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