Isabel Archer, a beautiful, intelligent, and headstrong American girl newly endowed with wealth and embarked in Europe on a treacherous journey to self-knowledge, is delineated with a magnificence that is at once casual and tense with force and insight. The characters with whom she is entangled--the good man and the evil one, between whom she wavers, and the mysterious witchlike woman with whom she must do battle--are each rendered with a virtuosity that suggests dazzling imaginative powers. And the scene painting--in England and Italy--provides a continuous visual pleasure while always remaining crucial to the larger drama. The Portrait of a Lady is the most stunning achievement of Henry James's early period--in the 1860s and '70s when he was transforming himself from a talented young American into a resident of Europe, a citizen of the world, and one of the greatest novelists of modern times. A kind of delight at the success of this transformation informs every page of this masterpiece. (Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)
About the Author
Henry James was born in 1843 in New York City. He traveled and studied extensively in New York, London, Paris and Geneva, and returned to the States in 1860, enrolling in Harvard Law School two years later. By 1865 he had begun to contribute reviews and short stories to periodicals in earnest. His first major piece of fiction, "Watch and Ward," was serialized in The Atlantic Monthly in 1870, and Roderick Hudson, his first major novel, was published in 1875. James spent the following decades abroad, first visiting Paris, where he met Ivan Turgenev, Emile Zola and Gustave Flaubert, then settling in London, where he lived for over twenty years and wrote several novels, including Washington Square, The Portrait of a Lady, The Bostonians, and The Princess Casamassima. In 1897 he moved to Lamb House in Rye, where he wrote his later novels, including The Awkward Age, The Wings of the Dove, The Ambassadors, and The Golden Bowl, and well as his popular ghost story, "The Turn of the Screw." James became a British subject in 1915. Two unfinished novels, The Ivory Tower and The Sense of the Past, were published as fragments after his death on February 28, 1916.
“The Portrait of a Lady is entirely successful in giving one the sense of having met somebody far too radiantly good for this world.”—Rebecca West