In his 1906 preface to the revised New York Edition of The Portrait, James wrote that the germ of his idea for the book was not a “plot” but a single character—“a certain young woman affronting her destiny,” a “mere slim shade of an intelligent but presumptuous girl”—and that he would place the center of the story in her consciousness.

Jean Strouse, Why Did Isabel Go Back? 

Photo: Henry James, circa 1906, the year he completed his revised version of The Portrait of a Lady (Alice Boughton/Smithsonian/Art Resource)

In his 1906 preface to the revised New York Edition of The Portrait, James wrote that the germ of his idea for the book was not a “plot” but a single character—“a certain young woman affronting her destiny,” a “mere slim shade of an intelligent but presumptuous girl”—and that he would place the center of the story in her consciousness.

Jean Strouse, Why Did Isabel Go Back?

Photo: Henry James, circa 1906, the year he completed his revised version of The Portrait of a Lady (Alice Boughton/Smithsonian/Art Resource)