Synopses & Reviews
The Portrait of a Lady provides an excellent introduction to the subtle, refined, and complex world of Henry James. Unlike any author before or since, James delved deeper into the hidden worlds of his characters, in order to explore the toils and delights of their inner lives. In The Portrait of a Lady, James tells the story of one of his most enchanting heroines, Isabel Archer, a young woman from New York State whose life is changed when she is visited by her aunt, Mrs. Touchett, following the death of her father (her mother having died long before). Mrs. Touchett, who is an expatriate American living in Florence, invites Isabel to accompany her back to Europe, where everyone she meets is fascinated by her beauty, her intelligence, and her vivacity. Mr. Touchett, her uncle, makes a generous provision for her in his will, but this turns out to have unexpected and undesired consequences.
Regarded by many as Henry James's finest work, and a lucid tragedy exploring the distance between money and happiness, The Portrait of a Lady contains an introduction by Philip Horne in Penguin Classics. 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. Then she finds herself irresistibly drawn to Gilbert Osmond. Charming and cultivated, Osmond sees Isabel as a rich prize waiting to be taken. Beneath his veneer of civilized behaviour, Isabel discovers cruelty and a stifling darkness. In this portrait of a 'young woman affronting her destiny', Henry James created one of his most magnificent heroines, and a story of intense poignancy.
This edition of The Portrait of a Lady, based on the earliest published copy of the novel, is the version read first and loved by most readers in James's lifetime. It also contains a chronology, further reading, notes and an introduction by Philip Horne.
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators."
In this portrait of a "young woman affronting her destiny," Henry James created one of his most magnificent heroines, and a story of intense poignancy. When Isabel Archer, a beautiful, spirited American, is brought to Europe by her wealthy aunt, it is expected that she will soon marry. But Isabel, resolved to enjoy her freedom, does not hesitate to turn down two eligible suitors. Then she finds herself irresistibly drawn to the charming and cultivated Gilbert Osmond. Isabel, however, soon discovers the cruelty and stifling darkness beneath Gilbert's civilized veneer.
About the Author
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.
Philip Horne has spent a decade looking at the thousands of James's letters in archives in the United States and Europe. A Reader in English Literature at University College, London, he is the author of Henry James and Revision and the editor of the Penguin Classics edition of James's The Tragic Muse.