The narrator, an unnamed, well-to-do American literary scholar. He is obsessed by a desire to learn everything possible about the life and works of the long-dead American poet Jeffrey Aspern and is willing to do almost anything to appropriate Aspern’s papers. He has heard that the papers are in the possession of Juliana Bordereau, Aspern’s former mistress, who is now living reclusively in Venice. Using a false name and pretending to be a writer, the narrator rents rooms in her run-down palazzo, improves her neglected garden, and in time mentions Aspern in chats, first with her niece Tita and then with Juliana, who does not mind throwing the narrator and Tita together. One night, Juliana, now quite sick, catches the unprincipled scholar rifling her old mahogany desk and collapses. Humiliated, he leaves Venice for several days. He returns to learn that Juliana has died and is buried, and he finds Tita in supposed possession of the papers, which she hints can be his only if he becomes a member of the family. The narrator leaves in consternation, sleeps on what seems to him to be Tita’s proposal of marriage, and returns half resigned to agree; Tita, however, greets him with the news that she has burned the Aspern papers.
Juliana Bordereau, an American who has long resided in Venice and is Aspern’s former mistress. She is now shrunken and puckered with age and sickness, constantly masks her once-celebrated...
(The entire section is 609 words.)