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Saturday, 28 February 2004

Lord of Hosts: Henry 'Chips' Channon IV
By Richard Carreno

(Part II of an Introduction to a work in progress)

I was lucky to have this time with Alan Clark. He died, at 71, quite suddenly of a brain tumour in late 1999.

In his last years, Clark had developed -- and nutured -- a persona as the Conservative Party's undisputed, albeit ageing, enfant terrible. No doubt contributing to this dubious title was Clark's trim, chiselled features. Something like Chips before aged rot set in, I thought.

Besides indiscretion and good looks, what, if any, were other shared similarities?

Both, as diarists and historians, had cast a gimlet eye on insider politics at Westminster and on the randy high life of London Society, weaving the two strands seamlessly. Any sliver of salacious gossip, indeed any exchange with the garrulous Channon or Clark as they trolled the Commons lobby, was likely to wind up in their voluminous hand-written notes. Interestingly enough, in both cases, as well, their punctilious daily jottings were open secrets amongst those who would most likely show up as cast members.

Similarities also extended to the unlikely area of fashion; both men sharing the same Savile Row tailor. I had interviewed the tailor a few weeks before initially meeting Clark. The tailor remembered Chips in detail. He also chided, ''Tell Mr. Clark I'd like to see him soon.''

The editor of Clark's posthumous diaries, Ion Trewin, notes, not surprisingly, that Chips was one of Clark's ''heroes,'' and that Clark would ''dip'' into the Channon diaries ''every day as he drank his morning tea.'' I contacted Trewin a while later, and he was agreeable to a follow-up meeting on this and other matters. But, in the end, he repeatedly cancelled out.

Significantly, Clark's admiration for Chips didn't extend to his only child, Paul Channon; nor to the sanctioned editor of Chips's diaries, Sir Robert Rhodes James, another former Conservative MP. Clark had served with the pair during Margaret Thatcher's tenure.

Surely Clark supported my project because he wanted the Channon record set straight. He, like some other insiders, knew that Paul Channon and his scribe, Rhodes James, had heavily bowlderised Channon's autographical sketches. That my disclosures regarding the edgier side to Channon's life might provide no small measure of discomfort to Paul Channon and Rhode James, I suspect that, too, would have suited Clark just fine. There was always a bit of mischief coursing through his veins.

On a crisp autumn morning, in late 1998, Clark and I were in his office in a government building overlooking Parliament Square.

"You know, I'm a congential gossip,'' Clark said, as he screwed his rangy body behind his desk. ''Chips had a gift. To some extent, I share this with Channon. Everyone talks to you. Even if you're keeping a diary. Even if you're a congential gossip.''

Clark was generous in dispensing magnificent titbits. Did I know, for example, that Channon and his erstwhile lover and latter-day procurer, the horticulturalist Peter Coats, once entertained wacky thoughts of having their union blessed by the Vatican? That they even ventured to Rome on his hopeless mission? That Coats, who would dub himself as ''Sir Peter" when traveling in America, had a less fanciful moniker back home, ''Petticoats''?

Finally, Clark detonated the bombshell that he had been holding in reserve. Lowering his voice, he inched up to me.

''Do you have the stolen diaries?''

Stolen diaries?

''Yes, the unpublished diaries. The one from the boot sale in Essex.''

Unpublished diaries? Boot sale?

"I would give anything -- 100,000 pounds -- to see those diaries in that boot sale,'' he said.

My first ''encounter'' with Chips was by the way of the published diaries. These, edited by Rhodes James under the imprimature of Paul Channon, first appeared in 1967, nine years after Channon's death.

I was fascinated by Channon's almost limitless access to power and glamour and, given his lacklustre Chicago provenance, his uncanny and unprecedented dual role as a pre-war Society host and wily Westminster operative. Chips delivered what few others have done: A blow-by-blow portrayal of the interlocking public and private lives of ''the great and the good.''

At first, I simply wanted to review the original hand-written diaries, hoping to see these ''raw'' manuscripts in the British Library. I knew the Library had the texts as a Channon legacy (Chips had reported this himself), and I believed (erroneously, I soon learned soon) that manuscripts would be readily available. In fact, exhaustive efforts by the Library's Department of Manuscripts produced no record of the donation, much less the diaries.

After several weeks of this, I concluded that the Channon ''story'' was expanding. I was beginning to learn about the transformation of Henry ''Hank'' Channon, the only son of an affluent, but nondescript Chicago merchant, to that of his doppelganger, Sir Henry ''Chips" Channon III, MP. Popping up regularly were tantalising, suppressed details: homosexual lovers; dissolute ways; drug use; and an ambivalence regarding Jews and Nazis.

There was his marriage. A sham? Channon had clinched social position and wealth with grand finality by marriage to Lady Honor Guinness, one of the ''Golden Guinness Girls'' and the eldest daughter of the second Earl of Iveagh. (Society gadfly Gerald Berners quipped that Chips might have then adopted a new coat-of-arms, bearing the motto, ''Nil sine honore'').

Politics? Lord Iveagh had further entrusted Chips with a safe Tory Parliamentary seat in blue-collar Southend-on-Essex. By 1935, as a Parliamentary Private Secretary, Chips was ready to cast his roving eye on his new world of Government, international diplomacy, and high style. This, during six Premierships and four reigns.

In his deluxe townhouse at No. 5 Belgrave Square and at Kelvedon Hall, his Essex country house, the throughly debonair Channon groomed and honed his cock-of-the-walk status. Even during the darkest days of war, Chips maintained a high-flying lifestyle, with frequent dinners at the Dorchester and parties at No. 5. Any excess was always shielded by wealth and by dismissive pre-war patrician hauteur.

Chips paraded his vacuity. ""I hate and am uninterested in all things most men like such a sport, business, statistics, debates, speeches, war and weather; but I am riveted by lust, furniture, glamour and society and jewels.''

His was a beau monde of high drama and a demimonde of low comedy, cast with a ''who's who'' of the period's political and Society glitterait. Among friends were the Prince of Wales and Wallis Simpson (during the Abdication Crisis), Somerset Maugham, Noel Coward, Cole Porter, ''Rab'' Butler, Duff and Diana Cooper, Harold Nicolson, and Society's celebrated female keystone, another American, Emerald Cunard.

Chips also flirted with Ambassador Joachim von Ribbentrop and his personal brand of Nazi bravura. Lovers included Sir Terence Rattigan; Lord Wavel; the King's brother, the Duke of Kent; and Prince Paul of Yugoslavia.

Chips in full flower, bridging the 30's, 40's, and 50's, was a hedonistic bon vivant, a guru of Café Society, a confidant of pashas of power. He was part -- but never in equal parts -- Society maven, voluptué, and politician. And devoted father. During the war, he sent young Paul to New York for schooling -- and safety. (Paul Channon succeeded his father to the Southend seat, retiring in 1997 and, thanks to John Major, a peerage).

In all, Channon's role in the lives of his intimates was greatly more than just a walk-on part. His relationship with each often provided the missing bit, or the connecting link in recounting another memorable life. Chips could cut to the telling observation, or incisive characterisation. He sometimes lied. He frequently exaggerated.

Channon's ''success'' came late. His knighthood, in the 1957 Honours List, came just a year before his death at 61 on 7 October 1958. It was less than he wanted; a peerage was in his sights. Still, amid fanfare, razzmatazz and pageantry, all the panoply of pomp, power, and prestige that Chips adored, Chicago's best-known Cavalier also became its ''First Knight."

More starkly, Chips also slipped into representing an ancien régime of fading Empire, dismantled grand townhouses, and an increasingly irrelevant noblesse oblige. His life was a monumental, narcissistic conceit. Yet without Chips' acerbic rendition of the past, all eavesdroppers on the waning days of pre-war opulence and style would be the poorer.

Ultimately, one of the most compelling elements of the Channon tale and its posthumous sequel, how Chips's testamentary intent to donate his diaries to the British Library and, thus, to the nation, had been thwarted.

What, too, about the other unpublished, ''stolen'' diaries that so intrigued Alan Clark?

In the early winter, thanks to my agent at the time, I ran into Rhodes James at a luncheon held in a grand building not far from Chips' beloved Belgrave Square. I was introduced, and it was immediately clear that Rhodes James had been briefed on my project, "Ring me sometime. We shall talk," he said. That also was not meant to be, as Rhodes James died before a meeting could be arranged.

Some time ago, I wrote to Paul Channon seeking access to the full texts, as I believed -- as a consequence his role in publishing the diaries -- they were in his possession. His prompt reply, excuding an air of finality, came in a hand-written note, ''I am at the present moment considering my father's diaries and all his papers.''

Would there be more? Not likely, according to Gore Vidal, another Channon acquaintence who had told me that he had been always convinced that the Channon saga was the subject of a ''cover-up.''

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Sunday, 22 February 2004

Second-Hand Books from @philabooks+philadelphia
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Definitive History of Riding Clothes Important New Guide for Horsemen

Clotheshorse: A History anf Guide to Riding Apparel, Richard Carreño, Writers Clearinghouse Press, Philadelphia, 1992, 71 pp.

* Riding breeches in the 19th century were even tighter than they are today.

* Most riders are women. Yet equestrian fashion styles have always been dominated by men and by masucline looks.

* Though often thought to be impervious to fashion fancy, even the well-dressed foxhunter is now donning (gasp!) updated garb.

These are amongst the intriguing and sometimes little-known findings sprinkled profusely in an exhaustive, new study of riding fashions, Clotheshorse: A History and Guide to Riding Apparel. The book, written by equestrian writer Richard Carreño, is the first definitive survey of riding attire that encompasses American styling preferences. It is also the single-most comprehensive work on the subject in 50 years.

Clotheshorse is a companion to a work by Sydney D. Barney, published in England in 1953, according to Carreño.

Though Barney's Clothes and the Horse was the standard for many years, Carreño noted that the Barney book, ''though wonderful in its time,'' is now ''woefully outdated.'' Clotheshorse also adopts an international perspective, lacking in the now-out-of-print Barney book.

Clotheshorse combines scholarly research and helpful tips to novice and experienced horsemen alike. The book includes a detailed step-by-step guide to ''what to wear when for what'' in all English riding disciplines. A separate chapter serves as a buyer's guide.

[For details regarding purchase, please click, at left, the link to @philabooks+philadelphia].

Saturday, 21 February 2004

FILMS SEEN: ´Algiers´ Implies Vietnam
(To be re-released nationwide 5 March; Ritz Five, 214 Walnut Street)
''The Battle of Algiers'' is no cinematic classic, but a film which undoubtedly be remembered fondly in the film libraries of the Museum of Modern Art and the National Film Board. Unfortunately the same will be not be possible at the Cinématheque Francaise. ''The Battle of Algiers'' was banned in France.

The film is demandingly pertinent, not so much for its excellent historical documentation but because of its timely, although loose, parallels between the French colonization of Algeria and present American military involvement in Vietnam.

''The Battle of Algiers'' dares to submit to its American audience the opinion that we, like the French, will be repulsed in our colonalist aggression. To be sure, the French put down the liberation battle in Algiers against their National Liberation Front, as the Americans have thwarted, too, several attempts for Vietnam liberation. The Algerian NLF´s resistance was poorly timed and sadly ill-directed. It was based on sporadic acts of terrorism with no wide based of violent popular revolt.

In December, 1960 the people of Algiers (with no external provocation by the French) exploded onto the streets screaming like savages. The mass rebellion, without disciplined leadership, had begun. It was this final rebellious upsurge, with the roots of freedom in all the people, that ousted the French.

This similar cry of the people of Vietnam (even those gagged by the obsequious Court Jester Ky) raises the immediate question that ignores whether we should be Vietnam, but asks if we can remain there much longer without killing them all.

I was frankly and happily surprised to find that ''The Battle of Algiers'' was an acutely objective film. I thought it would be tilted in favor of the Algerians. It is not. For Gillo Pontecorvo, its Italian director, the horror of Algerian terror is no less brutal than French torture chamber tactics.

When Colonel Mattieu says, ''I´m not a sadist,'' while corresponding scenes of torture are shown, I sensed that not only Mattieu (the leader of the French Occupational force) but the rebels were victimized by their own terror, bred in frustration and helplessness, only to create, what seems, more needless bloodshed.

The photographer has created a newsreel image with his sharp jump cutting. This makes for a ''you are there'' impression which is strikingly effective. All the actors are amateurs except for Jean Martin as Colonel Mattieu. I seem to recollect Martin's face from some low-grade French ''gangster'' pictures with the likes of Lino Ventura, Eddie Constantine, and Jean Marais. If I'm right, he's graduated to a film that deserves his presence.

''The Battle of Algiers'' is currently at Cinema II.

(This review, by Richard Carreño, appeared the The Washington Square Journal, the daily newspaper of New York University, in 1967, the time of the film's first American release.)
''Hidalgo,'' Directed by Joe Johnston; Written by John Fusco; with Viggo Mortensen, Omar Sharif; Produced by Touchstone Pictures, PG-13. Breaking 5 March in USA.
Based loosely on the life of long-distance rider Frank T. Hopkins (Mortensen), who was born at Ft. Laramie, WY., shortly after the Civil War. Hidalgo (Spanish for 'Gentleman´ and the name of Hopkins´ most-prized mustang) is ''an epic action-adventure and one man´s journey of personal redemption,'' according to the producers. That´s a result of Hopkins´participation, in 1890, as the first Westerner to ride in the centuries'-old, 3,000-mile Ocean of Fire, a grueling endurance race that was held in what is now Saudi Arabia.

Friday, 20 February 2004

''Storey's Guide to Feeding Horses,'' Worth, Melyni, Storey Publishing: North Adams, MA, 2003, 250 pp,
$18.95 USD/$27.95 CAN
The publisher writes, ''Perhaps most important is the chapter on 'Feeding for a lifetime.' Here, Worth outlines the proper diet a horse needs at every age and at every level of activity.'''

Monday, 16 February 2004

Second-Hand Books from @philabooks+philadelphia
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(Part I of an Introduction to a Work in Progress)
A few years ago, during an extended research trip to London, my stay happily coincided with the publication of the first installment of the diaries of the late Alan Clark. At the time, in late 1998, Clark was preening his reputation as the Tories bete noire. Arguably, less to his liking, was his other reputation as an ageing Lothario. I say ''happily coincided'' because my own research was leading up to the first-ever biography of that prominent diarist of a generation before, Sir Henry ''Chips" Channon III, the sybartic American-born Member of Parliament and, until his death in 1958, an eminent London Society doyen.

In Britian, Chips´diaries are well known, and often used as a model for this genre of socio-political memoirs. Remarkably -- after almost 40 years since first publication -- they´re still in print. Weidenfeld & Nicolson released a new edition of ''´Chips:´ The Diaries of Sir Henry Channon'' late in 2001.

Despite his American antecedents, Channon is virtually unknown in the United States. Chips was born and raised in Chicago. But when I visited the secondary school there where he had attended, I was met with blank stares. This, though on the face of it, Chips -- he was, since the Revolution, the first male born American and the second American (after Nancy Astor) to be elected to the House of Commons -- would have made for a rather prominent alumnus.

For many Americans, Channon is a footnote. Quite literally. Citations from his diaries are staple fare, popping up in scores of biographies, memoirs, and histories of pre-war Britain. Almost all histories of Churchill and works on the Duke and Duchess of Windsor cite the diaries. Clark, in his history, ''The Tories: The Conservatives and the Nation State, 1922-97,'' gives Channon no less than eight references. Channon had been there. He was the proverbial fly on the wall.

As for Clark's own diaries, the press branded these tell-all memoirs as being every bit as juicy as those by Chips, and I leapt at the chance to pursue this notion of linkage with Clark himself. In reviews, it became an almost a commonplace to bandy the Channon-Clark comparision. The link wasn´t only literary.

Clark had known Chips, in the late 1950´s, at a time when Channon was already dissipated by drugs, drink, and drag queens. Not surprisingly, his star as ''Lord of Hosts,'' his irreverent, self-ascribed moniker, was also waning. ''Chips was already bright red in the fact,'' Clark told me. ''He simply wasn´t as sharp as he had been in the [19]3o´s.''

Clark encouraged my research. We discussed Channon and the twilight years of Empire. And we discussed Chips´s little-known forays into authorship. Channon, remarkably enough, was also a novelist, producing two dreary works, today only notable for their autobiographical allusions. More significant, in Clark´s view, was Channon´s efforts as a published historian, the author of ''The Ludwigs of Bavaria,'' a richly textured work that served as a template for Chips´ own lavish life of high style.

It was plain, based on our conversations, that Clark was a Channon admirer. This, especially, as regards to Channon´s role as historian, rather simply as diarist. Clark fancied himself in this same light, as well. And surely it was not lost on him, too, that The Times, in comparing the two, had declared that between them, Clark was certainly the more ''indiscreet.''

To be continued....

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AMERICAN NOTES: Travelling with Dickens
(Part IV and the Last Part in a Series)

That same day, after the hotel reception, Dickens would have his ugliest moment in Philadelphia. That was a visit to Eastern Penitentiary, the notorious prison at 22nd Street and Fairmount Avenue. Dickens knew a thing or two about the barbarity of prison life (his father had been locked up in 1824 for outstanding debts), but what he saw at Eastern State exemplified a new level of inhumanity -- solitary confinement to promote penitence.

The Eastern State model of incarceration was attracting the interest of some penal `reformers´ in Britain, and Dickens would have none of it. Over several days, the author interviewed a number of inmates. Of one, he said, `He is a man buried alive; to be dug out in the slow round of years; and in the meantime dead to everything but torturing anxieties and horrible despair.´

Eastern State, in modern times, went on to confine Willie Sutton and Al Capone, and it continues, now in its contemporary reincarnation as a museum, to be as creepy and chilling as when Dickens toured the fortress-like structure.

Still, Dickens found that Philadelphia had its redeeming qualities. He praised the city's `fresh´ water, thanks to the Waterworks in Fairmount Park. (The Waterworks are now reopened, as well, as a museum).
The author also toured Pennsylvania Hospital, admired the Sully and West pictures that hang there (to this day), and commented on the `great benefits´ the hospital, the first in America, provided. He also visited `a quiet, quaint old Library, named after Franklin.´ (Probably, the Library Company). Dickens´ highest encomium went to Girard College, then on the city´s outskirts. `If completed according to its original design,´ Dickens declared, the school `will be perhaps the richest edfice of modern times.´

Despite his mixed reviews of Philadelphia, the local folk were still gaga over Boz. The celebrity author visited the city again in 1868. An astounding 6,000 fans turned out for a reading. About 30 years after Dickens death in 1870, Philadelphia further cemented its bond with the author by erecting a statue -- the only full-sized statue of Dickens anywhere! -- in West Philadelphia´s Clark Park.

Philadelphia´s ties are also underscored by an extensive collection of the author´s books, letters, manuscripts, and memorablia -- even his writing desk and his stuffed pet raven ´Grip´! -- housed in the Rare Books Department of the Free Library.

The question invariably comes round to whether Dickens was prophetic as Tocqueville in envisioning the American dynamo of the 20th century. Maybe not. But Dickens was perhaps yet more clever in judging our institutions of that past era with foresight and prescience. He was right in his condemnation of slavery. He was right in ridiculing the injustices of Eastern State´s penal theories. And, of course, he was right in criticising Philadelphia´s monotonously boring grid pattern.

Crooked streets are an urban dweller´s joy. That's why my favourite guide to London is one that documents its every road, track, and footpath, the `A-Z Street Atlas & Index´.
Andrew Hamilton, of California, writes, `Number 9 is the Washington Times? How did the Times beat out the Carwash, Olka., Mallwalker-Flashlight

Monday, 9 February 2004

Howard: What happened to the writer?
Andrew: He fell into a comma.

Saturday, 7 February 2004

Travel III (19th Century)

American Notes: Travelling with Dickens
By Richard Carreno

(Part III in a Series)

It was an arduous journey that Charles Dickens embarked upon in January 1842, a trip that involved extended stays in Boston, Baltimore, Washington, Richmond, Cincinnati, Louisville, and Philadelphia. Niagara Falls and some Canadian destinations were thrown in, as well. In all, Dickens was away from London for about 10 months. He was writing all along, and the first edition of American Notes appeared in Britain later that year.

The book (originally in two volumes) was immediately pirated by American publishers, creating an equally immediate firestorm of negativity from American critics. A typical screed in The New York Herald damned Dickens for being ''most coarse, vulgar, impudent and superficial.''

Today, American Notes -- as opposed to the ever-popular Democracy in America -- is largely forgotten. This, even though the work was created by arguably Britain's greatest Victorian writer and one whose other titles -- other than this travel memoir -- have had long-lasting, universal appeal.

In the travel genre, reference to Tocqueville in hagiographic terms remains unabated; the Frenchman being cast as the prognosticator of American hegemony. As late as 1982, this humbug got yet another popular airing by Richard Reeves, who retraced Tocqueville´s odyssey in his own work, American Journey.

Dickens´fall through the literary cracks as a travel writer -- initially, at least -- might be well attributed to his temerity to attack two institutions that were amongst the most fundamental and self-defining in mid-19th century America. First, he ripped into slavery. Second, he gave the lie to the American conceit of enlighted penology. Touchy Americans were aghast. The author's popularity plummeted, according to leading Dickens biographer Peter Ackroyd.

A few years ago, I encountered Ackroyd at a literary conference in the Lake District, and it was the author -- a boon companion over a weekend of drinks, dining, and debate -- who was instrumental in my taking a second-look at American Notes.

For Philadelphians, Dickens´memoir holds particular fascination, providing an early glimpse into the city´s physical tapestry. Philadelphia, in 1842, was the nation's fourth largest city, with a population of 121,376. Still larger, in descending order, were New York, Baltimore (yes, Baltimore), and Boston. But Philadelphia´s ranking was a bit deceptive in that, at the time, the neighbouring towns of Northern Liberties, Kensington, and Southwark were populous satellites. If the populations of these suburbs were tallied in the 1842 total (the towns were eventually swallowed whole by the city), Philadelphia´s population would have swelled to 254,172. True, still only about half of New York''s population. But well ahead of the 169,054 denizens of Baltimore.

Interestingly, as well, Dickens reserved some his sharpest barbs for Philadephia. Many of his first impressions still resonate. Dickens was impatient with the city's north-south/east-west grid pattern, a result of Quaker William Penn's fastidious nature. He longed for the maze of London streets. ''It is a handsome city,'' Dickens allowed after touring the area around Independence Hall where he was renting a hotel room, ''but distractingly regular. After walking about it for a hour or two, I felt I would have given the world for a crooked street.''

Dickens also found the city's mood ''dull and out of spirits.'' He detected ''a gloom on Philadelphia, under the depressing effect of which it yet laboured." Was this the result, he wondered, of the recent failure of the Bank of the United States? The bank (now a museum), on 3rd Street, is a ''handsome'' building. But it also posesses ''a mournful, ghost-like aspect, dreary to behold.'' Dickens might have been amongst the first -- in a tradition fostered by a respected line of more recent observers, including W.C. Fields -- that Philadelphia was falling under the dark shadow of New York. Philadelphia society and its cultural tastes, Dickens pronounced, were simply ''more provincial'' than those in New York and Boston.

Dickens´s stay in Philadelphia was marred by a disturbing incident. Leave it to a pol. Dickens was determined as he set out by rail from New York, that he would begin curtailing his public speaking by the time he would arrive in Philadelphia. Arriving at a hotel (situated directly across from the Bank of the United States), his voice was already wearing thin. It turns out, however, according to Ackroyd´s retelling, that Dickens was about to be sandbagged by a local politician. The politico told Dickens that he wanted to introduce him a ''few'' friends.

A few friends? The papers the next day announced that the irrepressible Boz would ''receive the public.'' At the appointed time, the hotel was packed. Told his refusal to ''receive'' would produce a riot, he proceeded to introduce himself and shake hands for two hours. Dickens was, of course, indignant, but eventually saw that little good would come of that. After shaking hundreds of proffered hands, Dickens, one newspaper hack reported, finally saw a ''comic side'' to the episode. ''[H]umorous smiles played over his face.''

To be continued....

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Sunday, 1 February 2004

Travel II (19th Century)

American Notes: Travelling with Dickens
By Richard Carreno

(Part II in a Series)
This traditional model isn't new, going back for more than 150 years. German writer Karl Baedeker pioneered the form in the 1840´s.

The literary travel memoir, a newer travelog model, has roots in the autobiographical sketches that were commonplace amongst 19th century Grand Tour Romantics. The form is now fully evolved with adherents such as novelist Paul Theroux and essayist Bill Bryson. Some of my favourites in this category are from another time: A.J. Liebling´s ''Chicago: The Second City'' (1952), E.B. White´s "Here´s New York'' (1949) , and any of the travel anthologies by S.J. Perelman.

In its original guise, many cultivated, urbane Europeans were eager to interpret the beguiling. mystifying folkways of the new Americans. The best-known example of this analysis is, of course, Alex De Tocqueville´s " De la Democratie en Amérique" (1835, 1840). Even earlier, in the 1820's, Washington Irving ventured an American version of the travel memoir with essays based on a visit to England. Unlike the works of the culturally-confident Europeans, Irving´s reporting was obsequious and fawning. Irving, said Henry Seidel Canby, saw himself as ''an American Marco Polo, bringing home the romance of the other countries, bearing their gifts of suavity, detachment, ease, and beauty to a raw country dependent upon its vulgar strength, stronger brains than in manners, yet not devoid in a craving for civility.''

It was this raw country that Charles Dickens visited, about 11 years after Tocqueville. For the most part, he didn't like what he saw.

(To be continued)

Richard Carreno is editor of Junto.