Tag Archives: The Portrait of a Lady

Added to my Wishlist

I spent some time on Etsy this weekend doing a little window shopping.  On a whim I typed in Huckleberry Finn.  The very first listing charmed me.  Go ahead; take a look.

Yes, it’s a little book charm with our latest title and author’s name engraved on it.  I love it!  After admiring it for a few moments, can you guess what I did?  That’s right.  I searched the shop for other WEM titles.  I found six:  Huck Finn, Great Gatsby, Pride & Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Moby-Dick, and (yes, I was surprised as well) Portrait of a Lady.

I think a bracelet made up of WEM novel charms would be the perfect reward for completing the novel portion of my DIY master’s degree program.  It’s on my wishlist.


Posted by on March 6, 2013 in The Blog


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Is he or isn’t he?

POAL Collateral ClassicMy copy of The Portrait of a Lady, the one with the Reader’s Supplement, has a section of critics’ quotes about Henry James and his novel(s).  After reading this quote by Mr. J.B. Priestly, I decided Mr. Priestly and I could be friends.

Did Henry James breathe the finest oxygen or make do with one collapsed lung?  In other words, have we in him one of the supreme masters of the novel, as we are so often told now that he is in fashion, or a novelist of great skill and originality who yet leaves us dissatisfied and dubious?…
Whatever our attitude toward fiction, whatever our personal response to him my be, we cannot possibly deny him a kind of greatness.  But there remains the question–is he one of the supreme masters of the novel?

Literature and Western Man by J.B. Priestly, Harper and Brothers, 1960.

What do you think?  Is Henry James one of the supreme masters of the novel?


Posted by on February 16, 2013 in The Portrait of a Lady


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Jeannette finished last week.  I finished the book on Friday. I heard that Christina was getting some serious knitting accomplished while listening to the audio book.  My guess is that she’ll reach the last chapter in a day or so if she hasn’t finished already.

I’m trying to decide how I feel about the ending, but there are no spoilers here.
We still have at least a week’s worth of posts.

Where are you in The Portrait of a Lady?

What should you do if you are finished?

1. Start the WEM Questions.  Remember our resolution?  No more stalling.
2.  Take the Sparknotes quiz.  I confess that I incorrectly answered the question about how many proposals Isabel had.
3. Watch a movie version of the novel.  If not the BBC’s, maybe this one.
4. Find your copy of The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn.
5. Read something for fun!

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Posted by on February 11, 2013 in The Portrait of a Lady


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I tried

Yesterday I finished The Portrait of a Lady.  Yea, me! POAL dvd

This is a good thing for two reasons:
1. I finished the novel! (whew!  big sigh of relief)
2. I picked up the BBC movie version at the library this week.

So after closing the book, I headed downstairs to fold laundry and watch the movie.

I tried.  I really did, but I just can’t do it.

Here are reasons why I should keep watching the movie:

  • It’s BBC.  They’re always fantastic
  • It’s Richard Chamberlain as Ralph Touchett.  (How have you been pronouncing the character’s last name?  They say “touch-it” in the movie.)
  • It was taped in six episodes, so chances are it is faithful to the novel.
  • All the locations.  Will they use sets or travel?


  • It’s four hours long!
  • It was filmed in 1968.  The actors behave as if they are on a stage and the camera angles are strange.  Very old-time soap opera feeling.
  • Did I mention it’s four hours long?

I watched the first two scenes, turned off the movie, and came upstairs to sit at the computer and confess that I tried, but I’m not sure I can finish the screen version of The Portrait of a Lady.

I am curious about the actors that play Mme. Merle, Osmond, and Pansy.  I’m not sure that I’m so terribly curious that I’ll sit through 240 minutes of BBC soap opera Henry James novel.

Perhaps I’ll see if the library can get me this version.  It’s only 144 minutes.POAL dvd2


Posted by on February 9, 2013 in The Portrait of a Lady


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Stupid Question about Portrait Characters

Has anyone else noticed that Henry James likes to bring new characters into his story, to write several pages including Mr. and Miss. X in the scene, and then to name them?

Example: Chapter 22.  It takes half of the chapter before we find out that the father’s name is Mr. Osmond and the child’s is Pansy.


Posted by on February 6, 2013 in The Portrait of a Lady


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Where? Who?


Let’s make this check-in a speedy one.  I’ve got reading to do, people!  Folks are finishing left and right, and here I am on chapter XXXVIII.

So… for this week’s check in, please share where you are in the novel and who is your favorite character.


Posted by on February 4, 2013 in The Portrait of a Lady


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Portrait Picture Quiz

My  Reader’s Supplement is chockfull of goodness!

This bonus material is a Picture Quiz.

Quiz 1

Here’s how it works.  Look at the five illustrations and see if you can match them with the terms.  The editors suggested you look at the listed pages where the items are mentioned.  Sadly, this will only work if you have a 1966 Collateral Classics edition.  But Kindle users, you can make use of your handy search feature.  And super-serious quiz takers, you can look in the following chapters for the items mentioned.

parterre      chapter IX
embrasure      chapter VI
gimlet      chapter  LIV
vizard      chapter  XVI
fly      chapter  LV

Rusty with Roman numerals?  Here’s a post that will help

Why was a picture quiz included in the supplement?  In the words of the editors…

Becoming familiar with the terms will provide you with
enriched appreciation.

Enriched appreciation is what the WEM project is all about!

So, here’s the image again.  If you are so inclined, leave your answers in the comments.

Quiz 1

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Posted by on February 3, 2013 in The Portrait of a Lady


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A Reader’s Supplement

POAL Collateral ClassicMy copy of The Portrait of a Lady was published in 1966.  It’s a Collateral Classic, originally priced at ninety-five cents.  Although my book is more than forty years old, it is in great shape.

Let me share what is the best part of my version:
the forty-eight page Reader’s Supplement found in the center of the novel.Henry James

After my indiscretion last week, I’m trying hard to stay on task.  I haven’t spent lots of time skimming the “extras”, but I can share this dramatic black and white photo of our novel’s author.

My Reader’s Suplement also has…”Pictorial Background of Plot Highlights”.  What’s that?
Here’s a quote from the editors’ explanation:

In presenting the materials that follow, we have chosen to depart form a common practice in book illustration.  you will find no direct representations of important characters or scenes.  We believe that drawings or motion pictures stills, designed to help you visualize people or places the author describes, actually may interfere with the exercise of your own imagination  No artist can duplicate the pictures your mind creates as it reacts to the words in a book.  Even photographs depicting prominent actors who have portrayed the roles are poor substitutes for the images suggested by the language of a great writer.

Background info: that’s what’s being provided.  So, let me do a little show and tell.

Here’s an example of “An Old English Country Estate–1800’s (left) and “Double Houses in Albany-New York, 1800’s” (right).  See, we can imagine the Touchett’s estate and also see where Isabel was living in the US.

English Estate.double houses

Take a look at this illustration.  On the left side is “A ‘Specimen’ of an English Gentleman–1877“.  I see a proper Englishman.  This helps me imagine how Isabel Archer saw Lord Warburton  The picture on the right shows “A Young Woman of Imagination–1800’s“.  Could this be Isabel?

English gentleman

May I present “English Fashions of the 1880s“.  Remember how enamored we were with the Anna Karenina-inspired line at Banana Republic?  Perhaps JCPenny will pick up “The Portrait” line.  The hats are fantastic, but I can’t say I’m a huge fan of bustles.  Then again, if my waist can look that tiny…

English Fashions

Did you notice the text at the top of each illustration?  Those quotes from the novel are “to direct your attention to passages where the background material can be most helpful for visual purposes.”  Nifty!

Fellow readers, do any of your versions of The Portrait of a Lady contain “bonus” material?


Posted by on February 1, 2013 in The Portrait of a Lady


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How to describe her…

The Portrait of a Lady  chapter 19

“When Madame Merle was neither writing, nor painting, nor touching the piano, she was usually employed upon wonderful tasks of rich embroidery, cushions, curtains, decorations for the chimney-piece;an art in which her bold , free invention was as noted as the agility of her needle.  She was never idle, for when engaged in none of the ways I have mentioned she was either reading (she appeared to Isabel to read “everything important”), or walking out, or playing patience with the cards, or talking with her fellow inmates.”

Oh, Madame Merle… how can we describe you?
Ah!  How about an accomplished young woman? Remember those?
Okay, so you aren’t exactly young.
How about we drop the young adjective and call you an accomplished woman?

See.  Our narrator even calls her accomplished…

I am bound to confess, though it may cast some discredit on the sketch I have given of the youthful loyalty practiced by our heroine toward this accomplished woman

Accomplished woman

Remember accomplished women?  We became quite familiar with them (here and here ) when we were reading Pride and Prejudice.


Posted by on January 29, 2013 in The Portrait of a Lady


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Anyone else notice that for a girl who doesn’t want to get married, Isabel Archer sure has a lot of suitors.

Who’s her latest?
Wait.  Don’t answer that.  No spoilers.
Just give us your chapter in the comments.


Posted by on January 28, 2013 in The Portrait of a Lady


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