The Portrait of a Lady, Paperback

The Portrait of a Lady Paperback

Part of the Wordsworth Classics series

4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


With an Introduction and Notes by Lionel Kelly, Senior Lecturer in English, University of Reading.

Transplanted to Europe from her native America, Isabel Archer has candour, beauty, intelligence, an independent spirit and a marked enthusiasm for life.

An unexpected inheritance apparently gives her freedom, but despite all her natural advantages she makes one disastrous error of judgement and the result is genuinely tragic.

Her tale, told with James' inimitable poise, is of the widest relevance. 'The phase when his (Henry James') genius functioned with the freest and fullest vitality is represented by The Portrait of a Lady'. (F.R. LEAVIS)


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Wordsworth Editions Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Classic fiction (pre c 1945)
  • ISBN: 9781853261770


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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

A young American lady thrown into 19th century European bourgeois society, into a balancing act between freedom and possession.Henry James takes his time in making us acquainted with the lady to be portrayed: The story unfolds rather slowly only to gain immense momentum in the final third. I especially enjoyed reading James' vivid descriptions of settings and situations and the witty dialogues. While at the end of the novel I feel I 'know' many of the book's prominent characters, the central figure, Isabel Archer, remains more complex and mysterious to some extent. A trait of her character and a fine mist on her portrait. All in all a delightful read.(By the way: I don't think the lady looks one bit like the one shown on the Wordsworth cover.)

Review by

This book took me about two months to read! I read it at my son's urging. Happily, in the end, I thought it was worthwhile. I enjoyed a number of good moments and, in comparison to other "epics" (e.g. "One Hundred Years of Solitude") which I have recently tackled, the gain was worth the pain. It was quite a story! I really enjoyed the way in which James sketched the characters in terms of their motives and attitudes within the context of societal norms (both prevalent and evolving). It was too bad that the goodies were buried in tons of 19C bloated verbiage and, surely, hundreds of impossibly long (and yet so exquisitely constructed) paragraphs, And despite all of the palpable passion, the total absence of steamy sex scenes was a bitter pill to swallow. Throw us a bone, Henry James! In sum,however, the book was worth reading, and parts of the story are bound to stick with me. As an aside: I am looking forward to renting the movie version (1996) of the novel, in which Nicole Kidman plays Isabel. (Sadly, the preview looks awful!) I hope the protagonists -- for their own sake and that of the novel's dramatic integrity as a 20C interpretation --- will share at least a few moments of lust. Because that's what most people are and do. But my expectations are low.

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