this image on the whole was too bookish to be attractive.' Cargill is certainly right in saying:

Bookish and without passional experience, she had married Osmond out of illusion, but even though she had given him a child, he had never really touched the core of her nature—it needed Goodwood's kiss to do that, and Matthiessen is right in testifying to its effectiveness in revealing the virginal nature of the heroine.

Isabel runs away from Goodwood and in doing so she renders her portrait complete. She emerges as the slightly ascetic Diana who lives, as she herself puts it, in the mind of Osmond, the moon. She has become another masculine emanation, a static figure, whose outlines are complete, defined, and whose possibility for expanding the circuit of 'felt life' and attaining consciousness is closed.

There is nothing to say that James approved of Isabel's actions. Indeed his ironic approach to her should make us wary of idealising her as the consummate Jamesian heroine. If we rid ourselves of this assumption, we see that Isabel emerges as the first Jamesian venture into the realistic world of his middle period, when he holds the tools of his craft well under control and explores the various dead ends of static and outward definition of character. James's orientation in this period may be 'feminine' as it has been before, yet what he is essentially examining is the defeminized world which tends towards absolutes, toward extra-personal definitions of the self rather than to the flexibility and openness of personalism and the fairy-tale.

— LISA APPIGNANESI, "Henry James: Femininity and the Moral Sensibility,"
Femininity and the Creative Imagination: A Study of Henry James,
Robert Musil and Marcel Proust
( London: Vision Press, 1973), pp. 40-46


RONALD WALLACE

When Frederick Crews calls Isabel Archer an "unimpeachable heroine," we must suspect that he has missed the essentially comic tradition to which she, as heroine, belongs. As admirable and perceptive as Isabel Archer may at times be in The Portrait of a Lady, she is dogmatic, her ideals are inflated, and her self-knowledge is meager throughout. As Leon Edel suggests, she is, in fact, a female Christopher Newman, and like Newman, for all her delicacy of feeling, she is presumptuous and egotistical. Although Isabel has a larger fund of self-awareness than Newman, her awareness reverses repeatedly in the novel. "She had an unquenchable desire to think well of herself," James tells us. She believes that "one should try to be one's own best friend and to give one's self, in this manner, distinguished company." "Sometimes she went so far as to wish that she might find herself some day in a difficult position, so that she could have the pleasure of being as heroic as the occasion demanded."

-76-

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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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