The ‘largeness of style’ (WDI, p. 208) that is everywhere the mark of the late Jamesian mode, becomes in The Wings of the Dove the ‘rich and obscure and portentous’ (Prefaces, p. 301) setting for a story built on deceit and carried on in the most polite of conversations. ‘Forms and ambiguities’, made ‘charming’ (Prefaces, p. 306) in the hands of such accomplished practitioners as Kate Croy and Aunt Maud, are given licence in the multiplicity of aspects James’s sentences here create, their processive structure, abstract subjects, embedded clauses and uncertainty of reference adding to the general sense of hovering, hidden meaning. Here a soap-opera melodrama, hinging on the exploitation of yet another American heiress, takes on dimension in the surround of James’s style it could never otherwise have had. And, writing at a rare time without impending serialisation to dictate his design, James, delighting in his ‘free hand’, produced a novel remarkably all of a piece, in its allusions and overlapping reference his most resonant.
KeywordsEurope Cage Explosive Assure Stake
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