Well, we're tremendously moral for ourselves - that is for each other; and I won't pretend that I know exactly at whose particular personal expense you and I for instance are happy. What it comes to, I dare say, is that there's something haunting - as if it were a bit uncanny - in such a consciousness of our general comfort and privilege . . . as if we were sitting about on divans, with pigtails, smoking opium and seeing visions. “Let us then be up and doing” - what is it Longfellow says? That seems sometimes to ring out; like the police breaking in - into our opium den - to give us a shake.(24:92)
James composed The Golden Bowl during 1903, the year when he was planning his extended return trip to America, and writing to American friends of his great curiosity, his eagerness to see the country after two decades of living abroad: “The idea of seeing American life again and tasting the American air, that is a vision, a possibility, an impossibility, positively romantic.” Although the direct impressions from the trip would later go into The American Scene, the indistinct anticipatory vision corresponds to the vagueness of the place called America in The Golden Bowl.