Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
Lancaster Gate. Large London estate belonging to Mrs. Maud Lowder that symbolizes the vulgarity of wealth with power but without taste. Merton Densher describes the estate as immense but ostentatiously vulgar and, because Mrs. Lowder controls Kate’s prospects for the future, a place much like a prison. The vulgarity of Lancaster Gate symbolizes the vulgarity of the position of Mrs. Lowder’s niece, Kate Croy, as her ward. Kate must marry for money and position in order to inherit her aunt’s fortune and fulfill her obligations to her impoverished family.
Matcham. Estate in England belonging to Lord Mark, one of Milly Theale’s suitors. Clearly historic, the house is adorned with armor and tapestries. In contrast to the vulgar Lancaster Gate, Matcham is elegant, tasteful, and unostentatious, but its seamless elegance begins the seduction of Milly, whose innocent American eyes see it as if it were a highly idealized and romantic painting by the early eighteenth century painter Antoine Watteau. The estate symbolizes Milly’s naïve perceptions of Great Britain and Europe.
*Venice. Famous northeastern Italian city made up, in large part, of islands and canals. To James’s contemporary readers, Italy was an exotic land of sumptuous palaces, handsome noblemen, and a mysterious religion—Roman Catholicism—and Venice was an essential stop on the Grand Tour of Europe—the capstone of a young person’s education. Sunny Italy was also...
(The entire section is 631 words.)
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Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Cargill, Oscar. The Novels of Henry James. New York: Macmillan, 1961. In a substantial chapter on The Wings of the Dove, the author analyzes the novel’s plot, central characters, and main themes. Also reviews and critiques previous scholarship.
Fowler, Virginia. “The Later Fiction.” In A Companion to Henry James Studies, edited by Daniel Mark Fogel. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1993. Discusses the structure, international theme, possible redemption motif, and psychodynamics of the main characters in The Wings of the Dove. Emphasizes the constraints placed by society on the female characters, especially Kate Croy and Milly Theale, and analyzes Merton Densher’s threatened masculinity.
Gale, Robert L. A Henry James Encyclopedia. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1989. Contains a critical summary of the plot of The Wings of the Dove and descriptive identifications of its twenty-five characters. Discusses James’s preface to the novel and entries in James’s Notebooks that are relevant to the novel.
Tintner, Adeline R. The Museum World of Henry James. Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI Research Press, 1986. Shows how art objects, especially paintings (mostly from the Italian Renaissance) but also architectural details, costumes, and furniture, provide James with sources and analogues for his fiction, notably including The Wings of the Dove.
Wagenknecht, Edward. The Novels of Henry James. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1983. Includes a conservative discussion of The Wings of the Dove that touches on composition and publication data, the inspiration that led to the work, an analysis of the plot (referring also to the two-part structure and stressing the closure), and an evaluation of the central characters.