Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

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“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 palace in Rome in which the hostess “framed in the gilded…

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Citation: Righelato, Pat. "The Portrait of a Lady". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 29 May 2007 [https://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=7428, accessed 22 June 2024.]

7428 The Portrait of a Lady 3 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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