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The Portrait of a Lady is the most stunning achievement of Henry James's early period in the 1860s and 70s. Isabel Archer, a beautiful, intelligent, and headstrong American girl newly endowed with wealth and embarked in Europe on a treacherous journey to self-knowledge, is delineated with a magnificence that is at once casual and tense with force and insight. The characters with whom she is entangled--the good man and the evil one, between whom she wavers, and the mysterious witchlike woman with whom she must do battle--are each rendered with a virtuosity that suggests dazzling imaginative powers. And the scene painting--in England and Italy--provides a continuous visual pleasure while always remaining crucial to the larger drama.