Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"For herself, avowedly, the world had always interested her .."

For herself, avowedly, the world had always interested her and the study of her fellow creatures been her constant passion. 

She would have been willing, however, to renounce all her curiosities and sympathies for the sake of a personal life, if the person concerned had only been able to make her believe it was a gain! 

This at least was her present conviction; and the thing certainly would have been easier than to care for society as Osmond cared for it.

He was unable to live without it, and she saw that he had never really done so .. He had his ideal, just as she had tried to have hers; only it was strange that people should seek for justice in such different quarters. His ideal was a conception of high prosperity and propriety, of the aristocratic life, which she now saw that he deemed himself always, in essence at least, to have led. He had never lapsed from it for an hour; he would never have recovered from the shame of doing so .. 

Her notion of the aristocratic life was simply the union of great knowledge with great liberty; the knowledge would give one a sense of duty and the liberty a sense of enjoyment .. 
She had resisted of course; at first very humourously, ironically, tenderly; then, as the situation grew more serious, eagerly, passionately, pleadingly. She had pleaded the cause of freedom, of doing as they chose, of not caring for the aspect and denomination of their life - the cause of other instincts and longings, of quite another ideal.

Henry James
The Portrait of a Lady
  Chapter XLII
Knopf, 1991©

i, iii, v  Little Augury


  1. It was tremendously sweet of you to allow me to believe you think so. I wished to adapt her pretty representations to a purpose I could believe she would have thought fair, not necessarily about her personally, but about a spirit with which she might not have resisted being identified; and I was fortunate that we've been given this wonderful book. I think this is what makes you glad, too.

  2. Beautifully Matched-as if AH might have said this. I am seldom wrong about loaning out content-and you never disappoint-nor does the devotion of an English Cocker. PGT

  3. Thank you for the lending, which had been very tempting. When I was a youngster, I offered once to wash a neighbor's Ferrari (and this, in the days of wire wheels, for toothbrushing and stacks of terrycloth rags) and you can imagine how it was, to be lent it for the afternoon when I had finished. Everyone must drive a good posting, some day. There's really nothing like it. :)