In Translation

19 Jan

POALI’m finding that Henry James talks quite a bit about books in The Portrait of a Lady: books, libraries, reading, learning.

There was this quote describing Ralph.

In chapter six we find out that Isabel Archer is a smartie and her friends know why….

“…for these excellent people never withheld their admiration from a reach of intellect of which they themselves were not conscious, and spoke of Isabel as a prodigy of learning, a creature reported to have read the classic authors–in translations.”

Does Hardy tag on the “in translations” to take away from Miss Archer’s achievements?
Maybe I’m just feeling sensitive after the Russian novels, but I felt a little jab.


Posted by on January 19, 2013 in The Portrait of a Lady


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2 responses to “In Translation

  1. Norma carey

    January 19, 2013 at 9:02 am

    I am through chapter 30 and I notice that the author seems to create a lot of foreshadowing and sometimes I resent it as I don’t want clues about the “real”personalities – I want to discover them for myself. Nor do I want to think about what might occur next, based on his foretelling. I know that foreshadow is a literary tool but I don’t want to know too much about what lies ahead. I just want to read it.

  2. Patty Sessions

    January 19, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    I noticed that “in translation” dig too. I *think* James is pointing out that none of these people have anything resembling a real education. The people who think that Isabel is a prodigy of learning don’t read anything at all (besides probably magazines). Books and education make them nervous, and Isabel is not really popular because of her reputation as a clever, educated girl.

    But while Isabel is fairly clever and does try to educate herself in a haphazard manner, she doesn’t have an education (as defined in the 19th century). She has never been to school that I can recall, never had a proper governess, never been taught Latin which was considered to be for boys only anyway, she has to read classics in translation, probably even the French ones. She’s not a prodigy at all; she’s just a reasonably intelligent girl who likes to read and wants to think herself educated (she doesn’t really work at it all *that* hard).

    I expect James didn’t think girls *could* be properly educated anyway, but I don’t know his views on female emancipation. 🙂


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