Henry James: The Portrait of a Lady

(2815 words)
  • Pat Righelato (University of Reading)

“Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” The opening of Henry James's The Portrait of a Lady offers the lawn of an old English country-house on a perfect summer afternoon, replete with three figures “not of the sex which is supposed to furnish the regular votaries of the ceremony”, the wealthy American owner and his son and, for good measure, an English lord. The afternoon light is of “the finest and rarest quality” (17). Later in the novel, tea is taken in the garden of a villa on the outskirts of Florence “on a soft afternoon in the full maturity of the Tuscan spring” (217), and then again in the interior of a …

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Citation:
Righelato, Pat. "The Portrait of a Lady". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 29 May 2007
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=7428, accessed 23 April 2014.]