Describing Italy as "the only region of the earth that I truly love," James Fenimore Cooper used the style of picturesque impressionism to convey his vision of Italy as the microcosm of an ordered and a beautiful world.
In theory, the picturesque style of writing could produce verbal sketches that embodied a visual complexity similar to that of the great Baroque and Romantic landscape paintings. In practice, the hundreds of travel books written in the picturesque style in the early 1900s communicated rapturous enthusiasm with blurred or even false reports of actual scenes. Cooper, with his scrupulous fidelity to the seen world, intended to alter this practice decisively.
The response of his imagination to the light, color, forms, artifacts and figures of the Italian landscape and to the manifold significances they embody follows in joyful appreciation of the land, culture and people of a country that induced in him the desire "to enjoy the passing moment. "
In Italy, Cooper refrained from commenting on politics, though he was an incorrigibly political man who responded to an insistent need to define the New World in defining the Old. The independence of his observations drew censure from American reviewers of the 1830s, who could not comprehend that his preference for the Bay for Naples over New York Harbor reflected his intellectual passion to rise above nationalistic feelings in matters of taste, morality and justice.