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The Portrait of a Lady — Volume 1 by Henry James
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congruously, after all, so far as the surrounding picture is
concerned, than in presence of the moderate and the neutral, to
which we may lend something of the light of our vision. Such a
place as Venice is too proud for such charities; Venice doesn't
borrow, she but all magnificently gives. We profit by that
enormously, but to do so we must either be quite off duty or be
on it in her service alone. Such, and so rueful, are these
reminiscences; though on the whole, no doubt, one's book, and
one's "literary effort" at large, were to be the better for
them. Strangely fertilising, in the long run, does a wasted
effort of attention often prove. It all depends on HOW the
attention has been cheated, has been squandered. There are
high-handed insolent frauds, and there are insidious sneaking
ones. And there is, I fear, even on the most designing artist's
part, always witless enough good faith, always anxious enough
desire, to fail to guard him against their deceits.

Trying to recover here, for recognition, the germ of my idea, I
see that it must have consisted not at all in any conceit of a
"plot," nefarious name, in any flash, upon the fancy, of a set of
relations, or in any one of those situations that, by a logic of
their own, immediately fall, for the fabulist, into movement,
into a march or a rush, a patter of quick steps; but altogether in
the sense of a single character, the character and aspect of a
particular engaging young woman, to which all the usual elements
of a "subject," certainly of a setting, were to need to be super
added. Quite as interesting as the young woman herself at her
best, do I find, I must again repeat, this projection of memory
upon the whole matter of the growth, in one's imagination, of
some such apology for a motive. These are the fascinations of the