The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

Settle back for a visit with Isabel Archer for 623 pages–but then, who’s

Isabel has been  brought to England from Albany NY (!) by an aunt, Mrs. Touchette, and as the book opens, she has arrived at Gardencourt—a lovely old rosy brick mansion where her uncle and cousin, Ralph, live.  It is teatime and Henry James marvels in the glories of the best of all times in his mind.

A very interesting aside, in my mind, is that Henry James based his building Gardencourt on an actual building —Hard Wick House in Oxfordshire–you can look it up—And, And, And!!  that’s the SAME house that Kenneth Grahame used for Toad Hall in Wind in the Willows!!!  James and Grahame were friends and had visited Hard Wick House often.   I love litle facts like that.

Gardencourt–indeed a lovely old home with nice grounds, sits on a bank of
wide lawn leading down to the Thames.  Her uncle, Mr. Touchette, a wealthy banker,  is enjoying his tea outside and two young men are seen talking nearby.  One is Ralph, the son, and one is a neighbor and friend, Lord Warburton, who I think will soon become a favorite of yours (and mine).

Gardencourt from The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James ©booksandbuttons

Gardencourt from The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James ©booksandbuttons

As you might imagine, Isabel, a young woman from America causes quite a  stir and an interest–although old Mr. Touchette points out that American young women are usually engaged.    As a matter of fact, Isabel *has* received a proposal–from Casper Goodwood in Boston, but she doesn’twant to lose her independence by getting married so she has put her decision off to him by asking him to wait one year until she has visited Europe with her aunt.

But! proposals keep rolling in!  Lord Warburton tells Isabel that once he has
fallen for a girl, it’s for life, for life.  (Wow!)  Now, Lord W is a pretty good catch —attractive, in the House of Commons, owns a beautiful estate next door–
Lockleigh (no photo, blessedly).  And, he’s wealthy.  What’s not to like?  But Isabel, brings out that old keeping- her -independence argument, and she refuses him–much to the consternation and mystification of the reader (ok, it’s me).  Still, we don’t write ’em, we just read ’em.

On we go, page after page, night after night.  And we become more familiar with this Miss Isabel Archer who thinks quite highly of herself—is well read, well educated, and finds herself more worthy than others generally.  And need I say? values her independence.

One member of book club—oh! did I tell you? it’s the February book selection–emailed me that she’s getting mighty tired of Isabel Archer.

But you and I continue on—loving her or hating her and wondering if she’ll ever marry and getting introduced to some other rather interesting characters along the way—Madame Merle–watch out for her! and Henrietta Stackpole–an old crony of Isabel’s who is afraid Isabel will marry an Englishman instead of her favorite—Casper Goodwood, who owns an industrial mill and is madly in love with Isabel.

Will Isabel ever marry?   (yes)  Will things turn out happy ever after?  (not telling).

Yes, it’s long, but there are strains of interest when James goes off on tangents with his comparisons of America and England. and, there often is–yes! humor.  Good story line to follow–I think  you’ll be okay with this old classic for a few nights.

Read it and weep and then check it off on a million Good Reading lists!

Isabel Archer from The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James ©booksandbuttons

Isabel Archer from The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James ©booksandbuttons






three antique mother-of-pearl buttons with carved decoration ©booksandbuttons

three antique mother-of-pearl buttons with carved decoration ©booksandbuttons






Three button review.

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9 Responses to The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

  1. Buttondeb says:

    Well, I am on page 483, and Isabel is just about on my last nerve.
    But your perfectly lovely portrait and vision of Gardencourt have inspired me to soldier on.

  2. FictionFan says:

    Sounds good, I think… though she might drive me up the wall. But first I have to read The American ‘cos that’s the one on my Classics Club list…

  3. Stefanie says:

    I read this a couple years back and liked it very much. i felt rather sorry for Isabel.

  4. And if you want more… there is my sequel, ‘A Kind of Justice’ on Amazon’s Kindle store ASIN B0171KCOL4

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