The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
(Penguin Classics)

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When Isabel Archer, a beautiful, spirited American is brought to Europe by her wealthy aunt Touchett, it is expected that she will soon marry. But Isabel, resolved to enjoy the freedom that her fortune has opened up and to determine her own fate, does not hesitate to turn down two eligible suitors. It is only when she finds herself irresistibly drawn to the cultivated but worthless Gilbert Osmond that she discovers that wealth is a two-edged sword and that there is a price to be paid for independence. With its subtle delineation of American characters in a European setting, Portrait of a Lady is one of the most accomplished and popular of Henry James's early novels.

About Henry James

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Henry James (1843-1916), born in New York City, was the son of noted religious philosopher Henry James, Sr., and brother of eminent psychologist and philosopher William James. He spent his early life in America and studied in Geneva, London and Paris during his adolescence to gain the worldly experience so prized by his father. He lived in Newport, went briefly to Harvard Law School, and in 1864 began to contribute both criticism and tales to magazines. In 1869, and then in 1872-74, he paid visits to Europe and began his first novel, Roderick Hudson. Late in 1875 he settled in Paris, where he met Turgenev, Flaubert, and Zola, and wrote The American (1877). In December 1876 he moved to London, where two years later he achieved international fame with Daisy Miller. Other famous works include Washington Square (1880), The Portrait of a Lady (1881), The Princess Casamassima (1886), The Aspern Papers (1888), The Turn of the Screw (1898), and three large novels of the new century, The Wings of the Dove (1902), The Ambassadors (1903) and The Golden Bowl (1904). In 1905 he revisited the United States and wrote The American Scene (1907). During his career he also wrote many works of criticism and travel. Although old and ailing, he threw himself into war work in 1914, and in 1915, a few months before his death, he became a British subject. In 1916 King George V conferred the Order of Merit on him. He died in London in February 1916.
Published January 30, 2003 by Penguin. 660 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Business & Economics, Education & Reference, Romance, Erotica, History, Children's Books. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Portrait of a Lady

Kirkus Reviews

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The author argues that chapter 42 of the novel, Isabel Archer’s reverie, is “one of James’ greatest achievements and a turning point in the history of the novel.” Not for all readers, but Gorra’s approach will appeal to scholars, fans of the James family, and lovers of important novels and thos...

May 17 2012 | Read Full Review of The Portrait of a Lady (Pengu...

Washington Independent Review of Books

These slippages — portrait, biography, tale, story — would be quibbles under most circumstances, but Gorra’s generic choices and strategies are what set his book apart, and his playing loose with key terms may have affected both conception and execution, leading to meandering and to adjacencies o...

Nov 05 2012 | Read Full Review of The Portrait of a Lady (Pengu...

The Boston Globe

He discusses James’s repressed sexuality including his secret relationship with Constance Fenimore Woolson, his travels to Paris, Florence, and Venice as well as his homes in London and Rye, England, the history of serial publication (James’s novels, like almost all 19th-century novels, were publ...

Sep 05 2012 | Read Full Review of The Portrait of a Lady (Pengu...

The New York Review of Books

When he came to write his preface to the book a quarter of a century later he insisted that it did not come to him as plot, “but altogether in the sense of a single character, the character and aspect of a particular engaging young woman.” He was alert as he wrote his preface to the idea that a y...

Jul 19 2007 | Read Full Review of The Portrait of a Lady (Pengu...

The New York Review of Books

Though Henry James, Senior, had traded in his Scots Presbyterianism for the more expansive doctrines of Swedenborg, and his son Henry was less orthodox still, there is something of the lost and damned about these escapees from their vast young land, what Isabel calls “the great country stretching...

Dec 02 1999 | Read Full Review of The Portrait of a Lady (Pengu...

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"I should think you would be very unhappy with that shawl," Lord Warburton resumed while his companion filled the old man's cup again.

Jan 27 2018 | Read Full Review of The Portrait of a Lady (Pengu...

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Isabel is smart — book-smart, that is — about the world she knows tragically little.

Aug 06 2010 | Read Full Review of The Portrait of a Lady (Pengu...

Carlin Romano

At the beginning of Henry James's 1881 masterpiece The Portrait of a Lady, James describes his heroine's beauty as so rarefied that the hoi polloi would miss it.

Oct 15 2012 | Read Full Review of The Portrait of a Lady (Pengu...

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