"The Beldonald Holbein" (1901) is generally read as a tale of jealousy and revenge: Lady Beldonald victimizes her companion, supposed to be a plain-looking foil to her patroness's beauty, but hailed by the art world as an embodied Holbein. The narrator-painter is typically considered the perceptive and reliable witness. I question this consensus from two complementary angles. First, the painter's interpretation of events—not least, of his own role(s)—throws doubt on his reliability. Second, his problematic narrative joins forces with other pointers to indicate that the painter has a stronger claim than the two ladies to the tale's center of interest. A running comparison with James's poetics elsewhere further supports and elaborates this convergence of narrational and hierarchical centrality.


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pp. 275-284
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