brick upon brick for the creation of an interest, I would leave no pretext for saying that anything is out of line, scale or perspective. I would build large—in fine embossed vaults and painted arches, as who should say, and yet never let it appear that the chequered pavement, the ground under the reader's feet, fails to stretch at every point to the base of the walls. That precautionary spirit, on re-perusal of the book, is the old note that most touches me: it testifies so, for my own ear, to the anxiety of my provision for the reader's amusement. I felt, in view of the possible limitations of my subject, that no such provision could be excessive, and the development of the latter was simply the general form of that earnest quest. And I find indeed that this is the only account I can give myself of the evolution of the fable: it is all under the head thus named that I conceive the needful accretion as having taken place, the right complications as having started. It was naturally of the essence that the young woman should be herself complex; that was rudimentary—or was at any rate the light in which Isabel Archer had originally dawned. It went, however, but a certain way, and other lights, contending, conflicting lights, and of as many different colours, if possible, as the rockets, the Roman candles and Catherine-wheels of a "pyrotechnic display," would be employable to attest that she was. I had, no doubt, a groping instinct for the right complications, since I am quite unable to track the footsteps of those that constitute, as the case stands, the general situation exhibited. They are there, for what they are worth, and as numerous as might be; but my memory, I confess, is a blank as to how and whence they came.

— HENRY JAMES, "Preface to the New York Edition" of The Portrait of a Lady
( New York: Scribner's, 1908), pp. x-xvii


CORNELIA PULSIFER KELLEY

Where, the critic is led to ask because of the great fondness of James for Isabel, had he obtained this "vivid individual?" Was she someone he actually knew—one of his many cousins? Had she grown out of the chance remark of a friend as Daisy had? Had he seen her in a boarding house? Had she come from his reading? The preface does not satisfy us on this point, and yet it gives a broadly general hint in the enumeration of the heroines of Shakespeare and George Eliot, who had been defrauded of mattering enough by their authors. And if one turns back to the critical article which James wrote in 1876 when Daniel Deronda completed its serial run, the hint is confirmed. From James's article more than from George Eliot's novel, it is clear that Gwendolen Harleth was the prototype of Isabel Archer, for the points which James noted about Gwendolen are the points which a critic must note about his heroine.

Isabel is similar to Gwendolen in nature, in basic characteristics:

Gwendolen is a perfect picture of youthfulness—its eagerness, its presumption, its preoccupation with itself, its vanity and silliness, its sense of its

-19-

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Isabel Archer
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Major Literary Characters *
  • Isabel Archer *
  • Contents *
  • The Analysis of Character Harold Bloom ix
  • Editor's Note xv
  • Introduction 1
  • Critical Extracts 5
  • Henry James 5
  • Horace E. Scudder 8
  • Margaret Oliphant 10
  • Henry James 15
  • Cornelia Pulsifer Kelley 19
  • Yvor Winters 23
  • Edward Sackville West 24
  • Graham Greene 28
  • F. R. Leavis 32
  • Richard Chase 37
  • William H. Gass 41
  • Richard Poirier 45
  • Leon Edel 51
  • Dorothea Krook 57
  • Laurence Bedwell Holland 60
  • Manfred Mackenzie 64
  • Lisa Appignanesi 72
  • Ronald Wallace 76
  • Peter Jones 80
  • Critical Essays 91
  • Tony Tanner the Fearful Self 91
  • Annette Niemtzow Marriage and the New Woman in the Portrait of a Lady 104
  • Notes 117
  • Nina Baym Revision and Thematic Change in the Portrait of a Lady 119
  • Notes 129
  • Zephyra Porat Transcendental Idealism and Tragic Realism in the Portrait of a Lady 131
  • Notes 149
  • Jonathan Freedman James, Pater, and the Dreaming of Aestheticism 152
  • Notes 163
  • Stephanie A. Smith the Delicate Organisms and Theoretic Tricks of Henry James 164
  • Notes 179
  • William Veeder the Feminine Orphan and the Emergent Master 181
  • Notes 199
  • Contributors 203
  • Bibliography 205
  • Acknowledgments 211
  • Index 213
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