The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James; some favorite quotes so far, which pertain to Isabel. But also, in some respects, to me.

“It is not absolutely necessary to suffer; we were not made for that.”

“Like the majority of American girls, Isabel had been encouraged to express herself; her remarks had been attended to; she had been expected to have emotions and opinions. Many of her opinions had doubtless but a slender value…”

“But for me there are only two classes: the people I trust, and the people I don’t.”

“Her desire to think well of herself always needed to be supported by proof; though it is possible that this fact is not the sign of a milder egotism.”

“I don’t want to begin life by marrying. There are other things a woman can do.”

“She had moreover a great fondness for intervals of solitude, and since her arrival in England it had been but scantily gratified. It was a luxury she could always comand at home, and she had missed it.”

“I don’t need the aid of a clever man to teach me how to live,” said Isabel. “I can find it out for myself.”

“…she had tasted of the delight, if not of battle, at least of victory; she had done what she preferred.”

“The love of knowledge coexisted in her mind with a still tenderer love of ignorance.”

I am only on page 205 of 584, but these little gleanings are giving me a picture of Isabel, and a foretaste of what might come with her naive and youthful perspective. Remember you are welcome to join several of us as we read The Portrait of A Lady this February.

16 thoughts on “The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James; some favorite quotes so far, which pertain to Isabel. But also, in some respects, to me.”

  1. I’m so glad you’re sharing such wonderful quotes! I’m not sorry I stopped reading the book, but I am sorry I won’t have anything to contribute to the discussion. At least now I’ll get a glimpse into HJ’s writing through you posts.


  2. It didn’t take me too long to finish this, much faster than I’d first expected. Listening to the audiobook definitely help move it along faster than if I just read it, since I can listen to it while I drive. Have thoroughly enjoyed it, and again, appreciated James’s writing, albeit the image of John Malkovich arose many times as I read about Gilbert Osmond’s controlling hand over Isabel. I went straight to Banville’s Mrs. Osmond right after this and finished that too. Maybe I’ll save my comment till later when everyone has finished. Thanks for initiating this read-along, Bellezza. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And here you’ve always professed to be a slow reader! 🙂 I tried it on audio, but the woman’s voice was so grating I couldn’t bear it. Now I’m slowly plowing through on my nook. The pace isn’t fast, but when I pondered what I’d highlighted, I can see that it is deep. There is a lot to consider about Isabel’s character; much of it is intrinsic to youth, I think, but she also strikes me as a lovely young lady. I’m only 1/3 of the way through, so I will wait to talk with you further when I finish.

      Did you like Banville’s “sequel”?


    1. I have started it, but it is such slow going for me! Even now I am only halfway through. His pace is not fast, and I find that I must concentrate to catch every nuance. Still, I am enjoying it, and I’m looking forward to whatever discussion may develop! xo


  3. I’ve never read this book. Should I? I love a good classic but with all the other books out there I feel like I need to be in a certain mood to read one.


    1. I love a good classic, too, but I must admit that so far Henry James has not been my favorite. (How I love those Russians: Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Pasternak) I picked this up primarily because I wanted to know what came before Banville’s Ms Osmand which I’m really looking forward to. Perhaps if you don’t want to take the time to read the book, you could see the film? 🙂


  4. The quotations are excellent. It sounds as if you are enjoying the book a great deal so far. I wish I could join in, but I am not able to at this point in time.


    1. I am only on Chapter 30, it is taking me quite some time to read the novel! Listening might be the way to go, but I am not such a good auditory reader. Too much fluttering through this brain of mine to concentrate properly on the spoken word. 😉 So glad that you and Audrey and I (and I think a few others) are reading together.


  5. I have started it! I can’t believe how organised I am. It IS indeed slow reading but so good! I was slightly Jamesed out after The Golden Bowl but now my love for him is rushing back. I will try and post a bit about it soon.


    1. I’m so glad you’re reading it! The best part (for me) will be the chance to talk about it with others. This is my first time with Henry James, having put down The Wings of a Dove several years ago only a quarter of the way through. Now I am 2/3 of the way through Portrait, and I’m unclear as to why Osmand is so dreaded. James is taking his time with his revelations…all to be discussed as we conclude.


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