Travelling Companions

tutorial, critical comment, plot, and study resources

Travelling Companions first appeared in The Atlantic Monthly during November—December 1870. Its first presentation in book form was in the collection of stories Travelling Companions published by Boni and Liveright in New York, 1919.

Travelling Companions

Venice – St Mark’s Square

Travelling Companions – critical commentary


The crux of this story is a situation which has been used many times in late nineteenth and early twentieth century fiction. Indeed, James used it again in his tale The Solution (1888), and it forms the background to his famous novella Daisy Miller (1878).

The situation arises from the notion that the reputation of an unmarried woman will be sullied if she spends even a short amount of time unchaperoned by either a male relative or an older married woman or spinster. This notion rests on the retail value of the woman in terms of securing a favourable marriage. The notion originates in the upper class and the aristocracy who wished to form financially and politically advantageous liaisons strictly within their own class.

A young woman’s reputation had to be unimpeachable, because any previous liaisons she might have had could produce illegitimate children, who would have some claim on the family’s accumulated property and capital. And given the way that ideology works, this idea would percolate down in society, even to the lower classes who had no property or capital to conserve.

The further ramification of this convention is that any man responsible for putting a woman into a compromised position had a duty of honour to offer the woman marriage. Thus when Mr Brooke and Charlotte Evans innocently miss the last train back from Padua to Venice, they are forced to stay in a hotel overnight. This would be enough, under the prurient conventions of the time, to cast a shadow on Charlotte’s reputation.

It is noticeable that the incident is being talked about by people in the Venice hotel, and that Mr Evans on his return from Milan checks that Brooke has made a formal proposal of marriage to his daughter. Actually, Brooke has proposed before the incident, but Charlotte has refused him. She only accepts him later, following the death of her father.

Travelling companions – study resources

Travelling Companions The Complete Works of Henry James – Kindle edition – Amazon UK

Travelling Companions The Complete Works of Henry James – Kindle edition – Amazon US

Travelling Companions Complete Stories 1864—1874 – Library of America – Amazon UK

Travelling Companions Complete Stories 1864—1874 – Library of America – Amazon US

Travelling Companions Travelling Companions – eBook formats at Gutenberg

Red button The Cambridge Companion to Henry James – Amazon UK

Red button Henry James at Wikipedia – biographical notes, links

Red button Henry James at Mantex – tutorials, biography, study resources

Travelling Companions – plot summary

Part I
Mr Brooke, an American, is making his first visit to Italy after years of living in Germany. In Milan cathedral whilst viewing Leonardo’s Last Supper he meets Charlotte Evans, a young American girl with her father. Later the same day he escorts Charlotte to view the marbles up on the cathedral roof. He is gushingly romantic in his appreciation of what he calls ‘Transalpine life’: she is more sceptical and reserved.

He then makes his way via Verona to Vicenza , where he meets a young painter who wants to sell him an old master sketch. The man’s family of aged mother and sickly young daughter spin him a tale of poverty and terminal illness. He buys the sketch, even though he knows it is not an old master, because the portrait reminds him of Charlotte.

On reaching Venice he meets Charlotte and her father again. He is very eager to be with her, but she suggests a three-day hiatus before continuing their relationship.

Part II
Mr Brooke and Charlotte go across to the Lido, where he decides to tell her about the painting and the fact that he is in love with her. She tells him that he is under the spell of Romanticism, and that she herself is in love with VeniceThey look at paintings together; he pays court to her; she keeps him at bay.

Then whilst her father is away in Milan, they go to Padua together. He speculates that the appreciation of art and churches might mean more to them if they were Catholics. They visit the Chapel of Giotto, then over ice creams she tells him that she lost her betrothed in the Civil War. They miss the last train and have to spend the night at an inn. He worries that her reputation might be compromised by this.

He begins to think that marriage would mean giving up the freedom to travel. Next day when they get back to Venice, Mr Evans wants an explanation for the overnight stay in Padua. Brooke proposes to Charlotte, but she refuses him again. Mr Evans double-checks that Brooke has made his daughter an offer of marriage.

Brooke goes on to Florence, Rome, and Naples. When he returns to Rome he meets Charlotte again, only to discover that her father has died rather suddenly. She now accepts Brook’s offer, and they are married.

Principal characters
Mr Brooke the narrator, an American art lover
Charlotte Evans a young American girl from New Jersey
Mr Mark Evans her father

Travelling Companions - Henry James portrait

Henry James – portrait by John Singer Sargeant

Further reading


Red button Theodora Bosanquet, Henry James at Work, University of Michigan Press, 2007.

Red button F.W. Dupee, Henry James: Autobiography, Princeton University Press, 1983.

Red button Leon Edel, Henry James: A Life, HarperCollins, 1985.

Red button Philip Horne (ed), Henry James: A Life in Letters, Viking/Allen Lane, 1999.

Red button Henry James, The Letters of Henry James, Adamant Media Corporation, 2001.

Red button Fred Kaplan, Henry James: The Imagination of Genius, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999

Red button F.O. Matthieson (ed), The Notebooks of Henry James, Oxford University Press, 1988.

Critical commentary

Red button Elizabeth Allen, A Woman’s Place in the Novels of Henry James London: Macmillan Press, 1983.

Red button Ian F.A. Bell, Henry James and the Past, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1993.

Red button Millicent Bell, Meaning in Henry James, Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press, 1993.

Red button Harold Bloom (ed), Modern Critical Views: Henry James, Chelsea House Publishers, 1991.

Red button Kirstin Boudreau, Henry James’s Narrative Technique, Macmillan, 2010.

Red button J. Donald Crowley and Richard A. Hocks (eds), The Wings of the Dove, New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1978.

Red button Victoria Coulson, Henry James, Women and Realism, Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Red button Daniel Mark Fogel, A Companion to Henry James Studies, Greenwood Press, 1993.

Red button Virginia C. Fowler, Henry James’s American Girl: The Embroidery on the Canvas, Madison (Wis): University of Wisconsin Press, 1984.

Red button Jonathan Freedman, The Cambridge Companion to Henry James, Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Red button Judith Fryer, The Faces of Eve: Women in the Nineteenth Century American Novel, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976

Red button Roger Gard (ed), Henry James: The Critical Heritage, London: Routledge, 1968.

Red button Tessa Hadley, Henry James and the Imagination of Pleasure, Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Red button Barbara Hardy, Henry James: The Later Writing (Writers & Their Work), Northcote House Publishers, 1996.

Red button Richard A. Hocks, Henry James: A study of the short fiction, New York: Twayne Publishers, 1990.

Red button Donatella Izzo, Portraying the Lady: Technologies of Gender in the Short Stories of Henry James, University of Nebraska Press, 2002.

Red button Colin Meissner, Henry James and the Language of Experience, Cambridge University Press, 2009

Red button John Pearson (ed), The Prefaces of Henry James, Pennsylvania State University Press, 1993.

Red button Richard Poirer, The Comic Sense of Henry James, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967.

Red button Hugh Stevens, Henry James and Sexuality, Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Red button Merle A. Williams, Henry James and the Philosophical Novel, Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Red button Judith Woolf, Henry James: The Major Novels, Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Red button Ruth Yeazell (ed), Henry James: A Collection of Critical Essays, Longmans, 1994.

Other works by Henry James

Henry James The BostoniansThe Bostonians (1886) is a novel about the early feminist movement. The heroine Verena Tarrant is an ‘inspirational speaker’ who is taken under the wing of Olive Chancellor, a man-hating suffragette and radical feminist. Trying to pull her in the opposite direction is Basil Ransom, a vigorous young man from the South to whom Verena becomes more and more attracted. The dramatic contest to possess her is played out with some witty and often rather sardonic touches, and as usual James keeps the reader guessing about the outcome until the very last page.

Buy the book at Amazon UK
Buy the book at Amazon US


Henry James What Masie KnewWhat Masie Knew (1897) A young girl is caught between parents who are in the middle of personal conflict, adultery, and divorce. Can she survive without becoming corrupted? It’s touch and go – and not made easier for the reader by the attentions of an older man who decides to ‘look after’ her. This comes from the beginning of James’s ‘Late Phase’, so be prepared for longer and longer sentences. In fact it’s said that whilst composing this novel, James switched from writing longhand to using dictation – and it shows if you look carefully enough – part way through the book.
Henry James What Masie Knew Buy the book at Amazon UK
Henry James What Masie Knew Buy the book at Amazon US


Henry James The AmbassadorsThe Ambassadors (1903) Lambert Strether is sent from America to Paris to recall Chadwick Newsome, a young man who is reported to be compromising himself by an entanglement with a wicked woman. However, Strether’s mission fails when he is seduced by the social pleasures of the European capital, and he takes Newsome’s side. So a second ambassador is dispatched in the form of the more determined Sarah Pocock. She delivers an ultimatum which is resisted by the two young men, but then an accident reveals unpleasant truths to Strether, who is faced by a test of loyalty between old Europe and the new USA. This edition presents the latest scholarship on James and includes an introduction, notes, selected criticism, a text summary and a chronology of James’s life and times.
Longstaff's Marriage Buy the book at Amazon UK
Longstaff's Marriage Buy the book at Amazon US

Henry James – web links

Henry James  web links Henry James at Mantex
Biographical notes, study guides, tutorials on the Complete Tales, book reviews. bibliographies, and web links.

Henry James web links The Complete Works
Sixty books in one 13.5 MB Kindle eBook download for £1.92 at The complete novels, stories, travel writing, and prefaces. Also includes his autobiographies, plays, and literary criticism – with illustrations.

Henry James web links The Ladder – a Henry James website
A collection of eTexts of the tales, novels, plays, and prefaces – with links to available free eTexts at Project Gutenberg and elsewhere.

Red button A Hyper-Concordance to the Works
Japanese-based online research tool that locates the use of any word or phrase in context. Find that illusive quotable phrase.

Henry James web links The Henry James Resource Center
A web site with biography, bibliographies, adaptations, archival resources, suggested reading, and recent scholarship.

Henry James web links Online Books Page
A collection of online texts, including novels, stories, travel writing, literary criticism, and letters.

Henry James web links Henry James at Project Gutenberg
A major collection of eTexts, available in a variety of eBook formats.

Henry James web links The Complete Letters
Archive of the complete correspondence (1855-1878) work in progress – published by the University of Nebraska Press.

Henry James web links The Scholar’s Guide to Web Sites
An old-fashioned but major jumpstation – a website of websites and resouces.

Henry James web links Henry James – The Complete Tales
Tutorials on the complete collection of over one hundred tales, novellas, and short stories.

Henry James web links Henry James on the Internet Movie Database
Adaptations of James’s novels and stories for the cinema and television – in various languages. Full details of directors and actors, production features, film reviews, box office, and even quizzes.

© Roy Johnson 2013

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