The Portrait of a Lady

critical comentary, study resources, and chapter summaries

The Portrait of a Lady was first published as a serial in the English Macmillan’s Magazine (October 1880—November1881) and in the American Atlantic Monthly (December 1880—December 1881). It was then issued in book form by Macmillan in November 1881, and in the USA by Houghton Mifflin in 1882.

Henry James revised the text when he prepared the novel for inclusion in the New York edition of his collected works published by Scribners in 1907—1909. The revisions were largely minor issues of punctuation, but there are some subtle changes of emphasis: these are mainly of interest to textual scholars and literary historians who wish to trace distinctions in style between the various phases of James’s writing career.

The Portrait of a Lady


The Portrait of a Lady – summary

The Portrait of a Lady is generally regarded as the masterpiece of James’s middle period. Isabel Archer, a young American woman with good looks, wit, and imagination, arrives to discover Europe. She sees the world as “a place of brightness, of free expression, of irresistible action”. Turning aside from suitors who offer her their wealth and devotion, she follows her own path.

But that way leads to disillusionment and a future as constricted as “a dark narrow alley with a dead wall at the end”. James explores here one of his favourite themes – the New World in contest with the Old. In a conclusion that is one of the most moving in modern fiction, Isabel is forced to make her final choice.


The Portrait of a Lady – critical comment

Personal ambition

The novel is a full development of the theme James had explored earlier in his famous novella Daisy Miller (1878). Daisy is a young, frank, and outspoken American girl who defies convention when she travels abroad in Italy. One of the results of this defiance is that she exposes herself to danger and dies as a result. Isabel Archer too has a high intelligence and an ambition to develop herself in some way(s) which she cannot quite specify. She is not sure what she will do, she turns down two proposals of marriage in order to guard her independence, and she is fully aware of her own potential for ‘living fully’ – which makes her eventual choice all the more tragic.

In rejecting the very rich Lord Warburton she tells him that she ‘cannot escape her fate’. She argues that marrying him would be a form of ‘escape’ and that it would be ‘giving up other chances’. She isn’t sure what these chances are, but she has a certain masochistic notion that her fate is to be unhappy – unhappy in searching for something she cannot define. ‘I cannot escape my unhappiness’ – and indeed she doesn’t.

In one sense she gets what she wants. She chooses to marry a man who makes her bitterly unhappy. He deceives her; he marries her for her money; he does not love her; and he treats her in a manner which we would now call emotionally abusive. Eventually she defies his bullying and interdictions, yet the ending of the novel suggests that she is going to return to him.

Concealment and deceit

Henry James constructs the mystery and the dramatic tension in this novel very cleverly. Madame Merle tells Gilbert Osmond that she wants him to marry Isabel Archer – so we know that she is later being manipulative and disingenuous when she claims to others that she does not know what Osmond’s intentions are. We might also wonder about her own motivation in wishing to bring about this marriage. After all, she is challenging and critical towards Osmond, so on the surface she does not seem to have any reason to help him in this way.

But if we were reading the novel for the first time, we would not know that she and Osmond have been lovers in the past, but were too poor to marry each other. She has also lied to Isabel in claiming she has no children. This false clue is also repeated much later in the novel when Mme Merle says ‘if I had a child’. Yet as we later discover, Osmond’s daughter Pansy is Mme Merle’s own child – even though this is being kept a secret and Pansy is being passed off as the product of Osmond’s earlier marriage. By arranging a union between Osmond and Isabel that will be made prosperous by Isabel’s money, Mme Merle wishes to protect her own daughter Pansy.

Irony

James repeatedly employs powerful dramatic irony in the unfolding of the story. This is largely generated by what characters do not know about each other, or what is being deceitfully hidden from them.

For instance, Isabel is ignorant of the fact that her sudden inheritance comes not from old Daniel Touchett’s generosity, but is the brainchild of his son Ralph, who is in love with Isabel and wishes to secretly provide her with the means to explore her ambitions. And even when Ralph is warning Isabel not to marry Gilbert Osmond, he does not reveal that he is her benefactor – even though he would realise that her personal wealth would pass automatically to Osmond (under the conventions of marriage at the time). This makes the final deathbed scene at the end of the novel all the more poignant, as Isabel reveals to Ralph that she has learned the truth of his secret generosity, and he confesses that he now regards his scheme as a mistake.

The major deceit perpetrated throughout the novel is the fact that Pansy is the love child of Osmond and Madame Merle, but is being passed off as the product of his earlier marriage. Both Osmond and Madame Merle are living a lie – so when Madame Merle ‘befriends’ Isabel and helps to promote the Osmond-Archer marriage, she is all the time acting in her own interests, trying to provide an economic cushion (and dowry) for her own daughter. That is why Osmond’s and Madame Merle’s motivations are so diabolically synchronised on this issue. [It has been observed that there are strong echoes of Les Liaisons dangereuses in this part of the plot.]

Similarly, Osmond’s almost grotesque self-regard is ironically exposed when he tells Isabel “you’ll discover what a worship I have for propriety … I’m not conventional. I’m convention itself.” Osmond prides himself on his ‘good taste’ and the fact that he never makes mistakes – in the appreciation of art or in social matters. But his impeccable social front is a sham – as false and empty as his aesthetics, which adds up to no more than dabbling in occasional watercolour paintings.

Gilbert Osmond

It is not difficult to see that Gilbert Osmond is a villain of an almost melodramatic order. He is conceited, vain, arrogant, deceitful, and emotionally cruel to his new wife Isabel. He even prides himself on the fact that he has never worked: ‘I never in my life have tried to earn a penny’. Isabel has decided to marry him because she thinks he has high ideals, good taste, and a lofty notion of good behaviour at all times. We are also told that he is very clever, has original ideas, and never makes mistakes.

He is largely seen from Isabel’s point of view. But there is a slight problem with James’s characterisation. The problem is that Osmond’s cleverness, his good taste, and his originality are never dramatised. That is, we are not shown these qualities in action. They are merely reported to us – largely as Isabel sees him in the lead up to her marriage.

It should be quite clear to most readers that he is a narrow-minded prig and a deeply flawed, conservative figure who is terrified of possible social exposure. Fortunately (for the reader) some of the other characters in the novel see through the bogus facade he presents to the world. His own sister Countess Gemini sets the ball rolling:

I must say I have never, no, no, never, seen any one of Osmond’s pretensions! What they’re all founded on is more than I can say. I’m his own sister: I might be supposed to know. Who is he, if you please? What has he ever done?

Mrs Touchett agrees with her and warns Isabel against Osmond: "He has no money; he has no name; he has no importance" and she sums him up "what has he ever done – nothing – nothing – nothing".

Ralph Touchett is more subtly analytic and he warns Isabel that Osmond’s lofty disdain for public opinion and his cripplingly high standards of art, decor, and behaviour are in fact a fraudulent posture:

under the guise of caring only for intrinsic values Osmond lived exclusively for the world. Far from being its master as he pretended to be, he was its very humble servant, and the degree of its attention was his only measure of success. He lived with his eye on it from morning till night, and the world was so stupid it never suspected the trick. Everything he did was pose

Ralph Touchett sums up Osmond as ‘a sterile dilettante’.

Social history

Students of literature with an eye on the social conventions of earlier periods in history might wish to take note of the consequences of Ralph Touchett’s death. He has inherited the house and estate at Gardencourt from his father Daniel Touchett – as his only son, by the rules of primogeniture – “the right, by law or custom, of the legitimate, firstborn son to inherit his parent’s entire or main estate”.

First of all, note that the ‘estate’ (that is, the entire package of capital, income, and property) goes from father to son, and bypasses the wife, in this case Mrs Lydia Touchett, Ralph’s mother. She is living at Gardencourt only under the grace and favour of her son, whilst he is alive.

But when Ralph dies, his will specifies that his mother be given twelve months’ use of Gardencourt before the house and its contents are sold off. He leaves the bulk of his estate as an endowment to a hospital. There is no question of his mother continuing to live in what has been her own home; no question of Ralph bequeathing the estate to his own mother; and no question raised by participants about the social injustice involved.

The ruthless male-oriented nature of this convention is accepted by everyone in the novel as perfectly normal – though it has to be said to James’s own credit that he made comic use of a similar situation in his later novel The Spoils of Poynton (1897).

A similar convention at the time, though it is not particularly highlighted in The Portrait of a Lady is that on marriage, a woman’s entire ‘estate’ became the property of her husband. The considerable fortune Isabel Archer inherits from the Touchett family would become the property of Gilbert Osmond the moment she married him. It would also constitute an important element of the tyrannical hold he has over her.

Although it does not form part of the novel’s plot, this iniquitous state of affairs was nevertheless a live social issue at the time, and the problem was addressed in the English parliament shortly afterwards by the passing of the Married Women’s Property Act in 1882.


The Portrait of a Lady – study resources

The Portrait of a Lady The Portrait of a Lady – Oxford World Classics – Amazon UK

The Portrait of a Lady The Portrait of a Lady – Oxford World Classics – Amazon US

The Portrait of a Lady The Portrait of a Lady – Wordsworth Classics – Amazon UK

The Portrait of a Lady The Portrait of a Lady – Wordsworth Classics – Amazon US

The Portrait of a Lady The Portrait of a Lady – Penguin Classics – Amazon UK

The Portrait of a Lady The Portrait of a Lady – Cliff’s Notes – Amazon UK

The Portrait of a Lady The Portrait of a Lady – Penguin Classics – Amazon US

The Portrait of a Lady The Portrait of a Lady – Kindle eBook edition

The Portrait of a Lady The Portrait of a Lady – eBook version at Project Gutenberg

The Portrait of a Lady The Portrait of a Lady – audioBook version at LibriVox

The Portrait of a Lady Preface to The Portrait of a Lady – for the 1910 New York edition

The Portrait of a Lady The Portrait of a Lady – audio book (abridged, with music)

The Portrait of a Lady The Cambridge Companion to Henry James – Amazon UK

The Portrait of a Lady The Ladder – A Henry James web site

The Portrait of a Lady Henry James at Wikipedia – biographical notes, links

The Portrait of a Lady Henry James at Mantex – tutorials, web links, study resources


The Portrait of a Lady – chapter summaries

VOLUME I

I   Old Daniel Touchett discusses with his ailing son Ralph and Lord Warburton the imminent return from America of his wife, who is bringing with her a young niece.

II   Isabel Archer arrives at Gardencourt, and everyone is charmed by her frank and positive nature.

III   Mrs Lydia Touchett’s eccentric behaviour, living in Florence apart from her husband. She meets her niece Isabel in Albany, and immediately invites her to visit Europe.

IV   The history of Isabel’s improvident father, and her feeling that Mrs Touchett is offering her a ‘new start’ in life. Caspar Goodwood pays court to Isabel – unsuccessfully.

V   Ralph Touchett’s intellectual history at Harvard and Oxford, and its promise cut short by his illness. With Isabel he discusses his mother’s plans and what they might mean.

VI   Isabel’s intellectual curiosity and pride. Her radical journalist friend and feminist Henrietta Stackpole. Isabel discusses the English character with Mr Touchett.

VII   Isabel and Ralph chaff each other about English and American nationalism. Ralph is worried about his father’s failing health. He is not in love with Isabel, but is eager to see her development. Mrs Touchett puts a social dampener on Isabel’s freedom

VIII   Lord Warburton patronises Isabel but invites her to his estate at Lockleigh. He claims to be a radical aristocrat and is immensely wealthy.

IX   Isabel visits Lockleigh, meets Warburton’s sisters, and he makes overtures to her but he is also snootily critical.

X   Harriet Stackpole arrives fromAmerica and is invited to Gardencourt. She tactlessly wishes to write articles about her hosts, but Isabel dissuades her. She spars with Ralph about the duty to marry and his lack of employment.

XI   Henrietta reveals that Caspar Goodwood was on the. Atlantic crossing, and Isabel receives a letter from him asking if they can meet.

XII   Lord Warburton rides over and offers his hand in marriage, but Isabel feels ambivalent about him. She values her independence, and feels that she might do better, even though he is an aristocrat with immense wealth.

XIII   Isabel consults her uncle, who is supportive, and she feels that Caspar Goodwood is a threat she cannot resist. She turns down Warburton. Henrietta asks Ralph to invite Caspar to Gardencourt, but when it is made Caspar refuses the offer.

XIV   Henrietta interrogates Warburton remorselessly. Warburton demands an explanation from Isabel for her rejection. She tells him she ‘cannot escape her fate’.

XV   Henrietta, Isabel, and Ralph visit London. Ralph quizzes Isabel regarding her refusal of Warburton’s marriage offer.

XVI   Caspar Goodwood visits Isabel at her hotel. He badgers her to accept his offer of marriage. She refuses, insisting that she values her independence.

XVII   Henrietta is going off to interview more aristocrats in Bedfordshire. Ralph and Isabel return to Gardencourt, where Mr Touchett is ill.

XVIII   Isabel meets Mme Merle at Gardencourt and is fascinated, even though Ralph is very sceptical about her. Daniel Touchett urges Ralph to marry Isabel, but Ralph persuades his father to leave Isabel half of his own inheritance.

XIX   Isabel draws closer to Mme Merle, who Mrs Touchett thinks is without fault. Ralph’s scepticism about her remains unexplained. Mme Merle introduces Gilbert Osmond into her confidences with Isabel. Daniel Touchett dies.

XX   Following the announcement of the will, Mme Merle believes Isabel has schemed to inherit her fortune from Mr Touchett. Mrs Touchett and Isabel go to Paris and join Henrietta, who disapproves of the inheritance. Henrietta has established a keen rapport with bachelor Mr Bantling.

XXI   Isabel joins Ralph in San Remo. She does not know about his part in her inheritance. She feels that Warburton is no longer a problem, but is still ambivalent about Goodwood.

XXII   Some time later Mme Merle arrives at Gilbert Osmond’s palazzo in Florence as Pansy returns from a convent for the summer. Mme Merle wants to introduce Osmond to Isabel in the hope he will marry her.

XXIII   Isabel meets Osmond with Mme Merle, but does not try to impress him. Ralph Touchett’s scepticism regarding Mme Merle is based on the idea that she is ‘too good to be true’.

XXIV   Isabel visit’s Osmond’s palazzo and meets his acerbic sister Countess Gemini, who spars openly with her brother. Osmond gives a critical and negative account of his own lack of ambition, which Isabel chooses to believe is deliberately understated.

XXV   Countess Gemini senses that Isabel is in danger from Osmond and Mme Merle. She challenges Mme Merle publicly, and is accurately critical of her own brother who she says has achieved ‘nothing’.

XXVI   Osmond becomes a regular visitor to Isabel, but her hostess Mrs Touchett thinks Osmond is a poor suitor. Mme Merle pretends not to know his intentions. Isabel develops a positive and even romantic view of Osmond. Tensions surrounding Countess Gemini. Osmond plans to accompany Isabel on a trip to Rome.

XXVII   In Rome Isabel meets Lord Warburton, who is still in love with her. All the principal characters meet up in St Peter’s cathedral.


The Portrait of a Lady – film version

Jane Campion 1996 – starring Nicole Kidman and John Malkovich

The Portrait of a Lady See reviews of the film at the Internet Movie Database


VOLUME II

XXVIII   Warburton announces to Isabel that he is leaving Rome because of his hopeless passion for her. Osmond preens himself on favouring a woman who has turned down an English lord.

XXIX   Mrs Touchett asks Isabel to return to Florence. On the eve of her departure Osmond declares his love for her and as proof of his disinterested adoration says that he has nothing to offer her.

XXX   Back in Florence, Isabel goes to visit Pansy as promised. She is touched again by the girl’s simplicity.

XXXI   A year later Isabel is visited by her sister Lily, who cannot understand why she has not made more of her opportunities and her fortune. Isabel travels in Greece and Egypt with Mme Merle.

XXXII   Isabel is visited by Caspar Goodwood, who has travelled from America after receiving a letter from her announcing her engagement to Osmond. Goodwood reproaches her for going back on her promise not to marry. She is upset by his visit.

XXXIII   Mrs Touchett disapproves of her choice, and thinks Mme Merle has been duplicitous. Ralph feels devastated by the news and is seriously ill.

XXXIV   Isabel confronts Ralph, who tells her she is putting herself in danger He also reveals that he loves her. She defends Osmond and claims she is marrying him precisely because he has no money, titles, or honours.

XXXV   Isabel chooses to ignore social danger signals regarding her marriage, and Osmond preens himself on his good fortune. They announce their news to Pansy, who is delighted.

XXXVI   Three years after the marriage. Isabel has a child who has died. Ned Rosier falls inn love with Pansy and visits Mme Merle in Rome to enlist her support for his case. She warns him he hasn’t enough money, but says she will try to help.

XXXVII   Rosier goes to the Osmond palazzo where he declares himself to Pansy and seems to be well received by her – but he is treated rudely by Osmond. Isabel tells him he hasn’t enough money to marry Pansy.

XXXVIII   Mme Merle advises Rosier to be patient. Warburton suddenly appears, accompanying a very ill Ralph Touchett on a journey to Sicily. Gilbert Osmond forbids Pansy to marry Rosier.

XXXIX   Ralph has a comprehensive grasp of Osmond’s limitations and his vainglorious pride. He decides to stay in Rome to be near Isabel. Warburton agrees – because he seems to have developed an interest in Pansy.

XL   Mme Merle pretends to be tactful and restrained with Isabel and Osmond following their marriage, yet by talking about her association with Osmond she arouses doubts in Isabel’s mind. They discuss Pansy and agree that Warburton is her best suitor.

XLI   Isabel persuades herself that Pansy should marry Warburton. Relationships with Osmond are strained, but he wants Isabel to help Warburton’s cause.

XLII   Isabel fears that Warburton might be using Pansy as a ploy to stay close to herself. She reflects on the decline of her marriage and her gradual distrust of Osmond. She blames herself for not being what he expected. She feels he despises her – and he disapproves of her visits to a dying Ralph Touchett.

XLIII   At a society ball Ned Rosier is still pining after Pansy. Isabel is pursued by Warburton, who she now suspects is not in love with Pansy but only wants to be near her.

XLIV   In Florence Henrietta Stackpole visits Countess Gemini, who tells her that Warburton is making love to Isabel in Rome. Henrietta also meets Caspar Goodwood who is on his way to Rome. They are both concerned about Isabel’s happiness.

XLV   Ralph Touchett tells Isabel that Warburton is in love with her. Isabel then urges Pansy to obey her father’s wishes and marry Warburton, but Pansy is in love with Ned Rosier.

XLVI   Osmond reproaches Isabel for her dealings with. Warburton, who arrives at the palazzo to announce his departure for England. He has written but not posted a letter to Osmond asking to marry Pansy. Osmond accuses Isabel of deliberately thwarting his plans.

XLVII   Isabel reveals her unhappiness to Henrietta. Osmond criticises Isabel for her choice of friends. Caspar Goodwood pays visits and is surprisingly well received by Osmond. Caspar and Henrietta visit Ralph Touchett at his hotel sickbed.

XLVIII   Henrietta and Caspar arrange to escort Ralph back home to England. Caspar is patronised by Osmond, and is fearful on Isabel’s behalf, but he can find no evidence that she is unhappy.

XLIX   Mme Merle challenges Isabel over the loss of Warburton as a suitor to Pansy. Isabel realises that she is in league with her husband and that Osmond has married her for her money. Mme Merle privately reproaches Osmond for making her ‘evil’, and their conversation confirms that they were once lovers.

L   Isabel meets Ned Rosier in the Coliseum: he has sold all his antiques and is now a rich man. Osmond banishes Pansy to a convent to get her out of the way.

LI   Isabel receives news that Ralph Touchett is dying in England. Osmond forbids her to visit him. Countess Gemini reveals to Isabel that Pansy is Mme Merle’s daughter and recounts the history of the Osmond-Merle relationship.

LII   Isabel goes to the convent to say goodbye to Pansy – and meets Mme Merle, who suddenly realises that Isabel has learned her secret. The two women part in hatred, and Mme Merle says she will return to America. She also reveals to Isabel that her inheritance came from Ralph Touchett.

LIII   Isabel travels to London, trying to re-evaluate her marriage and the recent past. She is met by Harriet, who is going to marry Mr Bantling.

LIV   Isabel learns from her aunt that Warburton is due to be married to a woman he has only just met. Isabel has an emotionally charged scene with the dying Ralph: she tells him she knows the truth about her inheritance, and he says it was a ‘mistake’.

LV   Ralph dies the next day, and the Gardencourt house is sold off in his will. Caspar Goodwood makes a final appeal to Isabel, but she refuses his offer of ‘help’ and returns to Rome.


Portrait of a Lady – principal characters
Daniel Touchett a rich Vermont banker living in England
Lydia Touchett his eccentric wife, who lives in Florence
Ralph Touchett his invalid son – Isabel’s cousin
Lord Warburton a rich English peer and landowner
Isabel Archer Ralph’s young American cousin
Caspar Goodwood a rich Boston cotton mill owner
Henrietta Stackpole an American feminist and journalist
Mr Bantling an English bachelor friend of Ralph’s
Lady Pensil Mr Bantling’s sister
Madame Serena Merle a friend of Mrs Touchett’s from Florence
Edward Rosier an American aesthete living in Paris
Gilbert Osmond an American aesthete living in Italy for 20 years
Pansy Osmond Osmond’s young daughter
Countess Amy Gemini Osmond’s eccentric sister
Gardencourt Mr Touchett’s estate in Berkshire
Lockleigh Lord Warburton’s estate in England
Palazzo Crescentini Mrs Touchett’s home in Rome
Palazzo Roccanera Osmond’s house in Rome

The Portrait of a Lady

Henry James’s study


Further reading

Biographical

The Portrait of a Lady Theodora Bosanquet, Henry James at Work, University of Michigan Press, 2007.

The Portrait of a Lady F.W. Dupee, Henry James: Autobiography, Princeton University Press, 1983.

The Portrait of a Lady Leon Edel, Henry James: A Life, HarperCollins, 1985.

The Portrait of a Lady Philip Horne (ed), Henry James: A Life in Letters, Viking/Allen Lane, 1999.

The Portrait of a Lady Henry James, The Letters of Henry James, Adamant Media Corporation, 2001.

The Portrait of a Lady Fred Kaplan, Henry James: The Imagination of Genius, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999

The Portrait of a Lady F.O. Matthieson (ed), The Notebooks of Henry James, Oxford University Press, 1988.

Critical commentary

The Portrait of a Lady Elizabeth Allen, A Woman’s Place in the Novels of Henry James London: Macmillan Press, 1983.

The Portrait of a Lady Ian F.A. Bell, Henry James and the Past, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1993.

The Portrait of a Lady Millicent Bell, Meaning in Henry James, Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press, 1993.

The Portrait of a Lady Harold Bloom (ed), Modern Critical Views: Henry James, Chelsea House Publishers, 1991.

The Portrait of a Lady Kirstin Boudreau, Henry James’s Narrative Technique, Macmillan, 2010.

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

The Portrait of a Lady Victoria Coulson, Henry James, Women and Realism, Cambridge University Press, 2009.

The Portrait of a Lady Daniel Mark Fogel, A Companion to Henry James Studies, Greenwood Press, 1993.

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

The Portrait of a Lady Jonathan Freedman, The Cambridge Companion to Henry James, Cambridge University Press, 1998.

The Portrait of a Lady Judith Fryer, The Faces of Eve: Women in the Nineteenth Century American Novel, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976

The Portrait of a Lady Roger Gard (ed), Henry James: The Critical Heritage, London: Routledge, 1968.

The Portrait of a Lady Tessa Hadley, Henry James and the Imagination of Pleasure, Cambridge University Press, 2009.

The Portrait of a Lady Barbara Hardy, Henry James: The Later Writing (Writers & Their Work), Northcote House Publishers, 1996.

The Portrait of a Lady Richard A. Hocks, Henry James: A study of the short fiction, New York: Twayne Publishers, 1990.

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

The Portrait of a Lady Colin Meissner, Henry James and the Language of Experience, Cambridge University Press, 2009

The Portrait of a Lady John Pearson (ed), The Prefaces of Henry James, Pennsylvania State University Press, 1993.

The Portrait of a Lady Richard Poirer, The Comic Sense of Henry James, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967.

The Portrait of a Lady Hugh Stevens, Henry James and Sexuality, Cambridge University Press, 1998.

The Portrait of a Lady Merle A. Williams, Henry James and the Philosophical Novel, Cambridge University Press, 1993.

The Portrait of a Lady Judith Woolf, Henry James: The Major Novels, Cambridge University Press, 1991.

The Portrait of a Lady Ruth Yeazell (ed), Henry James: A Collection of Critical Essays, Longmans, 1994.


Other works by Henry James

The Portrait of a LadyThe 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.

The Portrait of a Lady Buy the book at Amazon UK
The Portrait of a Lady Buy the book at Amazon US

 

The Portrait of a LadyWhat 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.
The Portrait of a Lady Buy the book at Amazon UK
The Portrait of a Lady Buy the book at Amazon US

 

The Portrait of a LadyThe 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.
The Portrait of a Lady Buy the book at Amazon UK
The Portrait of a Lady Buy the book at Amazon US


Henry James – web links

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

The Portrait of a Lady The Complete Works
Sixty books in one 13.5 MB Kindle eBook download for £1.92 at Amazon.co.uk. The complete novels, stories, travel writing, and prefaces. Also includes his autobiographies, plays, and literary criticism – with illustrations.

The Portrait of a Lady 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.

The Portrait of a Lady 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.

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

The Portrait of a Lady Online Books Page
A collection of online texts, including novels, stories, travel writing, literary criticism, and letters.

The Portrait of a Lady Henry James at Project Gutenberg
A major collection of eTexts, available in a variety of eBook formats.

The Portrait of a Lady The Complete Letters
Archive of the complete correspondence (1855-1878) work in progress – published by the University of Nebraska Press.

The Portrait of a Lady The Scholar’s Guide to Web Sites
An old-fashioned but major jumpstation – a website of websites and resouces.

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

The Portrait of a Lady 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 2016


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